Master in the Mix:: Darryl Hoffman

This interview was recorded in June of 2019.

It is a privilege to be here with Musician + Producer Darryl Hoffman also known as "DJ" whose work just made its premiere at the International Association of Blacks in Dance Festival/Conference in February of 2019 with dance piece titled Endangered Species, created by Internationally-renowned Dancer, Choreographer Anthony Burrell set on the Philadelphia Dance Company, Philadanco! His work has been featured in and throughout the Chicago dance scene collaborating with such influential companies as Visceral Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

Audiences have become intrigued by the musical scores of this young talent and would like to learn more about the Master behind the Mix and the inspiration for the work he is doing. 

KH: Thank you for sharing with us Darryl! The Dance Our Legacy Scholarship is Community Outreach and an Excellence Initiative yes, but we also encouraged the emergence of full artistry in the lives of young dancers today who aspire to have a professional career. One of the main things about being an Artist, is learning how to learn from others~draw from their strengths and creativity to what comes to be a completed work.

KH: You certainly have a gift for composition. Tell us how long you've been at it? Did this begin in your hometown?

DJ: It actually began in Richmond, Va where I attended my four years of high school. I think a lot of kids around that time of their lives try to find what their “thing” is. Especially when they’re not already involved in any extra curricular activities at school. For me, it was always music. The love that i have for it, eventually turned into a curiosity for creating certain sounds which led me into producing. There was a sense of pride & freedom in me once I found a love in doing that.

KH: How important is it as an Artist to collaborate with others?

DJ: When there’s a message that you want to get out to the world in order to help move humanity forward, collaboration is very important. For the most part, the creative process has always been a lonely one for me (as it is for every other artist) and I’ve learned to become used to it. But when the opportunity for collaboration presents itself, you tend to learn more about yourself as far as interacting with other creatives. You learn to trust yourself and what it is that you bring to the table and what you can gain from the other artists involved. I always want the experience of collaboration to be an even exchange. 

KH: Do you feel/think you've developed a different eye or understanding for dance now than when you first saw it in studio or onstage?

DJ: After being able to sit in on a couple rehearsals, I would definitely say that I’ve developed so much more of a respect for the choreographers and all dancers involved in the creative process. Seeing a piece live in the theatre helps me understand the formula of the choreographer’s vision and the importance of lighting, costumes, & most importantly, the sound.

KH: What kind of instrumentals, mixer or soundboard do you use for your work?

DJ: My go to has been Logic Pro. I’ve been able to execute so many ideas just from using that software alone. I’ve been using it for so many years now & I still find myself learning new things within the program. It’ll continue to be one of my main sources as my sound enhances.

KH: Congratulations on your recent recognition with the Chicago Dance/Music Hub Site. You've worked with some substantial dancer figures in the industry. How did you break into the dance world?

DJ: I’ll definitely say that being in a relationship with a dancer for several years has allowed me to be in certain spaces that I would have never imagined. Even during those moments, my main focus was to always have at least a foot in the door with my production in the music industry. But I’m very thankful for Stephanie Martinez for giving me my very first opportunity to compose for concert dance. She was the first choreographer to see my potential & for a woman of color to have invested in me, makes it even more special.

KH: You and Princess Grace Award Winner, Dancer, Choreographer and closest dance Inspiration- Paige Fraser both relocated to the Chicagoland area from the East coast. How much of an adjustment was that for the two of you as Artists? How did it inform your work overtime? What could you say is that "something" that you have now?

DJ: It was definitely a culture shock for the both of us. Coming from such a melting pot that New York is, I don’t think we realized how segregated Chicago would be, which was very disappointing to find out. But we’ve made the best of our experiences here thus far. It’s a beautiful city & the arts are very much alive here & rich in culture. There’s something about this city that has allowed me to naturally explore certain genres of music which has helped shape my sound into what it is today and it continues to do so.

KH: Let's talk more about dance. When spending time in the studio what excites with you most? How does it translate into sound if I may rhythm? the counts? the way that the body moves? Or is it all visual?

