CutTime Simfonica

CutTime Simfonica 2010

CutTime Simfonica on DSO stage 2010

On the heels of success transcribing major symphonic works for CutTime Players (CTP), bassist Rick Robinson suddenly began composing in 1999 after experiencing a vivid dream. The resulting work for large orchestra, Essay No. 1 (After Sibelius), was premiered in 2006 by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and Thomas Wilkins. Following the DSO premiere Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker called Robinson “an armchair composer with promise and a taste for fleshy romantic textures and orchestration.” Completely self-taught, only then did Robinson attempt to write more music to launch a second outreach ensemble, called CutTime Simfonica. The results are a dozen works exploring dance, bliss, love, loss and human nature, while resetting the context of classical in today’s numerous communities.

Simfonica began in 2010 with these venerated DSO musicians (above):
Geof Applegate, violin I
Kimberley Kennedy Kaloyanides, violin II
Jim VanValkenburg, viola I
Caroline Coade, viola II
Robert DeMaine, cello
Rick Robinson, bass

With his Sextet for Strings in A-Major (Mighty Love(2007), Robinson built the Simfonica engine around a rich string sextet of 2 violins, 2 violas, cello and bass. Inspired by a personal romance, Mighty Love illustrates the five initial stages of modern romance in dramatic, humorous and accessible musical prose. Throughout the entire 50-minute work, using only instrumental music, Robinson paints a musical movie touching on modern themes as teasing, manhood, dancing, sex, sports, ghosts, openness, families and arguments involved in any courtship today. Wedding bells announce a joyous conclusion in the 5th movement (track above).

His next set of compositions form the Gitcha Groove On! suite of 2008-09. This begins with two unusually expressive works featuring solo English horn and solo oboe respectively accompanied by string quintet, spinning off of Mahler and Bach. The latter features a short rock groove; a discovery of the intersection of classical and urban pop. In the next three works. Robinson fully explores this surprising intersection with urban pop with the title track Gitcha Groove On!, and continue in Pork ‘n Beans and City of Trees.

It turns out that familiar pop and folk references, and optional percussion, form catchy hooks for new audience to connect and even participate in classical music. Such grooves and references include classic rock, funk, blues, jazz, Latin, R&B, gospel, funk, hip-hop, even country and reggae.

As with CutTime Players, Robinson rounds out programs with clever transcriptions from lively symphonic and piano repertoire, such as Chabrier’s Espana Rhapsody, Enesco’s Romanian Rhapsody and Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata.

Robinson also wrote two revealing elegies. The first, a classic, dramatic Elegy, provides deep contrast to Gitcha Groove On!, while First Grief (2011), written after his father, completes the formation of his expression with a tragic-funk groove at its center.

Sample five of these in this short video from the premiere in 2010 with DSO musicians:
Geof Applegate, violin I
Kimberley Kennedy Kaloyanides, violin II
Jim VanValkenburg, viola I
Caroline Coade, viola II
Robert DeMaine, cello
Rick Robinson, bass

 

Back to the future

2010 was a pivotal year for Robinson, who officially launched CutTime Simfonica® (CTS) in May. The next month he won a Kresge Artist Fellowship for composition. In August he launched a budget string quartet version of Simfonica, just in time to launch the voluntary Classical Revolution Detroit (club classical) series in December during the 6-month DSO strike. Local musicians and the founder came to play, eat, drink, meet, speak and come up with new ways to interact.

CutTime Simfonica starts Late Night for Lake George Music Festival with Rick Robinson leading.

CutTime Simfonica starts Late Night for Lake George Music Festival with Rick Robinson leading.

 

If Players might be called CutTime’s cover band, then Simfonica is its originals band. Both configs make classical music matter to the wider community while taking veterans deeper. Discover what a difference casual classical and historic overview make for curious new listeners. These ensembles are excellent for any setting, including house concerts, senior communities, hospitals, shaded sidewalks, the park, cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, churches, and of course Carnegie Hall.

Robinson’s neo-romanticism resumes exploring full tonality, memorable melodies, and dramatic development with playful counterpoint and referencing favorite composers. This language offers powerful tools for broad and meaningful self-discovery, esp. when variegated with the folk music of our time (everything else). Simfonica collaborates, reconnecting the humanities to instrumental music. In 2010 we began working with Detroit Jit grand-masters Hardcore Detroit on City of Trees and Pork ‘n Beans.

New model

Since CutTime’s founder resigned from DSO in 2012, Rick Robinson now tours both CutTime ensembles with musicians contracted nationally, co-creating and facilitating opportunities for musicians to reset the classical context. We meet more music lovers where they are. Today Simfonica adds some percussion to cement the community connection. The results are rich “fleshy textures”, alternating with strong beat, drawing new listeners into the patterns of counterpoint and thematic development.

Music critic Jeffrey Rossman of CVNC wrote of his compositions, “In both of these [Pork ‘n Beans and Gitcha Groove On!] I was most impressed with his remarkably fluent and original contrapuntal writing. There was a fully realized, quite complex fugue with a spicy Latin beat by the bass that was the equal of any contemporary fugal writing.”

CutTime raises the standards for communal engagement, and inspires orchestra musicians to reach out with the boldness new listeners are demanding. CutTime offers nearly 75% of its music library for purchase. These compositions are now being orchestrated and await premieres.

We think it’s about time— for CutTime!

One Response to CutTime Simfonica

  1. Pingback: Detroit Performs LIVE from the Carr Center | Detroit Performs

Comments are closed.