Dave Soldier

The Soldier String Quartett

Soldier String Quartet, 1985 at CBGBs

Ron Lawrence, Michael Suchorsky (drums), Dave Soldier, Laura Seaton, Mary Wooten

We were called, and then called ourselves, as "The Ramones of classical music". Active 1985 - 1995, and we now very occasionally reconvene for recording sessions and shows with rock groups (over the past few years for Van Dyke Parks, Jessie Harris, Guided by Voices, and Lambchop).

A compilation is in the works, including a quartet written for Ken Butler's instruments, called "Bambatta Variations" (1991) and Quartet #3, "The Essential: Fourier Transformations" with brainwaves.

Soldier String Quartet, 1989

Mary Wooten, Ron Lawrence, Laura Seaton, Dave Soldier, photo Tom Caravaglia

Soldier String Quartet, 1993

Dawn Avery, Dave Soldier, Regina Carter, Ron Lawrence, with Ken Butler's string quartet instruments. photo Ken Collins

Inspired by the Concord Quartet and the Beastie Boys, we performed at rock clubs like CBGBs and experimental festivals in Europe using a drummer and electricity. We stood to play and memorized the music, and would stamp around like punk rock and hiphop groups ; we occasionally played at Lincoln Center and normal places for chamber groups.

My works for quartet are highly syncopated and contrapuntal with ideas from rock, R&B, and blues as well as the European tradition. We performed my arrangements of originally unnotated music, like Delta Blues and Sly Stone, and presented new composed music by a broad range of composers, premiering over 100 compositions.

Soldier String Quartet, 1993

"touring version" with Jason White, Tiye' Griaud (singers) and Dawn Avery, Dave Soldier, Regina Carter, Ron Lawrence, photo Ken Collins. After Jason's sudden death at age 23, Jimmy Justice and Sam Butler (5 Blind Boys of Alabama) sang with use.

We toured as John Cale's "band" from 1992-1998 playing my arrangements of his songs, often with BJ Cole on steel guitar.

We also worked with Teo Macero, Amina Claudine Myers, Leroy Jenkins, Tony Williams, Van Dyke Parks, Guided by Voices, Ric Ocasek (the Cars), Bob Neuwirth, Robert Dick, Jessie Harris, Lee Renaldo (Sonic Youth), Shelley Hirsch, Joanne Brackeen, Elliot Sharp, Zeena Parkins, Fred Frith, Myra Melford, Lenny Pickett, Jonas Hellborg. For a couple of seasons we were the quartet for the American Festival for Microtonal Music and premiered works in the "chamber " vein by Iannis Xenakis and Ivan Wyshnedgradsky.

Discography & mp3s



In Four Color

2015 release

A three CD compilation of pieces by Dave Soldier performed by the PubliQUARTET and the Soldier String Quartetrecorded 1992-1998

The original punk classical repertoire, spanning deep Delta Blues of the 1920s to the far future, this triple CD features three hours of Dave Soldier?s compositions played by the PubliQuartet and his Soldier String Quartet with a wild range of guests.

CD I   PUBLIQuartet with Satoshi Takeishi
CD2   Soldier String Quartet
Laura Seaton, Dave Soldier, vln; Ron Lawrence, vla; Mary Wooten, cello; Michael Suchorsky drums
CD3   Regina Carter, Dave Soldier, vln; Judith Insell, vla; Dawn Avery, cello, Tiye? Giraud, vocal & percussion, Jimmy Justice, vocal

Inspect for Damaged Gods

2004 release
recorded 1992-1998

1.Preachin' Blues (Robert Johnson, arranged Soldier)
2.Bo Diddley
(Ellis McDaniel, arranged Soldier)
3.Here Comes the King (Raymond Scott, arranged Soldier)
4. Michael Callen
5. Sontag in Sarajevo (Soldier)
     part I  Fluor Phosphor Lumen and Candle
     part II  Dance for the Tetragrammaton
6. In Time (Sly Stone, arranged Soldier)
7. Ugly (Robert Pete Williams, arranged Soldier)
8. N'Orleans (Soldier)
9. Boogie on party people(Soldier), a story of an incarnation of God in Rhippdur, India
10.Marsh Fugue (Soldier: manipulated natural sounds - unlisted on jacket)

