Bond, Britain’s first all-women string quartet, courted and received some terrific publicity at their 2000 debut. The attractive group members have been billed as the Spice Girls of classical music because they often appear in revealing attire that includes fishnet stockings and leather corsets. Yet the four women are also conservatory-trained musicians with solid professional credentials. Their debut CD, Born, earned critical approval for its intriguing mix of classical influences and an electrified world-beat sound. First violinist Hay-lie Ecker confessed to U.S. News & World Report journalist Thomas K. Grose that the hype surrounding their looks is sometimes “a hindrance. People think we can’t play.”
Bond’s members were in their mid-to late twenties at the time of their debut. Ecker is a native of Perth, Australia, who earned an honors degree in music from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama; she later took a postgraduate degree in advanced solo studies there. Tania Davis, Bond’s viola player, is also Australian; she earned an honors degree in music from the Sydney Conservatorium and, like Ecker, completed a Guildhall postgraduate program. Before joining Bond, her professional experience included appearances with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the
Members include Eos Chater (born in Cardiff, Wales. Education: Degree from the Royal College of Music, London), second violin; Tania Davis (born c. 1976 in Sydney, Australia. Education: Honors degree in music, Sydney Conservatorium; completed postgraduate program at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, England), viola; Haylie Ecker (born c. 1976 in Perth, Australia. Education: Honors degree in music, Guildhall School of Music and Drama), first violin; Gay-Yee Westerhoff (born in Hull, England. Education: Honors degree in music, Trinity College of Music, London), cello.
Group formed in London, England, c. 2000; signed to Decca Records, August of 2000; made performance debut at London’s Royal Albert Hall, September of 2000; released debut LP, Born, in the United Kingdom in October of 2000, and in the U.S. in April of 2001; released Shine,2002.
Addresses: Management— MBO, P.O. Box 363, Bournemouth BH7 6LA, United Kingdom. Website—Bond Official Website: http://www.bond-music.com
Sydney Symphony, and the London Symphony Orchestra. Eos Chater, second violinist, hails from Cardiff, Wales; she earned her degree from the London’s Royal College of Music. She already had some pop-music experience, having played with the Cocteau Twins and Mark Knopfler, among others. Cellist Gay-Yee Westerhoff, born and raised in Hull, England, and earned her honors degree in music from the Trinity College of Music in London. Like Chater, she had some nonclassical gigs to her credit, including work with the Spice Girls, Sting, and Primal Scream.
Ecker and Davis had known one another in Australia, and Westerhoff and Chater met while doing session work in London. Westerhoff had also worked with Vanessa Mae, the Thai-Chinese teen violinist who caused a stir with her titillating 1995 debut album cover. Mae was managed by music impresario Mel Bush, who was interested in forming an all-female, classically-inspired group. The Bond women auditioned together, found common ground, and agreed to form a group under Bush’s aegis. Signed to Decca Records, they made their debut at London’s Royal Albert Hall in September of 2000.
Born, Bond’s debut release, hit record stores in the United Kingdom in October of 2000. Some of its tracks were written by film composer Magnus Fiennes, brother of actors Ralph and Joseph. Croatian composer Tonci Huljic wrote a few others, and Westerhoff and Chater each contributed a song as well. The CD climbed quickly to the number two on Britain’s classical charts, but then the official Chart Information Network (CIN) committee decided to reclassify it as a pop release. A spokesperson for the committee explained that CIN members had failed to notice that the CD did not meet its criteria when it was first approved (at least half the tracks on a work must be compositions from the classical canon), and Born did not meet that stipulation. When it was shunted off to the British pop charts, the album sank to number 36. Bond’s members were stunned. “In a modern world it is disappointing that the classical elite cannot embrace change,” Ecker told Guardian reporter Matt Wells. “We are all musicians—nothing changes except with music we have a poetic licence to entertain people around the globe.”
