That’s not a violin – it’s a woodbox! Daniel Bernard Roumain talks about creative appropriation in classical music. The Haitian-American composer’s creative world was cracked open when he realized that everything – including the definition of “violin” – was ripe for reinterpretation. As a kid in garage bands, he took the decidedly uncool violin and made it his own. As a classically trained musician, he brings classical music together with hip hop, rock, bluegrass, and other genres to create his signature sound. We talk about DBR’s creative journey and about how innovators like John Cage have changed classical music by adding an important ingredient to the genre: imagination.

Audio production by Todd “T-Dawg” Hulslander with super disco breaking by Dacia Clay.

Music in this episode:

  • Lots of woodbox improvisation by Daniel Bernard Roumain
  • “Sonata No. 2” from Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Pianoby John Cage, played by Boris Berman
  • “Sonata for Violin and Turntables, Part 1” from Woodbox Beats & Balladry by Daniel Bernard Roumain

To see DBR perform in our studios on Skyline Sessions, go here.

Daniel Roumain is an artist in residence with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, which is dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration across the performing, visual, and literary arts. Based at the University of Houston, the Mitchell Center commissions and produces new works, presents public performances and exhibitions, offers curriculum and scholarships, and hosts residencies with renowned visiting artists from throughout the world. The Center is home to the Mitchell Artist Lecture, an annual event featuring a pioneer in contemporary art-making, as well as CounterCurrent, an annual spring festival of new performance. The Mitchell Center forms an alliance among five departments at UH: the School of Art, Moores School of Music, School of Theatre & Dance, Creative Writing Program, and Blaffer Art Museum. For more information visit