While on tour with various bands over the past few years—including Billy & the Kids (led by the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann), Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Tea Leaf Green—bassist extraordinaire Reed Mathis spent his spare time rearranging Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3” and “Symphony No. 6,” recording each newly reimagined movement with a long and impressive “who’s-who” of his musical brethren, including Phish’s Page McConnell and Mike Gordon, Galactic’s Stanton Moore, Brad and Andrew Barr (The Slip / Barr Brothers), Marco Benevento, Joe Russo, Robert Walter and Mike Dillon.
For the majority of the nine movements that comprise the two symphonies, Reed traveled to these musicians’ respective hometowns, recording them in their natural environment. Having befriended many musical greats throughout his career, Reed chose the artists that, he felt, best embodied the spirit of Beethoven. It’s little coincidence that, unlike contemporaries in modern-day orchestras, these “rock” musicians had comparatively little classical music training (if at all). In fact, most of them confessed that, prior to Reed pitching them on the project, they had no intimate prior knowledge of the movement that they were drafted to perform.
This, in fact, suited Reed’s vision for bringing Beethoven into the 21st century better than if the musicians had been versed in the composer’s work. Reed wanted his collaborators to have the freedom to create and interpret as themselves. His concept being that even when composed music—be it a song or a symphony—has been performed for centuries, the notes and rhythms are still supposed to be embedded with personal context. After all, the music that most deeply affects us is music that is relatable. Classical music purists tend to disregard that directive in favor of a strict handed-down construct. Reed’s mission with this project, then, was to free these symphonies from their historic chains and place them back in the here-and-now. It’s music of the moment, even if that moment has been happening for more than 200 years.
Fifteen musicians and many cross-country trips in the making, Reed Mathis’ rearrangements and recordings of Beethoven “Symphony No. 3” and “Symphony No. 6” will be released as ‘Beathoven,’ via Brooklyn-based independent record label, Royal Potato Family.