bond. Following in the footsteps of present-day pop-oriented artistes
comes bond - fashionably spelt in all lower-case, which probably
tells you something about their attitude. bond is a quartet of classically-trained
Anglo-Australian twentysomething females ("dames bond") who are,
among other things, on a self-styled crusade to end the "Proms-style
snobbery" surrounding classical music.
argument from me there. The press kit describes these ladies, with
their come-hither killer looks, as "glamorous role models that young
people who might be interested in playing classical instruments
can identify with". (Wither Hilary Hahn?) But I start to have a
sense of disquiet when their 'bondography' goes on to promise that
"they will be a breath of complete fresh air - although classical
in its instrumental make-up, the quartet will not be constrained
by existing genres or traditions. Standard classical procedures
go out the window..."
by Mel Bush, the man who invented Vanessa-Mae's splashy image, bond
is the result of an 18-month, £600,000 gestation, including
a publicity junket to Cuba and a sell-out concert at Royal Albert
Hall. Dickon Stainer, head of Decca UK, said that "what attracted
us to them is that they are a unique concept - Vanessa-Mae meets
The Spice Girls. They are a variety act, an entertainment act, not
the cutting edge of rock or garage." Alarms bells should be gonging
away like mad by now.
of Vanessa-Mae's tangy music - and I don't mean the classical recordings
here - will take to bond like ducks to water; indeed, so will anyone
who likes their music with a Europop beat. Make no mistake: this
album contains thirteen tracks, none of which have opus numbers
or modal keys. This is not a classical album in any recognizable
sense of the word.
bond classical chart saga
October 15, 2000, shortly after their debut album Born
was released, CIN (Chart Information Network) - the organization
that tracks and tabulates sales ratings in the UK - expelled
bond from the classical charts.
had allowed them in the week previously before a proper audition
was made because the review album arrived late. bond were
in number two on the classical charts at the point of removal.
Upon entering the pop charts, their position fell to thirty-sixth,
although subsequently they climbed up ten places.
bond publicity machine kicked in: "Deemed too raunchy for
the classical music charts," drooled the Daily Telegraph.
bond cellist Gay-Yee Westerhoff indignantly proclaimed, "We
belong in the classical charts, that's where people would
expect to find us. The pop charts are diverse; they have everything
from U2 to Steps. Why shouldn't classical charts be the same
first violinist Haylie Ecker, "We're all classical musicians
who have trained for 20 years; we have degrees and won prizes;
we play in the classical tradition and we are a string quartet.
We have a poetic license to entertain people all around the
globe, which is what our album Born does - it is a classical
musical mixture of sounds and rhythms from around the world...
Six men are dictating to the public. It sucks."
then clarified its position, explaining rather reasonably
that, "The music should be composed by a recognized classical
composer and be in a classical idiom or form. But their music
is not by a recognized classical composer, and the dance beats
mean it is not really a classical idiom." The motion to throw
bond out was carried by six to one. Neither bond nor their
producers, at any point, produced a reasonable explanation
as to how Born could possibly qualify as classical
under these guidelines.
orthodox classical institutions followed suit. Not all expressed
their decisions as vehemently as critic Michael White ("worthless
trash"), but even Radio 3 politely declined, saying, "We will
be delighted to play bond's music if it matches the quality
of performance we demand."
from sparking off yet another round of what constitutes classical
music - which in the modern-day context has included music
from soundtracks, musicals, quasi-pop crossovers and even
new age - the greater irony here is that bond comes on the
Decca label. The classical faithful will know Decca for their
illuminating Entartete Musik series, but this latest
offering is somewhat degenerate... albeit in a vastly different
of the pieces have been written by Magnus Fiennes (better known
for his recent soundtrack on Eugene Onegin) and the prolific
Croatian, Tonci Huljic. Two of the girls, Gay-Yee Westerhoff and
Eos, contribute one track each, ostensibly to display their multifaceted
musical skills. Add to this a reworking of Tchaikovsky's 1812
and another track (Oceania) fecklessly plagiarised from Saint-Saëns's
Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals. Another giveaway is
the last piece: a souped-up remix of the nattily-named flagship
track Victory. That, and the fact that bond uses a mix of
both electric and standard instruments in their playing.
is actually quite a catchy pop tune (loosely based on the first
five notes of Rossini's Barber of Seville Overture) and the
accentuated final-track remix makes for a very punchy dance number.
