Sunday, July 22, 2018
Stage

Composer Steve Hackman brings Radiohead-Brahms mash-up to the Florida Orchestra

To most of the world, Radiohead and Johannes Brahms may seem like strange bedfellows — a critically hailed British alternative rock band and an iconic German pianist and composer who's been dead 118 years. Why lump those two together?

To Steve Hackman, though, the connections are obvious.

"When you boil them down, ­Radiohead and Brahms are made of the same 12 notes," the composer and arranger said during a recent phone interview. "When treated that way — when treated with some sort of classical precision and technique — a compelling marriage can be made that will be fun for musicians to play."

Hackman is the creator of Brahms v. Radiohead, an orchestral mash-up of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 and Radiohead's 1997 album OK Computer, two beloved European masterpieces released 121 years apart. On Friday, he'll conduct the piece for the fifth time live with the Florida Orchestra in St. Petersburg.

To be clear: This is not a pops show. Brahms v. Radiohead incorporates ­elements from both artists into an all-new, hourlong arrangment of vocals and traditional symphonic orchestration. It may surprise fans of the band how naturally singles like Paranoid Android and Karma Police weave into and out of Brahms' First, but to Hackman — who crafted the piece by immersing himself in both artists' music, then sittting down at a piano to pick out commonalities — Brahms and Radiohead are a perfect fit.

"I think it's the chromaticism of both, the pathos of both, and the balance and tension and relief of both," said Hackman, 34. "You always feel that tension, the undercurrent of a longing, a melancholy, a vibe."

It also makes for some fascinating transitions. For example: Toward the end of Brahms v. Radiohead, Hackman drifts from the dire, desperate Exit Music (For a Film) into the triumphant, hopeful intro to Symphony No. 1's fourth movement. "It's almost a frightening introduction to the fourth movement, almost like an opera overture, and then (Brahms) moves to a beautiful, regal C-major horn theme," Hackman said. "Really, it's kind of his plan. I was just inserting a Radiohead song that is just as frightening as this Brahms music. The light vs. dark was already in there; I just threw more dark in there."

Hackman, a Chicago native now based in New York, grew up adoring the Beatles and the jam band Phish, and discovered Radiohead in college. "All my life it's really been kind of two parallel listening paths of classical music and 'popular' music," he said.

As Hackman studied classical composition and conducting, he retained his deep respect for rock composition. In addition to Brahms and Radhiohead, he's mashed up Coldplay with Beethoven and Bon Iver with Copland, and crafted arrangements of works by artists like John Mayer, Mumford and Sons and Daft Punk. He's also a singer — he once made it to Hollywood on American Idol — with grand pop ambitions of his own. In 2014, under the moniker Stereo Hideout, he released The Radio Nouveau, a schizophrenic collection of kitchen-sink electro-pop that saw Hackman not just singing but rapping.

All of this helps Hackman stand out in the often stodgy world of classical composition, where "there's such a stigma associated with pop and rock music," he said. Whereas rock fans may come to Brahms v. Radiohead eager to embrace the unique symphonic mash-up ("Radiohead fans tend to be creative, open-minded, thinking-outside-the-box-type people"), many classical fans, and even some musicians, are not.

"It's very important that it's arranged and crafted in a virtuosic way, so that it is worthy of their skills," he said. "Those with an open mind, and those that share my belief that all music is created equal, come away with it having had a very valuable experience, maybe an eye-opening experience, and they may say, 'I'm going to check Radiohead out. This sounds cool.'"

Comments
Paul Reiser, coming to Clearwater, talks about returning to standup and never winning an Emmy

Paul Reiser, coming to Clearwater, talks about returning to standup and never winning an Emmy

When Paul Reiser returned to standup comedy a few years ago, younger comics couldn’t figure him out. "All the younger comics would say, ‘Are you doing a special?’ I’d go no," said Reiser, 62. "‘What, are you getting rea...
Published: 07/19/18
What’s on stage this week: Hawk & Wayne does politics, Opera Tampa toasts Gilbert & Sullivan

What’s on stage this week: Hawk & Wayne does politics, Opera Tampa toasts Gilbert & Sullivan

OPEN SEASON: TRUST METwo candidates will square off Friday to debate one of the hottest topics of the political season: immigration. You can see them in action at the First Unity Spiritual Campus, where you also may spot campaign staffers, managers a...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/19/18
You won’t have to pay hundreds to see Springsteen on Broadway thanks to Netflix

You won’t have to pay hundreds to see Springsteen on Broadway thanks to Netflix

NEW YORK — Put away your wallet — you won’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to see Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway show. Netflix announced Wednesday that it will broadcast the Boss’ one-man show on Dec. 15, his last performance. Springsteen on Broadway ...
Published: 07/18/18
Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

Grief and wit, heritage and family dynamics collide in ‘Bad Jews’ at American Stage

ST. PETERSBURG — Whatever else he learned at Cornell University and the Juilliard School, playwright Joshua Harmon surely learned family dynamics. His play, Bad Jews, bristles with wit and malevolence dished out by people for whom familiarity breeds ...
Published: 07/17/18
‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ starts a summer run at Show Palace in Hudson

HUDSON — If you’re into country, Honky Tonk Laundry, which opens July 21 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, might be the ticket. Written by Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes/Life Could Be a Dream?), this comedy musical features a two-woman cast ...
Published: 07/16/18
What’s on stage this week: ‘Bad Jews,’ ‘Red,’ ‘It Shoulda Been You’

What’s on stage this week: ‘Bad Jews,’ ‘Red,’ ‘It Shoulda Been You’

AMERICAN STAGE: BAD JEWSWe know that death draws family members closer together. Except when it drives them further apart. A grandfather’s valuable heirloom shifts relatives from grief to competition, questions about who was closer to the deceased an...
Published: 07/11/18
Paul Reiser on 'Mad About You' revival: 'My guess is it won't happen'

Paul Reiser on 'Mad About You' revival: 'My guess is it won't happen'

Paul Reiser has some bad news for Mad About You fans hoping for a series revival. "It’s kind of stuck in the business end of it now," the comic, actor and co-creator of NBC’s Emmy-winning sitcom said by phone Monday. "Sony is trying to f...
Published: 07/10/18
Review: Confident brush strokes paint an eminently watchable ‘Red’ at Heather Theatre

Review: Confident brush strokes paint an eminently watchable ‘Red’ at Heather Theatre

TAMPA — You can always count on the Heather Theatre to do one thing. And that is to produce meaningful plays, and find within each the burning ember that gives off heat and light.So it is again with Red, John Logan’s deconstruction of a brilliant art...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/10/18
This week on stage: ‘Cinderella,’ ‘So Long Life,’ American Stage previews ‘Bad Jews’

This week on stage: ‘Cinderella,’ ‘So Long Life,’ American Stage previews ‘Bad Jews’

THE BALL IS BACK: CINDERELLAThe national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella comes with flamboyant colors, ebullient music and lavish costumes."My favorite song is a huge ball scene at the end of Act 1, when Ella and the prince fall in love ...
Updated one month ago
St. Petersburg Opera finishes season with an energetic ‘The Music Man’

St. Petersburg Opera finishes season with an energetic ‘The Music Man’

ST. PETERSBURG — Musically, the creative team behind the St. Petersburg Opera’s season-ending musical, The Music Man, were clearly going all out. Meredith Willson’s paean to small-town Americana outdid West Side Story in the 1958 To...
Updated one month ago