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How violinist Andrew Forde is making Canadian classics more inclusive

Andrew Forde is putting his stamp on pianist Glenn Gould's work.

Andrew Forde is bringing violin music to a wider audience.

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Andrew Forde is bringing violin music to a wider audience.

Under the dimmed lights of a Leslieville music studio, violinist Andrew Forde puts down his instrument and turns to face Canadian rapper Shad.

“There should be resolution in the third verse,” says Forde, after hearing the song playback. “We’re all connected.”

Shad nods and goes back to a quieter room to keep writing.

The collaboration is part of a modern interpretation, almost an ode, to one of Canada’s most celebrated pianists, Glenn Gould, that Forde is working on. A representative of Gould’s estate was impressed by Forde after hearing him perform at the Hermann and Audrey gallery last year, and asked him to create music inspired by the celebrated Canadian pianist with full access to his catalogue. The first song Forde plans to release is called Branches, featuring Shad and Toronto musician Maylee Todd.

Forde said his goal with this project and with his music in general is to get people thinking deeply, to drive conversation, and to bring back music as performance art.

“There’s like this void that I’m trying to fill. I want to get people into instrumental music again because it’s really phenomenal. I’m biased of course,” he said.

It’s expected to drop Sept. 25 — on Spotify and iTunes — on what would have been Gould’s 85th birthday. The rest of his album is set to be released in spring 2018.

The mixture of trap-style rapping and classical music gives contemporary listeners a way to engage with the song — “but it doesn’t have to feel like it’s over the listener’s head,” said Forde.

"Branches is about the fact that we all carry these things that we think we see, that we think are real, that are real to us — but from a third perspective it’s not actually a thing," he added.

The song will be on Forde’s upcoming album, Ideas of North. The title is a play on the name of a CBC documentary called The Idea of North, which was about Gould exploring what it meant to be Canadian in the 1960s and 1970s but didn’t take into account immigrants, Indigenous peoples, or first generation Canadians.

“My dad’s from Barbados and my mom’s from Jamaica — I was like, ‘Well, I’m also Canadian and I have a perspective that I’d like to share,’" said Forde. "That’s kind of why I named it Ideas with an ‘s’ because it’s now multiple perspectives from various groups."

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