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Interview:
Ben Folds takes five from pop to work with orchestras
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Though he's known primarily for his pop and rock releases, as well as for judging NBC's reality show "The Sing-Off," Ben Folds has also been performing with symphony orchestras for much of the past decade.

And though it was initially daunting, the classically trained Folds -- who studied percussion at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music though quit just one credit shy of graduating -- says he's learned that his music has the goods to be played in such august surrounding.

"They're definitely built for it," says the North Carolina-born Folds, 48, whose Ben Folds Five scored a Top 20 hit with "Brick" in 1997. "When it comes to restructuring them for a vocal group or an orchestra, my songs have all the things you'd hope they'd have, 'cause they're real classically structured. It's pop music, but they're built to be interesting in their voicing and chord changes.

"I mean, some songs are made to play themselves in coffee shops on acoustic guitar. Mine are kind of made to play themselves in elaborate arrangements. You can't sit down and play Beethoven's fifth symphony on acoustic guitar very easily in a coffee shop -- not to compare my music to that, but I spend a lot of time in the composition of these songs to be able to be presented in a variety of settings."

In addition to his song catalog Folds is also playing a piano concerto he debuted earlier this year with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. And just getting to do an orchestral tour, he says, is something that's been long in the making but rewarding to finally have happening.

"There's a business to it that's a lot different than what I do with the (pop) stuff," Folds explains. "There's a lot of long-term planning and we have to be absolutely coordinated; people most likely have to hold my feet to the fire so I actually do what's necessary. And like that old adage about God laughing at your plans, it never really works out the way you want it to.

"But I love doing it. I've played with enough orchestras and done charts and arrangements that I feel like with a little bit of hand-holding I can bring my ideas into a symphony orchestra and make my idiosyncratic piano-playing work with it and come up with something really interesting for my fans and for the symphony audience."

Ben Folds with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15

Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit

Tickets are $35-$110

Call 313-576-5111 or visit www.dso.org

Web Site: www.dso.org

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