OK composer: Concert combines Radiohead with Brahms

Rock goes symphonic: Steve Hackman’s Stereo Hideout orchestra will play a mashup of Brahms and Radiohead at Kings Theatre on May 19.
Brooklyn Paper
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This is classical rock!

A 55-piece orchestra will blend Brahms with Radiohead for an epic concert at Kings Theatre on May 19. The virtuoso who mashed up the Romantic composer’s work with that of the rock gods says that the show combines the best of the past and the modern world.

“It’s about putting classical musicians and pieces with the best songwriting we’ve got,” said Steve Hackman. “The powerful voices and songs plus the power of the symphony is amazing.”

Hackman’s Stereo Hideout Orchestra is known for melding pop and rock with classical music — past projects have combined Coldplay with Beethoven, and Drake with Tchaikovsky. For the May 19 concert, he will conduct a full orchestra, including a group of Brooklyn musicians and singers, through a mash-up of Johannes Brahms’s “First Symphony” and Radiohead’s “OK Computer.”

The musician and composer has a personal connection to the works — the symphony was one of the first he ever conducted, while “OK Computer’ was the soundtrack of his high school years. The angst-ridden lyrics of Radiohead singer Thom Yorke jive with the restlessness that Brahms felt when while writing his symphony over a lengthy 15-year period, said Hackman.

“He was seen as the successor to Beethoven and there was such pressure on him to deliver,” he said. “And ‘OK Computer’ speaks masterfully to social anxiety and emotional isolation.”

Despite their different eras and genres, the two pieces go together with everything in its right place. The song “Airbag” already has a cello part, for instance, and “Paranoid Android” makes use of classical counterpoint, with two melodies going at the same time, making it a natural fit for orchestral instruments, according to Hackman.

“Their compatibility gave me a lot of freedom to play,” he said.

The show follows the format of the symphony, but interweaves music and vocals from “OK Computer” throughout, with singers performing Radiohead lyrics over Brahms’s music, and the orchestra sometimes taking on Radiohead’s instrumentation, with strings filling in for guitars.

Williamsburg singer Keren Tayar, who has performed with the group several times, said that she is excited to sing “Subterranean Homesick Alien” at the show, which she feels takes on new life in an orchestral setting.

“The fusion with Brahms brings out the story line in a different way,” she said. “The story and the meaning are so beautifully communicated with the orchestrat­ion.”

The show will bring music fans of different genres together, said Hackman.

“Brahms and Radiohead seem disparate and unrelated,” he said. “But really when you break it down, music is all made of the same twelve notes.”

“Stereo Hideout: Brooklyn Brahms V. Radiohead” at Kings Theatre (1027 Flatbush Ave., between Tilden Avenue and Duryea Place in Flatbush, (718) 856–2220, May 19 at 8 pm. $39.50–$75.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 5:45 pm, July 9, 2018
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