My posse's got an orchestra!
June 7, 2014 1:26 PM   Subscribe

The Seattle Symphony's "Sonic Evolution" program links up the Symphony with other Seattle area artists. Last night, the hip players at the Seattle teamed up with Sir Mix-a-Lot for what Mix described as '"Orchestral Movements from the Hood" Night'. The results are on youtube: Posse on Broadway and Baby Got Back
posted by rmd1023 (22 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Baby got back looked fun, but wow, watching dorky people dance was both awesome and painful at the same time.
posted by mathowie at 1:40 PM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, symphony audience. In Seattle. We are the ruling nation of Dork, I think.

This is the symphony I sing with -- I actually have a show with them tonight, albeit a very different program. At rehearsals this week, none of the orchestra players could stop talking about how cool Mix was to work with, even Maestro Morlot was really high on the energy he brought to the stage. There are a lot of Sonic Evolution concerts but this seems to have been a fave among the orchestra.
posted by KathrynT at 1:45 PM on June 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

This is pretty much the most Seattle thing that has ever happened. And I'm about 85% sure I know one of those women.
posted by lunasol at 3:41 PM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

<ethelmerman>My posse's on Brooaaaaaadwaaaaay</ethelmerman>
posted by zippy at 3:41 PM on June 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I envy the woman in the black wrap dress who gets to tell her grandchildren she once twerked on the stage of the Seattle Symphony.
posted by Sara C. at 3:47 PM on June 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

Sonic devolution
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 3:49 PM on June 7, 2014

(appreciate the sentiment and I am sure it was fun, but did sound somewhat terrible)
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 3:49 PM on June 7, 2014

No wonder the SuperSonics left town.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 3:50 PM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

What, no "My Hooptie"?
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 5:51 PM on June 7, 2014

The crowd was into it, and I'm sure it's hard to go in front of an audience and not play your biggest hit, but I bet Mix kinda hates 'Big Ole Butt' (well, as I said a while back in a post about Slash and 'Sweet Child o' Mine,' I bet he hates it as much as it's possible to hate something that paid for your house).

If I was Mix, I would've tried to push for 'Iron Man.'
posted by box at 6:00 PM on June 7, 2014

Every time I hear about this I think it's going to be covers of the music from Sonic the Hedgehog.
posted by azarbayejani at 7:24 PM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

"We got cello players with sunglasses on"
posted by azarbayejani at 7:33 PM on June 7, 2014

Baby Got Back was pretty funny. I thought it was interesting how little the orchestra was actually playing. It makes you realize how little is actually going on musically in this kind of rap song besides the actual rapping.
posted by Red Desk at 9:30 PM on June 7, 2014

We're relevant!

Wait, Sir Mix-a-Lot you say?
posted by spitbull at 11:11 PM on June 7, 2014

I was in the crowd, and it was the most racially diverse group I've ever seen at a Seattle Symphony performance. Not just black people, but a wide variety of POC! Audience-performer interaction is actually fairly common here, a heritage of Seattle's small-city recent history. Mix-a-lot is a well-known local guy (I see him regularly at the grocery store). On a "normal" stuff-white-people-like Symphony night, Mix-a-lot's lyrics would more properly be translated into Norwegian, Swedish, or Finnish, Seattle's retirement-age plurality.
The (mostly) white ladies of a certain age dance line-up was both endearing and cringeworthy. I was hoping for some better moves; perhaps it's hard to twerk in a cocktail dress.
I'm curious to see the crowd composition at the upcoming 5th Avenue Theater Broadway-style Porgy & Bess; at the opera, it's the only time the number of black attendees needs more than two hands to count.
posted by Dreidl at 1:05 AM on June 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

I should add it was very odd trying to describe the show over lunch today in synagogue. I think two people knew who Mix-a-Lot was, much less his, umm, oevre.
posted by Dreidl at 1:15 AM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

How were the other pieces and how were they received, Dreidl?

I found these Sir Mix-a-Lot videos to be interesting in a This isn't what you normally see at the symphony sense but there wasn't much for the orchestra to do. But at least it was a fun gimmick and one that looks like it would fit in with the rest of the program.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:52 AM on June 8, 2014

As is usual in this collaborations series, attendees are expecting fun and generally getting it. The soloists are all ready "in" with their fan bases and of course have done a lot (a year or more!) of work to prepare for these shows. The "Baby Got Back" piece was unusual in terms of so many volunteers on stage. The stage banter was a big hit in such a formal setting, but you probably noticed the four-letter words were not voiced.

