Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

Owen Palett is a young adult violinist building his career as songwriter, performer and recording artist. Armed with a violin and a looping pedal, he is able to accompany himself in solo performances. The link forwards to a recording of a concert of his during the 2009 Hillside Festival in Guelph, ON, Canada.


The evening was plagued by rain; the stage crew can be seen approaching Palett mid-song, telling him that he must stop playing to protect the expensive sound equipment. Disregarding their request and the safety of his own violin, he continues the song to its completion in an emotional performance. The crowd can be heard cheering him on as the rain increases in intensity.

What can we learn from this?

Palett takes the violin out of the concert hall into the stadium, giving it a new context with modern approaches to compositional technique. Minimalist in nature, the song relies of looping pedals to provide the background pulse. In combining percussive synthesizer, acoustic violin and voice, he pays homage to his experiences with video games (his award winning album is recorded under the artist name Final Fantasy) in an innovative, exciting way. The end result is an intriguing new sound for concert-goers, combining old-school conservatory training with modern technology and contemporary song writing.

Grouped under "Indie-Pop", the genre does not do his music justice; his songs are thoughtfully composed, with careful attention paid to basic elements such as harmony, counterpoint and texture. Established among the new-wave rockers of our generation, he holds an interesting niche in the context of the future of classical music.

Bordering the gap between classical and contemporary music, Owen Palett has the freedom to tap into either genre for inspiration. While not accessible and marketable to the general populous, he continues to draw a loyal and passionate following. He is able to move his audiences to cheer and jump with joy--performing in a rock venue gives his audiences the freedom to move, talk and more as they listen to the music.

Modern classical music composers and performers have much to learn from Owen Palett. Still young, he has his career ahead of him and the drive to make great waves. Already critically acclaimed, he continues to write and perform to this day. He has taken that great leap from the concert hall to the rock venue with finesse and has set the bar very high for others to follow. We find ourselves at the next step in the evolution of classical music as we know it. In the meantime, we get to watch a boy, a violin and a looping pedal make beautiful music.


“I am overrated” said the sculptor to the sea.
“I’ve been praised for all the ways the marble leaves the man and I was wrong to try and free him.”
And as for me I am a vector I am muscle I am bone.
The sun upon my shoulders and the horse between my legs
This is all I know.

My senses are bedazzled by the parallax of the road.
I concentrate to keep contained the overflow.
My knuckles grip so tightly my fingers start to bleed.
What I have is what you need
And I’m never gonna give it to you.
--- Owen Pallet, Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

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