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Dave Soldier (born November 6, 1956) is an Americanmarker composer and performer residing in New Yorkmarker.

Musical works

Some of his work is based on unusual collaborations. In the Thai Elephant Orchestra he built giant musical instruments on which he trained a group of elephants to improvise. He created specially designed instruments for music played by zebra finches and pygmy chimpanzees, the latter in collaboration with Gordon Shaw, the physicist who popularized the Mozart effect.

Among his collaborations with child composers, The Tangerine Awkestra, features 2-10 year old Brooklyn schoolchildren performing free improvisation, Da HipHop Raskalz features 5-10 year old children in East Harlem who write and perform their own rap and dub tracks, and Yol K'u features Mayan Indian children in San Mateo Ixtatan, Guatemala who compose minimalist repertoire on giant maribmas.

Not all of his work is so totally off-the-wall, however; he founded and played violin in the seminal punk chamber group, the Soldier String Quartet, in 1985. The quartet pioneered the use of amplified instruments and a repertoire that erased boundaries between classical and popular music. As leader of the Soldier String Quartet, Soldier wrote and/or performed traditionally notated pieces that draw upon every possible music style, from serialism to Delta blues. Soldier had an affinity for the polyphony evident in the Haydn and Beethoven quartets. He aimed to highlight the anachronism that stemmed from having a classical ensemble play in contemporary popular idioms, particularly rhythm and blues and punk rock. Soldier found that -- in the hands of players who understood the contrasting styles including violinists Regina Carter and Todd Reynolds -- string instruments could play the blues. He also incorporated a drummer into the quartet. The Soldier String Quartet also premiered and recorded works by other composers, for example: Elliott Sharp, Iannis Xenakis, and Phill Niblock, and worked with jazz musicians including Tony Williams. They were the touring and recording group for the Velvet Underground's John Cale from 1992-1998.

Soldier's compositions for classical musicians include collaborations with the Russian conceptual artists, Komar & Melamid, with a "socialist-realist" opera, "Naked Revolution', based on their paintings. Inspired by Komar and Melamid's "The People's Choice", based on surveys of likes and dislikes in art, Soldier wrote "The People's Choice: Music", written according to answers from a survey of 600 Americans, resulting in "The Most Wanted" and "The Most Unwanted Song", the latter of which is 26 minutes featuring an operatic soprano singing cowboy songs, a children's choir screaming advertisements for holiday shopping, and political rants backed by bagpipe, banjo, tuba, piccolo, and church organ.

Soldier collaborated with Kurt Vonnegut on two chamber operas, "The Soldier's Story" and "Ice-9 Ballads". Many of his chamber works for various instrumental combinations were premiered and recorded by the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra under conductor Richard Auldon Clark, including a collection of early Latin homoerotic lyrics in "Smut", and settings of Frederick Douglass in "The Apotheosis of John Brown" and Mark Twain in "War Prayer". Other chamber works by Soldier have been recorded by violinist Regina Carter, cellist Erik Friedlander, pianist Christopher O'Riley, accordionist William Schimmel, and flutist Robert Dick.

Soldier also performs with a country blues band with the Memphis singer Lorette Velvette and the Velvet Underground drummer, Mo Tucker called the Kropotkins, and an Andalusian-middle eastern rock group, The Spinozas, featuring lyrics from the Golden Age of Arabic and Hebrew poetry from medieval Andalusiamarker.

Personal life

Soldier grew up in Carbondale in southern Illinois where he was exposed to vernacular music common to the area, particularly country and R&B. His earliest influences included James Brown and Isaac Hayes. Soldier also listened to classical music. He learned to play viola, violin, piano, and eventually guitar. He moved with his family to Storrs, CT, at the age of 16, where he became enamoured with salsa music. He attended Michigan State University as an undergraduate and attempted a study of classical composition. He found that stultifying, however, and instead studied privately with the avant-garde jazz saxophonist/composer Roscoe Mitchell.

He lived in Florida briefly, where he played guitar in Bo Diddley's band. He relocated to New York in 1981, and played in various salsa, classical, and rock-oriented bands in the early '80s. He studied composition with Otto Luening and formed his quartet in 1985. He co-founded Mulatta Records in 2000 to document his projects, including the elephant piece and the child improvisers. Soldier performed, recorded, composed, and arranged for television and film (Sesame Street, I Shot Andy Warhol), and pop and jazz acts ranging from Pete Seeger to David Byrne and Guided by Voices.


Studio albums

  • 1988 Sequence Girls: Soldier String Quartet
  • 1990 Romances From the Second Line
  • 1991 Sojourner Truth: Soldier String Quartet
  • 1993 The Apotheosis of John Brown
  • 1994 War Prayer; with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra
  • 1994 Smut
  • 1996 She's Lightning When She Smiles: Soldier String Quartet
  • 1997 The People's Choice: Music: with Komar & Melamid
  • 1997 Jazz Standards on Mars: Soldier String Quartet with Robert Dick
  • 2000 The Tangerine Awkestra: with Katie Down and children from Fort Greene, Brooklyn
  • 2001 Thai Elephant Orchestra
  • 2001 Ice-9 Ballads: with Kurt Vonnegut
  • 2004 Elephonic Rhapsodies: with the Thai Elephant Orchestra
  • 2004 Inspect for Damaged Gods: Soldier String Quartet
  • 2005 Soldier Stories: with Kurt Vonnegut
  • 2006 Da Hiphop Raskalz: with children from East Harlemmarker
  • 2006 Chamber Music
  • 2008 Yol K'u (Inside the Sun): Mayan Mountain Music with children from San Mateo Ixtatan, Guatemala

Collaborations and Film Scores

  • 1996 The Kropotkins
  • 1997 Jazz Standards on Mars: with Robert Dick
  • 2000 Five Points Crawl: with the Kropotkins
  • 2000 Paradise Square: with the Kropotkins

Recordings with the Soldier String Quartet

External links


  • Ratcliff, Carter. Komar and Melamid, New York: Abbeville Press, 1988. ISBN 0-89659-891-8
  • Wypijewski, JoAnn, ed. Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid's Scientific Guide to Art, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997.
  • Komar and Melamid. When Elephants Paint: The Quest of Two Russian Artists to Save the Elephants of Thailand, New York: HarperCollins, 2000. ISBN 0-06-095352-7
  • Weiss, Evelyn. Komar & Melamid: The Most Wanted and the Most Unwanted Painting, Museum Ludwig Koln, Ostfildern: Cantz, 1997.
  • Soldier, Dave. Eine Kleine Naughtmusik: how nefarious nonartists cleverly imitate music, an article that discusses the Tangerine Awkestra, Thai Elephant Orchestra, the People's Choice: Music, and more: Leonardo Journal, 2000 [414358]
  • Soldier, Dave. Notes From Under the Floorboard, a chapter on creating new opera, Live Movies, George Mason Press, 2006 [414359]
  • Soldier, Dave. The Thai Elephant Orchestra, in Kinship With Animals, Council Oak Books, 2006.[414360]

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