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Rachel Barton Pine: Heavy metal and classical music have more in common than you think




Rachel Barton Pine is an internationally recognized violinist and viola d'amore player.
Rachel Barton Pine is an internationally recognized violinist and viola d'amore player.
Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

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Rachel Barton Pine has spent almost her entire life with a violin tucked under her chin. 

The 42-year-old violin virtuoso first fell in love with the instrument at age 3, performed on stage with the Chicago Symphony at age 10 and today travels the world playing solo violin with some of the world's best orchestras.

But besides being a fan of classical composers like Mozart and Bach, Pine is also a headbanger. Here she is playing an arrangement she prepared for Metallica's "One."

She also played what you might call “metal violin” for years in the Chicago band Earthen Grave, which has since disbanded. 

Pine is based in Chicago, but is in town for a performance of Baroque music with the L.A. Chamber Orchestra at the Colburn School Downtown. She’ll be playing a period instrument called the Viola D'Amore, in addition to her usual violin.

Interview Highlights:

On not being able to afford classical music studies:

As soon as I got serious about it and needed the handmade antique violins and so on, then that was really outside of the realm of possibility. Luckily there were a number of people that supported me along the way because scholarships only cover so much. A scholarship at your music school does not pay for your violin strings, your sheet music purchases or concert clothes or your piano accompanist fees. All of those things that are necessary to further your education are out of pocket expenses. For some families like mine, that's just a very severe obstacle.

On the function of classical music today:

I really think, just as human beings, having music in our lives, being able to understand and experience great classical music that expresses the human condition and has done so for all of these hundreds of years, connecting ourselves to history, connecting ourselves to people around the world and understanding different cultures through classical music. Classical music has an important place in our society. As much as I love all kinds of world music, folk music, rock music and pop music, we would be so much poorer if classical music wasn't a part of it. For kids to be able to create music, to express themselves and experience music to just understand humanity better — this is so necessary.

Rachel Barton Pine performs a solo violin concert.
Rachel Barton Pine performs a solo violin concert.
rachelbartonpine.com

On her interest in classical music history:

I love history. I love reading about the lives of the composers whether it's the 1800s or the 1600s or whatever. I love learning about the cultures of different times and places and how music was used in society and how the instrument was played in different eras. I'm just curious about anything that has anything to do with the violin. If I was curious about a particular era of music, I would just go to the library and read everything I could about it.

On combining her interest in classical and metal music:

There have actually been scientific studies that have shown that there's a lot of overlap in terms of listeners for people who listen to classical and metal and nothing else. Now, will they go to concerts in both genres? Not necessarily. I love trying to break down those misconceptions. You don't have to put on a suit and tie to go to a classical concert and you don't have to get scared to go to a metal concert. There's a lot of influence of classical in metal in terms of the licks.

There are so many correlations where they would steal passages and use them for the shredder licks and also for the drama and intensity of the Romantic era. I've had the great honor of meeting some of my favorite metal bands who've told me about their favorite classical composers. Now, I've really turned the table and have been lately commissioning a handful of composers who also love metal — classical composers — to write classical art music for acoustic violin that's influenced by metal music in the same way, for example, that Bartok wrote art music influenced by Hungarian folk music.

BONUS AUDIO: 

 



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