Short Desciption

Brahms V. Radiohead is an epic symphonic synthesis of Radiohead’s album OK Computer and the Brahms First Symphony, utilizing a full 70-piece orchestra and three pop vocalists. The piece stays in the romantic sound world of Brahms, using only the instruments he would have used to debut his Symphony, but woven in, superimposed, and inserted are the melodies and music of Radiohead. At times we hear the melodies and words of Radiohead suspended over Brahms’ original music; at times we hear the orchestra playing the music of Radiohead but with the dense counterpoint Brahms. Every combination is explored, and we constantly move from one to the other- but the piece is seamless and many times the audience is left wondering which is which, and how the combination was even possible.


65 minutes

Instrumentation | | timp+1 perc | strings

Soloists: 3 vocal soloists

Movement Listings

Created and arranged by Steve Hackman

RADIOHEAD   “Airbag”/Introduction     

JOHANNES BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 - Movement 1 - Un poco sostenuto ; Allegro: Exposition  

RADIOHEAD   “Paranoid Android” 

RADIOHEAD   “Climbing Up the Walls”     

BRAHMS Movement 1: Recapitulation           

RADIOHEAD   “Karma Police”         

BRAHMS Movement 1: Coda   

RADIOHEAD   “Subterranean Homesick Alien”     

BRAHMS Movement 2 - Andante sostenuto: Beginning         

RADIOHEAD   “No Surprises”          

BRAHMS Movement 2: Ending           


BRAHMS Movement 3 - Un poco allegretto e grazioso: Beginning   

RADIOHEAD   “Let Down”   

BRAHMS Movement 3: Ending           

BRAHMS Movement 4: Adagio—Più andante

RADIOHEAD   “Exit Music (For A Film)”    

BRAHMS Movement 4 - Allegro non troppo, ma con brio: Exposition          

RADIOHEAD   “Lucky”          

BRAHMS Movement 4: Recapitulation           

RADIOHEAD   “Electioneering”       

BRAHMS Movement 4: Coda


Program Notes

Brahms V. Radiohead is an orchestral synthesis of the Brahms First Symphony (1882) and Radiohead’s OK Computer (1997), wherein ten songs from Radio- head’s seminal album are experienced through the lens of Brahms, drawing upon the latter’s harmony, form, counterpoint and motives. This was the first large-scale work of this type that I endeavored, and what a thrilling process of analysis, discovery, de/re-construction and creation it was.

These two works share striking and defining characteristics; the most significant is their mood of anxiety and brooding pathos. Brahms, unendingly plagued by the shadow of the great Beethoven, took more than a decade to write this symphony, for fear of not living up to his predecessor, and that pressure is felt in each tightly-wound measure. For Radiohead, the themes of social alienation, consumerism, emotional isolation, and political turmoil are channeled electrically through every anxious note and lyric of OK Computer.

Secondly, both pieces represent ‘invention within convention’- adhering to existing structures but innovating within them (in Brahms’ case, the symphony form, and in Radiohead’s, the concept album).

Finally, they have distinct musical similarities; beyond the fact that both are dense, substantive and full of rich counterpoint, I heard unmistakably similar melodic and harmonic devices. For example: the iv-I chord progression of ‘No Surprises’ is used by Brahms (with an added 6th, in inversion) in the final moments of the 2nd movement; or the fact that ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’, like the Brahms first movement, is in 6/8 time (rare for an alternative rock song).

I took advantage of those similarities in the synthesis, and it is those moments that I am most excited about. We hear ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ over an undercurrent of Brahms' pedal tones; the stark opening music of the symphony adding to the frenzy of ‘Paranoid Android’; the final lyric of ‘No Surprises’ floating over the gorgeous conclusion of the second movement; themes of the third movement evoked in the distance during the experimental middle section of ‘Let Down’; and the ostinato bass figure of the fourth movement coda providing the rhythmic motor of ‘Electioneering’.

A final note: some may purport that these two pieces are separated by more than just time. They may seek to label and categorize them, and perhaps judge their respective and comparative values accordingly.

I believe that the more we truly understand the creative and technical processes that result in any kind of art- regardless of genre or category- the more similar they will reveal themselves to us. 

