Challenging musical boundaries

The contemporary musician DJ Spooky will collaborate with the Great WoodsDJ Spooky’s appearance at Wheaton is sponsored by the Evelyn Danzig Haas ’39 Visiting Artists Program. Chamber Orchestra in a multimedia performance at Wheaton, challenging genre boundaries with an innovative fusion of multimedia, hip-hop and classical orchestral music.

The event will take place on March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Weber Theatre, Watson Fine Arts. It is free and open to the public; however, tickets must be reserved in advance by calling 508-286-3300 or emailing

DJ Spooky
Photo by Mike Figgis

The performance “will challenge preconceived notions about what ‘orchestra music’ is, and what it can be,” says Delvyn Case, music director of the Great Woods Chamber Orchestra and assistant professor of music at Wheaton. “This concert will provide a glimpse of how this grand tradition [of orchestra] is still vibrant and is growing and changing every day.”

Paul Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, is a composer and multimedia artist who has written about rhythm, electronic music and digital media.  He has composed, compiled and remixed various collections of materials with a focus on reggae, dub and jazz.  His first large-scale multimedia piece was Rebirth of a Nation, a multimedia remix of the 1915 film, Birth of a Nation.

The concert will include adaptations of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and the African-American spiritual “Go Down, Moses,” as well as several pieces composed by DJ Spooky. These works will combine visual imagery, recorded tracks, live electronics and live performance. Case says “the orchestra will perform along with pre-recorded tracks, and Paul will take those tracks and [the orchestra’s] live performance and remix both of them ‘on the fly’” to create live improvisations.

Professor Delvyn CaseThese works will combine layers of musical traditions such as improvisational jazz, blues and the traditional sounds of orchestra and will also draw upon turntable techniques and video. This approach, says Case, results in pieces that are never the same twice.

Just as the concert will challenge musical boundaries, the musicians hope to challenge social boundaries by bringing the local and Wheaton communities together. The Great Woods Chamber Orchestra is composed of local adults, area college and high school students, and students from Wheaton. The concert, Case says, will bring these diverse groups together to demonstrate that Wheaton is “a place where exciting, innovative arts events are commonplace.”

Orchestral music and hip-hop are considered to be very different genres, but as Case notes, “a famous saying is that there are only two kinds of music: good and bad. Both hip-hop and classical music require intense study, devotion, creativity and practice.” The artists are looking forward to showcasing this point, he says, as well as providing a fun and enjoyable performance.

DJ Spooky’s appearance at Wheaton is sponsored by the Evelyn Danzig Haas ’39 Visiting Artists Program.

–Cara Suriyamongkol ’11