Daniel Bernard Roumain, (DBR) born 1970 to Haitian-American parents, is a classically trained composer/violinist and activist. His compositions and arrangements, which have been performed by the orchestras of Dallas, Des Moines, Memphis, San Antonio, St. Louis, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the New World Symphony, the Del Sol and the Lark Quartet, are noted for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an “energetic and experiential sonic form.” He received his early music education from the Dillard Center for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and earned a doctorate in composition from the University of Michigan. He has written for orchestra, chamber, opera, as well as rock songs and electronic music.
Being a classically trained composer and performer has shaped his perspective. The following is an excerpted conversation with Bill T Jones:
“I’m a composer. I like to think I’m an American composer. But oftentimes I’m referred to as a black American composer, of Haitian descent, or a dreadlocked violinist. These are little minefields. In some ways, I’m being set up. As much as classical music has a diversity to it, I don’t know if it’s necessarily diverse. When I say classical music, I’m talking about the industry: the musicians, the composers, the administrators, the audience. I’d like to participate in that arena on their terms.
To me, my Hip-Hop Studies and Etudes were a response to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, to Glass’s Music in Twelve Parts, to Bartók’s Microcosmos. Composers do that systematically, looking at each key. Mine happened to look at each key, but in a particular musical vernacular…I’m approaching it as music that I am listening to and am well-versed in, a language that I grew up with. Hip-hop music is about the same age that I am. [My] Hip-Hop Studies and Etudes tries to speak to and legitimize black folk music in the same way that Bartók tried to legitimize Hungarian folk music, and Stravinsky tried to legitimize Russian folk music.
The Beatles set out to emulate black music, and they created something that was not black music. Philip Glass set out to emulate rock music, and he created something that was not rock music, something that’s very personal. And he created a new audience for it. I’m not setting out to create a hybrid form of hip-hop and classical music. I am simply, as a proud product of the iPod generation, emulating all the music that I’m listening to and have listened to. It’s classical music forms and the totality of black music expression: rock, soul, hip-hop, jazz. That’s maybe the best definition. The problem is when I walk into a room with an orchestra and my score says, not in Italian, play this as though Prince were playing it, fiercely funky.”