This Album Changed My Life: Osso String Quartet – Run Rabbit Run (2009)

Éna Brennan aka Dowry on a reworking of Sufjan Stevens’s 2001 album ‘Enjoy Your Rabbit’

Éna Brennan: “This album interested me in particular as it is revered more than Sufjan Stevens’s original electronic album.” Photograph: Aaron Corr

Éna Brennan: “This album interested me in particular as it is revered more than Sufjan Stevens’s original electronic album.” Photograph: Aaron Corr

 

Run Rabbit Run scurried into my life during my final undergrad year studying Music in Trinity College Dublin.Through the beauty of email timestamp I can uncover that January 6th, 2012 was the first email I ever sent to the Osso Quartet, looking for the full score and sheet music, and May 7th, 2013 was the day I submitted an advanced instrumentation paper as part of my MPhil in Composition discussing, through this album, “how change of timbre impacts the reception of a piece of music, focusing on the move from electronic to acoustic”.

I was heavily involved in the Trinity Orchestra’s golden era of pop gigs at the time, so began a fascination that I still have today with the process of re-working electronic/band music for orchestral instruments. This album interested me in particular as it is revered more than Sufjan Stevens’s original electronic album, a marked departure from his celebrated acoustic and folk-based material. The album was reimagined and arranged by composers Michael Atkinson, Olivier Manchon, Maxim Moston, Nico Muhly, Rob Moose and Gabriel Kahane.

Each arranger’s job was to find balance between the melodic material and electronic dissonance and focus on sourcing the four most important voices in Sufjan’s music to filter into a string quartet. The instructions and notation in the scores are incredibly detailed, and the use of the human body and four string instruments to bring the zodiac animals to life is so effective.

Atkinson has the players shushing to replicate white noise, clicking their tongues and bowing semiquaver sprints of the rabbit, the double-stop slithering of the snake and the glissandi squeals of the boar. I urge everyone to jump between listening to the electronic and instrumental versions, as it sheds incredible light on how you can hear and appreciate music completely differently based on timbre.

Read Brennan’s paper in full: enabrennan.com/run-rabbit-run

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