Classical production: Marc Romboy on working with an orchestra

Words by: I Voice
Posted: 4/8/17 18:51

Classical reinterpretations of dance music are seemingly everywhere. This weekend, Pete Tong hosts another instalment of his Ibiza Classics show at Destino with the aid of the Heritage Orchestra. Last weekend, thousands braved the rain in Leeds to watch legendary promoter Dave Beer onstage with the city’s Opera North orchestra as they reconstructed classic tracks from his party 'Back To Basics.' And German DJ and producer Marc Romboy just released a new orchestral album with the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra called ‘Reconstructing Debussy.’ On the album, Romboy recreates the works of late 19th century maverick composer Claude Debussy and we caught up with him to find out what it’s like for a DJ to work with an orchestra.

Ibiza Voice: orchestral collaborations in dance music are really popular. why do you think that is?

I find this [crossover] very exciting. Not every project is great in my eyes but the [classical] for example, the collaborations that Carl Craig and Jeff Mills made are awesome.

How do you approach working with an orchestra?

You cannot really compare performing live with an philharmonic orchestra to playing live as a techno act. First of all you need to work out a script with the concert master and this has to be coordinated with the conductor. The conductor and you have to find a way to create something like an invisible MIDI cable [between you] based on eye-to-eye contact.

What special challenges does it bring?

Firstly, it’s not an easy thing to remix a classical work, regardless of which composer you’re remixing. You have to merge two different worlds which are on the one hand based on 88 keys or more and on the other hand they are extremely different. Electronic music is rather repetitive. Classical however is quite complex when it comes to the rhythm, bars and melodies. Knowing this, it was quite a relief to re-explore the works of Claude Debussy, as he composed music in a very forward thinking and open minded way.

Producers usually work on their own, what's it like to be suddenly working with a whole room full of highly skilled musicians?

It´s special. When you make music on your own, you don’t have to build up a personal connection to your machines, but with the orchestra it´s a different deal of course. It’s important to create a relationship to the musicians. It´s always good to communicate your aims and visions for the  project. One aim was to draw young people to the concert room in order to make them curious about the project but also to show them that classical music doesn’t necessarily mean old fashioned music.

Did it take awhile to understand each other or were there fireworks flowing straight away?

No, it’s a long process. First of all the concert master has to understand your notions. That was an easy one as our concert master was Miki Kekenj, a popular concert master from Düsseldorf who also comes from hip hop. He instantly understood my spirit and could direct what I wanted. After this we included the conductor, Ingo-Martin Stadtmueller into our brainstorm process. He is, as I mentioned before, the ‘midi cable’ between the orchestra and I.

Marc Romboy & Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra 'Reconstructing Debussy' is out now on Hyperharmonic.


Politics Of Dancing
Ralph Lawson