Two Star Symphony Rosin Their Bows With Blood

Back in 2008, Houston premier pop string quartet Two Star Symphony was tapped to provide the soundtrack for the Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre's ballet version of Shakespeare's most bloody work, Titus Andronicus. The play is pretty much Julius Caesar as conceived by Eli Roth, featuring mutilation, rape and cannibalism in addition to lots of regular murder. Three years later, Two Star Symphony is finally releasing the soundtrack to Titus Andronicus for their fans.

"Working with the ballet was a challenging experience," says violinist Jerry Ochoa, who dropped by Rocks Off's office to deliver the album and chat a bit about the work. "None of us are classically trained. We never went to music school. So we basically had to invent a code of where to stop and start when rehearsing with the dancers."

The album is a brilliant and thoroughly disturbing work. From the very beginning, the movements are bold and flowing, seamlessly easing into each other the way a good Tchaikovsky ballet does. That's where the comparison ends, however. There is little else to connect the graceful world of most classical ballet and Two Star Symphony's latest opus.

Instead, you have 20 songs that you can never quite comfortably appreciate the beauty of. If you're like us, part of the discomfort is the mutilated face of Gabrielle Nilsson staring up at you from the album cover with pleading eyes as four hands sew her lips shut. The other part of it, though, is simply the way every note seems to drip with blood.

That is the image that plays constantly in our mind as we listen to the disc, a steady flow of blood that constantly threatens to drown everyone around it. Indeed, this image is something Ochoa was reaching for. The inner sleeve of the disc is white background with blood pouring don it.

"I took a white piece of cardboard," says Ochoa, "And I slowly dripped stage blood down it while filming it. The inner sleeve is a screen cap of that film. The actual footage will be projected behind us throughout the CD release on a constant loop."

That, friends and enemies, is metal as fuck, and it's not the only thing about Two Star Symphony that is. At the CD release, a tattoo artist will be on hand to offer free tattoos of the Two Star Symphony logo (A cat with two small pentacles above its head). Ochoa sports one on his left inner forearm.

Of all the tracks from Titus Andronicus, "Rape" stands out; you know when a band names a song "Rape" they aren't reading any funny books. The song was the soundtrack of the rape of Titus's daughter Lavina by Chiron and Dimitrius, who then try to ensure her silence about that act by cutting out her tongue and severing her hands.

The track is... it's just wrong. The violin lines start low and sinister, and the increasing, brutal rhythm of the bow as the song moves faster and faster brings to mind the primal rhythm of sex and all the fractured form of assault. It builds, builds, builds, until you can't take another minute of its horrible, bald evil.

Then it stops, and for the first time in the recording we hear human voices. There is laughter over pitiful wailing. Jesus Christ, listening to this song is worse for your soul than reading House of Leaves.

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Spring Street Studios

1824 Spring St., Houston, TX

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Thank you so much for such an awesome review! One quick note: Gabrielle Nilsson was the photographer for the cover image -- the model is Dawn Dippel, who played Lavinia in the original DWDT production.

Also, to be clear, it's not that we have no classical training at all -- we took lessons when we were kids/teenagers for periods ranging from 6 months to 10 years -- it's just been 15 years or so since we any formal training, and none of it went as late as college or beyond. I always feel like we're shortchanging our early instructors, who were invaluable, if we leave that out.

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