The intersection point between rock music and classical music is one which the Signum Quartet finds fascinating and appealing: Having grown up listening to and falling in love with Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, Shostakovich as well as The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead, the idea of bringing these two musical worlds together in one programme seems an organic and natural extension of their repertoire.
There are many palpable musical and energetic similarities between classical and rock music – Beethoven’s overwhelming Große Fuge must have had a similar visceral, mind-bending effect on the listeners of his day that Led Zeppelin had on theirs! An existential and sometimes overlooked similarity is that rock music at its core is also chamber music: The joy of playing in a tight three- or four-piece rock band provides similar thrills of musical interaction and communication to playing a Haydn or Dvorak string quartet.
It is these points of intersection which Matthijs van Dijk captures so wonderfully in his arrangements and paraphrases of well-known rock songs and in his own rock-inspired works. He is an award-winning composer of “serious” contemporary music as well as a songwriter, not to mention a seasoned string quartet violinist and a rock bassist and singer. It is this multifaceted experience that gives him a unique angle on this type of arrangement. He retains the essence of the songs without looking to use the quartet unidiomatically, and the result is often more akin to a commentary or paraphrase than a straight transcription. In fact, in the arrangement of Cream “Sunshine”, he weaves in musical quotations of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors and Bob Marley in a kind of musical acid trip within a trip.
The members of the Signum Quartet are regularly involved in recordings for top bands (including Die Fantastischen Vier or Die Toten Hosen) as well as having played in bands themselves – Xandi even sang and played bass and drums in various bands, often together with his brother Matthijs. As passionate musical omnivores, they relish the opportunity to blur boundaries and explore the deep interconnectedness of these closely related art forms.