Players: 1st violin: Regina Carter on 2, 3,5,6,7,8,9; Todd Reynolds on 1 & 4, 2nd violin, Dave Soldier and guitar on 5, Judith Insell (Viola), Dawn Buckholtz Avery (cello), Tiye' Giraud (vocals & percussion on 2,6,7,8,9), Jimmy Justice (vocals on 4,8,9), Richard Bona (bass on 9), Laura Cantrell (vocals on 4), Rebecca Cherry (violin solo on 7), Jonathan Kane (drums on 9), Anne DeMaranis (accordion on 5), Valarie Naranjo (balophone on 9)

Jazz Standards on Mars

with Robert Dick
Gazzeloni (Dolphy)
Water Babies (Shorter)

Enja Records: out of print but a few copies available from Mulatta

Arrangements by Soldier of "classic jazz" pieces that are not typically performed.
1. India (John Coltrane)
2. Gazzelloni
(Eric Dolphy)
3. Water Babies
(Wayne Shorter)
4. Machine Gun
(Jim Hendrix)
5. Something Sweet, Something Tender
(Eric Dolphy)
6. Sometimes, Perpetually
(Robert Dick)
7. Three Wishes
(Ornette Coleman)

Robert Dick, flutes; Regina Carter, violin; Soldier, violin, metal violin, banjo;, Judith Insell, viola; Dawn Avery cello; Mark Dresser, Kermit Driscoll, Richard Bona, bass; Steve Arguelles, Ben Perowsky, drums, Valerie Naranjo, percussion, vibes

She's Lightning When She Smiles

NewTone Records out of print, a few copies available from Mulatta Records

Dave's blues transcriptions by Soldier for small big band recorded live at a concert at Art at St. Ann's in Brooklyn

Players: Vocals: Tiye'Giraud, Jason White, Napua Davoy, Bobby Radcliff, violins: Laura Seaton, Dave Soldier; Ron Lawrence, viola, Mary Wooten, cello, Brad Jones, bass, Myra Melford, piano, Leroy Clouden, drums, Lenny Pickett, saxophone and clarinet

Tunes: 1. Another Man Done Gone (Vera Hall)
2. Future Blues (Willie Brown)
3. Clouds in My Heart (Muddy Waters)
4. Black Snake Moan (Blind Lemon Jefferson)
5. Prelude (George Gershwin)
6. Bobby Radcliff Intro
7. Moanin' at Midnight (Howlin' Wolf)
8. Uncloudy Day (Staples Singers)
9. Moon and Stars (Louise Johnson)
10. Sugar Momma (John Lee Hooker)
11. Somebody Help Poor Me (Robert Pete Williams)
12. Cypress Grove (Skip James)

Sojourner Truth


Newport Classic, out of print
1. Paris 1919 (John Cale, arr. Soldier, featuring Shelly Hirsch vocals),
2. Lonesome Train
(Soldier) (4tet and drums)
3. Sojourner Truth
(Soldier, 4tet)
4. Ezekiel Saw the Wheel (Soldier, traditional lyrics)
5. String Quartet #1, The Impossible
    1. Open Hydrant
    2. Walking on the 3rd Rail
    3. Ron Visits the Polymer Lounge
    4. For His Bad Self
    5. She Put My Head Under the Water

Laura Seaton, Dave Soldier (violins), Ron Lawrence (viola), Mary Wooten (cello), Michael Suchorsky (drums);

on 4, with Amina Claudine Myers, vocals and piano, Luis Bautista conga, Napua Davoy vocals, Americo Mendez bass, Steve Napoleoni chanting; on 5, Kevin Norton congas, Soldier guitar

Soldier String Quartet Sequence Girls


Rift Records, LP only, a few copies available through Mulatta

Sequence Girls
Five Little Monsters
Rondo Amos Tutuola
If I had it to give (I'd give it to him)
20-20 Blues (Skip James)
Moon Goin' Down (Charlie Patton)
Country Blues #2 (Muddy Waters)

Laura Seaton, Dave Soldier (violins), Ron Lawrence (viola), Mary Wooten (cello), Ratso Harris (bass) Michael Suchorsky (drums)

