Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.
Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker, Duncan (class of 2018) and features a 2011 bluegrass/chamber music release by cellist Yo Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin player Chris Thile, and fiddler Stuart Duncan called The Goat Rodeo Sessions. Thanks, Duncan!
When one listens to any firmly cemented genre for any recognizable period of time, one starts to notice how entrenched many genre conventions are. Perhaps the most accessible (if not clichéd) example is modern Top 40, where conventions such as the infamous “millennial whoop” are near inescapable. While it can be frustrating when artists (of any genre) trudge down well-worn paths, it allows us to, by comparison, truly appreciate the artists who embrace traditions and conventions across boundaries of genre.
If one musical project can serve as an example of such artistic ambition, it is The Goat Rodeo Sessions by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. Hopefully anyone reading this post recognizes at least one of these names, but for those who don’t, these four musicians are among the most acclaimed in their genres. Yo-Yo Ma is perhaps the world’s most famous cellist, having recorded more than 90 albums and having been awarded 18 Grammy Awards. Stuart Duncan is a world class bluegrass musician (he plays fiddle on this particular project) who has won 4 Grammy Awards and has been named the Academy of Country Music’s Fiddle Player of the Year 4 times. Edgar Meyer is a bassist and composer of multiple styles who was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002. Rounding out the group is mandolinist, Chris Thile, an unrivaled genre-hopper who has been awarded 5 Grammy Awards and a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship.
The Goat Rodeo Sessions is a breathtaking crossover effort between two genres which, at first glance, are incongruous: classical and bluegrass. As a product of “bluegrass country” who has since pursued a study of classical music, I view this album as a unique opportunity to both indulge in nostalgia and embrace a marvel of musical progressivism. By drawing from two genres which are firmly rooted in tradition, these musicians push forward by pulling from the past and seemingly have a blast doing so. I wish I could put into words just how impressive this project is, both technically and intellectually, but I am not confident in my ability to adequately do so. For that reason, all I can do is vehemently recommend this incomparable piece of art. Enjoy.