- Steve Hackman, May 2018



Short Desciption

‘Tchaikovsky V. Drake’ is a symphonic synthesis that blends the music of two composer-romanticists separated by almost a century. Fifteen songs of Drake are woven into Tchaikovsky’s epic Fifth Symphony in every way imaginable. We hear Drake’s melodies soaring in tandem with Tchaikovsky’s; his raps motoring almost impossibly with Tchaikovsky’s rhythmic figures; then vignettes of Drake’s music with Tchaikovsky’s motives and melodies superimposed over top. Every possibility of synthesis is joyfully and beautifully explored. Joining the full symphony orchestra are three singers (India Carney- Top 3 on NBC’s The Voice and backup singer for Katy Perry; Malia Civetz- Warner-Chappell artist with one million plays on Spotify; Mario Jose, on tour with Postmodern Jukebox and Pentatonix), rapper Jecorey Arthur (1200). Conductor/creator Steve Hackman also plays piano for several interludes, and the piece features and extensive Bach-like cello solo as a prelude to the fourth movement.


63 minutes

Instrumentation | | timp+1 perc | strings

Soloists: 3 vocal soloists, 1 rap vocalist, conductor+pianist

Movement Listings

Created and arranged by Steve Hackman

Prelude- Started From the Bottom/Headlines

I. Andante - Allegro con anima

Started From the Bottom
The Language
Over My Dead Body
Crew Love

Interlude #1- Controlla

Interlude #2- Hold On, We’re Going Home/Marvin’s Room

II. Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza
Marvin’s Room
All Me

Interlude #3- Take Care

IV. Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace
We’ll Be Fine
The Motto
Hotline Bling
Hold On, We’re Going Home
Find Your Love

Program Notes

Started from the bottom now we here...

Thus begins the first single from Drake's smash-hit album Nothing Was the Same (2013). The song speaks of emergence, transcendence and triumph.

The Fifth Symphony by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composed in 1888, follows a similar narrative. It begins in desolation and agony; it ends in radiant exultation.

While these composers differ in the vehicle by which their music is delivered, they are identical in the clarity and candidness of their emotional expression. There is no doubt as to the feeling being represented through their music. And in the pieces that found their way  into this mash-up, there is even a certain innocence and naiveté- as if this is what it sounds like when we experience these emotions for the very first time.

Tchaikovsky and Drake are quintessential romantics; they are wonderfully sentimental- and that is why they seemed ripe for juxtaposition.

How does one combine rap music with a classical symphony? The process began by looking at it as a hip-hop producer would- identifying sections of Tchaikovsky that could be paired with Drake's raps. In tandem I searched for melodies of Tchaikovsky's that were of a similar enough contour to the melodies of Drake, then adapted the latter to work in counterpoint with the Tchaikovsky.

The real trick was organization and structure. The technique that evolved was linking a specific Drake song with each new theme of Tchaikovsky's. This meant many of the Drake songs would have to be split up, since in a symphonic movement the main themes appear twice, at the beginning and towards the end of the movement. Therefore in the mash-up one Drake song is introduced, then several other songs would be heard before the conclusion of that first song.

To the famous 'fate theme' that appears throughout each movement of the Fifth Symphony, the aforementioned 'Started From the Bottom' became a perfect fit. Tchaikovsky treats this theme differently throughout the piece according to the emotional arc: at the beginning, it is full of anguish; in the second movement, it is a fiery and thunderous interruption; at the end, it is triumphant. Each time Drake's words accompany it. And in the end, to compliment the triumph, it morphs appropriately into Drake's 'Jumpman'.

To highlight the similarities of heart-on-the-sleeve sentimentality, there are moments where the orchestra is significantly scaled back and Drake's melodies take the balance of the content (to be sure, Tchaikovsky is always woven in where possible). These “vignettes” feature extended solo passages from orchestral players, the addition of solo piano to give a more intimate feel, and percussion played by Jecorey, our rapper.

It is often said that at some point in the compositional process, a work takes on a life of its own and the composer becomes its servant rather than its creator. This has been true of all my works, and each one has challenged me more than its predecessor. This piece required of me every technique I've learned thus far, and dared me to invent new ones- new ways to combine and synthesize. In all the frustrated moments, when it wasn't working or when I thought I was doing a disservice to either or both composers, it made me question what I was doing and why I was doing it. It made me think like so many mash-up critics, who say 'what is wrong with these pieces by themselves?'.  

Overcoming that doubt and working through those challenges has changed me. It has changed the way I see music and what I think is possible in music. It has reminded me that doubt is healthy and it has emboldened my resolve. The journey from the bottom to Jumpman has been epic indeed, and it is my sincere hope that you find meaning in the journey as well.


