18 March is the date the world's first Concerto for Drum Machine & Orchestra will be heard live, in a gig hosted at Village Underground, as part of Convergence festival. Placing the drum machine centre stage as a solo musical instrument, the piece brings the sounds of dance music and hip-hop to the classical world.
Each of the five parts has been written by a different composer, each with their own style: Beni Giles, Laurence Osborn, Josephine Stephenson, Jo Thomas and Max de Wardener. Here's what they have to say:
“As a life-long beat-maker I’m no stranger to drum machines, and the 808 rules them all. Its iconic sounds are ubiquitous in beat-based music, acting as the rhythm section to innumerable tracks. But this commission appealed to me because it allowed me to do the opposite. By making the 808 the solo instrument, and placing it in front of an orchestra, it is dramatically re-contextualised." (Beni Giles)
“I was attracted to fusion, intricate systems, playfulness and contrasts of the drum machine... I'm working with the grain of my voice and the drum machine together, alongside swathes of electronic bass and thunder which vibrates through the orchestra. I really want to step out of one space and into another…" (Jo Thomas)
“I was super excited when Nonclassical asked me to write a movement for the drum machine concerto, as it sounded like something that hadn’t really been done before and a great opportunity to mesh sounds from different traditions. I had fun working with ever-shifting loops which I made using the machine’s in-built sequencer, and taking them away from the usual structures of dance music. I’ll also be playing the machine myself in the performance, which I really look forward to - the last time I performed at Village Underground was my first proper gig with a band, which is another part of my musical life, so this will be a symbolic uniting for me of the different performing traditions that shape me as a musician.” (Josephine Stephenson)
“The idea of finding a new context for these electronic sounds was new and exciting to me. We have all used the machine in very different ways, but because the sound of the 808 is so distinctive the piece feels really cogent and ‘bound’, in spite of our different approaches.” (Laurence Osborn)