DPO Presents The Music of Pink Floyd with Windborne
By Joe Aiello
Shakespeare’s Juliet posed the question “What’s in a name?”
Apparently a lot.
Consider the name Pink Floyd. It means music, of course. Not merely music, however, but music described as conceptual, influential, innovative, philosophical, progressive, psychedelic, psychological — trippy.
As most rock bands do, the group changed its name several times before deciding on Pink Floyd (they had called themselves The Meggadeaths, The (Screaming) Abdabs, Leonard’s Lodgers, The Spectrum Five and The Tea Set).
While Pink Floyd’s music might inspire thoughts of a lot of things, a tea set is hardly one of them. Actually, when Syd Barrett coined the name he was alluding to two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The name is, fittingly, an homage to music.
And Pink Floyd surely made music.
On Thursday, February 9 at 8p.m. in the Schuster Center, guest conductor Brent Havens will lead the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and members of the touring production group Windborne in the second of this season’s Rockin’ Orchestra Series, The Music of Pink Floyd with Windborne.
And what great music it was.
In 1965, the original band was made up of four students: Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright and Syd Barrett. Waters and Mason were both studying architecture at the time. In 1967 Pink Floyd recorded “Arnold Layne” (20 in the British charts) and “See Emily Play” (17), and their début album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (with notable cuts “Astronomy Domine”, “Arnold Layne”, “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Nick’s Boogie”) that proved a success. Because of its references to cross-dressing, some radio stations even banned “Arnold Layne”.
When Pink Floyd released the album A Saucerful of Secrets in 1968, since neither Waters nor Mason could read music, to create the title track they invented a unique system of notation described as looking “… like an architectural diagram.” (See? A college education really is necessary.) The album Ummagumma (I take back my comment about college education) released to positive reviews in 1969, followed by Atom Heart Mother in 1970 and Meddle in 1971.
And the Pink Floyd hit albums just kept on coming: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973 -a reference to lunacy, not astronomy [read: Syd Gilbert]), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977 -based, albeit loosely, on Orwell’s Animal Farm), The Wall (1979 -ranked No.4 all-time on the RIAA’s list of the Top 100 albums), The Final Cut (1983 -No. 1UK/No. 6 US), A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987 -No. 3, UK/US charts), and The Division Bell (1994).
Performing the music of Pink Floyd to recreate the drive, flair and showmanship of the original group is no mean feat. But the touring production group Windborne comes equipped with game sufficient to the challenge. The group has been around since 1990, having started in TV and movies. And the group’s musical director and conductor Brent Havens has been writing music for television, theatrical movies, music libraries and industrial productions since 1980.
Windborne’s first live production of classic rock music with orchestra came in late 1995; they called it The Music of Led Zeppelin. “After the initial response from that show,” Havens states, “we realized that this was something that had the potential to spread throughout the country. That is exactly what happened, and five different classic rock shows later, Windborne personnel have traveled the country and into Canada touring The Music of Led Zeppelin, The Music of Pink Floyd, The Music of the Eagles, The Music of The Doors and The Music of Queen with orchestras great and small.”
It’s easy to see why not only Windborne, but also many other artists have been influenced by Pink Floyd, to wit David Bowie and Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery (Bowie has referred to Syd Barrett, and Rothery to Wish You Were Here, as major inspirations); The Edge (of U2 fame) as a teenager bought his first delay pedal after hearing the opening to Animals; and the Pet Shop Boys performing in Boston paid homage to The Wall.
The list of bands influenced by Pink Floyd include Dream Theater, Foo Fighters, Gorillaz, Mudvayne, Nine Inch Nails, Porcupine Tree, Primus, Queensryche, Rush, Radiohead, Scissor Sisters, Smashing Pumpkins, The Mars Volta, Tool and any others.
And why not? It’s natural, with Pink Floyd achieving sales of over 200 million albums worldwide, including 74.5 million in the United States, a ranking of 51st on Rolling Stone magazine’s The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the United Kingdom Music Hall of Fame and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
And that’s only the group’s music. Space doesn’t permit a thorough examination and explanation of Pink Floyd’s use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art and elaborate live shows.
No wonder Windborne puts on such an amazing show. Really, this is one Tea Set that serves up only the best.
Reach DCP freelance writer Joe Aiello at JoeAiello@DaytonCityPaper.com.