BOND: LE FEMME ORIG­I­NAL STRING QUAR­TET

Public News (Houston) - - EVENTS - by Mark Cramp­ton

I first dis­cov­ered the mu­si­cal group Bond (billed as the ‘Orig­i­nal Elec­tric String Quar­tet) http://

www.bondquar­tet.com/ when I was moon­light­ing as a store-set­ter for Barnes and No­ble (just like it sounds, set­ting up and ar­rang­ing new stores) – I worked on clos­ing/ mov­ing one store and open­ing two more, then stayed at the sec­ond store for about eight months (be­fore I crossed swords one too many times with an in­ept new Mu­sic/DVD depart­ment man­ager!)

I worked some in Sci­ence Fic­tion books, but pri­mar­ily in Mu­sic/ DVDs, as those were my main in­ter­ests and knowl­edge bases. B&N’s mu­sic depart­ment bins were or­ga­nized by very BA­SIC mu­sic cat­e­gories: Clas­si­cal, Blues, Rock, Coun­try, Movie Sound­tracks, etc. - with LOTS of blank bin di­viders - AND a la­bel-maker!

So, I re-ar­ranged the bins and sub-cat­e­go­rized these mu­sic va­ri­eties by many mag­ni­tudes. I mean, if they did NOT want me to do that, they should NOT have given me blank bin di­viders and a la­bel­maker, right? If you have an artist who plays mu­sic that fits into two dif­fer­ent gen­res – then it makes sense to put his CDs in BOTH lo­ca­tions to en­sure max­i­mum cus­tomer no­tice, right?

Bond had just re­leased their sec­ond al­bum ‘Shine’ in Oc­to­ber 2002, and it came in cat­e­go­rized as “Clas­si­cal”. The cover caught my at­ten­tion, so I put it on the store sound sys­tem and lis­tened to it (we were given an of­fi­cial playlist – the mu­sic sys­tem was lo­cated in the Mu­sic Depart­ment, ob­vi­ously - but we of­ten sneaked other discs into it). I LIKED Bond’s mu­sic on this al­bum, so, I then sneaked their first al­bum ‘Born’ – also cat­e­go­rized as “Clas­si­cal” - into the store playlist too, and, dog­gone, I liked it as well! (Copies of both CDs are, of course, in my li­brary.) Ad­mit it, when some­one says “Clas­si­cal mu­sic”, you think of some sleep-in­duc­ing bore­dom-fest by, oh, the East Bucharest Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra (I first said Prague Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra – but it turns out, one of the ladies ac­tu­ally DID play with THEM!) or some­thing like that, right? With a bunch of blue-noses and blue-hairs in tuxe­dos and cock­tail dresses, puff­ing on cigar­il­los and sip­ping mar­ti­nis in the lobby dur­ing in­ter­mis­sion, while sneer­ing at the hoi-pol­loi in the streets out­side? [NOTE: That re­minds me of a hu­mor­ous – or pos­si­bly not - ex­pe­ri­ence of my own at a con­cert at Hous­ton’s Jones Hall some years ago. Maybe fod­der for a fu­ture ar­ti­cle. Or just ask me about it.]

So, as for the Clas­si­cal mu­sic cat­e­go­riza­tion - OK, I ad­mit the in­stru­ments the girls play could be con­sid­ered Clas­si­cal in that sense – vi­o­lin, vi­ola and cello – and some of their mu­sic is by Clas­si­cal com­posers – Vi­valdi, Mozart, Strauss. Beethoven, Tchaikovsky. But they cer­tainly are not MY idea of Clas­si­cal mu­sic! You will not sleep through any­thing Bond plays! Now that I ex­plained how I came to find Bond, here’s their back­ground: Bond was a ‘cre­ated’ mu­sic group – much like the ‘60’s TV group The Mon­kees. In the late ‘90’s a part­ner­ship of two mu­sic pro­duc­ers and a pro­moter de­cided to as­sem­ble a string quar­tet specif­i­cally of in­ter­na­tional, tal­ented AND gor­geous fe­male mu­si­cians. (Don’t ac­cuse ME of sex­ism – I’m just re­port­ing this story!) The stated idea of the pro­mot­ers was that this mu­sic group would NOT be just about record prof­its, but would of­fer stylish – even glam­orous - role mod­els that young mu­si­cians in­ter­ested in play­ing Clas­si­cal mu­sic and in­stru­ments could iden­tify with, while down-play­ing the “high-brow snob­bery” too of­ten as­so­ci­ated with Clas­si­cal mu­sic.

A world-wide tal­ent search en­sued, and even­tu­ally Haylie Ecker (first vi­o­lin, Aus­tralia), Ta­nia Davis (vi­ola, Aus­tralia), Eos Coun­sell (sec­ond vi­o­lin, Wales) and GayYee Wester­hoff (Cello, Eng­land) were care­fully cho­sen.

