Spot­light on SWFL Sym­phony

Bring­ing the buzz back to Beethoven

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY ERIK ENT WISTLE

We all have a good idea of what it means when we say that a piece of mu­sic is “clas­si­cal.” But when we start to re­ally con­sider the term “clas­si­cal mu­sic” and ex­actly what that la­bel means, we find that it quickly shows it­self to be an ar­ti­fi­cial cat­e­gory—en­com­pass­ing mul­ti­ple cen­turies of West­ern mu­sic of dif­fer­ent gen­res, writ­ten in in­nu­mer­able and dis­parate mu­si­cal styles—so as to be­come vir­tu­ally mean­ing­less.

Yet the term is also, para­dox­i­cally, a lim­it­ing one. It point­edly ex­cludes cer­tain kinds of mu­sic that may have been pi­geon-holed into their own con­strict­ing cat­e­gories.

This serves as a cau­tion­ary pre­lude to con­sid­er­ing com­poser Steve Hack­man’s pro­duc­tion ti­tled “Beethoven v. Cold­play.” It will be pre­sented by the South­west Florida Sym­phony at the Bar­bara B. Mann Per­form­ing Arts Hall in Fort My­ers on Satur- day, May 4, at 7:30 p.m., with the com­poser at the podium.

In Hack­man’s piece, Beethoven’s third sym­phony ( Eroica, com­posed in 1803-1804) and the mu­sic of the Bri­tish rock band Cold­play be­come what at first may seem to be strange bed­fel­lows. Hack­man weaves Cold­play’s lyrics and melodies into the sym­phony via a trio of miked vo­cal soloists, com­bin­ing the mu­si­cal strands to pro­vide a kind of di­a­logue and com­men­tary on Beethoven’s orig­i­nal score.

No­tably, the lyrics cho­sen by Hack­man from dif­fer­ent Cold­play songs serve as a re­flec­tion of the strug­gles Beethoven was en­dur­ing in his per­sonal life around the time Eroica was com­posed. Sung lines such as “No­body said it was easy” and “When you lose some­thing you can’t re­place ... could it be worse?,” speak to Beethoven’s misun­der­stood ge­nius as well as the tragedy of his grad­ual hear­ing loss, which even­tu­ally led to to­tal deaf­ness.

If the idea of com­bin­ing the mu­sic of Beethoven and Cold­play seems a rad­i­cal one, the re­sult of Hack­man’s cre­ative un­der­tak­ing is es­sen­tially an or­a­to­rio that leaves Beethoven’s beloved sym­phony largely in­tact, but en­hanced by the Cold­play in­ter­po­la­tions. In­deed, un­less you are deeply fa­mil­iar with the mu­sic of the sym­phony, you will not eas­ily no­tice ex­actly where and how the score has been al­tered in order to ac­com­mo­date Cold­play’s lyrics, which them­selves are re­ar­ranged to meld more seam­lessly with Beethoven’s orig­i­nal.

As Hack­man points out, “I use the words hy­brid, fu­sion and syn­the­sis … this is about tak­ing the Cold­play and dis­till­ing the sound into the mu­si­cal el­e­ments that are rep­re­sented on their record­ings by elec­tric gui­tars, key­boards and drums, etc., but then re-trans­lat­ing those mu­si­cal el­e­ments through Beethoven’s lens.”

Hack­man, a clas­si­cally trained pi­anist, com­poser and con­duc­tor, also pos­sesses pop­u­lar mu­sic cre­den­tials as an ac­com­plished pro­ducer, ar­ranger, song­writer, rap­per and disc jockey. He views “Beethoven v. Cold­play” as “a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of my jour­ney through all of th­ese dif­fer­ent gen­res, pro­cesses and dis­ci­plines. I take my cues from the greats when it comes to that, whether it’s Mahler or The Bea­tles or Ken­drick La­mar.

“I mean all the peo­ple that have learned dis­parate dis­ci­plines, that are sup­pos­edly from dif­fer­ent ‘gen­res’ ar­tis­ti­cally, then com­bined them to make some­thing beau­ti­ful and unique ... I know I am a dis­rupter be­cause of what I have felt and what I have been up against. But then on the other hand I know this is not revo­lu­tion­ary what­so­ever to be com­bin­ing pop­u­lar id­ioms with art mu­sic, be­cause it has been hap­pen­ing all along.”

So while Hack­man’s work re­flects long­stand­ing mu­si­cal tra­di­tions, he also seeks to break bound­aries with his unique artis­tic voice, ex­pressed through hy­brid mu­si­cal works that en­deavor to push our col­lec­tive mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ences into the un­known. And as Hack­man points out, there’s no rea­son why Beethoven shouldn’t be a part of that.

“The Eroica sym­phony is not go­ing any­where so long as we con­tinue to think and strate­gize on how to present it in the 21st cen­tury. And that doesn’t mean it has to have Cold­play in it. That just hap­pens to be one take on it.”

Hack­man weaves Cold­play’s lyrics and melodies into the sym­phony via a trio of miked vo­cal soloists, com­bin­ing the mu­si­cal strands to pro­vide a kind of di­a­logue and com­men­tary on Beethoven’s orig­i­nal score.

The South­west Florida Sym­phony, whose bass sec­tion is fea­tured here, will present com­poser/ar­ranger Steve Hack­man’s pro­duc­tion ti­tled “Beethoven v. Cold­play” at the Bar­bara B. Mann P er­form­ing Arts Hall in Fort My­ers on May 4.

From top: SWFL Sym­phony’s oboe and flute sec­tion; com­poser and con­duc­tor Steve Hack­man in ac­tion, and the sym­phony’s clar­inet sec­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.