Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dance: 10 essential modern/classic moments


Conducting, composing and mixing: All words that can be associated to dance music and classical. Although seemingly opposite sides of the musical spectrum, both are similar in the manipulation of rhythm and sound – a DJ is to turntables as to what a conductor is to an orchestra, right? Not to mention the drama, emotion and epic climaxes. Or the fact that classical was once the modern day equivalent of rave when it first emerged.

Belgian monster-festival Tomorrowland identified this relationship most recently as they flipped expectations and revealed their first headliner of this year’s event:  The National Orchestra of Belgium.

Not to take any (wood)wind out of this head-turning announcement, orchestras and electronic music have been proven BFFs for a long time. Here are 10 awesome moments when two disparate worlds collided with century-bounding organic/synthetic results …

(Picture source: Warp.net)

BBC Philharmonic presents: Nero’s Dubstep Symphony (2011)

It doesn’t get much bigger than Nero and the BBC Philharmonic! Orchestrated and composed by Joe Duddell, the mix of Nero’s digital beat patterns and vocals (controlled by them at the back) and the acoustic sound of horns, strings and drums collate modern and traditional forms in the most dramatic of ways. Genuinely epic.

Flux Pavilion Suite –  Kaleidoscope Orchestra (2013)

The Kaleidoscope Orchestra have a fine pedigree in modern covers,. having performed awesome Netsky and Skrillex suites in the past. You can also find them deeper in this list with a unique Flowdan showdown. Here they are with a symphony based on Flux Pavilion’s tracks featuring Flux’s finest classics such as Can’t Stop and a perfectly conducted take on UKF-favourite Cracks!

Aphex Twin’s Remote Orchestra (2011)

(Lead picture) The ever enigmatic Aphex Twin conducted this 48 piece string section and 24 piece choir… And he wasn’t even in the same room. He conducts the orchestra using MIDI controllers, through visual cues on screens, for the strings and vocalists to see. This experimental, haunting piece is typical of Aphex Twin’s work – however we can imagine something as dark as this won’t be happening on the last day at Tomorrowland!

Benji B, Grant Windsor & The String Ensemble (2013)

This relatively recent experiment brought together Benji B on the decks with Grant Windsor conducting the String Ensemble. An hour long collaboration for Radio 1, this involved a carefully selected tracklist with songs focusing on string synths. Including Flying Lotus, Bok Bok and Jeremiah’s Fuck U All the Time, Benji B carefully mixes the tracks allowing the ensemble to make up most of the volume over the beats.

Flowdan with the Kaleidoscope Orchestra (2012)

This SB.TV exclusive saw the prominent grime voice of Flowdan MC over the Kaleidoscope Orchestra in a wonderful fusion of grime and classical. What works with this mix of genres is that grime instrumentals are often accompanied by violins, cellos and other orchestral instruments. Flowdan simply put vocals to the orchestra’s rhythm. And he does so effortlessly. Watch out for the cover of the timeless Skeng with Killa P.

Alternative Dubstep Orchestra – Cockney Thug (2011)

A much smaller ensemble, but an orchestra nonetheless, the Alernative Dubstep Orchestra cover one of dubstep’s best known anthems. This rehearsal sees a combination of drums, horns with vinyl scratching and original vocals. Keeping at the typical 140 bpm the cover has all the same key elements of the original – if not more groovy, especially with those dub/reggae horns!

Submotion Orchestra – Sunshine (2011)

One of Ruckspin’s earliest releases (penned with Quark) Sunshine took life in 2008 as a deep soulful dubstep record. After forming Submotion Orchestra, Ruckspin and his troupe took it to another level with a powerful fully-instrumented version. Now three albums deep, Submotion Orchestra could fill this entire top 10 with their powerful fusions, here they are performing live in one of London’s largest train stations.

Jeff Mills & Montpelier Philharmonic Orchestra – The Bells (2006)

Detroit techno originator Mills moved his production beyond the analogue realms to work with the Montpelier Philharmonic Orchestra. His seminal track The Bells sees him conducting the orchestra blending his uncompromising 4/4 with strings, woodwind, brass and raw drama.

Goldie – Sine Tempore (2009)

The BBC Orchestra covers Goldie’s legendary Timeless album – Sine Tempore (Latin for Timeless). Goldie couldn’t previously read or play classical music, but as part of BBC competition Maestro he studied classical music and developed the piece for the BBC Orchestra. In this video we can see them performing part of the piece for British classic institution The Proms.

The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble (2010)

This German orchestra specialises in making dance music, more specifically techno and house. Replicating the typical 4/4 beat patterns with organic instruments the ensemble claim they simply want people to dance to classical instruments… Job done.

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