Orchestral maneuvers

Paul Oakenfold and Hem with the Boston Pops
By JIM SULLIVAN  |  June 29, 2007
Paul Oakenfold

On the night of June 26, Felix Brenner sat with a big smile in the middle of Symphony Hall. He was watching veteran mixer/DJ Paul Oakenfold, young Swedish drummer Andreas Brobjer, and the Boston Pops perform his “Travelacoustica (The Symphonic Remix),” a nearly 20-minute piece that combines, well, everything he likes about music. “I’m in love with technology,” he said. “And I love organic music and notes written on a page.” Later, at the post-show party, Brobjer added, “It’s very unusual. We’re playing on the polarities, mixing club and orchestral music.” Oakenfold said simply, “I was pleasantly happy they embraced it.” On stage, Paul had saluted scratching in early hip-hop culture by manipulating a 12-inch record briefly and then holding it up for the crowd to see.

“Travelacoustica” was a grand stylistic fusion, and arguably the highlight of the third annual “EdgeFest,” which brings Keith Lockhart and the Pops together with rock and pop musicians. Preceding Brenner’s piece was Nico Muhly’s “Wish You Were Here,” which was full of fast horns and slow strings. Muhly, who has worked with Philip Glass and Björk, said it was meant to convey “this intense loneliness” of cartoon music and those who write it in isolation. “There was a romanticism about early cartoons,” he added, “but the cartoonists lived sad, lonesome lives. I’m asking the orchestra to participate in my mania. I’m asking for metric participation — and I’m asking the trumpet players to work their asses off.”

The headlining Hem, an indie octet from Brooklyn with a delicate, melancholy, weren’t all that edgy. (M. Ward, the originally scheduled headliner, postponed his appearance till 2008.) But they worked well with the Pops. Bob Hoffnar’s pedal steel guitar provided a textural bridge to the soft orchestral passages, and Sally Ellyson’s voice was gorgeous as she sang of loss and, sometimes, comfort. “It’s such a great idea to bring these worlds together,” she said at the party. “I couldn’t have loved it more.”

Johanna Rees, a former BU student and now program manager at the Hollywood Bowl, flew in for the show. When she lived here, she was a punk-rock and Pixies fan. “I would never have come here for an orchestral event. It didn’t seem relevant. But this is an entry point into the orchestral world.”

Next year, the Pops is hoping to bring in the Flaming Lips — with all the video aids and on-stage antics — for EdgeFest.

Related: Tweak-folk, Three’s a charm, Nico Muhly, More more >
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