The Day Turntablism & Classical Music Met

Phil Morse | Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 27 November, 2017


Gabriel Prokofiev’s Symphony for Turntables and Orchestra performed by DJ Switch – it’s turntablism, but definitely not as we know it…

What happens when turntablism meets classical music? A performance last week at the annual classical Proms concerts in London gave one answer, as Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra by Gabriel Prokofiev was performed live in front of a classical audience, and broadcast on national radio at the same time.

We dug about a bit to find out what brought this slice of leftfield club culture to the UK establishment’s most famous classical event.

The composer’s story

Gabriel Prokofiev is UK-based grandson of the famous Russian composer. In his first pop band by the age of 10, he got into electronic music at university, and ending up as a DJ and producer by his 20s, making money writing pop songs. Not surprisingly considering his family heritage, he always also had a classical background, but it was when a promoter who was trying to bring classical music to new places asked him to write a concerto that could be performed at such events that he hit on the idea of using turntables.

“I thought if the turntable player uses sounds played by the orchestra, it could be musically interesting. Also I discovered a turntable can be used to play real melodies,” he told The Telegraph newspaper. The experience coupled with his frustration that classical music was basically young people playing to old audiences, led him to setting up his own record label to help talented young musicians get recorded as well as to perform in a club space (the Troy Bar in Hoxton, London).

But things came full circle with last week’s performance, that brought his club-influenced classical work – it’s more Portishead than Prokoviev, all brooding drums, string stabs and cleverly musical scratching – back to the classical mainstream, and got him some of the acceptance that, as a maverick, he craves:

“I’m not against these places, it’s just that I think we need to find other ways of presenting all kinds of classical music, especially music being written now. Otherwise how can it reach the audience it needs?”

“Without that, composers are like chefs who labour over a fabulous meal, and then leave it in the kitchen.” he said.

What it sounds like

Here’s an extract from Soundcloud, with DJ Yoda providing the turntablism in this instance:

G Prokofiev Concerto For Turntables – III ‘Malmo’ by Nonclassical

What’s your view on such avant garde turntablism? Is it a good thing that people are experimenting with mixing club culture and classical music? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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