Now look here you peasants — there’s more to life than boom bap and four to the floor. Before all this jungle drum music (the term every parent has used to describe the stuff you blast out of your room or just that little bit too loud through your headphones) there was and still is classical music. And despite your school music teacher’s best effort to bore you into a coma* with Holst’s Planet Suite, it still prevails today. Yes, people who are still alive write classical music.
*I actually got lines in music class once for being so utterly disinterested in classical music. “Extraneous noise is not conducive to attentiveness in class”. How do I remember that from 40+ years ago?
One such chap is Gabriel Prokofiev, who along with all the other classic music instruments as also recognised the turntable as a musical instrument too. Since composing his “Concerto For Turntables & Orchestra“, many turntablist luminaries have taken the lead soloist spot. But in this new recording, it’s friend of DJWORX Mr Switch.
“Concerto For Turntables & Orchestra” is a piece of music composed by Gabriel Prokofiev for DJ & orchestra, with the DJ taking up the role of the lead soloist.
The piece is written for a turntablist DJ as soloist, and makes use of scratching & scratch techniques in the solo part. All the sounds the DJ uses are sampled directly from the orchestra – strings, brass, percussion, and other noises. The piece is split into 5 movements – each movement highlights a different DJ / turntablist technique, including scratching, phrasing, beat juggling, melodic tone play and scratch drumming.
The concerto was first performed in 2007 by DJ Yoda; the piece has now been performed by more than 10 DJs, including previous DMC champions DJ Brace & DJ Noize. The symphonic orchestral version of the piece was premiered at the BBC Proms in 2011 – the first time a DJ had ever performed in the BBC Proms – with Mr Switch as DJ. There have been over 55 performances of the piece worldwide, and 20 performances of the 5th movement as part of the BBC’s Ten Pieces project in 2015.
This album features a recording of the Concerto with conductor Boris Andrianov leading soloist DJ Mr Switch and the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra. The first movement is available in full to preview on Spotify & Apple Music, as well as pre-orders for the album; http://smarturl.it/TurntablesCello.
The album will be released on Friday 22nd May.
The album launch will be promoted by a livestream event on the day of release, as well as various promotional events such as featuring on Radio 4’s Front Row, with more to be confirmed.
Play music or make music?
The idea of a turntable being seen as a musical instrument has always intrigued me. Conventional musical instruments need to be hit, plucked, fingered, or otherwise manipulated manually so that they generate a sound internally. If you consider that a turntable is a musical instrument, then you might as well extend that description to a TV or smartphone.
But with turntablism, the manual manipulation of vinyl in a skilled hand is the equivalent of plucking a string or hitting a drum. While it might not make the noise itself in the truest sense, turntablists manipulate the turntable and vinyl to make sounds that they ordinarily wouldn’t.
And it’s this that is showcased here. And as Mr Switch shows, there is a place for the turntable alongside bassoons, timpani drums, and cellos, especially when music is composed with them in mind.
As I’ve got older, I’ve discovered a growing enjoyment of classical, especially piano. It’s a wide and varied field, and like other styles of music, I don’t care for every extreme of it. Some of it like avant-garde jazz is pretty unlistenable to my ears. But I’ll definitely give this one a go.
You can check out previews and buy the whole thing here.