Fall arts preview 2016: Composer Trevor Hoffmann thrives as jack of all trades

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      There’s a good reason we can’t tell you more about the piece by Trevor Hoffmann that the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra will premiere next month: he hasn’t written it yet.

      “I’ve been procrastinating,” the VMO’s composer in residence admits, in a telephone interview from his Gastown studio. “There’s no getting around it.”

      But if anyone has cause to procrastinate, this 25-year-old does. At any given time, he might be shopping the tapes of his Parallel 3 classical-crossover project to international record labels, crafting live-performance videos for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, or producing records for local dance-music singers. Oh, and he might also be making soundtracks for the My Little Pony cartoon series. Yes, he's one of the music producers who set Applejack and Twilight Sparkle to music.

      It’s all part of today’s multitasking universe—a world Hoffmann seems more than happy to inhabit.

      “As a young composer needing to make a living, you need to be kind of a jack of all trades,” he explains. “And what I enjoy about doing all these different things is that they all influence each other.”

      A case in point—and a possible template for that as-yet-unwritten VMO score—is the piece that Hoffmann created for the VSO’s Jean Coulthard reading series in 2012. “One of the ways that I’m trying to distinguish myself is to bring pop-music genres to the orchestra,” he explains. “So I wrote a dubstep piece for orchestra. My experiment—and that’s exactly what it was, an experiment—was to try to re-create those whomping dubstep noises within the orchestra, and in doing so try to create a unique orchestral language.”

      For the VMO’s season opener, at Burnaby’s Michael J. Fox Theatre on October 7, Hoffmann’s thinking of taking a similar approach, but with a different style of EDM as his starting point.

      “There’s a genre that I’ve been enjoying and producing quite a bit, and it’s called future bass,” he says. “It’s very euphoric, with soaring melodies, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to try to do that with the orchestra.

      “It’s quite simple music, but it’s very powerful at the same time, and I haven’t really written anything that’s been simple for the VMO,” he adds. “Everything has been quite complex. But Rodney Sharman, one of my composition teachers and mentors, has taught me that there’s a lot of beauty in simplicity. A lot of times we overcomplicate things, but less is more!”

      Except, that is, when it comes to bums in seats. Underpinning Hoffmann’s orchestral work is a certain amount of enlightened self-interest: if he is to continue writing symphonic music, he argues, part of his job is to entice his peers to listen.

      “There is not nearly enough marketing being directed towards young people,” he says, citing the VSO as a welcome exception. “The friends that I bring to orchestra concerts absolutely love it. If you can just get them there for the first time, then they realize how much fun it can be—and how great a social event it can be as well.”