Concerto For Turntables & Orchestra
is a 20-minute piece of contemporary classical music, where the DJ takes over the traditional soloist role alongside an orchestra. A ‘concerto’ in classical music is a piece written to showcase the musical possibilities and potential of an instrument, as well as the talents of that instruments’ performer.
The piece was written by Gabriel Prokofiev – the grandson of composer Sergei Prokofiev – from a commission by Will Dutta of Chimera Productions. It was first performed by DJ Yoda & the Heritage Orchestra in 2005. A recording of their performance was subsequently released on Gabriel’s record label, Nonclassical.
Mr Switch was first approached to take on the piece in 2009 – for the Tate Modern’s “Late At Tate” events series – and performed it using a backing CD, in the absence of an orchestra. After a number of concerts with and without other musicians, Switch toured the Concerto alongside the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in 2011, concluding at the Royal Albert Hall – where Mr Switch ended up becoming the first ever DJ in history to perform on the BBC Proms (the UK’s biggest classical music festival).
The fifth ‘movement’ of the concerto (“SnowTime”) was selected in 2015 as one of the BBC’s “Ten Pieces”, a project to promote classical music in secondary schools throughout the UK. It was included in the hour-long TV programme made for the project (for which Mr Switch also supplied a megamix of all the selected pieces). In 2016 he toured the project to every major city in the UK, with the BBC Concert, Symphony & Philharmonic orchestras – and the tour was topped off with a return performance at the BBC Proms in 2016.
Although at least 7 different DJs have performed the piece, Mr Switch is the most prominent soloist for the concerto, having clocked up more than 40 performances across 5 countries. The piece, and his “virtuosic” performance of it, have received great acclaim.
Gabriel & Switch have established a fruitful working relationship, and the project has been successful enough to spawn further commissions, now being written specifically for Mr Switch as soloist. Concerto For Trumpet, Percussion, Turntables & Orchestra was first performed in France in 2014, and Concerto For Turntables 2 is due to be premiered in Portugal in July 2016. Switch has also performed Miles Hancock’s Breakbeat Concerto for DJ, beatboxer & orchestra.
While the title might suggest something gimmicky, the reality is a lot more rewarding. Each of the five movements highlights a different turntable technique; in the fourth, the varied speeds of a single sampled flute note finds the turntables becoming a melodic instrumentErica Jeal, The Guardian
Playing with a dialogue between recorded and live sound, [the Concerto] demands that the soloist (the swift-fingered DJ Switch) undertake a virtuoso display of mixing in duet with the textures of the orchestraArts Desk
The funky interplay between the [orchestra & DJ] was like flicking a time-switch between the 20th and 21st centuries…and there was even a cadenza [traditional classical solo] for the main manThe Independent
With all the samples coming from the orchestra, the DJ is an organic part of the ensemble, whether supporting it or subverting it. Relishing his role as concerto soloist, DJ Switch’s takes on the classical show-off cadenza were breathtaking in their dexterityThe Guardian