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Arts and Entertainment

From Bach to Radiohead: Introducing the wild Up Modern Musical Collective

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The new wild Up musical ensemble debuts tomorrow night at Jensen's Recreation Center in Echo Park, under the direction of 26-year-old Christopher Rountree. The evening will traverse a musical timeline that begins with J.S. Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto" (1721) and ends with Radiohead's "In Rainbows" (2007). This 24-piece musical collective also seeks to bust the mold of classical music equating to serious stodginess.

We asked Rountree a few questions about the ambitious-sounding wild Up show:

wild Up's Christopher Rountree | Photo: Michael Chang
What can we expect at tomorrow's show?
You can expect to laugh, to have fun, to be moved and to drink some beer. We’re playing music from the last 300 years, most of it new, and premiering orchestrations of Radiohead, in a suite called "I See It Coming" by Joshua Bornfield. There’s also cabaret, J.S. Bach, yelling, Igor Stravinsky and local John Adams.Is wild Up only for lovers of classical music?
Wild Up is for everyone. All of the music we perform sits in multiple spheres: the “classical” music we perform might sound like rock music, the pop music might sound like Bach, Brahms or Satie. When we do something avant garde, it will be sardonically laughing at its serious self.

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Don’t get me wrong, lovers of classical music might love what we’re doing, but I don’t think they’ll be alone.

How did the 24-piece collective come together?
The collective is made up of friends, and friends of friends. The musicians are young L.A. professionals who trained at the best universities and conservatories on the globe. The things we have in common are that we all live in Los Angeles, we all like to play together and we all believe that this type of art needs to exist.

The initial spark for the group happened just as I was finishing my graduate work at the University of Michigan and finishing my tenure as music director of the Michigan Pops. A few friends and I realized that we’d all be in L.A. as of August. I noticed that this type of experience didn’t exist in L.A. and I asked the people that I knew here if they wanted to make it happen.

Radiohead's Pyramid Song (2001) by wild Up

Can you give us a little background about yourself?
I’m a seventh-generation Californian, grew up in L.A. and Orange County. My first mentor as a conductor was Joana Carniero, past Los Angeles Philharmonic assistant conductor, now music director of the Berkeley Symphony. My formal training is from the University of Michigan, where I worked with six orchestras and studied under the world-renowned teacher of conductors, Kenneth Kiesler.

Before all of that I was in three rock bands, and taught a bunch of kids how to play music, maybe to fall in love with music.

You say you are challenging "art music." What is "art music"?
Great question! Well, the reason I use the term “art music” is that “classical music” is a bit of a misnomer. Somehow it’s happened that the world refers to what goes on in big concert halls, like Disney Hall in L.A. as "classical music." And sure, some of it was written between 1730 and 1820, the years known as the classical period. It just seems to me that the term is a huge generality.

When I say “art music,” I mean western music intended as art for art's sake, to be watched and listened to in complete and total silence with no response acceptable except that of clapping, and only at the mandatory moment. All other responses are strictly verboten and will be scoffed at.

Art for art’s sake was a great experiment. We tried it in the 20th century, and it failed. Now it’s time to try something different. Something different is what wild Up is aiming for.

Folk song "Polly, Pretty Polly," with wild Up featuring Maggie Hasspacher

wild Up modern music collective's "I See It Coming"
Jensen's Recreation Center Studio
Friday, Feb. 5 at 8 pm (Doors at 7:30pm, with cash bar serving beer and wine)
Tickets: $20, $15 student

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