The four spe­cial ladies were in­deed beau­ti­ful, as spec­i­fied, but each was also a su­perla­tive and suc­cess­ful mu­si­cian in her own right! All were alum­nae of top mu­sic schools such as Lon­don’s Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic, Lon­don’s Trin­ity Col­lege, Lon­don’s Royal Academy of Mu­sic, the Guild­hall and Trin­ity Col­lege of Mu­sic, the Syd­ney Con­ser­va­to­rium, et al. They have all played in­di­vid­u­ally with var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional Cham-

ber Groups, Sym­phonies and Or­ches­tras, as well as nu­mer­ous other mu­si­cians on all va­ri­eties. They each were also mu­sic com­posers, ar­rangers and pro­duc­ers in their own right, both be­fore and dur­ing their ten­ure in Bond.

Once Hailie, Ta­nia, Eos and GayYee were as­sem­bled to­gether in the stu­dio, four pre­lim­i­nary mu­sic record­ings were made, which im­me­di­ately led to a multi-al­bum con­tract with Decca Stu­dios.

Three of these record­ings were the back­bone of their first al­bum ‘Born’ in Oc­to­ber 2000: “Duel” https://youtu. be/eVUi7VWFO84 ; “1812” https://youtu.be/Hfg­tyFHX­plc ;

and “Dalalai” https://youtu.be /9Hb9rALEG70?list=RD9Hb9 rALEG70. The fourth record­ing “Vic­tory” https://youtu. be/6zE558K3Xo8 was re­leased as

their first sin­gle.

Bond was pre­sented to the world in a lav­ish mu­si­cal show­case – a live con­cert (with back­ing rock band, cham­ber or­ches­tra and dancers) at Lon­don’s Royal Albert Hall in Septem­ber 2000 - fea­tur­ing, of course, the mu­sic from their

soon-to-be-re­leased first al­bum ‘Born’. (Filmed, and re­leased on DVD a year later. Yes, of course it’s in my li­brary!) https://youtu.be/ PfEWKwsagkI

Un­for­tu­nately, Bond’s first con­cert was NOT well re­ceived by Lon­don’s ‘ Ton’ (High So­ci­ety) or Mu­sic Crit­ics – the short­est cut was: “Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret mod­els with vi­o­lins” and the most scathing: “Say what you will about the lib­er­ties the bond string quar­tet takes with a piece of clas­si­cal mu­sic, you can’t fault its sex­u­ally charged per­for­mances for be­ing off key. Off color, yes. A bond con­cert is a melodic lap dance: the four sylphs do en­er­getic things with their or­ches­tral in­stru­ments, not to men­tion their hips, that would com­pel Stradi­vari to or­der an ex­or­cism. One does not learn to strad­dle a cello that way at a con­ser­va­tory.” [NOTE: Be­cause of 007 fran­chise trade­mark is­sues, when they first ap­peared the girls had to be billed as either “bond” or “BOND”, not “Bond”. This re­stric­tion has since be­come moot – just like coke and xe­rox, ap­par­ently 007 was NOT suc­cess­ful in trade­mark­ing his name!] Af­ter their maiden per­for­mance was panned, Bond’s first al­bum was in turn firmly snubbed (banned, in fact) from the UK Clas­si­cal charts be­cause it wasn’t “Clas­si­cal” enough!

So Bond left Eng­land, and in­tro­duced (pri­mar­ily) Asia and the world to their “Cross­over Clas­si­cal In­stru­men­tal” mu­sic – Clas­si­cal mu­sic with heavy in­flu­ences from pop, elec­tron­ica, folk, jazz, In­dian, Latin, Mid­dle-East­ern – where they im­me­di­ately hit #1 on Clas­si­cal charts ev­ery­where EX­CEPT Eng­land! To date, Bond has achieved 15 Gold and 59 Plat­inum records, with well over 4 mil­lion discs sold!

In their ear­lier videos, the girls play tra­di­tional wood in­stru­ments - and still do, on oc­ca­sion – but later, in Ja­pan, Yamaha Mu­si­cal In­stru­ments tech­ni­cians de­signed, specif­i­cally for each girl in the quar­tet, her own space-age elec­tronic com­put­er­ized marvel of a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment – vi­o­lins for Haylie and Eos, a vi­ola for Ta­nia and a cello for Gay-Yee. (And later, an­other vi­ola for El­speth when she joined Bond, and an­other vi­o­lin for Ta­nia when she changed in­stru­ments). Not the first elec­tri­fied “Clas­si­cal” in­stru­ments, by far, but at that time the most ad­vanced! Fu­tur­is­tic-ap­pear­ing elec­tric string in­stru­ments are not that rare (a Tucker Bar­rett green acrylic elec­tric vi­o­lin even ap­peared in the ’97 Sci-Fi War movie “Star­ship Troop­ers”) but Bond’s pro­to­type Yama­has are still one-ofa-kind in­stru­ments!

In the years since that first un­suc­cess­ful con­cert, Bond has NEVER stopped: tour­ing for live con­certs and shows, film­ing com­mer­cials and TV shows and award cer­e­monies, shoot­ing mu­sic videos, mak­ing movie ap­pear­ances, and re­leas­ing six more al­bums, although their main ef­forts have con­tin­ued mostly out­side of Eng­land it­self.

