Radiohead's Runaway Guitarist
On Jonny Greenwood:
Greenwood is an anomaly: a musician who made his name with a rock band and who is now embraced by the modern-music establishment as an actual, serious composer. The night before the Alvernia session, he was onstage in an aircraft-hangar-size room at a steel plant in Krakow, performing the minimalist composer Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint” for an audience that included Reich himself, as part of a weeklong new-music festival, Sacrum Profanum. (Reich is a fan; he praises Greenwood’s decision to have the string section play with guitar picks on “Popcorn Superhet” as “the first new approach to pizzicato since Bartok.”) He wasn’t the only performer at Sacrum Profanum with pop-music credentials — the bill also included the techno provocateur Aphex Twin and Adrian Utley, from the trip-hop band Portishead. But he was the only guy from a superfamous rock band whose singer has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.