A Classic, Reinterpreted

A few years ago, Mags heard an NPR interview that has stuck with her to this day. During the interview, Chad Lawson explained his interpretation of Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne in F Minor. His work is a fascinating blend of classical, jazz, symphonic, and new-age music.

A jazz pianist with a classical background, Lawson analyzed Chopin’s piece and extracted melodic and harmonic elements of the original work. Typically, a jazz ensemble includes a drum set and double bass. Lawson’s trio is more symphonic, featuring only cello and violin alongside his piano.

Lawson created a chord chart, which the musicians used to improvise their take on the nocturne. The chart is securely rooted in nineteenth century harmony and formal structure. Dissonances resolve comfortably, and even inexperienced listeners are drawn to the simple melody and harmony, never doubting their musical surroundings. But somehow, the listener also remains in the twenty-first century. The repetitive, percussive nature of the piano makes the piece sound fresh with the driving energy of our modern ageits restless beauty reminds us of Radiohead.

Listen to this recording of the Chopin nocturne by Arthur Rubinstein:

Then compare it to Lawson’s performance:

Lawson’s appeal to the easy listening crowd brings new attention to classical music and composers such as Chopin, Bach, and (in his upcoming tour) Gershwin. Perhaps some of Lawson’s fans may venture for a first-time visit to the symphony as a result.

Lawson’s music calls for a beer that reinterprets a classic style. Few beers are so classic as the porter. The style was immensely popular with the working class of the industrial revolution, and it also was George Washington’s favorite beer. Because it was manufactured so cheaply in England, the newly popular porter nearly bankrupted smaller brewers in the countryside outside of London.

What goes around comes around. In our age, smaller breweries are reinterpreting the porter with stunningly popular results.  One of BachBeer’s favorite porters is Death by Coconut by Oskar Blues.

Death by Coconut – a rich, chocolatey, coconut-sugary take on the Irish porter. Image courtesy of Musings Over a Pint

This popular seasonal brew is an Irish porter brewed with Cholaca, a pure liquid chocolate made only with cacao, water, and coconut sugar. It offers a velvety mouthfeel, surprising complexity, and enticing aftertaste. In our neighborhood, it sells out quickly after its release each winter.

Through reinterpretation we gain a new appreciation of the classic in pursuit of renewed energy and beauty. Here’s to Chad Lawson and Death By Coconut.