As I was surfing the internet, I found an interesting website: Dizzy O’Brian’s (Brian Beshore). He describes himself as a classical fusion artist. So naturally, I had to have him on my Fusion blog. It just seemed far too intuitive not to. So, without further ado, here is my conversation with Dizzy.
You can find his website and Soundcloud here:
About the Fusion Artist
According to his Soundcloud: “Dizzy O’Brian’s music defies any particular genre but is a fusion of classical music with pop music elements. For simplicity’s sake, it can be called classical fusion music.”
Dizzy O’Brian (Brian Beshore) is a musician, composer and arranger that currently resides in Los Angeles, California
Interview with Classical Fusion Composer Dizzy O’Brian
So, storytime. I am a classical fusion flutist who likes to arrange alternative and punk songs for flute. It all started out when I was in music school. I was in far too many classical ensembles at once, like orchestra, wind ensemble, flute choir, performance lab, and woodwind methods all at the same time. This led me to binge popular alternative music and eventually fuse the two. So I guess my question is, how did you end up blending Classical and Pop? What’s your classical fusion story?
I guess my story is fairly similar to yours. I went to a music school in Baltimore that specialized in classical music training and my peer group and I began to consciously stretch out our listening habits to all genres of music.
We ran an extracurricular ‘class’ in our dorm rooms that we called ‘music appreciation’ and many students, including art students, brought recordings of music they liked and there were no restrictions regarding genre. We would sit quietly for a couple of hours and listen to it all. I guess I was always a bit this way; in first grade I listened to a lot of Beethoven and, when I wasn’t listening to Ludwig, I was listening to Carlos Jobim. I think my defining moment was hearing Phil Spector’s work on the ‘Let It Be’ album and I was just struck with the idea of creating music on an unlimited palette.
I am in a small town in Michigan in the Midwest, I see that you are based in Los Angeles. What opportunities has this big city provided you, musically? Have you always lived in Los Angeles?
There are definitely a lot of work opportunities for a musician in Los Angeles. I was born in Pasadena and went to Arcadia High. Then I lived in Baltimore for five years while I attended the Peabody Conservatory of Music , majoring in violin performance. Then I returned to Los Angeles and did the usual of playing in symphony orchestras and all sorts of freelance gigs. I played in many groups, including modern music groups and this was where I started to refine my style of composition.
Your most recent tune on Soundcloud, “Young Jane Clark” really struck me. And the music video has such interesting splices of moments. Can you tell me a little bit about your process in writing it?
“Young Jane Clark” is basically a rock version of a bluegrass tune called “Old Joe Clark.” Being part fiddler, every time I played that tune I would think ‘this tune rocks! Sometime I’m going to do a rock version!’ So I did. As you’ve probably noticed, many of my titles are word plays on other titles. “Young Jane Clark” actually has lyrics;
- Young Jane Clark she went to school
And she learned to play,
Bluegrass on the violin
And smoked it every day.
Young Jane Clark, on a lark’
Took a trip uptown.
Friends all said she missed the bus,
But she got around.
- Young Jane Clark she had a dog
Poppy was her name.
Smartest dog in the whole darn school,
‘Least that’s what they claim.
- Young Jane Clark she brought her bull
To the China shop.
Took a pin from Min Young’s blouse
Just to hear it drop.
It’s actually the story of my career in music school. My violin teacher once told me to stop being such a ‘bull in a china shop,’ I had the reputation of giving professors that I didn’t like, because they were so entrenched in the tradition, a very hard time. My friends and I also got into trouble routinely. Min Young was another violin student in our class. I will be recording the vocal version of this song soon as my next project will be all songs.
Another favorite composition of mine is Appalachian Swing. What a clever name. Was your fusion inspired by Copland here?
Certainly, the title is another wordplay, this one ‘Appalachian Spring.’ When I do a wordplay on a familiar title, however, that’s a clue that the work will be something a bit opposite of the quoted title.
