MP3 String Planet - CLASSICAL: Contemporary
Classical crossover meets World Beat - Chapman Stick and viola with lots and lots of percussion - visionary melodies over ethnic rhythms
13 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Contemporary, CLASSICAL: New Age
Novi Novog and Larry Tuttle have created a brave new world of music. Their
group, String Planet (and similarly-titled debut album), combines two stringed
instruments seldom in the spotlight -- viola and The Stick -- for a
genre-crossing sound utilizing classical, jazz, new age, pop and world elements.
Novi, a top viola session musician, and Larry, a longtime proponent of "The
Chapman Stick," have been playing string-music together for the past 15 years
in Los Angeles-area groups such as Freeway Philharmonic and SoulSkin. The
viola is a little larger than a violin and in orchestras is used more for the
inner harmonic voice than the lead melody line (Novi likes to slip back and forth
between the two). Larry describes The Stick as "a string section posing as a
2X4" since this long, narrow, upright, electric instrument has six bass
strings tapped (not strummed) with the left hand and six melody strings played with
the right hand. Since a Stick player can simultaneously play rhythm along
with chords, harmonies or melody parts, it often gives the listener the
impression of hearing two instruments.
On the STRING PLANET album, the viola and Stick are backed by a world music
rhythm section including a wide variety of hand drums and percussion with
subtle touches of synthesizer for color. One tune features a string quartet and
two guest vocals are sung by recording artist Lauren Wood (Novi''s cousin).
Using The Stick, Tuttle composed all 13 tunes on the album. "Even though this is
primarily instrumental music," explains Larry, "my composing mostly comes out
of my background in pop music, so I generally write songs with a verse/chorus/
bridge structure, going for that hooky pop song appeal. There is no easy
category to put us in, which is both our blessing and our curse, but classical
crossover would probably come the closest."
Tuttle goes on to say, "There is a concept in science fiction called ''a sense
of wonder,'' and I wanted to have that with String Planet''s music. Our goal
was to make it creative, exotic, unique and exciting. Beauty, imagination and
groove were our cornerstones. I wanted to create a showcase for Novi''s big
talent, especially her gift for improvising. All of her parts began as
spontaneous improvisations and from there we chose the best ideas to keep for the
finished arrangements. We always try to leave a few sections open, both in the
studio and in concert, for her to go anywhere she wants, leaving the door open
for magic to happen." Furthering the band''s artistic conceptualization of
expansive imagination and other-worldly creativity is the ceramic sculpture
depicted on the CD cover. Titled "Alien," it was crafted by another cousin of
Novi''s, the late Elyse Saperstein.
Both Novog and Tuttle have impressive credentials starting with extensive
early classical training, progressing through recording and touring with
major-label rock bands, and then concentrating more on string-oriented ensembles.
Novi began playing piano at age four, took up violin at age eight and then
moved on to viola. As part of the American Youth Symphony, she studied under
Mehli Mehta. Novi attended the California Institute for the Arts on a full
scholarship where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree after studying
under Louis Kievman with additional instruction in composition from Leonard
Stein and Alan Chaplin. She also won the American String Teachers Association
But simultaneously, Novog also pursued a career in the world of pop and rock
music. In her childhood, she began playing and recording with her cousin
Lauren Wood which led to an album on the Musicor label as Rebecca and the
Sunnybrook Farmers. The group evolved into Chunky, Novi & Ernie with two albums on
Warner Bros. Records. As Lauren began her solo career (see https://www.tradebit.com),
Novi continued to be featured on her recordings. Novi went on to record and
tour in the rock band Sumner on the Elektra/Asylum label.
Within a few years Novi rose to prominence in the Los Angeles session scene
as a violist for recordings (albums, films, TV shows and commercials) or
concerts. She has a long list of credits highlighted by her viola solos on such big
chart hit singles as The Doobie Brothers'' "Black Water" and Prince''s "Purple
Rain" and "Raspberry Beret." Novi also has performed on recordings by pop
artists as diverse as Cher, James Taylor, Madonna, Bonnie Raitt, Michael Jackson,
Bon Jovi, Neil Diamond, Kenny Loggins, Ray Charles and Julio Iglesias.
Novog''s talents also extend to working in other genres such as folk (Indigo Girls,
Gordon Lightfoot, Dan Fogelberg, Shawn Colvin), country (Willie Nelson,
Emmylou Harris & Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers), jazz (Stanley Clarke, David Benoit),
new age (John Tesh, Nicholas Gunn, Tangerine Dream, David Arkenstone), and
blues (John Mayall). In addition, Novi has performed onstage with many other
artists including Everclear, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Frank Zappa, Scott
Weiland, John Cale, Gladys Knight and Luther Vandross. Some of Novi''s film
soundtrack work includes "Pretty Woman," "Dead Poet''s Society," "Sliding Doors,"
"Mr. Holland''s Opus" and "One Fine Day."
Growing up in Seattle, Larry Tuttle discovered the string bass at age nine
and embarked on a childhood saturated in music -- playing in school, city and
regional symphony orchestras. He played principal bass for a summer at the
National Music Camp in Interlochen (the foremost program of its kind in the
country) and sat in with the Seattle Symphony as an honor student. He also studied
under that orchestra''s principal bassist James Harnett at the University of
Washington. Larry received extensive private study from such notables as Ron
Simon, Ring Warner and Oscar Zimmermann, and took a revelatory ear-training
course from jazz great Gary Peacock (Keith Jarrett).
Discovering the electric bass and progressive rock bands such as Yes, ELP and
Gentle Giant while in high school, Larry went on to play for ten years with
the rock group Russia which moved to Los Angeles and recorded two albums for
Warner Bros. Records.
"When I began playing The Stick," says Tuttle, "it was a life-changing move.
It opened entire vistas of musical expression for me. It allowed me to
continue as a bass player while adding the opportunity to play melodies at the same
time, and it became an ideal instrument to compose on as well." In 1999
Larry released THROUGH THE GATES, an album of solos performed on The Stick.
Larry and Novi met when they formed the instrumental string ensemble Freeway
Philharmonic with guitarist Robert Stanton. While in that group they recorded
four albums -- FREEWAY PHILHARMONIC, CAR TUNES, SONIC DETOUR and ROAD TO JOY.
In 2003 Tuttle and Novog joined the part-vocal-and-part-instrumental band
SoulSkin which recorded a self-titled album and were featured on National Public
Radio. In recent years Novi and Larry have worked frequently creating string
arrangements for various artists, performing in classical string ensembles,
and playing concerts with Freeway Philharmonic and as String Planet.
Now with their first String Planet recording, their years together show a
deep affinity for each other''s playing and their uncanny entwining-interplay
within each song. "I often can sense what Larry is going to play," states Novi.
"I love to move around within a song playing the melody, then a
counter-melody, then a harmony part, and maybe adding some coloring and inner voices. We
try for lots of dynamics. Our passion is the sound of strings working together."