Brooklyn Rider returns to campus with two performances

Brooklyn Rider
The Dartmouth

By Kate Sullivan

Today and tomorrow, the innovative string quartet Brooklyn Rider will perform two shows to what will be large audiences. Tonight’s performance is expected to be quite unique, as the quartet will perform in Sarner Underground as part of Friday Night Rock in conjunction with the student band Girl’s Rush. Tomorrow evening, Brooklyn Rider will grace the stage of Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center.

Brooklyn Rider’s return to campus is in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Hop as well as Dartmouth’s Year of the Arts. Commissioned by the Hop, the group asked contemporary musicians to use inspiration from an artist from the past 50 years to compose original works. The inspirations could include artists from across any genre, and the resulting works make up “Brooklyn Rider Almanac,” a five-piece project that will premiere Friday evening. The works are composed by pianist Nik Bartsch, guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist Ethan Iverson, Australian composer Padma Newsome and Greg Saunier, the lead singer of the indie rock band Deerhoof.

Frisell performed at the Hop in November 2011 as part of an accompanying ensemble for the commissioned film “The Great Flood.”

In addition to “Almanac,” the Brooklyn quartet — which includes Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen, Eric Jacobsen and Nicholas Cords — will also be performing their self-composed “Seven Steps,” John Zorn’s “Kol Nidre” and Beethoven’s canonical work “Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131.”

Brooklyn Rider’s critical acclaim stems not only from their musical prowess but also from their dedication to imaginative and creative works that dare to push the boundaries within the classical music genre.

Colin Jacobsen said that inspiration for the “Almanac” came from an artistic collective in Munich, “Der Blaue Reiter” (The Blue Rider), from which the quartet adapted their name. Brooklyn Rider arrived in Hanover on Sunday evening, and has spent most of the week giving talks and other small performances at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction and the Hood Museum of Art. Padma Newsome, one of the composers for “Brooklyn Rider Almanac” gave a talk entitled “Indigenous Australian Art and Music,” on Wednesday.

“[Padma] took celebration from an aboriginal landscape artist, and it’s neat that there’s this exhibit while we’re here,” Colin Jacobsen said.

He said the group was eager to directly engage with students and the community during their time on campus. Having smaller performances in the week leading up to the bigger show has several benefits, he said.

“It’s like a lab, you can try out things, and it’s not just a cold experience,” Colin Jacobsen said.

Brooklyn has remained an inspiration for the members, especially in their attempt to erase pre-conceived notions of classical music as an ancient musical form when compared to today’s contemporary pop music.

Colin Jacobsen noted that the Hop’s commission has allowed the group to take their musical visions even further.

“The commissions are sort of outside the classical musical establishment, and so that’s cool because hopefully they’ll have a unique take on the string quartet and push us in different directions,” he said.

Tonight’s Friday Night Rock performance will encompass more social elements, as audience members will enjoy standing room around the stage similar to other Friday Night Rock concerts. The student band Girl’s Rush will open the show and join Brooklyn Rider during for finale.

Julia Floberg ’11, the classical music student relations advisor, helped coordinate the Friday Night Rock collaboration.

“We’re working on finding ways on breaking down the boundaries of classical music,” she said. “Many people see it as a genre that’s hard to listen to or inaccessible. In order to make it more friendly, we’re trying to show how similar it is to other genres.”

Music is able to cultivate a community of passionate artists and listeners that expands over time, according to Floberg.

“People who are passionate about art and a particular music have this bond automatically, they kind of share this love for something that’s been around for a very long time,” Floberg said.

Friday Night Rock general manager Alexis Monroe ’13 said she echoed the importance of genre-bending music and its ability to bring people together.

“I think the environment is so great for bonding over something, maybe someone you’ve never met before, and you have this thing in common in a really open environment, and there’s a really cool community,” Monroe said.

While Friday Night Rock is largely considered an alternative social space on campus, Monroe said she emphasized the importance to move past this label.

“I think it’s important to foster cooperation on campus to come together for something they enjoy, that isn’t called an alternative social space or a college space,” Monroe said. “It’s just something that students put on for other students.”

Similarly, Brooklyn Rider aims to continue moving forward and add to the music community.

“You don’t want to be boxed in, we want to keep refreshing ourselves artistically, keep challenging ourselves, challenging audiences,” Jacobsen said. “It’s not complete, what we do, if we just do it for ourselves. It should be about community and forming that and going on a good ride together.”

Brooklyn Rider has a busy upcoming year as they plan to grow their “Almanac” with more compositions and artistic visions, with the hope of creating another concrete art form, possibly as a book or smartphone application.

“We want a way to release it into the world,” Colin Jacobsen said.

The group will also continue collaborations with other artists, including renowned banjo artist Bela Fleck.

“We’re trying to really find the whole iceberg and not just the tip of it, and really be attached to the world,” Colin Jacobsen said. “Really keep our ears to the ground and our eyes open for interesting people along the way to work with.