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CMJ Q&A: Anni Rossi

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Anni Rossi is not the first to use a classical instrument in a rock ’n’ roll context. But this violist isn’t playing polite chamber pop — she’s rocking her instrument, with covers of Aaliyah, Ace of Base and Radiohead, as well as original compositions.

 

 

To get this sound, Rossi has done some unorthodox customization of her instruments.

Where they came from: “I had a viola that was very special to me that I played through parts of college. And then I decided to trade it in. It was a bit of a sad day, but I decided to trade it in for four violas.”

What she does: “Basically what I’ve been doing is installing guitar pickups on to violas that are of lower quality so that I can modify them with less risk.”

How she does it: “It’s really hard to run electricity through a wooden instrument, so I’ve been working with a few different people to create a buzz on the instrument, because there’s not enough metal on the instrument to ground it when I put it through an amplifier. ... They do make electric violins and violas, but that’s a whole other sound that doesn’t really suit what I’m interested in right now.”

How she plays: “I rarely bow my instrument; I pick it with a guitar pick. The warmth of the tone comes more from the amps that I’m using and where my pickup is located on the instrument. It’s just, like, a different set of rules that I have to go by to get the tone that I want.”

Anni Rossi: Pianos, Oct. 23, 9 p.m.

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