Black Dog String Quartet’s “A Thousand Times Brighter” album embodies a musical odyssey


A Thousand Times Brighter is the latest album by Vancouver’s very own Black Dog String Quartet. In this deeply personal collection of nine new compositions, the quartet explores a rich tapestry of stylistic and thematic approaches, delivering a musical journey that transcends the boundaries of contemporary classical, folk, and fiddle music, culminating in an emotionally charged experience that resonates with yearning, grace, and somber reflection.

On this album, the quartet steps into a unique role, acting as the driving force behind the music, bolstered by additional instrumentation on certain tracks, including upright bass, drums, and brass instruments. The compositions seamlessly meld elements from various genres, incorporating recognizable pop forms with extended instrumental sections, unexpected textures, and the application of extended string techniques. The result is a harmonious blend of contemporary classical, folk, and pop music, drawing inspiration from diverse sources such as fiddle music, Romantic-era art songs (with a particular nod to German Lieder), contemporary folk, and the captivating allure of Balinese gamelan.

The album’s thematic core centers around ecology and the natural world, offering an evocative exploration of specific Western Canadian environments, including the interior plateau, the coastal rainforest, and the prairies. These natural landscapes serve as a backdrop for introspective, deeply personal reflections on themes like mental health, intimacy, and dreams.

While crafting A Thousand Times Brighter the Black Dog String Quartet faced a significant and tragic loss with the untimely passing of their producer and engineer, Olivia Quan, who was only 25 years old. Olivia was a rising star in the world of audio engineering, having already contributed to multiple Juno-nominated recordings. The quartet held Olivia in high regard and had chosen her to collaborate on this project, having previously worked together on other artists’ albums. Tragically, she passed away before completing the album, and her colleague, Tom Dobrzanski, stepped in to finalize the production.

In Olivia’s memory, her colleagues and family established the Olivia Quan Award for Audio Excellence through Music BC, with the remaining fees owed to her by the quartet being donated to this scholarship fund, supporting aspiring young audio engineers. “A Thousand Times Brighter” stands as a heartfelt dedication to Olivia, with the olive tree imagery on the album cover serving as a poignant homage, as the name Olivia means ‘olive tree.’

The Black Dog String Quartet, formed in 2007, comprises some of Vancouver’s most accomplished musicians. Their versatility and excellence have led them to contribute to the recordings of notable artists, including 54-40, Marianas Trench, Bleeding Through, and many more. Individually, the quartet members have graced the stages alongside world-renowned acts like Rod Stewart, Kanye West, Sting, Michael Bublé, Mariah Carey, The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Video Games Live.

Known for their exceptional musicianship and reputation, they have collaborated with renowned producers such as Warne Livesey (Midnight Oil, The Matthew Good Band), Dave Genn (54-40), and Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad). Recent highlights include opening for Sarah McLachlan at the SPC Global Conference, sharing the stage with soprano Measha Brueggergosman at the Chan Centre, and performing at the Shambhala Music Festival.

Renowned for their performances characterized by “conviction and imaginative sensitivity” (Vancouver Classical Music), the Black Dog String Quartet frequently graces a wide array of public and private events, including classical chamber concerts, weddings, and corporate functions. They are also sought-after contributors to film and television scores and studio recordings. The quartet has been featured at the Quartetti Festival of String Quartets, Sonic Boom Festival of New Music, and Classical Revolution Vancouver. Additionally, all four members regularly perform with multiple symphony orchestras.

With their solid classical foundation, outstanding skill, and an open-minded collective spirit, the Black Dog String Quartet stands out as one of Vancouver’s most versatile and unique ensembles. A Thousand Times Brighter is a testament to their artistic journey, a culmination of their unique musical odyssey.


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