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SXSW 2010: Brooklyn Rider, Live In Concert

It's hard to deny that Brooklyn Rider was an unconventional way to kick off our SXSW day party — but the crowd response was tremendous for the New York string quartet. Performing with a percussionist and a bassist, they played everything from Debussy to their own original compositions to an already packed house at The Parish on March 18.

Brooklyn Rider occupies a unique space in the world of classical music. Like most meticulously trained string quartets, it's extremely well-versed in interpreting existing pieces from the classical repertoire. What sets the group apart from the crowd is its focus on creating new pieces and its willingness to ignore genre boundaries in the pursuit of interesting new sounds. Although they're based in Brooklyn — hence the name — Brooklyn Rider's members have played extensively around the world, due in no small part to their participation in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble.

The Silk Road Ensemble has also given them the opportunity to take up residencies in international museums, including the Nara National Museum in Japan. This exposure to a wide range of stylistic influences has colored the group's sound; it's as likely to improvise over a piece of Western chamber music as it is to reinvent a centuries-old Armenian folk song.

"Ascending Bird"

Debussy: String Quartet- 2nd movement

"La Muerte Chiquita" (arr. Golijov)

"Brooklesca"

None of this genre-hopping would be of much consequence, however, if the music Brooklyn Rider plays wasn't as engaging as it is. Perhaps the group's most notable characteristic is its ability to create a pervasive sense of tension throughout its pieces, coupled with its ability to evoke specific emotions and settings. This is especially apparent on Silent City, the band's collaborative work with the Persian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor. Silent City and Brooklyn Rider's debut as a group (2008's Passport) have helped make the group a fast-rising force, in the classical world and beyond.

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