Daniel Bernard Roumain

Q&A: Daniel Bernard Roumain

Daniel Bernard Roumain: Symphony for the Dance Floor

The acronym DBR might sound like a spinoff of PBR, the bargain-priced, hipster-approved lager, but it actually belongs to something even more buzz-inducing: the music of violinist and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain. This classically trained musician gets W.A. Mozart aficionados to buy hip-hop records along with symphony tickets and makes clubgoers rock out to sounds inspired by Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven.

His latest opus, Symphony for the Dance Floor, is a fusion of electronica, symphonic sounds, and lots of hip hop, created via collaboration with choreographer Millicent Johnnie and photographer Jonathan Mannion (whose shots of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and Eminem have appeared on the most memorable album covers of the past 15 years). The piece premiered at Arizona State University on February 5, 2011 and will be performed again this fall at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival.

ALARM spoke with Roumain about Symphony for the Dance Floor, his curious moniker, and how playing the violin can start a revolution, both in the musical world and the sociopolitical landscape.

What was on your mind when you began composing Symphony for the Dance Floor?

I’d been thinking a lot about the concept of performance. There’s a lot of art-making and art consumption in mainstream America right now. There are shows like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and Glee that have revealed a real excitement about performance in the US, and even in Europe and Asia and East India. So Symphony for the Dance Floor is a response to this unique movement that’s happening, one that makes singing shows the first, second, and third most-watched programs. That’s really unusual and remarkable, and I’m excited for what it means for the violin and for composers.

Moses Supposes

Moses Supposes: Why we steal music

Moses Avalon is one of the nation’s leading music-business consultants and artists’-rights advocates and is the author of a top-selling music business reference, Confessions of a Record Producer. More of his articles can be found at www.mosesavalon.com.

You don’t have to scratch your head too much to recall that Jim Carrey or [Arnold] Schwarzenegger got about $25 million to perform in their movies, or to remember the $280 million that it cost to make Titanic. I’d like you to ask yourself a question: why in the hell do you know these facts? They are not important to your day-to-day survival, yet they are part of common pop-culture knowledge.

Now ask yourself this: how much did Eminem’s last four albums cost? What about how much it cost to market and promote U2’s integrations into the iPod? What? No answer? The reason you have no idea is because whenever you learn how much an actor is getting paid, it’s not a fact that was uncovered by hard-nosed investigative journalism. It’s in a press release. The film industry wants everyone to know that it’s costing them a truckload of cash to entertain you, the public.

Over the last 60 years, while the movie industry has been investing millions a year in educating us about their costs, the record companies have not invested dime-one on this area. They have not taught us music’s cash value.

You probably don’t even realize it, but one important reason you don’t feel easily comfortable sneaking into a blockbuster movie is because subconsciously you figure, “It’s only nine bucks, what the heck, they spent $100 million to make it.”


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