Despite the setback, Bond still made history, becoming the first female string quartet ever to appear on British pop charts. Similar success ensued when Born was released in the United States in the spring of 2001. Reviewers commended the unique sound of their electrified string instruments, which spun intriguing melodies drawn from both the classical canon and world music. A New York Post critic commented that the four musicians “make highly produced, eclectic music: part techno, part salsa, part gypsy.” Reviewing the album in People, Joseph V. Tirella described one track, “Quixote,” as “a mesmerizing combination of Romantic-period melodies set to a house backbeat.” The group’s first single “Victory,” did well on the charts, as did subsequent releases, particularly in Asian markets and in Europe. These sales propelled them into the Guinness World Records book as the best-selling string quartet in history.
Other reviews were less kind, but Bond remained nonplussed. There was some sniping in the press when they were invited to open the Classical BRIT Awards ceremony—the British equivalent of the Grammys—in May of 2001, but as Ecker told Grose in the U.S. News & World Report article, the hullabaloo only added to their allure. “It’s hilarious,” Ecker said. “The more they react, the more press we get.” The group and its label claimed that Bond was simply injecting a bit of verve into a otherwise stuffy classical music scene. Answering that claim, Buffalo News writer Mary Kunz asked readers to “forget the black tie and tails for a moment, and [remember that] the world of classical music has never been all that staid. Racy dancers cavorted in Richard Strauss’ ’Salome’ and Stravinsky’s ’The Rite of Spring.”’ Kunz went on to assert that “what … Bond … [is] doing amounts to an embarrassing, desperate attempt to grab at publicity in a time when not only is the spotlight more fleeting than ever before, but the competition for it gets keener every day.” Guardianarts correspondent Fiachra Gibbons weighed in on the matter as well: “Selling the girls as sirens may grate with traditionalists but it is a standard part of the promotional push which has been creeping into the classical world for several years now and has worked particularly well for German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.”
By June of 2001, Bond’s Born had sold a million copies worldwide, including some 150,000 in the United States. It reached number one on the Billboard classical crossover chart, and the group went on an ambitious world tour of several select markets, doing particularly well in Asia. Still, their attractive looks and revealing stage attire continued to draw some criticism, prompting British baritone Sir Thomas Allen to decry such classical-music marketing trends at a Royal Philharmonic Society awards ceremony in May of 2002. New Statesman writer Lisa Allardice defended Bond as merely a sign of the times, a bid by the classical music industry to attract more listeners. “Since 80 percent of classical CDs are bought by men,” Allardice pointed out, “you might think that they should bear some responsibility—but no, the girls get all the blame.”
Bond dismissed idea that their success relied upon their looks, pointing out that they were all solidly trained musicians. “Obviously, the visual part is the first point of contact,” Westerhoff told the New York Post. “But it’s the music that counts. You can’t perform live and get by just on looks alone.”
Born, Decca, 2000.
Shine, Universal, 2002.
Buffalo News, January 12, 2003, p. E1.
Guardian(London, England), August 3, 2000; October 16, 2000.
Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2003, p. E44.
New Statesman, May 20 2002, p. 8.
New York Post, April 14, 2001, p. 17.
People, April 16, 2001, p. 41.
Record(Bergen County, NJ), October 25, 2000, p. Y4.
Time, February-March 2002, p. 10.
Time, Asia, March 18, 2002.
U.S. News & World Report, May 28, 2001, p. 11.
Bond Official Website, http://www.bond-music.com (April 14, 2003).
What It Means
A bond is a type of investment that represents money loaned to a government or corporation. Local, state, and national governments often need to borrow money to pay for the services and projects they oversee, such as road construction, public schools, and emergency assistance; and corporations often need to borrow money to expand their operations. Because these organizations and the sums of money they require are so large, they cannot simply ask a bank for a loan the way individuals or small businesses can. Instead, they raise money by issuing bonds, which are essentially IOUs. This allows them to draw from a wide pool of investors to finance their projects. To attract funds the bond-issuing organization (the borrower) agrees to pay interest (a fee for the use of borrowed money) to investors (the lenders). Bonds pay a fixed yearly interest rate (often called the bond’s “coupon”) for a set number of years. At the end of this period the bond matures, and the bond issuer returns the original amount paid by the investor (this amount is called the bond’s “face value”).
