Printer-friendly version weekend vote: What are your thoughts on the success of Lindsey Stirling?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: May 23, 2014 at 10:50 AM [UTC]

This week, as I helped Robert compile the quotes for our Week in Reviews feature, I came across a review of the popular Youtube phenom, Lindsey Stirling.

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?

Lindsey Stirling

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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From Mario Estrella
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 2:24 PM
Normally I do not post comments about articles on websites for a variety of personal reasons, but I felt I had to address the tone of this weekend vote.

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.

From jean dubuisson
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 2:54 PM
I think such performances can only be positive for the violin. To people who know nothing about classical violin performance, she certainly projects a positive image of the violin. When I tell someone that I play the violin and he/she thinks of Lindsey Stirling in reaction, I think that is definitely a plus compared to perhaps someone who does not know better and thinks of a stiff concert hall full of old ladies and grey gentlemen on the stage playing an antique instrument. (As I said, this is about people who do not know any better; to people who really know about classical music / violin, Lindsey is probably pretty irrelevant, but also harmless.)
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 3:15 PM
Lindsey Stirling is awesome!! Keep it up girl!
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 3:40 PM
Though Lindsey Stirling's music doesn't speak to me, I applaud what she is doing for the violin. I work in a violin shop, and I only became aware of Lindsey when a number of our young female customers cited her as an inspiration, and even the reason they took up the instrument. If Lindsey inspires others with her playing, her simple music, or her visuals; if she is the reason any future Hillary Hahns or Anne Akiko Meyers began playing, then more power to her.
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 4:23 PM
Not everyone in the violin-playing community has been studying since childhood or been accepted into prestigious orchestras. I started playing at the age of forty and have by no means transcended amateur status. But I play alto parts for a church choir and love my violin like it was a person. There are many paths to follow and if someone can dance AND play, more power to them!
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 4:32 PM
Lindsey Stirling catches the interest of my daughter for whom violin is becoming more of a chore and not very fun. I don't care what snobby critics think of Lindsey and I hope she doesn't either. As long as she can keep kids playing, she's awesome.
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 7:54 PM
Actually nothing is easy to play on a violin especially if you play perfectly.

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."

Posted on May 23, 2014 at 8:56 PM
I think it's great that people be allowed to be who they are. Music, especially classical music is so political and so provincial.

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.

Posted on May 23, 2014 at 8:58 PM
I had to chuckle at your 'simple music' comment. Country and pop artists, yeah, they're no longer just 'singers', play very basic rhythms and melodies and they're selling out venues much larger than Carnegie Hall.

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.

Posted on May 23, 2014 at 9:16 PM
I attended the LS concert at the Nokia theater in Downtown LA last week. In my many, many years of attending concerts; classical and otherwise, I have to say, the energy going into the concert was infectious. I didn't know what to expect, and I was very curious about who would make up the rest of the audience.

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!

From Kevin Keating
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 9:38 PM
Good for her! She's found a way to make music that makes people happy and makes her money. What's wrong with that? Is she in the same league as Itzhak Perman or Hillary Hahn? Maybe not, but she deserves respect for finding a way that makes music work for her. And she's good at what she does.

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!

From Seraphim Protos
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 10:21 PM
The naysayers keep naysaying, and she just keeps doing what she's doing, and she gets her fans by the boatload.

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.

From Charles Cook
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 10:22 PM

People are always looking for something new. There are people out there like the Lindsey Sterling's that follow there own path to give the audiences what they demand.

