Written by The Weekend Vote
Published: May 23, 2014 at 10:50 AM [UTC]
I debated even including the review. Is she a violinist, exactly? And the review seemed a bit hyperbolic, gushing about her "flawless precision." Then again, she plays simple music that fits her abilities, and so she probably did play accurately. When it comes down to it, what is wrong with playing simple music that fits your abilities, and also pleases an audience? Still, I cringed a little to read, on the same page, accounts of classical artists playing technically complex, high-level music and being publicly admonished for a missed note here or there in live performance. Where is the middle ground, here? Where is the awe for the musical pyrotechnics of today's young violinists; why is the awe reserved for someone who uses the violin primarily as a choreography prop?
I nonetheless do give her credit. Here is someone who has taken her talents (and she has talents), mashed them all together and created something unique and with wide appeal: dancing with a violin. It's kind of a genre in itself, and it can be as interesting as watching Cirque de Soleil (and she did do at least one show with that group). Believe it or not, she's 27 years old. Heck, I stopped being able to do a back bend when I was about 11, and I've certainly never tried it with a fiddle. It does take a great deal of stamina, personal charisma, courage, and frankly, hard work, to do that kind of high-energy, intricately choreographed show for a stadium crowd. And certainly it takes an artist's sensibility to devise the very original creative act that she has honed, with its costumes, cinematic videos, movement, easy-to-play but appealing music, etc. (If you haven't ever seen her, here is one of the Youtube videos that propelled her great popularity; and she just released a new album last month called Shatter Me.)
I'll still cringe when pop critics call her a "virtuoso violinist"; I feel like that term applies to someone like Heifetz or any number of current violinists of astonishing ability, like Hilary Hahn, James Ehnes, there are many. She's also not like David Garrett, a pop star, too, but one who, for example, recorded all the Paganini Caprices before he was 17. But she's a talented entertainer with a unique vision, for sure. Considering that she's the number-1 selling violinist in the United States, she's worth, well, considering. What are your thoughts?
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First let’s answer some questions in this article.
“Is she a violinist, exactly?”
My question then is what constitutes a violinist? Do you need to play a certain type of music to be considered a violinist? Last time I checked she isn’t squawking like those “adorable” little children playing book 1 of Suzuki violin. Was her bow hold incorrect? Did you hear any bad string crossings? I didn’t so the technique and ability to play are there.
“Where is the middle ground, here? Where is the awe for the musical pyrotechnics of today's young violinists; why is the awe reserved for someone who uses the violin primarily as a choreography prop?”
Are these young violinists you’re speaking of catering to a popular audience or the dwindling audience that listens to classical/orchestral music? Let’s face it if you go up to someone on the street in NYC Union Square and ask them if they’ve heard of Hilary Hahn there is a very big chance that they’re going to give you a blank look and respond no. So we need to keep that perspective firmly planted in our heads when we read these articles about violinists in mainstream media.
“I'll still cringe when pop critics call her a "virtuoso violinist"”
Why does this even matter anymore what a pop critic calls someone? The same vein for movie critics calling some movies masterpieces.
One thing I’ve noticed about this entire article is that it laments on how the concert violinists don’t get the same attention in public media as new performers that play “simple music”.
First they all play the same music with different variations on a theme. I love the music and a fan of all the violinists mentioned (I tend to prefer Julia Fischer over Hilary Hahn, the way she plays speaks to me more).
What really has to happen is these virtuoso violinists need to bring their talents and create new things that move the general public otherwise violin as you know it will go away within a couple hundred years. Don’t believe me? How many orchestras around the US have gone bankrupt or are unable to pay their musicians. While loving an instrument is one thing people have to pay the bills and parent who make the decisions to enroll their children in violin lessons since their not available in all public schools in the US.
I for one am excited that Lindsey can help make the violin popular. Hopefully the violin makes its way to more popular music, it’s a beautiful instrument in and of itself. The violin doesn’t get the prominence in all forms of music that it deserves.
I’ll finish this on one final note. For those of you that are easily dismissive of different styles of violin music as “simple” get out there and bring “complex” well thought out music that speaks to people outside of the concert genre, put your money where your mouth is and help keep the violin alive.
It is more admirable to play something "simple" PERFECTLY than something not simple inaccurately.
It is comparable to being faithful in the little bit you have. It's better to take care of a little bit than handle a lot sloppily in our lives and those are the ones who God gives greater abilities to in the end because He honors faithfulness.
"He who is faithful in little is faithful in much."
I like violin and music because to me it's transparent. I know what I hear, and I can trust it. When I play, I want to be honest and leave it for the judgment of the listeners, because at that point it's there. It's not about what pieces of paper I have, or what professors I studied under, even if a lot of musical politicians can convince themselves otherwise and people can pat each other on the back. I know, and people without vested interests know. When I play for someone, I hope that they suspend whatever preconceived notions they have and decide based on that performance.
With that said, I think it's fine to judge her, but I think that to do so more honestly, you really have to engage with the music and decide for yourself. It's a shortcut to say this or that based on the genre she plays in, and as much as I see the attempt to treat this evenly, I think this is more a political gripe than a musical one. I personally am not really that interested in the genres, so I reserve judgment on the artistry.
We all have our own likes and dislikes when it comes to artist performance. I hope classical performance doesn't go away in two hundred years but it certainly is a possibility.