One of my best friends in music school, ‘Big Nose’ and I used to hike the Appalachian Trail for a week at a time during the spring breaks. In addition to the beauty of this trail, I was struck by the rich folklore and myth of the area. We made camp and hiked through various areas that were once sites of the Civil War battles, including camping out above Harper’s Ferry . We did indeed experience a few strange and unexplainable things. As I wrote the first few bars of this tune, I thought, ‘this is so bluegrass-like,’ so it became a homage to the stranger side of Appalachia. I also wrote a track called ‘A Night In Appalachia’ which is about the strangest occurrence we encountered which was very unusual lights in the sky shining directly down on us.
That is so neat! I love the Appalachian Trail as well. My Dad’s side of the family is from that area, and we used to visit the Harper’s Ferry area every year in the fall. I love how all of your arrangements have a personal story. West Virginia is certainly known to have an air of mystery when it comes to supernatural events.
How do you produce your music for Soundcloud and Youtube? What program(s) do you use?
So far I have mainly been using the Logic programs.
Would you ever be interested in collaborating with me on a recording?
Yes, I am always open to collaborating! I think that would be fabulous.
I recently read your tidbit on your website, on music and culture. How do you think music is reflecting the culture in 2021, or when it comes to the pandemic? Have you noticed a change?
I have noticed a few ‘pandemic’ themed tracks on SoundCloud. They seem to be either a theme of defeat or one of positive triumph over the scene. I, naturally, identify with the second one.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your formal studies when it comes to music?
I had violin and piano lessons as a kid and then went to the Peabody Music Conservatory. Actually, some of my best training came from Cal State Fullerton where I worked on my Master’s degree for a time. There was a violin teacher there who changed my outlook on music for the better, shaping me into someone who could be a technician but still play with expression. There was also a really good composition department there and this is where I joined some modern music groups. The professor there was inclusive regarding musical genres. I was unable to stay in the composition department at Peabody because the profs there were kind of Nazis about what you could write. I made an amusing video about this on my YouTube channel called ‘The Life And Times Of Dizzy O’Brian.’
That’s really difficult- I understand! Composition lessons can prove nearly impossible if you don’t gel with the professors. So, what is the full list of instruments that you play?
Violin is my main instrument but I also play piano, cello, guitar, and mandolin.
Who are some of your favorite classical composers?
There are many. My mainstay is, of course, Beethoven. This is music that is always fresh to me. I’m also a big fan of Mozart and, even though Beethoven is something of an idol to me, I would have to say that, spiritually, I am closer to Mozart.
Who are some of your favorite pop songwriters?
Again, there are so many but the mainstays are the classic rockers like The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Yes, Earth Wind and Fire, to name a few. Obviously, The Beatles were a huge influence on me, not just musically but philosophically. I think, in music school, I was always in one of three valances; John Lennon, Hunter S. Thompson, or Aleister Crowley. Thankfully, these days, I’m just in the valence of Dizzy O’Brian.
A good friend of mine, Kris Maraisy is actually arranging a flute piece inspired by Aleister Crowley! I will be recording it as soon as it is finished. And that is a really beautiful way to put it. I think that it is really easy to get so inspired and excited about other people’s music, that we can get lost in it. I might have to try out that practice of living in my own valence when it comes to my creations as well!
When you’re not writing music, what are you doing?
Reading, writing, hiking, watching movies or anime.
Fusion Conclusion (Hey, that rhymes!)
Is there anything else you want the readers to know about you?
I wouldn’t be doing this (writing music) if I didn’t think it was important. By that, I mean that music and art have always played a very fundamental role in culture and, if you don’t think so, start taking a look at history. A culture without living, breathing art and music is doomed to slavery if not extinction.
That last line really hits hard. “A culture without living, breathing art and music is doomed to slavery if not extinction”.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you about your classical fusion on the Fusion blog!
Thank you very much, Aleah, for giving me the chance to express my views!
Well, that’s a wrap for today! But stay tuned. I will be interviewing more musical artists soon, like composer SJR Caldwell
You can also check out some of my other posts, such as my ramblings on a classical flutist’s attempt at conducting, here.
Oh! And, if you are an arranger yourself, check out the tool Scanscore an optical music recognition program. It sure has saved me a lot of time!