From Tom Bop
Posted on May 23, 2014 at 11:44 PM
Couple things- one, I don't think Laurie's lead-in emphasized the magnitude of LS's popularity- the link posted in the poll has over 95million views, and most of her other videos are way up there, too. That's huge! The other, as a former rock guitarist, even though playing basic melodies with constant rhythms in pentatonic scales is simple by classical standards, there are still very few people who can bring them to life in the way required to be successful commercially and get people moving and grooving to them. Just playing the notes themselves might be easy, but getting it all to come together in an act that lots of people will pay to see is a talent not many have. She's also part of a very modern, digitally-organized marketing effort that's smart, sophisticated, and effective. Give credit where credit's due!
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 1:19 AM
To those who answered "I'm not a fan, and I can't stand what she does ", please, can you tell me exactly why?
From Mendy Smith
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 2:03 AM
No matter what is played, simple or complex, it is all about the music. I think she does that in a unique way and quite well. OK, so she moves around alot, but apparently that doesn't get in the way of her playing. :)
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 2:49 AM
I like many, many kinds of music and don't tend to value it primarily in terms of its simplicity or complexity. That said, I listened to/watched three of LS's videos -- or rather, I tried to. I couldn't actually make it through to the end of any of them. For me, it's pretty insipid stuff, uninteresting musically, and her playing in the live video suffered from intonation issues (not suprising given the dance component). So, it's not for me. But, hey, so what? It's not the future of art music, or its salvation (if it actually needs salvation) but it's not claiming to be. And if -- as people have noted -- she's inspiring kids to pick up the violin, that's cool. As for critics calling her a virtuoso, that's ridiculous but not her fault.
From Paul Deck
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 3:20 AM
Eric Clapton is not Segovia or Fisk. Diana Krall is not Fleming or Callas. So?

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."

From Juan Manuel Ruiz
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 3:38 AM
I agree with most of the above comments. I notice that there is some kind of prejudice from a part of the "classical" oriented violin community (i.e. orchestra players, teachers, conservatory students and soloists) against violin playing in any other kind of music, be it pop music, country, folk or whatever... just look at all the weird "fiddler vs. violinist" fights and jokes in this site's archives.

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...

From Anitra Whittle
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 8:10 AM
I love Lindsay Stirling. We went to see her and in the audience were several young people who told me that she has inspired them. I think that is terrific.

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.
Anitra Whittle

Posted on May 24, 2014 at 10:44 AM
lindsey stirling one of the coolest violinist in the world.she never gave up on her dream n it is not wrong to do something new n talented. who care if lindsey stirling don't go by the rules, lindsey bring joy to the world, its her way of playing the violin although her bow holding n skill is inaccurate but she still make nice music/sound and put an information through songs.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 11:13 AM
To me it's interesting that most of the respondents to this poll actually cheer her on, but also most are "not a fan." I don't think that's a matter of snobbishness in the least; you like what you like.
From Mark Roberts
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 12:59 PM
more tuneful than the concert that I went to last night, but still 95m hits...
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 1:02 PM
I voted "fan no apologies!". When did music become "simple"? It is either beautiful or not. Sure everyone can play Mary Had a Little Lamb, but if you can play it and make it beautiful, you are a success, and let me see one of you post a video of you dancing and playing! I bet you can't do it, and if you can, I bet nobody cares to see it. Your post sounds snobby, like everyone should be playing Paganini. Orchestras around the world are a dwindling away, but luckily there is still a place for the violin in other musical genres that you may deem "simple". What's funny is I've seen sheet music in other genres that rival some of the greatest classics as far as complexity, but I'm sure they would still be deemed "simple" in your book, because it doesn't sound classical. Nobody really cares whether it is simple or not, unless you are a stuck up know it all violinist. People just want good music!
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 2:08 PM
She is a joy. As is Máiréad Nesbitt. Why worry about putting her in a little box defined by classical violinists? It's small minded and plays right into the stereotype of the genre being "snobbish"? She is doing more for the instrument of the violin than all the "virtuosos" in the world. Violinists should be thrilled.
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 3:22 PM
I work with children in a setting where very few have been exposed to musical training at an early age. I see what people like Lindsey do as extremely valuable, because it is kind of a gateway to becoming an even more discerning listener. She is beautiful, young, entertaining, and talented...all of which my kids find very appealing. And, she makes the whole thing "cool". I applaud what she does, because I see my kids sitting up and taking notice.

