• Composer’s Youth on Record Alaska founder takes music to the next level
By Naomi Klouda
The Nutcracker’s classical music composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky made the famed ballet a time-loved tradition for generations exhilarated by the ancient symphonic style.
This year’s Nutcracker Suite in Homer proved how a new generation’s composition might seamlessly blend in through Cody Davidson’s Battle Scene piece. Using the genre of music known as dubstep, it matched well with the Nutcracker’s steam punk theme.
Don’t tell Tchaikovsky, but Davidson created an improved tempo for the battle scene — by computer.
“People have said they noticed it’s different,” said Nutcracker co-director Breezy Berryman, who worked in partnership for the second year with Jennifer Norton. “The (Homer production of the) Nutcracker originally tried to add more beats to Tchaikovsky for the battle scene involving the rats, but it was too difficult because the tempo kept changing and it was hard to match steps to it.”
Davidson’s piece makes use of a genre of electronic dance music that originated in South London near the beginning of this century. Berryman liked its snare drum beat beneath the other strands for choreographing rats in battle – which requires dance steps and stomps, not ballet.
Davidson also remixed a piano piece on a computer to recreate “Harlequin,” the portion of ballet performed by a toy soldier and a doll. Dubstep allows composers to manipulate sound from a keyboard, software and industry standard recording equipment.
“We have the same recording capability today as the Beatles did in their day,” Davidson said, referring to the range of hardware and software available for new-age compositions.
He started at the beginning with analog, before programs gave way to digital production in 1999-2000.
Work as a partner artist in the Flobots, a nonprofit Denver band, saw them all on the cutting edge of dubstep and other computerized composing. Since childhood, Davidson has played the piano and drums, and he composes his own rap.
“You can do a lot with dubstep, from all-classical-symphony to popular music,” he explained.
Davidson’s Homer work is gaining attention likely to spread far beyond the town’s borders. Currently, he conducts the Youth on Record Program through Haven House, to work with young people at risk.
He also works at the R.E.C. Room, where each Friday he is surrounded by a crowd of teens eager to learn the ins and outs of computer-generated tunes. In recognition of Davidson’s music program popularity, the R.E.C. Room hired him as Friday staff, said director Anna Meredith.
Called “self expression through digital media,” the concept engages students in a whole array of learning.
To better describe Davidson’s work, consider that it began with a $10,000 “Men Choose Respect” grant through Gov. Sean Parnell’s initiative to end domestic violence. It went to purchase equipment hardware and software for recording and creating music.
YOR, as it’s called, creates positive peer interaction, using industry standard equipment, to help students compose music in any genre. They also critique works in a positive manner, which boosts self esteem.
Considering the recent Nutcracker compositions and other local successes, Davidson humbly says, “It’s cool to have a reason for what you love to do.”
That he can combine his love for music with his commitment to young people makes him all the happier, he said.
“I have come through as a youth-at-risk. The inner feeling of this is what I owe to society. I do think all youth in Homer are at risk, to be honest. All teens today are at risk,” he said. “Music is an outlet that can build dreams — or just act as an outlet.”
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