This morning, violinist Colin Jacobsen sat in LaGuardia Airport waiting for his flight to Pittsburgh, where he and the other members of nationally renowned string quartet Brooklyn Rider will perform this evening.
With the noise of airline announcements in the background, Mr. Jacobsen, 35, talked about the sound the group will bring when they touch down in Pittsburgh for the performance at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty. Their show, titled "A Walking Excursion -- Musical Excursions to Clejani, Budapest and Esfahan," is itself a journey into the intersection of chamber music with Eastern European and Iranian influences, he said.
"I think it makes explicit the idea of travel as a way of finding inspiration and how do you digest that and make it your own," Mr. Jacobsen said.
And this group has done its fair share of traveling from their home base in Brooklyn to bring that experience to audiences. The members of Brooklyn Rider -- Mr. Jacobsen, his brother Eric Jacobsen on cello, Johnny Gandelsman on violin and Nicholas Cords on viola -- began performing together about 10 years ago. Since then, the 30-something musicians have been shaking up a 300-year-old musical style of string quartets, performing classics around the world but also composing their own music. They are four classical musicians performing with the energy of young rock stars jamming on their guitars, a Beethoven-goes-indie foray into making classical music accessible but also celebrating why it was good in the first place.
Their venues have ranged from Carnegie Hall in New York City to the San Francisco Jazz Festival to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, where they were the only classical group to be officially invited to play.
On their first trip to Pittsburgh, the group is hosted tonight by the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society.
Annie Mollova, the society's executive director, said Brooklyn Rider promises to be a dynamic introduction to classical music for newcomers.
"If you're new to chamber music in general, this is a great way to start because the music is very accessible," Ms. Mollova said. "It might be more familiar than just the classical music you would hear at a traditional [performance]."
The set will include both well-known staples of chamber music like Bartók's "Quartet No. 2" and an original piece composed by Mr. Jacobsen titled "Three Miniatures by String Quartet."
The piece grew out of Mr. Jacobsen's trip to Iran several years ago and his interest in the nation's connection between visual art, poetry and music, he said.
"In particular, I was inspired by the miniature painting tradtiion in which detailed and epic stories are told in small frames," he said. "Many of the scenes of poetry such as ecstatic love ... make their way as inspiration into this piece that I wrote.
"I think hopefully what [the audience] experiences is a real journey and a sense that the experience is immediate and hopefully gripping."
Original work like "Three Miniatures" is also one of the ways Brooklyn Rider can invite its listeners to explore classical music more deeply.
"I think the classical music insiders tend to get jazzed by the stuff that is new and that they don't expect," Mr. Jacobsen said. "If it's an audience that loves indie now or is a crowd that's likely to go to South By Southwest, they find incredible depth and get their minds blown by this music that they may not know as well."
Tickets, which include food and drink, are still available for $20 at the door at the Kelly Strayhorn, 5941 Penn Ave. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7:30 show.