Korobushka, here performed "unplugged", hints at a quasi-classical
gypsy rhythm; Duel contains some nice instrumental interplay
- which is, unfortunately, watered down under all the sugary mix
of synths and pop beats.
could be said of the other tracks, though. Bella Donna and
Dalalai might charitably still pass as souped-up versions
of a (non-existent) classical idiom, but Winter and Kismet
are insipid confections of artificial flavouring. The worst of the
lot is, ironically, the only track which is even remotely connected
to orthodox classicism: a reworking of Tchaikovsky's 1812.
Russian maestro himself had conceded in his letters to his
benefactress Mlle. von Meck that 1812 was a pastiche and
had "only slight artistic value" - but the treatment it receives
here is undescribable beyond words. Well, try imagining the climatic
cannonade theme, played on string quartet, with an ooom-pah ooom-pah
2/4 rock beat, and overlay the entire eudaemonism with electronic
chords. Absolutely hair-raising.
local release of the album includes a bonus twenty-minute VCD containing
four extra tracks: self-intros by the girls and publicity footage
from the Cuban trip, two items from the Royal Albert Hall concert
(Quixote and Korobushka) and the Victory music
video. Great stuff, if you're a bond fan (or plan to be one).
the MTV (an unintended pun if there ever was one) contains slicked-up
quick-cut shots of the girls playing in a variety of settings and
poses, including the ubiquitous standing-in-the-water-in-a-bikini:
sex and violins. The footage is interposed with cinematic visuals
of third-world country kids peeking shyly around doors, tracking
shots of the girls trekking through Havana and hordes of slickly-choreographed
is strange is that given that the producers have aimed this
release at the classical market, when scarcely any of the music
here is even passably recognizable as such. While publicity materials
have continually trumpeted that the girls are all classically-trained
(and of whom two avowedly have first-class music degrees), the fact
remains that bond is a manufactured pop-market product from tip
to toe. This album doesn't have a track that doesn't have a pop
beat or synth in it.
sleeve jacket describes their respective positions (e.g. first violin)
as "bond skills", and includes other interest-generating snippets
like "superhero" (Eos: Velvet Underground), "bond talk" (Gay-Lee:
"...I'd really like to learn the martial arts of the Shaolin monks")
and "bond trivia" (Haylie: Loves surfing). The usual razzmatazz
one might associate with boybands.
as their aims to end classical snobbery may be, the polemic here
is that such an attempt - if it can be called that - to introduce
newcomers to classical music is counterproductive and tends to increase
the nose-peering and condescension from those who know what it really
means to appreciate good music on its own terms. But, who knows,
maybe bond will perform Schubert, Beethoven, Haydn or Bartok one
day, and their waves of fans will follow en masse ? We shall
see, but I don't think that's likely somehow.
CHEE does not like his music shaken or stirred.
Also of interest:
VANESSA-MAE - The Classical Album 1
KENNEDY plays the Elgar Violin
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From: Whatever4 (email@example.com / Sunday, March 20, 2005 at 18:00:21)
I find this review a little harsh. I'm listening to bond-born for the first time upon the recomendation of a friend for the first time as we speak.
I'm afraid I'd be declared one of the uneducated masses in as much as I'm the same with classical as I am with art and this can be summed up in that typical line, "I don't know wot it is, but I know wot I loyke!"
I listen to some classical, as I listen to some punk, some pop, some rock and so on. The trouble is, because classical is not marketed to the masses, there is no easy route of expansion. It isn't sub catogorised. A person may like Pachelbel's Canon, but not everything he ever did. Divide it by a genre, (granted difficult), even in such basic terms such as fast, slow, happy, sad, and Joe public may start to seek out new composers of that type of classical music.
Getting back to bond. I find I don't like the entire album. Some of the music doesn't lend itself well to this kind of makeover, but! I find I like the peices and it encourages me to find them in their clean state, therefore expanding my knowledge of classical, hence mission accomplished, score one to bond!
As a medium to connect this genre of music to the masses this works. Dance is the thing, eurobeats marry this to the hoards, interest grows, as does inclination to develop that sound and who knows we may get some good modern composers out of it.
To finish though, I have to say...girls, if you ever read this, please remember, less is more! A little to overdone and busy.
From: ( / Tuesday, April 12, 2005 at 09:12:28)
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