Christopher O’Riley: the ultimate anti-snob

Christopher O’Riley isn’t nearly as famous as the things he does. In fact, he’s probably most often described in casual coffeehouse conversation as that Radiohead piano guy. I mean, that’s who he is. He’s the guy who plays earnest, classically inspired renditions of Radiohead songs on the piano, which you may have heard on NPR. (See his 2003 release, True Love Waits, and the new Hold Me To This.) He’s also the guy who does the public radio show From the Top, which spotlights young classical musicians from around the country. He’s also an L.A. resident, an accomplished soloist on the classical circuit, a voracious rock & roll fan and a Comedy Central devotee. He’s darn near a postmodern Renaissance man, gently but relentlessly promoting a worldview and approach to culture that rejects received boundaries of definition: O’Riley judges Tears for Fears and Shostakovich by the same basic yardstick, and has no shame in his pop-cultural obsessions. (He loves South Park, detests I Love Huckabees) He’s the best kind of historian and musician: a lover, a student, a geek. (He’s even published transcriptions of his Radiohead arrangements in book form, okay?) In short, Christopher O’Riley is the ultimate anti-snob.