Meeting Daniel Gwirtzman

I met choreographer Daniel Gwirtzman ( at the intersection of samples and the digital highway. Several years ago I immersed myself in “Agon,” Stravinsky’s last great work. S. collaborated with George Balanchine on this endlessly fascinating piece, and I started thinking about how it would feel to work with a choreographer.

“Balletica” ( came out of my effort to imagine what it would be like to be both the choreographer and composer of a ballet. Of course, I know nothing about dance other than to shake my booty a little bit when the DJ cranks out “September Song” and calls the ancients out to the floor. Still, the exercise- letting the composer and the inner choreographer vie for primacy and eventual settle into a balanced relationship- was quite rewarding.

VSL’s solo woodwind samples are beautiful and the articulations are extensive, so setting this woodwind quintet with them yielded quite satisfying results. In fact, my friend Steve Epstein (mondo heavyweight record producer, as you probably know, with about 13 Producer Of The Years grammies under his belt) told me that a single squeaky oboe note in the upper register was the only telltale sign that this recording wasn’t tracked with live musicians.

After tossing “Balletica” up to my website I googled “choreographers” and started sending out emails referring them to it. Daniel responded that he was quite busy and asked that I stay in touch and remind him to have a listen when he had the time. Eventually, he did.

And now we’re talking about collaborating. I just got back from Washington Heights, where I met Daniel (and the four young student dancers from the University of Michigan who he’s been commissioned to set a dance on) in person. Wow, doesn’t that sound like I know dance chatter!

Ah, the internet, and the constantly escalating quality of sample recordings!

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