These days it’s hard to imagine a classical musician suffering from too much press, but Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich was one who did.

“He was an extremely tortured guy,” says Charleston Symphony Orchestra Resident Conductor Scott Terrell. “And one who was always under the spotlight throughout his life. Three or four months before a piece was released there would be articles in the press: ‘He’s working on it,’ ‘He’s finished it now,’ ‘It’s in rehearsal.’ It’s amazing, the build-up his work went through.”

In that respect perhaps Terrell should be relieved to be preparing his multimedia “Out of the Box” concert Friday night in relative obscurity.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, I really don’t,” Terrell said, 10 days before the centennial tribute to the great Soviet-era composer. “I’ll still be putting it together the morning of.”

The music has long been set, though, and as of last week the other pieces were coming together in an exciting way. Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, dedicated to the victims of war and fascism, will be performed live to the screening of a new film by local artist and filmmaker Kevin Harrison, featuring video images of Joseph Stalin, war, and fascism. (I’m resisting another Clockwork Orange tangent, I swear.)

Students from the Academic Magnet High School have incorporated Shostakovich into their history, music, drama, and arts studies. They’ll present visual and written responses to his String Quartet No. 8, and will read quotes from the composer and Stalin, interspersed between movements.

With just about every piece of music Shostakovich wrote, he had the iron glove of the Soviet government clenched on his shoulder. Born in 1906, he rose quickly in the early days of the U.S.S.R. At 27, he was a huge star when his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, set in the slums of Leningrad, came out to popular and a temporary critical success. Two years later the Kremlin rode the opera to a general denunciation of the composer.

“Much like the Nazi regime, there were ideals that composers were meant to follow,” Terrell says.

Asked to write more formulaic, folk-inspired music like that cheerful fellow Tchaikovsky (ahem, suicide), Shostakovich responded with introspective sarcastic works, like his Fifth Symphony. The penultimate movement, a largo that evoked the hardships of the times, left the audience in tears, but all the state-appointed critics cared about was the faux-sanguine march in the last movement.

Junius Wright, an English teacher at the Academic Magnet, used Shostakovich’s assertion of individuality to teach the “dystopian protagonist” of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. (Yes, sophomores, in a South Carolina public school.) Students created projects in response to the music, creating a choreographed dance, a photo essay, several short stories, and a painting depicting Watership Down.

“Shostakovich has his signature, this reoccurring motif,” Wright says. “We looked at that as a protagonist that flowed through the music.”

To explain the “signature,” I’m going to have to get a little technical, but hang with me, this is cool. Dmitri Shostakovich’s initials in the Cyrillic alphabet are (D) and ” ” — denoted in German as “Sch.” The German musical scale is lettered differently, and so our notes D-E flat-C-B are written as D-Es-C-H, or DSCH.

Shostakovich only used the DSCH in certain pieces, those which the CSO’s Terrell says were written during severe personal hardships. (He was twice blacklisted and ‘rehabilitated.’) By inserting this four-note theme, he was able to become a character in own musical novels, pieces which Terrell says are so complex he still can’t figure out just what the emotional intent is.

Not that the evening is meant to be a mind-bending intellectual head-trip. Just something fun and different — a look at a man, and The Man.