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.
Robinson describes his compositional style as “totally old school, because I’m in love with the most conventional symphonic techniques and applying them to familiar pop themes and dance grooves. There’s an infinity to these eleven basic notes, rhythms, instruments and infinite subjects. They also give the player more marrow to play with.”
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 brings. As an African-American, Robinson both defies and clarifies stereotypes about classical music, giving testimony about the origins, sports and practical benefits of this music today.