Steve Hackman, March 2017



Short Desciption

Bartók X. Björk synthesizes the music of two of the 20th century’s most ingenious musicians into one; it is an exploration of the avant-garde and adventurous. Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra is fused with the music of Björk, selected from her first three albums Debut, Post and Homegenic. These two composers from different genres are beloved for similar reasons: their radical and colorful musical language, extremes of emotional expression, and thrilling modernism. Underlying the combination are the parallels between the narrative and biographical context of Bartók’s Concerto and the subjects of Björk’s songs; the ominous threats of war in the first movement with ‘Army of Me’, the second movement’s playful ‘Presentation of the Couples’ pairs perfectly with Björk’s ‘Human Behavior’, the heart-wrenching third movement Elegy with Björk’s ‘All is Full of Love’ and ‘Hyperballad’, the ambivalence of the Finale’s conclusion with ‘Play Dead’, and the exoticism of the folk melodies throughout the piece with ‘Hunter’. Three female vocalists join the full orchestra. 


60 minutes

Instrumentation | | timp+3 perc | 2 harp | strings

Soloists: 3 vocal soloists

Movement Listings

Steve Hackman’s BARTÓK V. BJÖRK
Created and arranged by Steve Hackman

I. Introduzione
_army of me

II. Giuco delle coppie
_human behavior

III. Elegia
_all is full of love

IV. Intermezzo interrotto

V. Finale
_venus as a boy
_play dead


Short Desciption

 A merging of musical giants, Beethoven V. Coldplay pairs two composer/artists that deal with universal and humanist themes in their music, and asks the musical question- would Beethoven have found meaning in the music of Coldplay? That notion, perhaps odd-sounding at first, becomes much more compelling when considering the events surrounding Beethoven’s creation of the Eroica Symphony- an artist desperate to solidify his position as the reigning musical genius in Vienna, but yet still misunderstood and criticized, and a young man in his thirties faced with the reality that he would indeed soon be completely deaf. How, then, would Beethoven have reacted to the Coldplay lyrics ‘Nobody said it was easy?’ or ‘When you lose something you can’t replace…. could it be worse?’

Beethoven V. Coldplay transforms the Eroica into an oratorio, weaving the melodies and lyrics of Coldplay into the original Beethoven, pairing them together based on content and context. It is the alternate Eroica Beethoven may have created had he known the music of Coldplay at the time. Three vocalists join the full symphony; many of Coldplay’s most well-known songs are interpolated, including ‘Yellow’, ‘Viva La Vida’ and ‘The Scientist’. 


50 minutes

Instrumentation | | timp | strings

Soloists: 3 vocal soloists

Movement Listings

Created and arranged by Steve Hackman

Beethoven 1st Movement: Allegro con brio
---- Clocks
---- 42
---- Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall

Beethoven 2nd Movement: Marcia funebre
---- The Scientist
---- Princess in China

Beethoven 3rd Movement: Scherzo
---- Paradise

Interlude: Sparks

Beethoven 4th Movement: Finale
---- Viva La Vida
---- Fix You

Program Notes

Would Beethoven have appreciated the music of Coldplay?

A ridiculous notion, I know. But just follow me here for a moment. Pretend Beethoven was your very same age, and he was seated next to you at this concert. Pretend you were able to strike up a conversation with him.

I ask you to engage in this exercise because that is where my thinking took me when writing Beethoven V. Coldplay, for I realized shortly after beginning that I was the exact same age Beethoven was when he wrote the Eroica symphony. This had a startling and ultimately revelatory effect on me. As I was rewriting the very same notes he had written- at the very same point in our lives- I found myself thinking of him as an actual person. This closeness went far beyond any biographical study I had done before. So I began to wonder- what if I knew him? What would he be like? Could we possibly have had anything in common?

And eventually, of course: what we have thought of Coldplay?

Beethoven confronted broad, universal and humanist themes in his music- would he have found affinity with a band that did the same? His music was deeply personal; he connected his emotional state directly and without encumbrance to the notes he wrote- is there any doubt, when listening to Chris Martin sing and play the piano, that he does the same?

The Eroica symphony is now mentioned among only a handful of pieces that changed the course of music forever, and Beethoven was certain of its brilliance; yet the premiere was met with ambivalence, with some critics calling it ‘unintelligible’. Would Beethoven have felt empathy with the Coldplay line, ‘Nobody said it was easy… no one ever said it would be this hard’?

Beethoven had a coarse and unpleasant personality and therefore found sanctuary from the outside world in his music. Would he have appreciated the lyric, 'I turn my music up... I shut the world outside... I hear my heart start beating to my favorite song…'?

Or, 'When you love someone and it goes to waste, could it be worse?’- would those lines have meant something to the composer who struggled at romance and was often tortured by unrequited love?

And can you imagine the 34 year-old composer- who had recently battled depression to the extent of considering suicide owing to the realization that he was irreversibly going deaf- not being overcome by the lyric, ‘Tears stream down your face… when you lose something you cannot replace…and I will try to fix you’?