From John Minnich
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 3:34 PM
I admit that I had to go to youtube and watch parts of a couple videos to find out who she was & what she sounded like. (I think I had her confused with the dancing fiddler in Celtic Woman.) My first thought was this is Kate Bush with a fiddle. Actually I like Kate Bush, but I didn't watch more than about a minute of either video. Perhaps she needs to get one of those telescoped names like "ScarJo" or "J-Lo". Maybe she could be "L-Stir." Yeah, I'm a grey-haired old guy, and I don't dance.
Posted on May 24, 2014 at 6:59 PM
As an offshoot, what are your thoughts on Earthen Grave, Rachel Barton Pine's rock band? Or for that matter, Rasputina? Neither has attained Lindsey's visibility, but these projects seem to revel in the dark discipline of violin, in the proximity of metal and goth to baroque. Whereas Lindsey strengths reside in mixing the joy of irish/american fiddle styles with disco/pop/electronica.
From marjory lange
Posted on May 25, 2014 at 2:45 AM
I don't care for her playing; I also don't care for Wieniawski, most of Wagner, heavy metal, marching bands or rap. It's a matter of taste.
Posted on May 25, 2014 at 4:43 AM
I love LS. My daughter was finding herself quite tired of playing the baroque music in her Suzuki books day after day. Practicing was becoming tiresome (and this was in book 7). She started mixing a little LS into her practicing and not only fell in love with her dubstep music, but also rediscovered her classical pieces. I would catch her picking up her violin to quickly play through something from LS and then spend another 30 extra minutes on her current piece in addition to all of her regular practicing. In every junior high assembly they have asked her to play a LS piece. Next year, the junior high orchestra enrollment has increased from 100 to 160. The orchestra teacher attributes some of that jump to the fact that kids have seen that violin is 'cool' in these assemblies. These kids, starting so late, will most likely not ever be virtuoso violinists, but they are getting exposure to something wonderful. I love what LS has done for your average kid. Something simple can be lovely indeed. And quite frankly, there are highly technical pieces that I am hoping my daughter doesn't touch while she is at home. Difficult doesn't always equal beautiful (although it sure can!)
From Simon Streuff
Posted on May 25, 2014 at 7:36 AM
What I have heard/seen from Lindsay Stirling does not impress me much. I am not a big fan of this kind of popular music, but I respect the work that goes into it. All the producing and making video and a big show with light effects dancers and so on. But musically it is on a very simple level compared to classical music. But still you can play everything on the violin.
There are Pop-singers, who use their voice in a very simple way too and still have great appeal to the audience, because of special characteristics, good lyrics ora new combination of styles. In music business after a certain foundation of skill it is more important that you find your style than to be the "best" technician or something.
Calling Lindsay Stirling a violin virtuose sounds the same to me like Calling Anne Akiko Meyers "One of the 'best' violinists". This is all just what people want to read and see. Judging the music is a very personal thing and everybody has most probably something to say what matters. You just need to continue your path.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 25, 2014 at 10:20 PM
It is nice that the music is playable for kids.
Posted on May 26, 2014 at 1:12 AM
I've seen the influence of similar youtube musicians on kids- So in a way it's a good thing. but watching a few of her videos- I see her making a string change- and I hear someone staying on the same string. I'll stick to the Two Cellos for making an easy impression on kids about what's possible with classical instruments.
From Paul Deck
Posted on May 26, 2014 at 11:28 PM
The luthier who made my violin has a rock band called Zakopower, they are very cool and they have an original sound and they have real chops. I like Fairport Convention too, and Jean-Luc Ponty. I am "not a fan" of Stirling just because her stuff does not seem really creative or original, and im not into the dancing part of her act. I dont watch Celtic Woman either.

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.

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 3:02 PM
I think it is valuable that musicians create new ways of creating interest in the arts.I was intrigued by the concept of a hip-hop violinist. I assumed it would be like the many step and violin combination. I enjoy both good violin playing and good hip-hop. Unfortunately, after viewing videos of this artist, I was left with the impression this was mediocre playing and mediocre dance merged and didn't enjoy either.
From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on May 29, 2014 at 7:43 PM
I watched Lindsey Stirling's "Crystallize" video, and the big distraction is that she doesn't seem to be actually playing the violin, just using it as a prop. At least on the "America's Got Talent" video she was actually playing. And in a performance like that, slagging someone for missing a few notes seems unfair - the audience loved her anyway. If she were playing an electric guitar instead, perhaps the judges would have found it more acceptable.

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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