The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet (aka BWBQ) are a chamber group that have sort of become a cause célèbre through a viral video of their Lady Gaga medley (as if the flatulent-sounding name of the group didn’t already cause it). While they are indulging us and themselves with great video concepts (and throwing in many pop covers along with classical performing), they are also behind a series of concerts designed to educate as well as entertain through elements of comedy in their performances, making the concert experience fun and exciting. And just because they are heavy on making the visuals important, this does not mean people aren’t asking for the music specifically, because it turns out this is one of the reasons they are Kickstarting the funding of their debut CD Breaking In (with Kickstarter, of all things), and you can help Kickstart the Kickstarting of this Kickstarter project here or on the link at the bottom.
They had time to talk to me, but they wrote instead!
CM: I get the joke, but please, for the sake of the readers, just need a definitive answer to this question–Why do you call yourselves The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet?
Brittany: When we first “devised” The Breaking Winds, we were really just meaning to play some fun quartets (a la Bubonic Bassoon Quartet) and bring some silliness to the stressful environment surrounding jury week. Kara thought it would be funny to do a pun and we ended up with The Breaking Winds Bassoon Quartet!
Kara: Our name refers to a famous nickname for the bassoon–“The Farting Bedpost”. Calling ourselves The Breaking Winds allows us to reclaim the bassoon’s reputation as a cartoonish instrument. Of course it’s a silly and unusual instrument, but more than that, it is highly entertaining and versatile.
CM: Can you please talk about the kind of presentation you guys do? It’s quite humorous!
Yuki: I think we do our best to balance out comedy and entertainment with education and, of course, our formal conservatory education. When we perform at public schools, we want to show the kids how enjoyable and sociable music is and that band is cool! We play a variety of genres, but also talk with the students and have them be an active part of our performances. My personal favorite is showing the kids what a double reed is and how tasking it can be to make a reed and try to get it to play.
We play Brittany’s arrangement of Bach’s Air on a G String, and as part of the performance, I start messing up really badly because my “bad” reed isn’t working anymore. The other members start throwing reeds at me while I’m making really nasty sounds on the bassoon, meanwhile, the Bach becomes the famous Chariots of Fire theme song and I start searching for the “perfect reed” in the audience. There is of course, the slow-motion running and the exaggerated high-fives with the band director or principal who gives me the “perfect reed”.
When we perform in recitals, the audience is mostly our peers and some faculty members from our colleges. Usually these concerts are just pure entertainment and fun music!
CM: I enjoy the Lady Gaga covers (I’m not even a fan of hers, but your interpretations–replete with Gaga wigs–are cool), and the cover of Gotye (feat. Kimbra)’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” seems to give us a more serious side of you. Is this diversity representative of what a full show is for you?
Brittany: Definitely! We all arrange and bring new pieces to the table, and these are often very different from one another. I think diversity keeps things fresh and it’s nice to be able to go from Bach to Lady Gaga in the same performance.
Yuki: I think performing “STIUK” is more keeping up with the current popular music. We all arrange music that we individually love to listen to and also try to arrange some pieces that are currently hot right now, when we have the time. Gotye just happened to be the “it” song, and Pentatonix’s arrangement of it is just so beautiful. When we did the video recording of it and posted it on YouTube, we definitely joked that it was a bit “emo” for us!
CM: Will there be more clips of these?
Brittany: That’s the plan! If you check out our YouTube channel, it’s constantly expanding and we hope to continue that. We have more ideas than time, so we hope to keep making and uploading new videos.
CM: Would you please talk about this upcoming CD project and what we can expect from it?
Brittany: This is something that I have personally wanted to do for a long time. Basically, the project is to professionally record a CD with all original arrangements and compositions. Why do we want to do this? We’ve had quite a few people asking if we have a CD or recordings of our music, and sadly, no we don’t have anything. This is really a bit of an odd project though. I mean how many people can really say “Yes! I know what a bassoon is and I love it!”. Probably not a whole lot. But time and time again, we perform for audiences (often with a crew of skeptics wondering what we’re about to do), and everyone comes out excited, amused, or purely entertained. We have such a fun time playing for people, and I guess I find this project an extension of that. We can’t travel and perform everywhere, but we can send CDs! And I think one of the goals of this group is to get people to think about music and to not stereotype something as purely classical or popular or rock or whatever. Hopefully people will see that it can all be really challenging, fun to listen to, and interesting stuff!
Yuki: Surprisingly, our Kicktstarter is doing very well! I really thank everyone who is supporting us and sharing this project to their family and friends. As a “band” and a classical chamber group, I think we’ve stepped our toes in all the various mediums any music group would do, but we just haven’t made a CD yet! It will take a lot of time preparing and recording the album itself, but what has been preventing us from making a CD until now, is the budget to obtain all the rights to record these songs for an album. But Kickstarter is a great way to get funding, and I’m very hopeful! This will help us professionally record a lot of our pop tunes and hopefully get them published as sheet music!
Lauren: The exact list of pieces we plan on including on the CD has not been fully determined yet. However, we hope to showcase our best arrangements and compositions and again include a range of genres–classical, pop as well as comedic elements!!
Brittany: The more money we receive, the more we rights to music we can pay for, and the more popular tunes we can put on the album (and potentially make a longer album).
CM: An all-bassoon ensemble, and on top of this, you put a great comedic motif on top of that–This is a very unique ensemble!
Lauren: It has turned out to be a very unique group, I think! There are so many dimensions of creativity involved! I think the reason that we have started to be more successful is that we keep trying different things and pushing the envelop. We go outside our comfort zones–sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In any case, it is a blast!
Kara: It is indeed a very unique ensemble, but not as unique as some people might think. I spent many hours in high school listening to the tapes of a group called the Bubonic Bassoon Quartet, which I think was active in the 60’s and 70’s. In a way this group is just a 21st-century update of an earlier medium. While the Bubonic Bassoon Quartet focused almost entirely on comedy, we’ve added in the performance elements our own experience. For me, dance class and marching band made me fall in love with performing (even more than youth orchestra did), so we’ve ended up doing a lot of choreography in the quartet. It looks utterly ridiculous, of course, and becomes its own brand of comedy.
CM: Do you guys hope to bring a better outreach to jaded audiences that either don’t like chamber music or never have heard it?
Yuki: I’m really happy that we have such a loyal following and our fans keep growing everyday! We really enjoy the personal messages, especially from young bassoonists who ask us questions on how to play a hard passage or is there a better fingering for a trill note?, and very technical questions like that. And we do our best to answer all these messages when we can. We want to be personable and helpful as possible. I like that we are very unique and we take our funniness seriously. Sometimes it’s hard to promote ourselves to a more serious classical institution for gigs and festivals, but I guess that can’t be helped. We’ll continue to focus our attention on our fans and supporters, and just expose ourselves to different venues. Hopefully we’ll attract more attention that way. I hope we can continue to perform and play what we love and just be honest with ourselves.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Breaking Winds have made a very significant leap in their campaign to $4,856 (Their goal is for $5,000), but even though things look good, don’t let that fool you–Things could go awry! Please step in and make a difference yourself. They need money for fees as well, but rest assured, they will not spend your money on pizza and the movies, it’s all for the CD.