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Episode 182: Vitamin String Quartet
Air date: 5.17.2017
Soon after modern pop music supplanted jazz and classical styles as the predominant music for the masses, musicians were arranging pop standards with classical instrumentation. The quality and musical merits of these reverse-engineered explorations ranged from dubious - think elevator music - to the avant-garde. But at its best, the genre both exposes people otherwise not predisposed to like classical music to a new art form as well as illuminates the musical legitimacy of a style derided in highbrow circles as merely ‘pop’ music. Los Angeles’ Vitamin String Quartet started out nearly 20 years ago as a sort of side project for a record label. Although it features long-running members, it isn’t a fixed ensemble; it’s more like a sports franchise that plays games with a rotating cast of players. But the quality of the VSQ performers remains high, and the ensemble has evolved from its more musically open origins to taking on the unique challenge of arranging, rock, pop, metal, punk, techo, country and hip-hop songs solely for the four instruments that comprise a string quartet - cello, viola and a pair of violins. The Internet age has been good to Vitamin String Quartet, and the group has ably capitalized on the new paradigm of the way music is distributed and enjoyed. The ensemble has managed to move over 3.8 million downloads, 1 million compact discs and it maintains an active YouTube page with well over a thousand videos - with new content being released regularly. Unsurprisingly, VSQ’s unique and adventurous arrangements have found their way into numerous TV shows and fans can even buy sheet music for some pieces. In short, Vitamin String Quartet has grown into a sort of cottage industry. With this much content, pick a band - you’re sure to find music by at least one of your favorite artists in the Vitamin String Quartet catalog.