For example, say that a company or government issued 10-year bonds at a 10 percent interest rate and offered these bonds in units with a face value of $1,000 each. This would mean that an investor who paid $1,000 for one of these bonds could expect to collect $100 a year for 10 years. Once the 10-year-period was up, the bond-issuing organization would return the $1,000 face value of the bond to the investor.
When Did It Begin
Bonds date to at least thirteenth- to fifteenth-century Italy, when local governments and the Catholic Church sometimes raised money from, and paid interest to, prominent private citizens. The contracts representing the borrowers’ debt obligations began to be seen as valuable in their own right, since they represented the potential to earn money in the future. Thus, markets (systems allowing buyers and sellers to come together) developed for these early forms of bonds developed. In other words, a person who lent money to a government or the Church could sell the contract entitling him to future interest payments to another person. This occurs in more complex form on the bond markets of today.
In 1693 King William III of England issued bonds to nobles in London. These are generally considered the first modern bonds, because they represent the first examples of bonds whose purchasers were guaranteed to be repaid. Previously bonds had been more akin to private loans in which an element of trust had to be present for a lender to feel confident in purchasing shares of debt. Because the British Parliament had gained enough power to sufficiently balance the king’s power with that of private citizens, William III had a legal obligation to pay back the purchasers of those 1693 bonds.
More Detailed Information
Some people buy bonds directly from their issuers. This is called buying bonds on the primary market. On the primary market, bonds sell for their face value. Some people buy bonds on the primary market, collect interest until those bonds mature, and then receive their original investment back. It is not necessary to do this, though. There is a secondary market for bonds allowing bond holders to sell their bonds at any time. The price of bonds in the secondary market does not necessarily match their face values. This is because the supply (the quantity of bonds sellers want to sell at a given price) or demand (the quantity of bonds buyers want to buy at a given price) for certain bonds changes depending on financial conditions.
One of the main reasons that the price of bonds fluctuates is that interest rates in the economy change. Basic interest rates are highly influenced by central banks such as the U.S. Federal Reserve System (often called the Fed). If, for example, a corporation issues 10-year bonds that pay 10 percent interest today, and then a few months down the road the Fed works to raise the basic interest rates in the economy so that corporations begin issuing bonds at 11 percent, then the value of those previously issued bonds will fall, since no one would choose to collect 10 percent interest when she could be collecting 11 percent interest. On the other hand, if the Fed lowered interest rates so that bonds began paying 9 percent, those bonds paying 10-percent interest would become very attractive to investors, and their price would rise.
It is important for investors to consider background information about the issuer of a bond before making a purchase. Bonds are generally classified according to their issuer and the level of risk that the issuer represents.
Bonds issued by the U.S. government, commonly called government bonds, are considered largely risk-free, since the government is not likely to collapse overnight, and it can always collect taxes to pay back bond holders. There are three basic kinds of government bonds: Treasury bills, which mature in less than one year; Treasury notes, which mature in one to 10 years; and Treasury bonds, which mature in more than 10 years. Because they mature in such a short time, Treasury bills are not technically considered bonds, but they are issued in the same way and have the same characteristics as bonds, aside from the length of their maturity. Bonds issued by other stable governments are also considered extremely safe investments. This is not the case with many poorer and undeveloped countries, since these countries are often politically and economically unstable. The possibility exists that such a country will be unable to pay bondholders.
Slightly more risky than U.S. bonds are municipal bonds, which are issued by governments and government agencies below the state level. In addition to state governments and government departments, cities, counties, school districts, and public airports are among the many entities that might issue bonds to pay for projects or services. One reason municipal bonds are attractive to investors is that, unlike other bonds, the earnings that come from most munis, as they are called, are exempt from both federal and state income taxes.
