A cut time is the musical symbol calling for a fast or swinging beat. CutTime Productions adopted this symbol to make the magical adventures of classical and esp. symphonic music fast and swinging for newbies: effectively cutting the time it takes newcomers to access it. During 22 years in a major orchestra, CutTime’s founder, Rick Robinson, grew deeply committed to serve a broader public with info-taining events that give immediate access and benefit. It started in churches and schools, and eventually expanded into cafes, clubs and homes. This is the story.
Robinson has been an innovative force in bringing chamber ensembles into nontraditional venues and classrooms, mixing it up with a variety of creative repertoire and generally proving that classical music belongs not on the fringes of contemporary culture but at the heart of everyday life.
– Detroit Free Press Music Critic Mark Stryker
Music critic Jeffrey Rossman of Classical Voice of North Carolina called CutTime founder Rick Robinson, “a modern-day Dvorak… [whose] personality, aggressive advocacy of [practical outreach], and his remarkable playing, composing and arranging skills put him in the forefront of this movement.”
CutTime Productions began within the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) in 1993 when Robinson started arranging music by computer for solo bass. The next year he booked the first concerts of CutTime Players® (CTP), a mixed octet with DSO principal musicians, to produce Igor Stravinsky’s music-drama Histoire du Soldat complete with actors, plus his first transcription, Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. They were immediately invited to produce a family concert series that included Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Kabalevsky’s The Comedians Suite, Beethoven’s Fur Elise and Bolling’s jazz suites among others.
An Orchestra in Your Pocket
CutTime Players is the ideal pocket-orchestra for introducing the symphony wherever orchestras can’t fit. From the start Robinson began hosting, sharing a musician’s perspective to make sense of instrumental music (sonatas) for family audiences. The work became a personal mission when he began to partner with Classical Revolution. And today Robinson sharpens these skills to info-tain with fun, activities, fresh music, clever insights and snap interviews.
Many ensembles serve excellent concerts & workshops. CutTime’s qualities cut deeper:
- Blending famous symphonic works with fun and key listening insights for newcomers
- Hosting off-the-cuff or scripted, we explain the sport of classical music
- Validating tonality and romantic expression using urban dance grooves in new works
- Offering unique special and holiday programs (Valentines, MLK, Devil’s Night, Xmas)
- Creating curiosity by answering unspoken questions (What makes music classical?)
- Sharing dozens of effective analogies for newcomers to listen into music
- Dialing between refined vs. raw values in performance and using them strategically
- Inserting symphonic music amplified into popular bars, restaurants, clubs & outdoors
- Bringing our own amplification system, good up to 3,000 sq. ft.
- Reaching eagerly into black and Latino neighborhoods with the why and how
- Audiences can participate on toy percussion to bring them into the center of music
- Preparing newcomers for the habits of the concert hall and how they maximize impact
- Spot interviews with questions aimed at translating the value of fine art music
- Giving a quick overview of key ideas and tech that make this music tradition classical
- Inspiring new attitudes and sheet music for musicians to create bold initiatives
Even playing through party noise, CutTime makes real art work to cut classical loose from its moored conventions, and to then validate those conventions because they maximize music’s impact.
CutTime shares its music since 1998 via CutTime Players Publishing, releasing its first retail sheet music catalog with ten transcriptions. Orchestra musicians in North America can reach out with hit symphonic music in classrooms, churches and small halls.
There Are Many Ways to Be Excellent
In 1999 Robinson had a vivid dream with music, which he captured to begin composing a dramatic and romantic-style 20-minute work for full orchestra. Following a premiere by DSO of this ESSAY (After Sibelius) in 2006, he wrote a dozen more quality works to launch the string sextet CutTime Simfonica® in 2010. The first suite is a cool love story (Mighty Love, 2007), referencing bluegrass, tango and jubilee styles, all mixing with melodies recalling Schubert, Dvorak, Hindemith, Strauss and Shostakovich.
Significantly, the next suite of works, Gitcha Groove On! (2009), resets classical music from Vienna’s woods to Detroit’s streets. Rich, sensuous counterpoint gives way to hard knocks in alternation with very familiar rock, blues, Latin, soul and hip-hop grooves. These funky-romantic works create a fast moving sidewalk through Detroit in the classical lane. Expanding what Detroit Free Press Music Critic Mark Stryker called Robinson’s “taste for fleshy, romantic textures”, for his hit Highland Park, MI: City of Trees (track 3) Robinson won a Kresge Artist Fellowship in 2010.
With a solid library CutTime began to partner in 2010 with Classical Revolution (CR) of San Francisco, launching volunteer chapters in both Detroit (CRD) and Grand Rapids, MI (CRGR). These included challenging venues that strengthened CutTime’s capacity with info-tainment methods to connect with new, even hostile audiences. Clubs, bars, cafes and restaurants often forced the use of some amplification, which CutTime has. As an African-American, Robinson both defies and clarifies stereotypes about classical music, giving real testimony about the origins, sports and practical benefits of this music today.
Come to Know Classical
By the end of 2012 Robinson resigned his DSO position to realize CutTime’s potential, seeking partners nationally and across all sectors at a time when attendance for most classical arts is continuing to decline. Mr. CutTime, as he is now called, combined performance excellence with excellence of opportunities to engage a broader public. All people deserve to hear instrumental classical music describe the human condition. It’s only difficult to start. Middlebrow gives access. Fun and exchanges lead to innovation.
Taken together CutTime is an emerging business enterprise with a mission inspiring musicians to adapt and insert fine arts in and around other cultures. CutTime recruits and trains stubborn musicians to help concert presenters draw new concert-goers and to raise the standards for community outreach and education programs. CutTime means to recontextualize (redefine) and even Americanize classical music as suggested in this landmark document of 1993.
In 2013 Crain’s Detroit Business recognized Robinson with a Salute to Entrepreneurs as a social entrepreneur, saying he ”is bringing classical music to the masses— which may be one of the most challenging jobs in all of music.” CutTime has won a substantial grant, generous donations and a few sponsorships to develop its program and is currently seeking professional management and regional agents to grow further.
It’s time to reveal some of the keys that give true access to classical music, so more may feed on its beauty, power of ideas and catharsis. It’s time to leave the ivory towers, face the people we want to start coming to concerts, by setting a humanist context for this music.
It’s time to fulfill the promise of public domain. CutTime gives permission to do what’s right and use music more connectively, such as in exchanges with community artists.
CutTime holds firmly to the middle to steady a bridge across the cultural gaps for those curious to walk on the other side despite persons on both sides taking potshots at us.
We are seeking partnerships with community organizers who may want to borrow the urgency of classical music, restaurant and club owners who want the alternative of an accessible classical music, and orchestras and concert presenters who wish for the magic bullets that open hearts and minds to music without words. With partners such as foundations, donors, youth and musicians nationwide, CutTime can validate everyone.
Learning, dreaming, doing.