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Christopher O'Riley Turns Radiohead into Classical Music for the Multitude

By Philip Trapp on Apr 21, 2016 05:58 PM EDT

American musician Christopher O'Riley is renowned in the classical music world for his piano renditions of popular alternative rock recordings. His discography includes two volumes of prolific British band Radiohead's music arranged solely for keys.

The artist persists in his purpose of piano for the proletariat. Also the host of NPR's From the Top, a radio program highlighting young musicians, the pianist strives in multiple mediums to introduce classical music to a new era of listeners.

In a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, O'Riley affirmed his melodious vision to increase knowledge across generations of music lovers:

"I've always been excited about the idea of sharing music that people are not familiar with, whether it be one genre or another -- any music that I find spectacularly beautiful," he says.

Both editions of Christopher O'Riley Plays Radiohead, 2003's True Love Waits and its 2005 follow-up, Hold Me to This, exhibit a profound knack for reinterpretation of the rock behemoth's vast catalogue. With pieces covering a wide range of the band's output, each cover version is a deft classical take on a captivating composition.

Speaking to Under the Radar magazine at the release of Hold Me to This, the pianist explained his appreciation of Radiohead's inventive, collaborative songwriting:

"[O]ne of the nice things about Radiohead is that you have five members of the band not just chucking away on chords, but with each contributing a very specific part of the puzzle to every song. So it's not just melody and harmony; it's really counterpoint -- the interweaving, the voices intermingling."

Additionally, O'Riley has gone on to release a full album of late artist Elliott Smith's compositions, as well as a volume of assorted variations on popular bands like Nirvana, Portishead and the Smiths (2009's Out of My Hands).

Out of My Hands also included an additional Radiohead cover, further underscoring the artist's admiration for the quintet's inspirational catalogue.

O'Riley recently performed a set of Radiohead's work in San Diego on April 20. He will be taking part in a collaborative concert with cellist Matt Haimovitz on Friday, April 29 in Ashland, Oregon.

We want to hear from you. Let us know your favorite of Christopher O'Riley's Radiohead covers in the comments section below.

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TagsChristopher O'Riley, Radiohead, Elliott Smith, Nirvana