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The Groove, "Stephen Webber's Stylus Symphony"

Justyne Griffin, Staff Writer
December 17, 2007


In a nearly sold out performance, the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra received a standing ovation after the premiere of Music Production and Engineering professor Stephen Webber's Stylus Symphony. The performance was an engaging blend of orchestral and turntable sounds that interested even the most skeptical audience members. What made this work especially enjoyable was its ability to bridge the gap of orchestral and hip-hop music. "Orchestral works have a grand tradition of reflecting the popular dance styles of the day," says Webber. "I feel this has been going dormant in recent years, with very few composers incorporating influential genres such as Hip-hop and the many dance-club styles that have become primarily the domain of the modern DJ." The Emmy Award-winning composer for film and television was asked to compose a piece for the new orchestra last spring by conductor, Peter Cokkinias. "I found myself in a unique position -- being both a DJ and a composer comfortable writing for the orchestra -- to bring these multiple worlds together," Webber recalls.


With such an interesting piece comes an equally creative process of writing. Webber and Berklee Alum, Jason Petrin spent 10 days in the Hawaiian Steelgrass studio that Webber actually designed himself. Within this ten-day period, Webber was able to improvise the themes used in the symphony on piano as Petrin provided the beats. After returning from Hawaii, individual orchestral parts were transcribed from what was previously recorded. Moving forward a few months, the BCSO rehearsed and planned the performance of the piece to include faculty soloists Tiger Okoshi and Eugie Castrillo. The piece also featured rapper Raydar Ellis on the third movement of the piece. "Tiger Okoshi and Eugie Castrillo brought a fire to the performance of the symphony that pushed it into the stratosphere!" Stephen remembers. The next step for the Stylus Symphony is recording and releasing it on DVD, without excluding the possibility of performing this piece with other orchestras that are interesting in this new cutting edge piece. If you missed the BCSO performance of this piece be sure to view the performance on DVD in the media center.