THE DOORS CONCERTO
Nigel Kennedy, violinist, and the Prague Symphony Orchestra
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My experience of becoming a Doors fan has always been inextricably intertwined with my concurrent experience of attending boarding school. The Doors reached the nadir of their popularity during the same four years in which I was a student in Stockbridge. The intensity of these twin experiences was such that the loss of the resulting identity I had evolved while there, dispatched me into four different mental hospitalizations during the decade of the Seventies, following graduation from that school.
Those days and those times were highly precious ones to me, and I was so enraptured by the intensity of what I was experiencing, that I came to think of the rock music which was charming me as something distinct from traditional forms of music. This illusion was certainly fueled by my lack of understanding of the commonalities between Western forms of music.
Several years later, I was shooting the breeze with a friend who was a student at the Peabody School of Music and Dance, here in Baltimore. My friend, of course, was being classically trained. Living and breathing the Doors as I was desperately doing then, I'm sure to have mentioned to this acquaintance that the Doors happened to be my favorite rock group. And then, not realizing that it's sometimes best to let sleeping dogs lie, I asked him to explain to me how rock was similar in any way to classical music or jazz. And, can you believe this?! I asked him to use the sacred song of, "Light My Fire," to illustrate! Well, sure enough, that's what this guy did. I asked for it.
What he explained to me in a way which I could understand for the first time was the mechanism of counterpoint, so evident in Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger's extended and notorious soloing in the above song. I'm telling you, I was crushed. The divinity of my personally sacred music had been sullied. Brother, was this a blow to my identity!
But, allow me to get back on the brighter side of things. Hope springs eternal, and I eventually allowed myself to develope a real appreciation for classical and jazz as an outgrowth of my painful experience, gut-wrenching though this was. Discussions with a couple of other friends who were trained musicians helped in this regard, as did my completion of a course in Music Literature.
This then brings me to the point of this entire review: The Doors Concerto, recorded in late 1999.
As I said above, I'm now a classical and jazz music appreciation ace. This is how I'm authorized to announce the following profound discovery:
Rock IS a distinct form of music afterall.
When listening to the Doors Concerto, it took considerable discipline to listen to this rendition with an open mind. I was constantly having to refrain from reading the original tunes that I know so well, into these new arrangements. In fact, I realized that because rock, (as exemplified by the Doors,) has so many different things to offer than classical music does, there was really no point in trying to compare two versions of the Doors simultaneously, certainly not while one is listening to the recording. Take it from me, I know. Trying to do this a little while ago almost sent me to another mental hospital.
I'm not a trained musicologist. In fact, I'm not a musicologist at all. But I'll wager nonetheless that of any and all recorded efforts which have been made to transpose the Doors music into traditional form, none demonstrates more clearly the futility and unimportance of doing this than this, nonetheless, stupendous album. Both of the musical forms inherent in this recording are superbly represented; yet neither one could be more distinct from the other. Nigel Kennedy, by the way, is a virtuoso essential to the success of this recording.
All hail the rock purists. Conquistadores, Arise!
Reviewed by Philip A. Kumin