For a music that originally rejected traditional instruments in favour of total automation (“I’m more interested in Ford’s robots than [Motown’s] music,” said Juan Atkins in 1987), Detroit techno has combined with orchestral performance more than you’d expect over recent years.
Not only have The Innovator, Derrick May, and Underground Resistance co-founder Jeff Mills stepped into this realm, but the UK club-themed efforts – Haçienda Classical and Cream Classical – have each added Detroit music to their repertoire.
The soaring, otherworldly melodies and expansive arrangements of Detroit techno prove a perfect fit for orchestral projects. In 2008 Carl Craig, the most musically adventurous of the city’s second wave of techno producers, began the process of orchestrating his own work. “It was an insane kind of elation,” he says about first hearing the results, his smile undimmed by the nine years it has taken to travel from those rehearsals to the release of this year’s ‘Versus’ album.
Francesco Tristano, a pianist and composer whose 2007 ‘Not For Piano’ album featured instrumental versions of classics like ‘Strings Of Life’ and ‘The Bells’, was brought in by Craig to transcribe the music to orchestral form . “When Francesco and I started, we sat down and discussed which pieces would work,” Craig says of the project’s earliest stages, preparations for a public performance by Les Siècles orchestra at the Cité de la Musique in Paris in May 2008. “Something like ‘Throw’ wasn’t going to work. But ‘A Darkness’, ‘At Les’ ‘Sandstorms’ and ‘Domina’ – these were pieces where the orchestra could come in and really be a part of it.”