by Maggie Molloy
Classical music and EDM have more in common than you might think: repetitive structures, contrasting sections, dramatic climaxes—a sense of pulse.
Composer Ethan Boxley explores the shared elements of these two seemingly opposite genres in his new piece Fugitive. Scored for multi-track cello and electronics, the piece is structured like a fugue but breaks free of classical confines to incorporate the visceral energy of electronic music.
We are thrilled to premiere a brand new video of cellist Wick Simmons performing Fugitive, with a special appearance by the Boomshaka drum crew.
Learn more about Fugitive in our interview with Simmons below.
Second Inversion: This piece merges elements of electronic dance music with classical performance. What are some of the unexpected similarities between these two seemingly opposite genres?
Wick Simmons: I would say that both genres are motivic in their melody, rhythm, and groove. They are also both fixed on tension and release. I think that is a super real similarity. After all, what is the logic of functional harmony if there’s no delayed gratification of resolution? Classical music cycles through sections with cadences, and EDM exhibits that same pattern through what is commonly referred to as “the drop.”
SI: Fugitive was originally composed for electronics—what were some of the unique challenges of bringing it to life on cello?
WS: Yes and I should note that the piece was actually written with only an app on Ethan’s mobile phone! This made figuring out what was physically possible on the cello pretty interesting—in combinations of various double stops, interval leaps, or repetitive runs. Of course these are not always the most conventional in practice.
SI: What is the meaning behind the title and how does it shape your performance?
WS: Ethan describes the piece as “an attempt to combine the musical material of a relatively obscure 17th century ricercar with the formal elements of electronic dance music.” Naming it Fugitive was a play on the word “fugue,” and stands as a nod to the style of a piece that exists between these two worlds. The visual contrasts of the video depict a clash between the old and new. A person playing multi-track cello trying to break out of a cage against a masked army of trash can drummers pumping a dynamic, continually changing electronic beat. The fugitive.