I agree that violin music and performance needs to be promoted in as many ways as possible to keep young kids interested in learning the instrument. We are living in a sport oriented world so if we can get this performer booked for the next Super Bowl half time show, it would be a boon for string teachers everywhere.
Looking around, it was mainly high-school kids, their younger siblings, and the parents who brought them. The energy and love for what she was doing on stage was something any Artist, classical or otherwise dreams of.
The concert itself - totally entertaining! She danced her butt off. Something (as a violinist myself) I would never even attempt, for fear of missing a note, or throwing off my perfect posture. Lindsey has no external fear as a violinist or as an Artist, which is what draws people to her. She also communicates with her fans in a way that is very personal, with many stories and "know what it's like when...". In other words, she's a very real person on that stage, doing something extraordinary, too.
The music itself - totally unique, original and played with passion. It's not technically perfect, but I've also been to an LA Phil Concert, and a Radiohead concert, that was not 100% perfect. So. what. We were having a great time watching someone be truly creative on stage.
Of course Lindsey is a real violinist. She happens to also dance, talk, joke, and... entertain. Her show is highly complex. Her choreography, in addition to playing, is unbelievable. Laurie is right that it takes a great spirit and energy to sell out a stadium. I don't know many other instrumentalists who are doing that right now.
We are lucky to have her in the violin community. She is inspiring kids to convince their parents to drive them out to her show on a Thursday night at a major venue (in contrast to parents often convincing teenagers to come along to the symphony). It's ALL good!
You go, Lindsey!
As for the world class classical virtuosos flawlessly playing the established repertoire (which I love listening too and am very inspired by), I sometimes find myself thinking of them as "cover bands" playing other people's music that happens to be centuries old.
One of my favorite violinists that inspires me probably more than most is Rachel Barton Pine. Not because she's technically awesome, but because she's all over the place and constantly playing something new or unexpected or original.
It's about playing music you love and finding a way to make others love your music. If that's what Lindsey Stirling does then, You go, girl!
Denver orchestra is trying to appeal to Greatful Dead leftovers via cannibis to keep classical music alive.
Lindsay is just following her own muse. Not "classical" certainly. But she is a violinist making new fans.
Stirling doesnt seem to be getting herself arrested for usings drugs or driving drunk, and in the photos ive seen she is not gratuitously exposed even though she could go that route if she wanted to and probably make even more money. Her act seems wholesome, thats why I chose "good for her."
I think it's common to attack LS for the same reason. She may not be a Hilary Hahn or a Perlman but she certainly has the skills that her musical style requires and even if one may call her music "simple" (as is that were necessarily a bad thing), you can see that she succeeds in pleasing her audience and convey a musical message.
She probably doesn't practice 9 hours a day since the tender age of 4 as is expected to be read in the biography of the great violinists of all times, but what she does also takes a lot of time and work. Consider how much time it probably takes between the recordings, choreography rehearsals, makeup, travelling, physical training and the like, and you can see it's not just playing a couple of notes and smiling.
I also like the fact that she is bringing the violin closer to thousands of today's kids and teenagers who probably haven't developed a violinistic enthusiasm through any other means. The world of classical music is pretty hard to get into for a young person who is not acquainted with it, doesn't have a formal musical education or doesn't come from a musical environment. That shouldn't keep anyone away from enjoying violin music in any of its forms. In fact, I like it when the violin is added to rock, pop, folk, even heavy music bands where it is not expected to be featured. It speaks of the instrument's versatility and helps keep it alive.
I myself started to develop my love for the violin's sound by listening to Celtic and New Age music. As time went on and I committed more to my studies, I moved on to different kinds of repertoire, but nowadays I don't think anyone would or should question if Charlie McKerron or Fionnuala Sherry are violinists as well. There's a lot you can do with a violin, and there clearly is a place for what LS does. I guess one can always say "I don't like pop music" and settle at that...
Isn't there room for everyone? I'm an old lady, nearly 70 years old. I've been taking lessons for 2 1/2 years. It is so much fun. I'm playing with several other seniors who have taken up a string instrument later in life.
There is also room for violin virtuosos. We went to a performance by a good orchestra and I was so lucky to be sitting right in front of the violinists. They were wonderful. I learned so much just watching them.
My grand father played fiddle and his playing was so much fun.
I guess I'm old and have the right to just do my best, and then sit back and enjoy many kinds of violinists.
Thanks for the good article.
Just now I watched Stirling's video "Crystallize" which is supposedly some of her best work, and I was very underwhelmed by the redundancy and monotony of the music, the "dancing" and the videography. It was four minutes of all the same thing, over an over again.
But Stirling is probably very good for the violin because she has a huge fan base and she seems to be a class act.
It's fun to see the violin get exposure in unusual places. I remember first hearing music of the group It's a Beautiful Day around 1970, where David LaFlamme did things with a violin that I had never heard before - an amazing experience. A few years later Jean-Luc Ponty was doing more of the same. I still love conventional violin music, but it's fun to stretch the boundaries sometimes.
As for Lindsey's music being "simple", what's wrong with that? Not only do I play classical music, I also play bluegrass fiddle. That certainly qualifies as simple music - at least by comparison - but we improvise enough to make it interesting, and we all have a heck of a good time.
No, I'm not making plans to go to a Lindsey Stirling concert, or even watch more videos. It's not really my kind of music. But as Abraham Lincoln once said, "For people who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing people like." She likes to play her own way, and there are plenty of people who like what she's doing. Good on her.
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