TyDi and Christopher Tin prove the only thing boring about classical music is your perception of it [Interview]
A conductor stands in front of a 50-piece orchestra, their faces staring expectantly up at him. He counts them in, laying a commanding foundation with bass and cello for the violins to dance on top of. Each individual immerses into their part of the orchestral whole, all while following the conductor’s lead.
Fifteen miles away, a producer sits in his home music studio with a glass of red wine. He has written a song acoustically that he is bringing to life electronically. He takes sounds from the physical world and brings them into his virtual realm, where he utilizes studio technology to create a four minute sonic story.
Cut to a cafe in Beverly Hills, where conductor and producer sit across from one another.
Tyson Illingworth has asked Christopher Tin to an introductory coffee via their mutual publishing house. Tin is curious to make the new connection. For Illingworth, the coffee is far more than a new connection. He has a plan to fulfill.
Illingworth, better known by his stage name tyDi, has released five studio albums, toured the world, and hit number one in the dance music charts more than a few times. He has a Bachelor’s of Music and Music technology, and he has spent many nights sitting in his studio reminiscing about his days at the music conservatory. When Illingworth needs a reprieve from the pressure of writing his next “hit,” he writes melodies and compositions with orchestral sections, knowing the compositions will never see the light of day.
Tin is a composer who has written film, music, and video game scores. He has performed everywhere from the Kennedy Center to the Lincoln Center, and his work has garnered him not one, but two Grammy awards. He travels the world conducting in front of sold out crowds of suited men and women, sitting and watching his show in the comfort of a plush seat. Illingworth DJs in front of screaming fans dancing and drinking the night away to his infectious sets. Their vastly different artistic lives are what drew them together, with mutual curiosity over how they might enhance one another’s craft.
The orchestral and electronic realms rarely ‘Collide’ in the manner tyDi described to Tin when proposing a collaboration on that fateful day in Beverly Hills. He had “one song” that needed Tin’s expertise, and he had written it in the hope that Tin would come in and take it to the next level with a full-on orchestral integration. Little did Tin know that the Australian producer actually had 12 tracks just waiting for his influence. Despite his concerns that the composer would have no interest in collaborating with an electronic music producer, Tin, known for his love of cross-genre collaborations, jumped at the opportunity.
I have learned something really amazing about other people in different worlds, which is to never judge too quickly what they might think of us because I had this lunch with Chris….and the second we met he was like ‘dude I am so envious of your job…Man I’d really love to go on the road and do electronic music. That looks so much fun to just like dance.’ That’s kind of when I realized, wait a minute he respects electronic music. – tyDi
The process of a producer taking instrumentals and fusing them into a digital wonderland has long been a point of contention within the music industry. The stigma of “pressing play,” and the rise of an era of artists who are not classically trained has led to criticism of the electronic music scene by everyone from composers to rock bands. While it would be easy to assume that composers like Tin would be the most judgmental towards electronic music of them all due to his classical training and extensive schooling, he touched upon how that expectation could be considered judgmental itself.
I think there may still be some snobbery in the classical world, but I think those barriers are eroding. Yeah, maybe we studied orchestration through Rimsky-Korsakov and compositions through Schubert. But you know, we also went to raves in the 90s … I’m not going to say what I did at those raves, but we had these same experiences as our contemporaries, and we are a lot more open minded to these interesting collaborations. – Tin
As Illingworth had hoped, one song together turned into three, five, and then into an entire album — the first of its kind to incorporate an orchestra into it from the very beginning. He would bring Tin a markup, which is a computer generation of the orchestral section, and the composer would then take the markup and transform it.
What Chris brought to the table is that he would listen to the mark ups and say, ‘I see what you are going for — let me blow your mind.’ -tyDi
He laughs when reflecting on their first few weeks working together, noting that despite his attempts to write orchestral portions of the song, Tin would have to bring his ideas back down to reality.
I remember distinctly there is this one track on the album called ‘Don’t Forget Us,’ and I had all of these trumpets going crazy, and Chris said to me ‘Tyson, you know the trumpet players are going to kill you.’ and I was like, ‘well, what do you mean?’ And he was like ‘They can’t play that. You know they need to breath.’
Illingworth might have had the world at his fingertips with virtual compositions, but Tin was there to think about physicality and the feasibility of the marked-up sections. The veteran composer also brought in instruments and sounds that he would have never known even existed. Tin’s influence on the album creates an immersive and multi-faceted sound that would have been unachievable using just digitized instrumentals.
The musicians both comment that the album’s strength is its ability to let both the instrumental and electronic parts have their own time to breathe and shine. There were often 90 second blocks of a track that tyDi would leave completely blank, letting Tin create the orchestral section from scratch. Because each musician formulated their genre’s section of a track independently of the other, Collide’s dynamic completely shifts on a track-by-track basis.
They don’t fight each other. Songs might start with this massive symphonic section that is straight out of a Hans Zimmer film, and then it just snaps like really quickly into electronic music and really detailed production. – tyDi
What is perhaps the most interesting about this project is the duo’s motivations for making it happen. While Illingworth has dreamed of creating the film score to a major motion picture, Tin has dreamed of playing on the mainstage of a festival. The two have sought to achieve what the other considers a standard part of the job, thus making their motivations complementary.
For Tin, as someone with self-proclaimed ‘millennial tendencies,’ the opportunity to experiment with the electronic world was something he marked as a life experience he could not pass up.
I’ve had my music performed at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center. I’ve conducted major symphony orchestras and Opera companies. I have experienced that already. What I haven’t done is played Ultra, or EDC, or these other festivals. The possibility of potentially getting out there and doing a live show at a major festival with tyDi DJing and playing the keyboard with me conducting a major orchestra on stage was just too tempting to pass up. – Tin
Having grown up playing both the drums and the piano, Illingworth too has great aspirations for the album when it comes to performing it live. He loves DJing, but feels that it has no place in a performance for the album. Instead, he would elect to play the piano and the synthesizers while Tin would ideally conduct a live orchestra. The duo are still working out the feasibility of actually playing with an orchestra on stage, but spacing and acoustics are barriers they are facing when looking to make this a reality.
Collide not only gives dance music an entirely new frontier with its combination of a full orchestra and electronic music, but it has the capacity to speak to an entirely new audience for the classical and electronic music genres alike. Tin believes that there is a subset of his fans that will undoubtedly turn into electronic music fans once they are exposed to the album. Electronic music fans themselves will likely realize that classical music doesn’t have to be consumed sitting rigid in a music hall, and that compositions can be as emotive and engaging as dance music itself.
Ultimately Tin and Illingworth have initiated not only the conversation, but the collaboration, that will surely dispel the stigma that electronic music is not real music. Take one listen to Collide, and it is suddenly apparent what open-minded collaboration can do to shatter the boundaries of current categories and propel music into the future.