Despite the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of many musical events and performances, Low Strung — a self-described group of “classically trained musicians turned rock-cello rebels” — continues to share music with the world.
On Monday, Low Strung released their third and newest album “Low Strung III,” which is available on music streaming platforms. The album features 11 arrangements, including well-known songs such as “Daddy Lessons” and “Hey Jude.” The rock and pop genre songs featured in the album were performed by Low Strung in several domestic and international tours.
“The album was not constructed in a way that was cohesive, but we later realized that all of the songs in it have to do with love,” said Sofia Checa ’20, an arranger and the album producer. “But I think that is fitting, as the album just comes down to the love we have for Low Strung, and the love we have for each other.”
“Low Strung III” is the product of four years of work. The idea was first proposed by Benjamin Fleischacker ’17 in 2016, when Checa was a first year student. According to Checa, the start of the album production process was full of experimentation — no one in the group knew how to use a studio or recording software.
Over the course of four years, Low Strung has become well-versed in album production. There was no strict deadline for the final product, so group members devoted as much time as was necessary.
To begin, group members selected songs and arranged them. The recording stage mostly took place in the Lumry-Wengerd Studio of Silliman College. This was done in sections, and no more than three musicians played cello at the same time to maximize available space. The editing process was extensive, encompassing much of the album’s production time.
“A lot of the early work was difficult,” said Matthew Udry ’22, Low Strung’s music director. “We had to even throw away some of the stuff we had been doing before because it just wasn’t good enough. It’s taken time to get into the swing of things.”
By 2019, more than half of the album was recorded, and the other half only needed minor alterations. That summer, a sound engineer from the Czech Republic assisted the group in mixing and mastering. By 2020, “Low Strung III” was undergoing final preparations.
“Albums are a way to commemorate the group,” Udry said. “Albums are just as much for our audience as they are for us. We want to remember the music we made. We think it’s an incredible thing to have a final product where we can listen to ourselves and our friends, and to have that forever.”
According to Low Strung’s president, Giacomo Glotzer ’22, the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic has affected the group, as with many other musical groups. For a time, Low Strung group will operate primarily as a social organization.
Low Strung has faced the cancelation of scheduled tours and events. The group originally planned to tour in Germany in March of this year, but decided against the trip. According to Glotzer, many musical artists have been forced to reckon with the realities of reduced performance opportunities.
“Support your musicians,” Glotzer said. “They are really struggling right now. Every orchestra, no matter how big — like the New York Philharmonic or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — is really struggling. Orchestras don’t have a rainy-day budget. They are always underfunded. And now COVID-19 has made everyone cancel every single concert for the foreseeable future.”
Although the pandemic put Low Strung in a difficult situation, the group still plans to continue engaging with their audience through digital means. Many of the group’s members are not living on campus. However, according to Checa, Udry and Glotzer, one of Low Strung’s defining characteristics is its tight-knit sense of community.
“Low Strung was, in complete seriousness, the best thing that ever happened to me,” Checa said. “The musical experience has been incredible, but the best part has been the friendships I have made. I feel super lucky that I found a family in this group.”
The group has previously produced two other albums: “Low Strung” in 2007 and “Quadruple Moon” in 2014. Depending on the global health situation, Low Strung hopes to reschedule their planned Germany tour to 2021.