In 2013 Crain’s Detroit Business recognized him with a Salute to Social Entrepreneurs, saying ”Rick Robinson is bringing classical music to the masses— which may be one of the most challenging jobs in all of music.”
If the dramas of human civilization inspired great art, the challenges of broadening the audience for classical music inspire yet more today. Can new ensembles truly swim in the larger entertainment ecosystem? Those who’ve deeply heard classical music sing and charge their action realize this is a Holy Grail for the classical industry. Times has arrived that our major institutions are introducing small changes to build without losing audience. Meanwhile, CutTime® joins an army of classical revolutionaires experimenting with New and Old Classical, as yet on a small scale. What’s old is new again. We reset the context for classical music, placing it where everyone else discovers music.
It’s time to cut loose with classical!
CutTime introduces the wider community to the cream of classical music with variety programs featuring adaptations of lively symphonic music and emotional new works.
Beginning when Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) bassist Rick Robinson started arranging music by computer in 1993, the next year he organized the first concert of CutTime Players®, a mixed octet with DSO principal musicians to play Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat plus his first of many transcriptions, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. This was soon followed by Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks and Kabalevsky’s The Comedians Suite.
This became an ideal ensemble to present memorable symphonic music where orchestras can’t fit, creating a new genre described either as mixed octet or mini-orchestra. From the start Robinson began trying to cut into the mechanics, key history and potential for meaning that make instrumental music truly universal. Today his saw is much sharper.
Most ensembles will perform great concerts and workshops. CutTime goes much further:
- Performing familiar symphonic works within intimate settings and with drama
- Offering unique special and holiday programs
- Hosting casually, sharing key information into the sport of classical music-making
- Performing accessible new compositions, some of which reference common pop values
- Rewarding and creating curiosity by answering the burning questions
- Framing classical as an alternative that balances with pop; comparing them lovingly
- Drawing from dozens of effective analogies inspired by 22 years in a major orchestra
- Performing classical amplified in bars, restaurants, clubs, even schools
- Bringing its own amplification system
- Reaching effectively into black and Latino neighborhoods with the why and the how
- Leading audience activities that bring everyone into the center of music
- Giving a broad overview of music history, giving context to the classical tradition
- Hiring your local musicians who already have connections in the community
- Modeling new ways, attitudes and sheet music for musicians to create bold initiatives
- Leaving some of this music behind for those local musicians to continue this outreach
A cut time is a musical symbol meaning two beats per bar— indicating either a quick and lively speed or an easy and swinging beat. CutTime adopted this symbol to lively up classical for the wider, casual and diverse communities to enjoy. CutTime is to make music easy to jump inside; to cut the time it takes new listeners to love classical.
CutTime’s mission expanded when Robinson launched CutTime Players Publishing in 1998 by releasing its first retail sheet music catalog of these transcriptions, to enable orchestra musicians everywhere to reach out.
Dreaming against the odds
In 1999 Robinson had a vivid dream, from which he captured its music to suddenly begin composing a dramatic 20-minute work in the romantic style for full orchestra. Following a premiere by DSO of his completed ESSAY (After Sibelius) in 2006, he wrote eleven more works to launch the string sextet CutTime Simfonica® in 2010. The first work is a hip love story (Mighty Love, 2007) that references bluegrass, tango and negro jubilee.
Significantly, the next work, Gitcha Groove On! (2009), dramatically shifts from the woods of Vienna to the streets of Detroit. Rich, sensuous counterpoint and development come to dance provocatively with familiar rock, blues, Latin, soul and hip-hop grooves. These works create a funky-romantic on-ramp into the classical universe for the curious. Including his big hit Highland Park, MI: City of Trees, these works earned Robinson a Kresge Artist Fellowship in 2010, which included business guidance to fuel a growing mission to refresh and Americanize classical music.
With music, methods and mission fully formed, CutTime then began to partner with Classical Revolution (CR), launching volunteer chapters in Detroit (CRD) in 2010 and later Grand Rapids, MI (CRGR). These were ideal stages for CutTime to reach much further out— reading in clubs, bars and restaurants with amplification. And Mr. CutTime himself shreds pop stereotypes about classical, surprising both listeners and musicians with the origins, sport and practical value of classical today.
Come to know classical
By the end of 2012 Robinson resigned his DSO position to complete the CutTime enterprise and mission, seeking partners nationally and across all arts sectors.
Mr. CutTime traded excellence of performance for excellence of opportunities to feed the deserving masses its own humanities through the classical arts.
As such, CutTime is both a school of thought and a hybrid business model for classical musicians to rebuild the art form around and within the larger entertainment ecosystem, recruiting musicians to help orchestras and presenters engage and prepare new audiences.
Raising the standards for what it means to engage, CutTime employs spiritual, visual, spoken word, dance, dramatic and humanist ideas to envision, articulate and demonstrate how music without words help us experience epiphany, transcend daily issues and refresh our lives.
CutTime brings the accumulated skills, knowledge and critical background of the rare African-American, major-orchestra veteran to bear on diversifying classical audiences. Music critic Jeffrey Rossman of Classical Voice of North Carolina called Robinson, “a modern-day Dvorak… [whose] personality, aggressive advocacy of [stepping down from the pedestal of the concert hall], and his remarkable playing, composing and arranging skills put him in the forefront of this movement.”
CutTime means it’s time to cut the formality out of classical for a wider community.
It’s time to reveal some of the secrets that let this wider community access its beauty and power. It’s time to leave the sanctuary of the concert hall and face the people, resetting the context for fine arts music on par with popular culture. The dumbing down the industry fears becomes the warming up necessary to liberate classical music to belong to the rest of humanity, esp. that which is in the public domain.
While firmly grounded in the orchestra industry, CutTime seeks partnerships with orchestras, concert presenters, restaurants, clubs, foundations, donors and musicians nationwide to create positive change.
- Discover balanced if raw ideas at this website. It is breathing and adapting.
- Listen to CutTime’s music on the sidebar.
- Read more on the Purpose of CutTime on the next page.
- Share pages with social media buttons below or email to interested parties.
- Support CutTime with tax-deductible donations to operations via our fiscal sponsor or support our Knight Foundation project online here.
- Go deeper with Greg Sandow’s presentation Time to Join the Rest of the World