They com­posed, played and ap­peared in early 2000’s ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns for the Mar­shal Field’s Depart­ment Store chain and for Dai­ichi Kosho (ap­par­ently the largest Ja­panese karaoke man­u­fac­turer – they also build air­planes!). Bond played at the 2003 Miss Uni­verse Pageant in Panama City,

Panama https://youtu.be/Ok­bJUgn6ZlA.

For the movie 2003 “Johnny English” sound­track, Bond played a vari­a­tion of “Kis­met” com­posed by Gay-Yee, and also made their vir­gin movie ap­pear­ance – play­ing them­selves in a cameo! https:// youtu.be/tNR_fAQCxUk

In the 2005 movie “XXX: State of the Union” Bond also again played them­selves in an­other – un­cred­ited - cameo - and their mu­sic is not on the sound­track. https://youtu.be/ vcxYNkFYOSs

In Au­gust 2008 Bond ap­peared on the Aus­tralian ver­sion of “Danc­ing With the Stars” https://

youtu.be/tmuW-XpO2kM play­ing the open­ing num­ber, then for two of the con­tes­tants.

This was the last ap­pear­ance of Haylie with Bond (she moved to Hong Kong to start a fam­ily), to be re­placed by El­speth Han­son (English). El­speth plays the vi­ola and is just as mu­si­cally tal­ented and ex­pe­ri­enced as the orig­i­nal mem­bers. When El­speth joined, Ta­nia changed from vi­ola to first vi­o­lin. All four band mem­bers com­posed, ar­ranged, played and

ap­peared in an en­tire pub­lic­ity cam­paign for the 2009 re­lease for the Peu­geot 308CC au­to­mo­bile, vari­a­tions on Vi­valdi’s “Four Sea­sons”. All four tracks can still be down­loaded free from Peu­geot’s web­site, and ‘Sum­mer’ and ‘Win­ter’ https://youtu.be/8rFth5EsPuQ were in­cluded on their 2011 ‘Play’ al­bum. On the 2011 ‘Play’ al­bum https:// youtu.be/NsUl9TtvGJQ, ‘Di­ablo’ https://youtu.be/NirRMrp­bCFQ

be­came their first piece with vo­cals, fea­tur­ing Eos vo­cal­iz­ing as well as play­ing. ‘ Play’ also fea­tures their ar­range­ment of the song ‘Jai Ho’ from the 2008 movie Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire – and pre­sented the film’s pro­ducer and com­poser A. R. Rah­man on vo­cals (I’m sorry, I can’t help think­ing of the Pussy­cat Dolls ver­sion – ALSO fea­tur­ing A.R. Rah­man on vo­cals). Gay-Yee also com­posed the Rus­sian-in­flu­enced song ‘Beat­root’ https://you

tu.be/gjK5911cWXI , which added a clar­inet to their string quar­tet.

In 2011, Bond recorded – for Ja­panese re­lease only – a medly of Lady Gaga hits. https://youtu. be/Kp­mTHkFWekQ (OK, I guess

ev­ery­one has done some­thing they re­gret!) Bond per­formed in the Lon­don Olympic Sta­dium at the 2012 Olympics Clos­ing Cer­e­mony https://youtu.be/D54Nv2wzqTY

. (Un­for­tu­nately play­ing sec­ond fid­dle – as it were – to the con­tro­ver­sial – and VERY bad singer - Rus­sel Brand – if only they could have booted him and fea­tured Bond alone!)

Well, I could go for sev­eral more pages with Bond’s ap­pear­ances and ac­com­plish­ments – but it all comes back to their mu­sic! Bond de­vel­oped and ex­em­pli­fies “Clas­si­cal Cross­over” mu­sic and style. Just the num­ber of (mostly all-girl) groups fol­low­ing their lead – Amadeus from Ro­ma­nia (I re­ally like them, too!); Escela from the UK (who use the same Yamaha in­stru­ments Bond does); Gar­cia from Hun­gary; the Elec­tric Ladies from Lithua­nia; Kroma Quar­tet from LA (they bill them­selves the first all-girl all-black string quar­tet); Fan­tas­ti­coh! and As­turia Girls from Ukraine; Won­der Strings from Ser­bia; BaRock String Quar­tet from Venice; Phat Strad from Las Ve­gas; The Lady Go­di­vas from Lon­don (no, they don’t play naked!) – the list goes on. Oh, let’s not for­get a group I did an ear­lier ar­ti­cle about, 2 Cel­los from Ser­bia – even though they’re both guys - and Apoca­lyp­tica from Fin­land – hon­est, I don’t know if a cou­ple of them are guys or girls! – but, any­way, they’re also Clas­si­cal cross­over groups.

Want to lis­ten to some­thing dif­fer­ent than the odds and ends and rub­bish avail­able on Hous­ton ra­dio sta­tions? So, try some Cross­over Clas­si­cal mu­sic – and maybe Bond in par­tic­u­lar - and give them a lis­ten.

[NOTE: And, again, please give a re­sponse to my Ed­i­tor/Pub­lisher and me – we are at­ten­tion junkies, we want and need to know that you’re out there!]

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