January 20, 2012
Two days ago, Death Cab for Cutie announced a unique addition to their upcoming tour: members of San Francisco’s own Magik*Magik Orchestra will accompany the band on stage as they tour various North American cities.
As Minna Choi discussed with us back in June, the Magik*Magik Orchestra has a celebrated ability to pair effervescently with rock bands, bringing bands’ performances to entirely new levels. And that’s not an exaggeration: the pairing of the Magik*Magik Orchestra with John Vanderslice at the Herbst Theatre last summer was absolutely awe-inspiring.
The official Death Cab for Cutie/Magik*Magik Orchestra 2012 tour kicks off in April and ends in May, with a stop in the Bay Area on May 18th at the Fox Theater. All tour dates after the jump. [More...]
June 14, 2011
In addition to our interview with Minna Choi about the origins of the Magik*Magik Orchestra, we asked her to identify her favorite collaborative performances by the orchestra over its first three years. Below, check out some of Magik*Magik’s finest moments, with Minna’s thoughts on why they stand out as highlights. Remember, the orchestra’s third anniversary show is this Friday night with John Vanderslice at the Herbst Theatre.
John Vanderslice – White Wilderness â€“ Itâ€™s the first time Magik ever made a record where we were truly collaborators from the beginning. JV trusts us so much and he put absolutely no restrictions upon the group when it came time to put the record together. Thatâ€™s a great feeling. It makes you feel 100% connected to someoneâ€™s musical insides, their innate leanings, melodically, harmonically and proportionally, in a pretty intimate and incredible way.
Death Cab For Cutie â€“ Codes and Keys â€“ When I first started Magik and we joined with Tiny Telephone, a couple friends would tease me and be like, â€œwhoa, maybe one day youâ€™ll get to work with Death Cab. I saw their name on that website.â€ And you totally like laugh it off, because youâ€™re like there is no way they would ever contact me in a million years. They did a huge show with the LA Philharmonic with Beckâ€™s dad arranging full symphonic charts for the band! Why would they come to San Francisco for Magik, you know? But Chris heard about us from JV and said he really liked our mission statement, so he contacted us. I couldnâ€™t believe it. It was such an honor to work with them.
The Dodos â€“ Iâ€™m a huge Meric fan. His voice and his songwriting is so complete but yet still boyish, I adore it. The Dodos are the only band I reached out to before they reached out to us. Iâ€™m pretty hesitant when it comes to pitching Magik to a stranger. In this case, though, I was just so blown away by their performance at Treasure Island that I had to reach out. So I MySpaced them, which is a clue to how long ago this was, and Meric wrote back right away saying heâ€™d love to do a show together.
Interview: Minna Choi discusses the Magik*Magik Orchestra’s origins and the rewards of working with rock bands
June 10, 2011
Since its inception three years ago, The Magik*Magik Orchestra has become the Bay Area’s go-to orchestral group for rock bands looking to transform their music through the addition of classical elements. I suspect that making those sorts of collaborations work isn’t always easy, and Magik*Magik’s success is surely due in no small part to the many talents of Artistic Director Minna Choi. In anticipation of Magik*Magik’s upcoming performance at Herbst Theatre on June 17th, where the orchestra will also join John Vanderslice for a performance of White Wilderness in its entirety, I spoke with Choi via e-mail about the joys and challenges of collaborating with rock musicians, the Orchestra’s origins, and who her dream collaborators might be.
Was the goal with Magik*Magik to work with rock musicians from the get-go? How did the orchestra get started?
Yes, working with bands was the focus of Magik from the beginning. I first started Magik intending to do mostly recording projects, so I reached out to JV [John Vanderslice] to form a partnership. I wasnâ€™t really thinking about live shows in the beginning and was planning on taking some more time before delving into that scene. But then soon after JV and I connected, I got a call from Wordless Music Series to help them organize a show for Jonny Greenwood in San Francisco. They wanted to program an orchestra show of Jonnyâ€™s music the day before Radioheadâ€™s performance at Outside Lands so that Jonny could attend the show, which he had never done before in the US. They said that if I helped them pull it off, that I could put Magikâ€™s name on it and have that be our official debut show. It was such a no brainer that even though we had no players or experience, I just said yes. That was three years ago at the Herbst. I think JV came to that show actually!
Are there particular challenges to working with rock and pop artists? In your experience, do some rock/pop musicians have limiting preconceptions about how classical instruments should fit into their music?
The biggest challenge that we had to find a solution to early on is that most of the bands we work with donâ€™t read music, and most of the classical musicians we work with, donâ€™t improvise. So my job was to create systems that made it easy for both types of musicians to work together as seamlessly as possible. Iâ€™m happy that weâ€™ve developed some really great tricks to help each group record together super efficiently and musically.
I think bands have to be eased into the orchestral thing kind of in stages. There a level of trust that has to be built up between the band, the arranger and the players. Usually the first time I work with a band, I expect that the collaboration will be a little more on the conservative side, because weâ€™re still feeling each other out. Like The Dodos is a good example. When we worked together the first time around, Meric really wanted to be there at arranging sessions with me and make sure we were on the same page. Kind of like a parent wants to be with their kid on the first day of school, just making sure the environment is safe and theyâ€™ll be taken care of. A song is kind of like a kid in that way. Itâ€™s a precious item that you donâ€™t just let any stranger off the street babysit. So that was the right thing for Meric to do at the time. But the second time around for recording No Color, he was just like “I trust you so just write whatever you want, I donâ€™t have to hear any mock ups, record it without me there and send the files to Portland when youâ€™re done.”
What has surprised you most about Magik*Magik’s work so far? What have you learned from working with the orchestra?
The thing that continually surprises (and encourages) me about Magik is how enthusiastic and excited the orchestra players are for every project. We kinda only do one thing, we play shows and records with bands. Youâ€™d think that maybe after a while the players will be like, “been there, done that.” But every band is so different, and have different personalities that each show feels fresh and exciting and the players respond to that newness. Itâ€™s like making new friends every month or every couple of weeks.