Tag Archives: Carl Craig

Ten Records that Blur The Line Between Electronic and Classical Music

Murc of Wagner

Murcof x Vanessa Wagner by Pierre Emmanuel Rastoin.

Considering how closely aligned electronic and classical music have been for decades—from string-laden samples and Philip Glass-like synth grooves to questionable covers like Tiësto’s dopey trance anthem take on Samuel Barber—it should come as no surprise that line between the two has become blurred over time. In fact, it seems pointless to peg many of today’s artists to either.

“I have always been surprised to hear my albums classified as ‘ambient,'” says Polish composer Michał Jacaszek. “They may have ambient elements—like deep reverb or delayed textures—but I prefer an ‘electro-acoustic’ label.”

“I don’t think I’d ever classify my own music in any modern classical sense,” adds producer/12k founder Taylor Deupree. While he’s collaborated with the legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto several times (Disappearance, Perpetual), Deupree sees more parallels between traditional and progressive music forms in the work of his longtime labelmate, Kenneth Kirschner.

“Ken often uses the sounds of traditional classical music,” explains Deupree, “but with very modern and very minimalist compositions. I think that’s where the interest and strength lies in this type of music—where the inspiration comes from people like [Morton] Feldman and [John] Cage.”

That’s certainly been the case with a recent string of records from Mexican producer Murcof and pianist Vanessa Wagner. Last year’s Statea LP reinterpreted everything from John Adams to Aphex Twin, and this summer’s EP.02 pays tribute to Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, and Morton Feldman without tarring the originals in techno-fusion tropes.

“The piano is the starting point of our project,” explains Wagner. “It’s important that electronic effects do not swallow its sound, even if it is sometimes distorted. Similarly, it also seemed very important to stay true to the scores of composers that we interpret.”

The same can often be said for post-classical provocateurs like Alarm Will Sound, the chamber orchestra famous for flipping Aphex Twin on his already twisted head. The following feature isn’t about concert halls invading the club, however, or vice versa. This is closer to the middle ground where it’s never clear what’s being “played” and what’s being “produced.”

Here are 10 essential classically-inclined electronic albums.

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Carl Craig Infuses Techno with the High Drama of an Orchestra

Carl Craig

Photo by Pierre Terdjman.

The idea of fusing electronic and orchestral music isn’t new—especially not to Carl Craig. The Detroit musician is well-known for his place in the international house and techno underground; he was part of the city’s second wave of techno, working closely with Derrick May when he was only a teenager, and continues to be part of the international big league of DJ/producers/remixers. But he has always been ready to step away from the dancefloor, keen to explore different possibilities in musical structure and instrumentation. His music has always been melodically complex, and his use of synthetic string sounds in particular, has always stood out. So it wasn’t that great a leap to bring in “real” instruments for his new project, Versus.

In the late ’90s, Craig expanded on the broken beats of his Innerzone Orchestra project by collaborating with respected jazz musicians like pianist Craig Taborn and drummer/composer Francisco Mora Catlett. Later, looking to expanded orchestral possibilities, he hooked up with Luxembourg pianist and electronic producer Francesco Tristano and Berlin techno mainstay Moritz Von Oswald of Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound. In 2008, Craig and Von Oswald took part in Deutsche Grammophon’s ReComposed album series, blending motifs from composers Maurice Ravel and Modest Mussorgsky into a suite of their own. That same year, Craig and Tristano performed a set of Craig’s own classic tunes, along with works by modern orchestral composers like Steve Reich, with the Les Siècles orchestra at Paris’s Cité de la Musique. It eventually became the seed of the Versus project.

Carl Craig

Photo by Pierre Emmanuel Rastoin.

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