I chose to pair Beethoven and Coldplay because of their shared universality- that feeling they evoke that this is what music should sound like. Only upon finishing the piece did I begin thinking of all these serendipitous connections. At first they startled me. How was I so lucky? How is it possible that these lyrics could relate so much to Beethoven’s life?

But then I realized- we love Coldplay because we feel they are speaking just to us- their songs seem to tell our own stories. So why shouldn’t they tell Beethoven’s? If he was once a person the same age as us, desperate for recognition of his genius, battling his health and depression, longing for love, and ‘dreaming of paradise,’ who is to say he wouldn’t have found escape in a song of Coldplay? Or a moment of peace knowing that someone had been through exactly what he was going through and had found a way to perfectly articulate it through song.

So what is the point of an exercise of this sort? Will changing the lens through which we view these artists and composers provide a new perspective? Will finding connections between them offer a new context? Isn't it just a little too far-fetched to even think that Beethoven would EVER have listened to Coldplay? And even if had- what is the point in combining his music with theirs?

I know my answer. You're about to hear it.

-Steve Hackman, October 2015



Short Desciption

Copland's Appalachian Spring and the songs of Bon Iver coexist miraculously in this program that synthesizes the two into one continuous 45-minute suite. The pastoral nature, simple folk-like harmonies, and pure delivery of emotion in each make them perfect for amalgamation- to the point where it sounds like they were made to be fused together. Nine Bon Iver songs are woven seamlessly into Copland's beloved masterpiece. Three singers join the orchestra.


46 minutes

Instrumentation | | timp+3 perc | harp | piano | strings

Soloists: 3 vocal soloists

Movement Listings

Steve Hackman’s COPLAND V. BON IVER
Created and arranged by Steve Hackman

Very Slowly
Skinny Love
Subito Allegro/Minnesota, WI
Doppio Movimento/Hinnom, TX

Program Notes

I’ll never forget hearing Bon Iver for the first time. It was the song ‘Woods’, which opens strikingly with a single, unaccompanied and heavily auto-tuned voice. A reflective four-line phrase is sung and then repeated in full, but with the addition of a vocal harmony. This happens over and over, each time a harmony being added, almost like a trance-inducing incantation, until it is an immensely powerful chorus of this uncanny and supernatural voice. This was a voice to be listened to.

The summer before I attended the Curtis Institute of Music, I picked up an LP of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring with Leonard Bernstein conducting. I fell in love with the piece that summer, listening over and over, with giddy anticipation that I was about to attend the same school as Bernstein. All through my years at Curtis I would listen to that record. I’d lay down on the floor of my apartment, close my eyes, and dream of conducting the work with a major orchestra someday.

Lasting impressions, deep connections. This music is more than just music to me, just like your favorites are to you. In combining them I bring two beloved friends together, to commingle, become familiar, explore what they have in common, and share stories. How special that I can facilitate and be a party to that.

The origins of my working with vocalists goes back even further, to my days in high school singing in and arranging the music for a barbershop quartet. Following that, for four years at the University of Illinois I sung in and directed a distinguished a cappella group called The Other Guys. It was these choral scenarios that gave me my first conducting experience (indeed Bill Prokopow later sung in and directed that same group).

So again I am bringing two beloved parts of my life together- the chorus, which I was so immersed in during my high school and undergraduate years, and the orchestra, which I’ve been working with ever since.

I tell you all this to illustrate this point: any creative artist is simply using A) the techniques he or she has developed and B) the means at his or her disposal to bring into form something original, that is representative of their unique artistic journey.

Something Michael Tilson Thomas said to me about Mahler comes to mind, referring to the latter’s interpolation of folk music and (then considered) bizarre orchestral effects: ‘he was using the sound world of the orchestra to represent the music that he heard in his daily life.’ That is what any composer is doing, and that is what these mash-ups are. 

This particular piece was actually the first fusion I attempted, in 2012. The premiere went well enough with the Indianapolis Symphony that it opened up the opporunity for an even bigger endeavor the next time out, which became the Brahms V. Radiohead. The Copland V. Bon Iver has sat on the shelf since then, in favor of newer and more skillful works, but I always thought it might become something special if I gave it a rewrite. Last summer I did just that, adding several Bon Iver songs and making the piece more synthesized and cohesive as a whole.

In that way this one is particularly special to me, because it again illustrates a journey- from that first attempt in 2012 until now.

What a journey it has been. I do hope you enjoy.

- Steve Hackman, January 2016