There are tons of classically-trained violinists in this country, but only a select few ever follow their muse outside of the traditional concert hall. There's Todd Reynolds, whose experiments with digital software found their full flower in last year's Outerborough. And Caleb Burhans, whose ever-growing reputation as a composer takes flight from his career as a violinist, both electric and acoustic.
Then, there's Tracy Silverman, who left Juilliard in 1980 ("It took me years to forget everything I learned there," he says), and soon built one of the first-ever six-string electric violins, which he found he could make sound almost exactly like an electric guitar.
“In addition to the lower register the two additional strings provided, it allowed for the possibility of playing the violin as a chordal instrument like the guitar. It forced me to invent a more complete and integrated way of using the bow which I call ‘Strum Bowing’.”
In 2003, Silverman's career came full circle back to the classical world, thanks to John Adams' stunning Dharma at Big Sur, which Adams wrote for Silverman after seeing him play at a jazz club in Oakland, CA. (The NY Premiere, with the LA Phil at Avery Fisher Hall in 2005, was one of the most astonishing solo performances I've ever seen.) Then, just last week, Silverman gave the NY premiere of Terry Riley's The Palmian Chord Ryddle, with the Nashville Symphony at Carnegie Hall. (Silverman and Riley also played a show together at LPR on Sunday, which we covered.)
But, before leaving town, Silverman played a solo show Thursday night at The Stone, where he alternated between pieces by Adams and Riley with rock improvisations, using pedals and loops to make his violin wail and scream like Hendrix. The fact that there were only 30 people in the room is a testament to the centuries of classical baggage still heaped on this most versatile of instruments; after a show like this, one can see the day coming that folks like Tracy, Todd and Caleb will free those shackles once and for all.
More pics on the photo page.