by Lawrence Luk

For the Media

Blunt Objects album release press kit »Link (offsite)

Press Clips

Washington City Paper, "One Track Mind" review of Blunt Objects (includes free track download) »Link

IndiePit blog entry, on the occasion of Blunt Objects release: article by Jonathan about Jimmy Giuffre's "Fly Away Little Bird." »Link

Washington Post Express, August 21, 2008: »Link to online version | » PDF
Rock the Conservatory: The Low End String Quartet

It's written on paper and played on stringed instruments, so is the music of the Low End String Quartet classical?

Sort of, yes, and for all intents and purposes, no.

"In the classical music universe, there's this little ghetto, and that's called 'contemporary music,'" says composer-guitarist Jonathan Matis, who founded the LESQ. "And in that little ghetto, those people are trying to reach the classical music audience. It's not a good fit."

This conundrum - how to bring contemporary classical music to the best potential audience - led Matis away from the Kennedy Center and toward U Street. The LESQ - bassist Tom Clune, cellist Jodi Beder, Andrea Vercoe on violin and Matis on guitar - hauls its instruments into the Velvet Lounge on Saturday night with the specific purpose of setting the place's roof on fire.

"Small clubs are the vibrant place where chamber music is happing these days," says Matis. "A conventional string quartet would have a hard time in that environment because it's noisy."

So he went back to the composition he had been working on and amplified all the instrumentation.

"We're heavier on the lower instruments than a conventional string quartet. The guitar and the cello are actually very, very close in register, then we have the bass and a violin."

The result is chamber music for this century - loud, gorgeous and ready for the club.

-Arion Berger

Good Reviews

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Bad Reviews

The Washington Post, August 24, 2008 | » Link to source

Low End String Quartet

Composer Jonathan Matis is very upfront about his aims for the Low End String Quartet: He intends to rock. On his blog and during interviews, he talks about shaking up classical music mores and bending genres. Saturday night, the Hyattsville resident packed up his ambitions and amplifiers and headed for Velvet Lounge.

Word on U Street is that the tiny club, the size of a junior one-bedroom, is where you'd go hear a friend of a friend play post-punk electronic noise. So Matis has accomplished his goal of bringing classically trained musicians to an unusual venue. As a composer, he has work to do. The key to writing minimalist chamber music, as the Low End Quartet is best summed up stylistically, is convincing listeners that the reason you keep repeating the same four chords is not because those are the only four you know. Too often, the Low End failed to pass this basic test. The orchestration -- for Matis on electric guitar, plus amplified upright bass, violin and cello -- is mostly dull and meandering. (It was also way too loud.) And its a shame, because there were moments, in "Rondo" and "Shut Up and Listen," when Matis used looping and layers of sound to create music that was more complex and engaging.

It's worth remembering that minimalism, as a sonic movement, was conceived in California clubs and galleries, not concert halls. The composer John Adams, in his forthcoming memoir, confesses that the first piece he ever wrote for the Kronos Quartet "crashed and burned" 30 years ago in Santa Cruz. He then massively reworked the piece and came up with his classic chamber work, "Shaker Loops." All this to say, the Low End Quartet is charting venerable territory. Matis and his friends just have to remember that it's the music that breaks boundaries, not the musicians.

--Rebecca J. Ritzel