Rick (Mr. CutTime) RobinsonDetroit, MI
Celebrating two decades as a self-taught classical composer and innovator, Rick Robinson started in Detroit with cello, then bass in public schools before blossoming at the Interlochen Arts Academy for three years. Then attending the Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory for double bass performance, he won principal bass positions in several regional and summer orchestras, including the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with composer John Williams.
In 1989 he was famously invited to join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) without audition after subbing for two years. Robinson then quietly committed to reaching out in new ways to broader communities. First, he played solo recitals. Next, he began transcribing familiar symphonic music to launch a mixed octet of DSO principals called CutTime Players, and discovered enormous opportunities to bring big music to smaller venues.
But it was in 1999 when Robinson had the vivid dream that led him to write his first major composition, the romantic-style ESSAY After Sibelius for large orchestra. It wasn’t until DSO premiered this work in 2006 that Robinson suddenly saw his full potential to draw new listeners into classical music.
He then began composing a dozen works to launch a second outreach ensemble in 2010; a string sextet with solo woodwind and optional drums called CutTime Simfonica. With an ear toward Americanizing classical music, half of these works fold in familiar urban pop and folk grooves to shift the dramatic paradigm from the woods of Vienna to the streets of Detroit.
Also in 2010 he won a Kresge Artist Fellowship for these works and organized the Detroit chapter of the worldwide Classical Revolution movement (CRD), amplifying chamber music in popular venues, and entertaining like a band. Having published most of his hundred transcriptions since 1997, Robinson also incorporated the umbrella enterprise CutTime Productions LLC.
Now known as Mr. CutTime, Robinson resigned his DSO section position starting in 2012 to work nationally with all sectors, to showcase the huge library of CutTime Players Publishing, to create more music, words and methods for immediate connections to new listeners, and to seed more Classical Revolution chapters. He is proposing to the industry a new standard for community engagement; one that facilitates authentic exchanges while creating jobs. CutTime® truly connects community traditions with classical ones and makes a profound difference.
In 2013 Robinson won an Arts Challenge Grant of $30,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to professionalize and expand CRD in 2015. Also in 2015 Robinson wrote music for Louis Aguilar’s stageplay Art as a Weapon: Five Scenes of Frida and Diego in Detroit.
In 2017 Robinson began to partner with the community poets of the Urban Requiem Project of Detroit, commemorating the city’s famed industrial century with poetry, classical-soul music and archival footage. Their 2019 premiere for the Art X Detroit series of Phantom Detroit (an exploration of conflicting gentrification realities and emotions) mixed a jazz piano trio with strings to weave street poetry, rock, R&B, funk, gospel, jazz, video game and humor with conventional classical development.
Mr. CutTime has orchestrated four of his best compositions by request of River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (as part of a Music Alive partnership), Michigan Philharmonic and Colour of Music Festival Orchestra.
Learn more of his fantastic story from the website cuttime.com.
Middle American Classical
These tracks demonstrate the blend of fine and pop art expressionism Robinson has developed. It includes a reading of an elegy called First Grief, which he wrote after his father’s death in 2011.
City of Trees is a dramatic story outlining the gauntlet studious inner-city students walk between school and home.
A programmatic work Gitcha Groove On! represents a symphony player taking a night on the town looking for a dance groove to fit his mood.
All string works are scored 2 vln, 2 vla, vc and bass, today adding percussion.
CutTime Simfonica’s Gitcha Groove On! CD Promo
This YouTube video promotes the Gitcha Groove On! CD project and it’s intended impact touching the broader community. Video production is by Studio Lumumba of Detroit.
Robinson – Highland Park, MI: City of Trees (quintet version)
This 9-minute work organically blends several genres for a strong drama. What that drama ultimately becomes is up to the listener and private, until one can articulate their vision. This is no different than a Schubert string quartet and explains why they have generic titles. The difference is that modern listeners might recognize their own humanity more easily with elements of recently popular musical styles. In ‘City of Trees’ both large and small chunks of hip-hop, Latin, funk, jazz and gospel are woven into thick tapestries.