The Symphony is *very* good at these minimally-rehearsed one-time shows. They're real pros, and while any Symphony musician who wasn't into this sort of thing undoubtedly could opt out (the show budgets don't allow for the entire orchestra), most of us "serious" musicians enjoy pop music as much as anyone else. Classical music and instruments in large groups don't allow for much moving around - you wouldn't want the cellos tangling up with each other and I can't imagine what the harpist or orchestral tubas could do - so the orchestra seems static compared to the soloists. Some people sitting near me kept commenting they expected the orchestra to get up and DO something.
The hall sound is much better than in the videos.
People were in a great mood, very high energy, if not the way they would be at a usual MC gig, during and after the show.

I don't know if this or the other similar series are achieving much in terms of popularizing Seattle classical arts. They ARE succeeding in getting different ethnic, and to a lesser extent, SES demographics into the formal performance spaces, so perhaps the familiarity with the stuffy buildings will help over time. The Symphony, Ballet, theater and even our two musical theaters (Broadway) are all on financial life support. The Opera is doing marginally better bcse of the world-famous summer Wagner Ring Cycle, but their space rebuild started last decade is still incomplete due to lack of funding (it's a good thing the started with the roof and backstage!)
posted by Dreidl at 10:52 AM on June 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

They ARE succeeding in getting different ethnic, and to a lesser extent, SES demographics into the formal performance spaces

As someone who is passingly familiar with the Symphony's marketing structure and long-term plans: this is part of the goal. As you say, virtually all classical arts are hurting for money, nationwide. It used to be that if you were a certain kind of rich white person, subscribing to the symphony was just What One Did, whether you were really engaged with the arts or not -- it was a class marker. But in the past thirty years, that has changed up a lot, and now the symphony is looking at a shrinking and aging subscriber base. Big corporate donations help a lot, but not enough. So the Symphony has been looking at ways to bring people to the hall who are, as they say, "outside the traditional demographic."

The Sonic Evolution series is one of those, and it is riotously successful from a ticket-sales point of view; those shows ALWAYS sell out. It's unclear how many of those ticket-holders make the "conversion" to more traditional symphony ticket holders, but the series is still young. Other ways of making inroads to non-traditional audiences include showing movies where the orchestra plays the soundtrack live - they did this with the Matrix last year - or performing the music from video game series, interspersed with the cutscenes from the game. They also have the [untitled] series, where they put on highly avant-garde chamber music in the lobby of the hall, in the round, audience members can stand, or bring yoga mats to sit on. There's a cocktail bar and the show starts at 10 PM. That series also sells incredibly well, bringing in what the Symphony calls "a younger, more intellectual crowd."

The flip side, though, of whether these events bring more people in to a traditional symphony event, is "do they have to?" It may be that the future of classical arts in America is different than the past, and that today's nontraditional outreach will become part of tomorrow's core mission. Musicians and artists have been chasing public tastes to make a living for approximately 100% of all of human history; most of Mozart's chamber music was written to be the background music at parties, after all. At least this way keeps us vibrantly engaged in the community and exploring new ways to make art, instead of just performing an ever-constricting list of DWM classical muzak favorites to an ever-aging crowd.
posted by KathrynT at 11:18 AM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

We're relevant!

Wait, Sir Mix-a-Lot you say?

One way Seattle seems to work is that it takes 20-30 years for culture outside Seattle to actually reach Seattle. So you see something like grunge emerge as the last, final gasp of three decades of hippy counterculture that finally made its way up the coast from San Francisco, which then becomes popular enough in the rest of the country to, say, put the jumper cables to Neil Young's career a couple years later. Or one sees the 2008-2009 cupcake fad being mostly over with here in Seattle, and then popping up in Brooklyn a few years later as the next fun thing. Rinse and repeat.

Still, stuff like this is the only way classical music will survive its own built-in obsolescence. Young people mostly just don't care about music written 100 or more years ago, modern avant-garde composers are writing mostly inaccessible, abstract and (let's face it) boring work that few get to hear outside of grad school-level theory classes, and we're cutting public school funding left and right, which means the music programs gotta go to keep the football players in shoulder pads and cheerleaders. So more power to Sir Mix-a-Lot. If it inspires the next bit of pop culture to emerge out of Seattle and into general appeal, everyone wins.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:28 AM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

This was fun, if a little weird. I wonder how the symphony really felt about it, since there wasn't a lot happening, musically.

The woman in black in the Baby Got Back video is off the hook.
posted by zarq at 12:17 PM on June 9, 2014

I wonder how the symphony really felt about it, since there wasn't a lot happening, musically.

The symphony LOVED it. They couldn't stop talking about it, I heard about it from at least half the principals.
posted by KathrynT at 2:58 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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