Classical VS D&B: A study by Keeno


Classical music and drum & bass… Could there BE a more disparate pairing of sonic schools?

Or are there more dots to join than initially meets the ear?

Do Nu:Tone’s soft-but-robust melodies make him the Debussy of our time? Are Calibre’s naked dynamics playing the consummate role of a modern day Chopin?

One link is for certain, Keeno is currently deep into his university degree. And his specialist subject is classical music. He’s got two years left to complete his course. And no matter how much his international profile as one of drum & bass’s most exciting emerging producers develops, he’s not going to quit his studies.

“I got a bit of advice from Tony Elektricity recently,” he admits. “He told me not to quit university, whatever it takes. He realises that the thing that makes my musical unique is the fact that I’m studying classical music. The more classical music I study, the more my music will benefit from it.”

Before he even went to university, Keeno’s musical foundations were the stuff of a disciplinarian’s dreams. A choir boy since the age of 7, every school day of his childhood was entrenched in 10 hour rigorous musical training regimes.

“It was very intense but a lot of fun!” he admits. “It set me up really nicely in terms of discipline; I can always get things done… Studying and doing music and playing shows. I’ve been juggling a lot of commitments all my life.”

Which is great news as his debut album Life Cycle is set to turbo-charge Keeno into the big league furthermore. A startling document of drum & bass at its most musical and vibrant, it’s testament to the 20-year-old’s production abilities.

“When I was 16, I thought it would be so cool to release an album on Hospital or Med School but thought that would be like 10 years time!” he laughs. “It’s happened a lot quicker than I thought and it’s great to be able to make the music that I’ve always had in my head. When I first started producing, my music had loads of strings and classical elements. But then, as I was learning, I started to watch other producers and copy their techniques a little. Now I’m more confident as a producer I’m able to go back to the sound I’ve always wanted to make.”

People view classical music as a different world to what they listen to today. They think it’s gone and dead and happened. But it’s still happening and evolving just as much as drum & bass.

Developing as a producer at the same rate he digs deeper and deeper into classical music theory, Keeno’s productions are likely to feature more and more critical rudiments of the music that everything we understand about melodic structure and dynamics has spawned from… Bridging the gap for fans of both forms of music.

“People view classical music as a different world to what they listen to today. They think it’s gone and dead and happened. But it’s still happening and evolving just as much as drum & bass,” he explains. “If people spent half as much time listening to it as they do listening to electronic music then they’ll realise how musical it is. There’s a whole world of music to explore… And it works both ways. The people who teach me in university aren’t entirely aware of what I do outside of my studies. They think modern electronic music is taking attention away from them. For me it’s not about competing… I’d love to see both worlds work a little closer together.”

And here are some key examples of how this is already happening before our very eyes… Keeno has picked three instances where distinct parallels and classical signatures can be found in drum & bass. Prepare to have your mind blown!

Classical VS Drum & Bass: Keeno’s Keynotes

Steve Reich – Music For 18 Musicians vs London Elektricity – Billion Dollar Gravy 


“Reich is a minimal composer who was very active during the late decades of the last century. In this piece each instrument has its own part to play, like a loop, and they’re all arranged in different ways to create this ever-evolving texture. Each combination of each instrument gives a different texture or sensation and this explores the many different permeations that are possible while creating something that’s very consistent and fluid.

That same technique is used during the introduction of Billion Dollar Gravy. It’s the same as the opening in Music For 18 Musicians and is used, like in Steve Reich’s piece, as a phrase that is diverged away from and converged towards. It’s a very useful method of writing music; you can always come back to the starting point and go off in a different direction.”

Claude Debussy – La Mer vs Klute – Hell Hath No Fury

(starting at 4:35 and ending at 6:45)


(starting at 0:00 and ending at 2:15)

 For me, what characterises Debussy’s music is that you can’t really tell what the dominant part of the music is. Theirs is no strong sense of rhythm or a hierarchical sense of order. Nothing takes the lead, so it’s a wash of sound. Just like the way Klute has used the samples in the intro; he’s blown the standard 16 bar structure to create this incredible atmosphere to create a beautiful piece of music that comes together at the drop.

There’s a deeper level, too… If you look at a Debussy score they’re so incredibly detailed. Every note has a different articulation and different dynamic. It’s the same with Klute’s music; nothing is ever stagnant, everything is always moving and progressing.

Igor Stravinsky – The Rite Of Spring – The Augers Of Spring vs Noisia – Diplodocus

(starting at 0:00 and ending at 0:10)

 “There are quite a few comparisons here. That introduction on Stravinsky’s piece is a straight quaver the whole way through, but the way it’s delivered it keeps shifting within the phrase so you can never tell what the meter is. That early kick in the bar in Diplodocus that punches you in the chest uses the same dynamic; it always takes you by surprise.

The horn on Stravinsky is the same as that bleepy rhythmic lead on Diplodocus in the way that it comes out of nowhere and uses a totally unexpected sound.

Also in Stravinsky the bass texture is very similar to Noisia’s bassline. It’s difficult to work out what key it’s in. That’s the whole point… It’s not meant to be in a particular key, it’s meant to be a very cool and emphatic sound.”

Keeno – Life Cycle is out now on Med School. 

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