Bond – Electric String Quartet

The above video shows the electric Australian/British string quartet Bond playing “Duel” from their 2000 debut album, Born. The album reached Platinum in 12 countries, Gold in 14, and was on top of the UK Classical charts until it was removed for “sounding too much like pop music.”

Despite this relative popularity, there are several critics proclaiming that although they’re talented, they oversimplify great classical pieces and are likened to a “classical Spice Girls.” An article called “Sex in the Symphony” in TIME sums up this sentiment:

“Say what you will about the liberties the bond string quartet takes with a piece of classical music, you can’t fault its sexually charged performances for being off key. Off color, yes. A bond concert is a melodic lap dance: the four sylphs do energetic things with their orchestral instruments, not to mention their hips, that would compel Stradivari to order an exorcism.”

However, Bond has been described as the best selling string quartet of all time, especially popular in Asia. They were the first major classical crossover music group, at least that I had ever heard about, and made classical music more accessible to millions of people. Perhaps they even served as a gateway into actual classical music concerts for some people – I wouldn’t be surprised if symphony orchestra concerts saw a rise in attendance through their influence. Besides, they played mostly their original pieces on tour anyway.

And although I agree that these types of groups’ sometimes have dull and repetitive interpretations, I wouldn’t mind seeing most of them in concert. They get to be rock stars with what others see as quirky cool instruments. At least Bond doesn’t overdo the glitter glam strutting and suggestive twirling of their bows like some quartets I see on YouTube today:

Ah but I shouldn’t poke too much fun – I’m sure the above group satisfies their own particular target audience, and I’m fine with that. Anyway, I’d like to hear what other classically-trained now electric violinists feel about classical crossover groups today. Thoughts?

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9 Responses to Bond – Electric String Quartet

  1. e says:

    I’ve been looking at youtube vids of electric violins as I’ve just purchased one. Are there any male electro violin bands? Seems to be a young female genre huh?

  2. Vilma says:

    YES actually – I know of one male electric string quartet that I found while Googling one day. They are called Eclipse (bosentertainment.co.uk/artistes/classical/eclipse.php). Out of curiosity, which electric violin did you buy?

  3. Marc says:

    I tell myself that I would be twice as popular and sell twice as much merchandise if I was a girl. Haha. Sad but true. Sex sells.

  4. Gabe says:

    Oh god, so much of that second video was just awful >.<

  5. Paul says:

    I realize that when you say Bond is the first major classical crossover group, you mean a pop group playing classical music. But both Kronos Quartet and Nigel Kennedy were doing the reverse in the mid 80s – classical performers playing stuff like Hendrix’s Purple Haze, Television’s Marquee Moon and The Doors’ Light My Fire. At the same time they brought both classical composers like Vivaldi and contemporary composers like Avro Part to a wider audience. Before Bond had ever formed Kronos had already sold a million and a half records and recorded soundtracks for major motion pictures like Dracula and Requiem for a Dream.

    I don’t mean to sound polemical, just to share that these performers really changed the way I listened to classical music. Even as a violin player, I never ever thought classical music could be relevant in any way to contemporary culture until the summer of 1988. I was sitting in the Kennedy Center in Washington DC on a school trip and the National Symphony Orchestra had just finished playing a traditional piece when suddenly a guy walks out on stage wearing torn jeans and a fluorescent green tshirt. He’s got three days of stubble and spiky hair. He barely lets audience take in his appearance before he lifts a violin to his shoulder and just shreds his bow on the opening chords of Purple Haze, pulling these raw guitar feedback sounds out of his instrument – just a regular acoustic violin, no pickups, no cutouts, just the same instrument I played. THAT made me sit up and listen. Thank you, Nigel!

    • Vilma says:

      I love this story! A slightly similar experience that I had was going to a music camp and listening to a jazz violinist named Nicole Yarling improvise. I had already been playing in other genres (like Metallica with my string quintet), but hearing her sad, raw emotion through her violin was so inspiring. Hmm, I’m going to listen to Nigel Kennedy and Nicole Yarling after work!

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