Other recordings with the Soldier String Quartet

John Cale and Strings(1992, Risc Disc) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
John Cale and Bob Neuwirth, Last Day on Earth (1994, MCA) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
John Cale Walking on Locusts (1996, Rykodisc) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
John Cale Eat and Kiss (1997, Rykodisc) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
Nicolas Collins A Dark & Stormy Night (1992, Trace Elements) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Robert Dick 3rd Stone from the Sun (1993, New World) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
Grupo Wara Malombo (1990 South American release) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
Guided by Voices Do the Collapse (1999, TVT) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
Guided by Voices Hold on Hope(2000, EP, TVT) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
Guided by Voices Isolation Drills (2001, TVT) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
Jessie Harris While the Music Lasts, (2004, Virgin) arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, with Soldier String Quartet
Jonas Hellborg and Tony Williams The Word (1992, Island/Axiom) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Leroy Jenkins Themes & Variations on the Blues (1994, CRI) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Bob Neuwirth and John Cale, Last Day on Earth (1994, MCA) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
Phill Niblock / Soldier String Quartet Early Winter (1994, XI Records) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Christina Rosenvinge Foreign Land (2002, Lcd) arranger, violin with Soldier String Quartet
Elliott Sharp / Soldier String Quartet Tessalation Row (1987, SST) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Elliott Sharp / Soldier String Quartet Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup (1989, SST ) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Elliott Sharp / Soldier String Quartet Twistmap (1991, EarRational) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Elliott Sharp / Soldier String Quartet Cryptoid Fragments (1993, Extreme Records) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Elliott Sharp / Soldier String Quartet Xeno-Codex (1996, Tzadik) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Elliott Sharp / Soldier String Quartet Rheo/Umbra (1998, Zoar) violin with Soldier String Quartet
Elliott Sharp / Soldier String Quartet String Quartets 1986-1996 (2003, Tzadik) violin with Soldier String Quartet

Soldier String Quartet Real Estate (1990, EarRational)
Soldier String Quartet / Elliott Sharp No Wave (1990, SST)
Jonas Hellborg Illuminations violin with Soldier String Quartet (1991, Axiom)
Soldier String Quartet State of the Union (1992, Arrest)

film scores
Special Friends (Music by Teo Macero for ABC-TV) violin with Soldier String Quartet (1988)


Piece from the Word, Tony Williams (!) drums, Jonas Hellborg bass and arrangement, Soldier String Quartet


I always loved syncopation and counterpoint, as a child from funk and rhythm and blues, later in medieval and baroque music, salsa and flamenco. I've tried various ways to design overlapping rhythms, influenced by theorists Bernard Ziehn Josef Schillinger, Heinrich Schenker, and by figuring out how syncopations arise in R&B, salsa, and flamenco. I was really moved by Conlon Nancarrow and Gyorgi Ligeti's piano pieces, and tried to find a different path than what they explored. Nancarrow was particularly inspiring.

The Soldier String Quartet let me explore new rhythm juxtapositions, and I started it in 1985 because string players could read harder rhythms that guitarists, because I was going through a Haydn worship phase, because I played the violin, and because the string quartet seemed so quaint that the idea was funny.

We introduced/experimented with amplification, moving around on stage (inspited by the Beastie Boys and gospel music), memorizing the parts, and playing American rhythms. I put in a lot I learned from playing in rock and R&B bands, using a drum kit to help rhythmic polyphony, and I wrote the drum parts: fortunately Michael Suchorsky, long-time drummer for Lou Reed and Everyman Band, is the rare drummer who can play written parts and make them sound natural.

The original group was Laura Seaton and me on violins, Drew Tretick on viola, Jane Scarpantoni on cello, Bruce Ditmas on drums. We soon added Ratso Harris on bass, and Ron Lawrence joined on viola, Mary Wooten on cello, and Michael Suchorsky on drums. Around 1992 Regina Carter joined on violin followed in 1996 Todd Reynolds, and Martha Mooke and Judith Insell on viola, and Dawn Avery on cello. Around 1992 we added two singers, especially on tours, Tiye' Giraud and Jason White, and after Jason suddenly and shockingly passed at the age of 23, Sam Butler from the Five Blind Boys of Alabama and later Jimmy Justice would sing. Jimmy also passed away in 2008.