Companies are more likely to go bankrupt or become unable to pay bond holders than are national, state, or local governments, so corporate bonds carry a higher level of risk. They also offer the potential for higher returns, however, because of this risk. Corporate bonds can be categorized as short-term (these mature in less than five years), intermediate (five to 12 years), or long-term (over 12 years).
The risk level among corporate bonds varies depending on the issuing company, and in general, the riskier bonds pay the highest interest rates. There are three major companies in the United States (Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch) that rate corporate bonds according to the company’s likelihood of defaulting on its debts. The highest-rated bonds are those issued by so-called “blue-chip” companies, the largest and most stable corporations in the world. Bonds issued by less-established companies are rated lower. In addition to detailed rankings, the three bond-rating firms place bonds in one of two categories: investment or junk grade. Junk bonds are bonds issued by unproven companies, or companies experiencing financial problems. People who purchase junk bonds accept the risk of not being paid in exchange for high interest rates they will be paid if the company is able to continue meeting its obligations to lenders.
There is also a form of bond that does not conform to the basic model of paying a face value and then collecting interest until maturity. These bonds are called zero-coupon bonds, meaning that they pay no interest. Instead, they are sold at a steep discount off their face value, they typically take a long time to mature, and they pay face value upon maturity. They allow people to make long-term investments (for college savings or retirement, for example) at a low initial cost. Zero-coupon bonds are issued by all levels of government and by companies.
In the early twenty-first century, bonds had a much lower profile among the general public than did stocks. Whereas bonds are shares of government or company debt, stocks are shares of company ownership. Instead of paying a fixed rate of interest, as bonds do, stocks generally gain value when a company prospers and lose value when a company struggles. This tends to allow for more fluctuation in stock prices than in bond prices, and it gives stock holders the chance to make more money more quickly than bond holders. When investors can make big profits in the stock market, bonds are generally less attractive investments.
Bonds were particularly unattractive to many investors during the 1990s, when the U.S. stock market experienced its biggest boom in history. Though the stock market crashed in 2000 and lost 40 percent of its value over the next two years, most investors continued to be more interested in the stock market than in the bond market.
bond / bänd/ • n. 1. (bonds) physical restraints used to hold someone or something prisoner, esp. ropes or chains. ∎ a thing used to tie something or to fasten things together: she brushed back a curl that had strayed from its bonds fig. chaos could result if the bonds of obedience and loyalty were broken. ∎ adhesiveness; ability of two objects to stick to each other: a total lack of effective bond between the concrete and the steel. ∎ fig. a force or feeling that unites people; a common emotion or interest: there was a bond of understanding between them. ∎ (bonds) fig. restricting forces or circumstances; obligations: bonds of loyalty.2. an agreement or promise with legal force, in particular: ∎ Law a deed by which a person is committed to make payment to another. ∎ a certificate issued by a government or a public company promising to repay borrowed money at a fixed rate of interest at a specified time. ∎ (of dutiable goods) storage in a bonded warehouse until the importer pays the duty owing. ∎ an insurance policy held by a company, which protects against losses resulting from circumstances such as bankruptcy or misconduct by employees.3. (also chemical bond) a strong force of attraction holding atoms together in a molecule or crystal, resulting from the sharing or transfer of electrons.4. short for bond paper.• v. 1. join or be joined securely to something else, typically by means of an adhesive substance, heat, or pressure: [tr.] press the material to bond the layers together ∎ [intr.] fig. establish a relationship with someone based on shared feelings, interests, or experiences: the failure to properly bond with their children the team has bonded together well [as n.] (bonding) the film has some great male bonding scenes. 2. join or be joined by a chemical bond.3. [usu. as n.] (bonding) place (dutiable goods) in bond.
N. Lloyd (1925)