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godspeed you black emperor!

Any band that names themselves after documentary about a Japanese motorcycle gang and covers the composer Gorecki in concert is a friend of mine. As much as I love classical music, it is becoming increasingly apparent that as a genre it is becoming more and more formalized and stagnated. People often complain that much of 20th century classical music is largely inaccessible - but for every challenging Schoenberg and Penderecki, there's a Part and Gorecki who get thrown out with the bath water. As a consequence, very little "new" music gets heard, and orchestras and philharmonics seem to become no more than purveyors of greatest hits compilations of the 1800s. It's perhaps a bit presumptuous to claim that godspeed you black emperor! will save the world of classical music - but it's not an unreasonable possibility.

Comprised of three guitarists, two bassists, a cellist, a violinist, and two percussionists, they're not exactly your great-grandfather's chamber group, but despite the somewhat unusual instrumentation (in the "chamber group" sense), their often 20 minute epic pieces do contain certain aspects of traditional classical music - although they pay more homage to 20th century folks like Gorecki. When they take their show on the road, it's not to the pristine concert halls downtown, but to the more traditionally rock-oriented clubs on the outskirts, and on their first two tours through the US, they have sold out most if not all of their shows in increasingly-large venues. Concert halls of the world beware - they're headed your way. Their live show in LA last year was probably the most emotionally stirring I have seen in the past few years. Highly, highly recommended. Be forewarned - if you live in LA, I may well try to drag you to this show.

Links of note:

  • Excellent godspeed page:
  • godspeed's page at Southern Records:
    If you'd like, you can email me here:

    Oh, and all content on these pages is copyright Richard Lewis.