Watch Brooklyn Rider on All Songs Considered's Tiny Desk Concert

Brooklyn Rider

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It's hard to know what will happen when the string quartet Brooklyn Rider starts playing. Yes, these four guys love to play Debussy and Brahms, but they're just as likely to team up with a singer-songwriter or a Kurdish kamancheh player. Or write their own music.

So we weren't sure what they'd do when they stopped by Bob Boilen's desk to play a Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices. What we got was a bracing sample of their visceral fire, beginning with a saucy Armenian dance by an orthodox priest named Komitas — one of the pieces they picked up during their travels with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble.

The next piece is proof that inspiration can come from almost anywhere — even, as Brooklyn Rider violinist Colin Jacobsen sheepishly admits, a "bouncy-ball" with a wildly unpredictable second bounce. He wrote the piece as a companion to music by Debussy. And finally, the piece we were anxiously anticipating: Brooklyn Rider's theme song of sorts, "Ascending Bird." It's Jacobsen's stunning arrangement of a Persian folk song that goes back thousands of years.