Miami’s Nu Deco Ensemble, a chamber orchestra of 24 musicians, that we introduced readers to in an earlier post (Nu Deco Ensemble tests the boundaries of classical music with reggaeton, Daft Punk suite, more) performs music by a range of artists from Aaron Copland to Daft Punk. This week, they plan to debut a new suite based on the music of Radiohead.
Speaking via phone, conductor Jacomo Bairos and composer Sam Hyken admit the music of the British alt-rock band is something they have wanted to present from the beginning. However, they had to be careful with their approach for fear of placing their own ground-breaking group in the shadow of another more famous one.
“Radiohead has been on our minds for a long time,” says Bairos, who speaks from San Diego, just ahead of a collaboration with pianist Ben Folds. “We wanted to do it. We just didn’t want to start there because Radiohead is one of those groups that other classical groups have adapted and mashed up, and we wanted to establish ourselves with original content, done and made and performed before we dive into stuff like that, that other people have also listened to.”
“We talked about Radiohead for a while, but we knew we didn’t want to do it for our first concert, as our first artist,” adds Hyken, who is speaking from his home base in Miami, where he is still working on the arrangements (we spoke a few weeks ago, now). “But, as Radiohead fans, we knew it would be a phenomenal group to cover.”
He won’t reveal what songs they are adapting, but admits that they are skipping the first two albums, Pablo Honey and The Bends. Hyken says of the tracks they are considering, “I’m going to keep it a surprise because we haven’t picked out all of them, and I’d like to keep that under wraps.”
As he is in the works of adapting some of the music, he talks freely about some of the challenges in Radiohead’s music compared with adapting Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, another alternative dance/rock band they have adapted. “Radiohead is very sonically based,” says Hyken. “Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, even though it’s electronic, the grooves are very straight ahead. Radiohead, so much if its sound is electronic. We’re trying to figure out how deep we want to go with that, at this point. Do we want to go with electronic drums? Do we want to make it the exact same percussion? We’re just kind of diving into that a little bit deeper. A lot of sounds that Radiohead have are methodically manipulated by so many different factors. It’s not as straight forward. With Daft Punk you can take the lines that they created and you can put them right into the orchestra, and it really works. With Radiohead, you have to get more creative in terms of color and orchestration.”
As with previous shows, the ensemble will also explore classical music by contemporary composers during the performances at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, including Ricardo Romaneiro and Nicolas Omiccioli. Hyken describes Omiccioli’s piece, “[fuse],” as “very current and very digestible” and the Romaneiro piece as “very beautiful and exciting and vast, in terms of soundscape. It’s going to be an amazing auditory experience. It’s gonna be almost like surround sound because of the way we do it with the speakers and because of the way he’s written the piece. It’s going to have an encompassing feel to it because the audience is going to feel like they’re deep into the music.”
In their shows, the Nu Deco Ensemble also tries to work in 20th century composers into their sets. They have touched on some famous ones already, like Copland and Ravel. This pair of nights will feature a piece from a composer whose pieces aren’t routinely performed by orchestras, the German composer Paul Hindemith. His piece “Kammermusik No.1, Op. 24” will also be one of the longest works the Nu Deco Ensemble has ever performed.
Bairos says it’s all about broadening the pallet of the audience. “We really felt it was a great opportunity to interject the great music that doesn’t get to be performed so much by regular orchestras,” he says of the Hindemith piece, “and people are going to get to learn about Hindemith a little bit … and it’s gonna make us a better ensemble, too. The wider our artistic pallet is the better musicianship we’re gonna develop over time, and that’s just gonna help everybody at the end of the day.”
Finally, also as with previous shows, the events will feature a collaboration with another group. Earlier, the orchestra played with local luminaries like Afro Beta and The Spam Allstars. These shows feature a group visiting Miami from Brooklyn: The Project Trio. “They’ve become one of my favorite collaborators of all time because they get it,” offers Bairos. “They understand classical music is amazing, but at the same time they understand that it needs to be freshened up and livened up.”
“People of all ages love their music,” adds Hyken. “The intensity that they bring to the stage is just ridiculous. They just bring this high octane energy that’s just infections and gets the audience really engaged.”
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You can read more about this show in Pure Honey Magazine, which is also out in print, available for you to pick up for free at the hipper indie shops, bars and cafes in South Florida, from Miami north to West Palm Beach. Jump through the publication’s logo below for the article:
The Nu Deco Ensemble performs with Project Trio on Thursday, March 3 and 4, at 8 p.m., at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse. For tickets, visit www.nu-deco.org. Photo credit: Southern Land Films / Monica McGivern