In the early 90's we would often tour Europe with the two singers and four strings, as the groupor on a package with John Cale. At various times and projects other players included Lisa Terry, Mark Feldman, and Marlene Rice on violin, Mark Dresser, Kermit Driscoll, and Richard Bona on bass, Kevin Norton and Samm Bennett on drums. We collaborated a lot with Elliott Sharp, Robert Dick, Nicolas Collins and John Cale, and occassionally with Teo Macero, Amina Claudine Myers, the American Festival of Microtonal Music, and many others.

One project I plan to finish is a cycle of full "string quartets" I began with Quartet #1, The Impossible, which is recorded on Sojourner Truth. I wrote a Quartet #2, Bambatta Variations, especially for a surreal quartet built by Ken Butler out of found object but that can be played using normal techniques; we premiered it at Merkin Hall but never recorded it. I've also written in part Quartet #3, The Essential, based on the idea that you boil down a regular quartet and display it as a Wester blot, a way biologists indicate protein makeup of a cell and get at it's "essence" - the music is highly syncopated and an odd twist to Schoeberg's second quartet; it has very hard but was premiered in 2009 at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, with the players wearing EEGs.

Beyond my own compositions for the quartet, I always asked composers who presumably would never otherwise write music for a string quartet to do so. We premiered many works by Elliott Sharp, and pieces by Leroy Jenkins, Fred Frith, Phill Niblock, David Linton, Zeena Parkins, Nicolas Collins, Jonas Hellborg (with Tony Williams on drums!), Van Dyke Parks, and many others that I will add when I go through my notes.

The other goal is to arrange polyrhythmic music that had not been notated. I figure it out as well as I can, and force the players listen to the originals for phrasing - that's hard with classical freelancers! We started with Delta Blues on our first LP by Muddy Waters, Skip James, and Robert Johnson. Trying to listen very carefully helped me develop a style, and helped the group phrase in American music. We released a live album of blues arrangements from Art at St. Ann's. I expanded arrangements to pieces by Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Earth Wind & Fire, Tito Puente, and lots of others. We made two CDs of my arrangements for quartet with the trailblazing flutist Robert Dick, one of Jimi Hendrix pieces, and the other of lesser known jazz pieces by Eric Dolphy, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman.

I arranged Paris 1919 by John Cale, whose music I identified with in high school as someone else who didn't differentiate "classical" and "pop" styles; John heard it and the Quartet became his backup group from 1992-96. This led to the quartet playing and/or arranging for a lot of great pop groups and producers, including Guided by Voices, David Byrne, Ric Ocasek, Lambchop, Van Dyke Parks, Jessie Harris, Bill Laswell, Lee Renaldo and not least, Teo Macero.

One highlight in this direction was with Cale in 1993 at NYU where Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison showed as a first surprise reunion of the Velvet Underground - John asked me to arrange some old tunes and some from his recent duo with Reed, but wouldn't tell me why - though Mo Tucker missed her train and didn't get to the concert in time, which prevented it from being the "complete" reunion concert.


these are all from the New York Times: with time I'll try to add more from them and other sources

review of Soldier String Quartet at Lincoln Center
review of Soldier String Quartet at Lincoln Center Out of Doors
review of Soldier String Quartet at Roulette
review of Soldier String Quartet and Elliott Sharp at CBGBs
review of John Cale with Soldier String Quartet at Bottom Line

An obituary for Jason White

Jason White, gospel and avant garde vocalist, passed away on Thursday night, September 8, 1994 from complications of AIDS. He was twenty-three years old.

Equally at home in the classical avant garde and gospel styles, Jason toured Japan and Europe with the classical/rock musician John Cale, jazz singer Diane Reeves, and as a member of the Soldier String Quartet. In gospel music, Jason sang with Rejoicensemble, Ashford and Simpson, Reverend Ike's Choir, and Lavender Light. He was a featured tenor soloist with the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra as the soloist in Mark Twain's War Prayer, a cantata written for him by Dave Soldier, on the The Apotheosis of John Brown, and with the Soldier String Quartet on She's Lightning When She Smiles.

Jason attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington DC, and was awarded a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music. His teachers were Allen McBride, Edward Jackson, and Dorothy Dash. On a concert last August at Lincoln Center Out-of Doors, Times critic Alex Ross praised Jason's "rich delivery".

Jason's Going Home ceremony will be on Saturday, September 17, at the Guiding Light Greater Refuge Church in Washington, D.C. He is survived by his mother, Virginia Tyson, of Silver Springs, Maryland.