Music Mission | Music | “Style” weekly.

People tend to fear certain art, suspecting that they are not qualified to understand it, that it is not for them. Classical music would probably be at the top of that list. The titles of classical music selections often refer to notes that non-musicians would not understand, and most of them were presumably written by privileged Europeans in wigs millennia ago. Out of the old, in other words.

These cuts are easy to believe, and I understand the fear that drives them. As much as I love jazz, for example, I would never dream of writing about it because it seems to consist of a language that defies my understanding.

Steve Hackman may be a Juilliard-educated superstar composer with many connections—he’s also a DJ, arranger, singer, songwriter, and pianist—but he also understands the fear of classical music. One of the goals of his daring fusion series, which includes a synthesis of Brahms and Radiohead, Bartok and Björk, Beethoven and Coldplay, is to reveal the primal power of classical music to modern audiences, with pop music as a connecting bridge and dissonant counterpoint.

“I had peers and colleagues who were incredibly passionate about music, incredibly dedicated and disciplined, but they didn’t have that exposure to classical music,” Hackman explains, noting that they didn’t find the entry point he was lucky enough to find in his youth through the piano. “So my life has been a mission to promote my friends and coworkers who are obsessed with Radiohead, who tour with Phish, who know every lyric from a Kendrick Lamar album. When you show that kind of passion and dedication, I know you’re a classical music listener. If I can just find access, I know that person will fall in love with Beethoven’s symphonies.’

View footage of Hackman’s fusion performances that can be found on him site, it is the dissonances, or at least what I perceive as dissonances, that are most disturbing. The vocals on Radiohead’s “OK Computer” complement but also disrupt Brahms’s music, embodying a ghost from the future. At other times, however, the pieces blend together so smoothly that one can assume that a time continuum between the respective eras of musicians has opened up before us.

This music is powerful enough on my laptop. Live from, say, the Dominion Energy Center, where Hackman will be performing “Brahms vs. Radiohead” on September 24, it should be a blast. Evolution and destruction go hand in hand as an ongoing exploration of Hackman’s personality as an artist.

Steve Hackman’s Brahms vs. Radiohead concert will take place on September 24 at the Dominion Center. Doors open at 7pm and the event starts at 8pm. Flowers available here.

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