DJ: Every now & then, the choreographer would help me with the counts if need be but for the most part, it’s usually by rhythm, narrative & intention. I love seeing the music come to life through the movement. It’s always mind blowing to see how anything i create is being interpreted by the choreographer. It’s like another world is being created and It’s almost surreal at times.

KH: About how long does it typically or has it taken you create a score?

DJ: My creative process varies based on the choreographer. There’s times when i May have an idea already in the works but i usually like to create from the ground up when it comes to dance. I like to have a brief conversation with the choreographer about what it is that they wanna get across in their message. Once the concept is shared, I try to do my very best in matching the music with the vision that’s been presented to me. I’ll definitely say that a lot of prayer is involved during my process.

KH: Are they all originals or samples, collabs?

DJ: Its a mixture of my original ideas along with samples that are incorporated to help take the music to another level...To give it more of a full sound. 

KH: In Dayton, Ohio at the IABD Conference the audience gave Philadanco! performance of "Endangered Species" a standing ovation. There is no doubt, that the men had us hanging on the edge of our seats with their skill and proficiency in movement--but it's the way in which they interpreted the music with their bodies that had us vibin and grooving! Especially towards, the end--aesthetically speaking it sounded a lot like cell bars clanging or wrangling. Was this intentional?

DJ: Those sounds that you hear we’re actually drum rolls that were never intended to sound like cell bars... At least to me but I guess that’s the beauty in creating without intent sometimes. Certain things just end up finding its place to fit in perfectly later on.

KH: An audience member wanted to know which of these came first: The idea for the piece or the music? Which of these shaped each the other most?

DJ: The idea for the piece came first. It was the blueprint that helped lay everything else out. Along with a few reference tracks that the choreographer had presented to me, which ended up being a huge help in getting me in the direction of what the vibe of the music should be for the piece.

Endangered Species by Anthony Burrell 

KH: What was it like working with such a well-rounded Artist like Anthony whose gone beyond concert dance and ventured into Commercial work with stars like Beyonce?

DJ: Anthony was great to work with. He was very straight to the point in what it was that he wanted with the music. He ended up being very impressed with my work ethic and what I loved most about the process was that he trusted me full on from day 1. We were able to create magic with the freedom that I was provided. I definitely look forward to working with him again in the near future.

KH: This work, ironically performed in the month of February--American celebration of Black History. How important or necessary is this body of work in the scheme of things that have taking place and in history over time? With names like Emmett Till, Trayvonn Martin, etc. on the backs of these Black bodies...

DJ: It’s important because what Anthony portrays, is the continuous struggles of the black man in America. What some  people thought was a thing of the past, he’s bringing to the forefront as a reminder of what it still is to this day and as a black man myself, i appreciate him for being aware of the responsibility as an artist with the platform that he has.

KH: Where would you like to see your work in the future in relation to dance or performance art in general? 

What areas are you interested in exploring?

DJ: I’d like to continue to see my work become well received...Something that will stand the test of time. With the choreographers that I’ve been blessed to work with, I think it’ll do just that because what they’re doing is telling stories that will forever resonate with the audience. All I can do is keep doing the work & the rest will follow. Eventually, I would love to do scores for films next.

KH: Paige Fraser has set a new work on Northwestern University, are you involved in her process at all?

Ascension by Paige Fraser

DJ: Absolutely! It’s a beautiful piece and I’m very proud to have been a part of her process in some way. This will be her first commission on a university so this is pretty major for her. She’s poured her heart and soul into this new work and it definitely shows. I’m very happy to witness her growth as an artist.

Ascension by Paige Fraser

KH: Is there anything you have in the works across the board that you'd like to mention or share?

DJ: There’s definitely more things to come with Anthony’s new work. In the meantime, I’m just continuing to create and making sure that my love for it all is being preserved at the end of the day.

KH: Is there any advice that you could offer to aspiring artist about doing what they Love?

DJ: As cliche as this may sound, there’s nothing but truth behind telling someone to never giving up. The work that you continue to put in, is never in vain. That work is there to prepare you for the many opportunities that lies ahead for you so just keep doing the work and always keep an open mind.

KH: Thank You Darryl

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