NEW YORK - Haitian-American violinist/composer Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) continues to establish himself as one of today’s most relevant artists on the contemporary classical music scene. An innovative violinist, composer, performer, re-mixer, and band leader, DBR has won world-wide acclaim for his eclecticism and fearless exploration, whether through extended violin techniques, the infusion of electronics, or in his perspectives on the definition of chamber music.
On Woodbox Beats & Balladry (Thirsty Ear Recordings), his profusion of classical composing and performing talents are uniquely exposed. Echoing his own career, Woodbox Beats & Balladry contains elements of classical minimalism, dance club beats, traditional ballads, and thick distorted noise. Fitting coming from an artist who has performed with everyone from the Seattle and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, to the dancers Bill T. Jones and Savion Glover, to the composers Philip Glass and Derek Bermel, to DJs Radar, Scientific, and Spooky, to the jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, the pop-singer Lady Gaga, and the infamous 2 Live Crew.
Woodbox Beats & Balladry is aggressive, danceable, and fully annotated. DBR's style and compositional process are reflected in his scoring of each and every track on the album; he uses a variety of compositional techniques and notation systems, including traditional, numerical, graphic, and prose-based notation. “Woodbox Beats & Balladry is an amalgam of what contemporary composers are doing and where contemporary classical music might be going,” says DBR.
The core of the recording (and impetus for the album’s title) is DBR’s signature custom 6-string amplified violin. While utilizing an array of extended techniques, effect pedals, and additional MAC-based processing, DBR’s frequent aggressive, percussive lower-string bowing (an extra two strings are added to his instrument for bass lines) makes his violin a vital sonic and compositional force.
Woodbox Beats & Balladry features all original material and arrangements composed and performed by DBR and members of his touring ensemble including laptopist/turntablist Elan Vytal (a.k.a. DJ Scientific). As an example of how contemporary classical structure collides with experimental electronic dance music, DBR’s Sonata for Violin and Turntables is a musical exploration between classical, concert music in the violin and hip-hop, commercial music in the turntables. “It’s an attempt to honor not only the first and second Viennese schools of Europe, but to pay tribute to the Bronx and the waves of inventions that that music sent to us,” explains DBR.
Since DBR and Vytal have been touring Sonata for Violin and Turntables, the project has received critical praise. The Boston Globe said, “Both performers brought a combination of unabashed earnestness and quicksilver musical wit.” The Washington Post raved, “The music was involving, tonal and eminently accessible, steeped in the wash-rinse-repeat cycle of minimalism but sexed up considerably with hip-hop rhythms, jazz riffs and imaginative collaboration.”
While continuing to tour worldwide, DBR currently serves as Visiting Associate Professor of Composition at his alma mater, Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. He completed his Masters and Doctoral work at the University of Michigan under the tutelage of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom.