For legions of fans, Stewart Copeland is beloved as founder and drummer of the Police. But his vast body of work also includes numerous film scores and, recently, a full-time gig composing orchestral works.
March 8, Copeland performs his newest work at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. Titled “Off the Score,” it’s a collaboration with famed concert pianist Jon Kimura Parker. Originally commissioned by the University of Texas, the music mixes classical works and a freewheeling rock sensibility.
“There is very sharp divide in the two great families of musicians: readers and players,” explains Copeland from his office in L.A.. “And they each approach music in a very different way. The orchestral player, reading [music], connects to the music with his eyes, it’s a visual connection with the conductor, the baton, the notes on the page. All of those players have to be dedicated to the page, and their fingers wait for a signal from their eyes.
“The rock or jazz musician,” he continues, “connects to the music with his ears. His eyes can be closed, but his ears are guiding him. And he’s thinking on his feet, he can make it up as he goes along.”
For Copeland, a lifetime of worldly influences and decades as a film composer have allowed him to cross the boundary between these two types of players with relative ease.
The “Off the Score” concert reflects the two sides of this musical coin, with occasionally spontaneous renditions of classical works, as well as original compositions. Copeland illustrates his technique through a recollection.
“When I was a kid walking along in two-four time, I had the music of Stravinsky and Ravel going around in my head, in all kinds of different exotic meters,” he recalls. “But in my mind, playing along in two-four time, I developed this thing of applying contrary rhythms to those meters. I’ve been playing rock drums to Ravel for as long as I can remember.”
Further inspiration for this program came after Copeland met Parker.
“He’s been interested in improvisation,” says Copeland. “He’s always felt he’d love to jump off the cliff and transgress the line of improvisation, which fills most orchestral players with dread.”
Joining the two onstage are three immensely talented players, including Yoon Kwon, first violin in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, who also plays in rock bands around New York City.
“She has a technique beyond anything I’ve ever found in session players, even the triple-scale cats here in Los Angeles,” says Copeland.
The performance continues Copeland’s lifetime of innovative and transformative work. Chamber music may never be the same again.