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Classical 101

The San Francisco Symphony's SoundBox Draws The Indie Crowd

Above: San Francisco Symphony musicians perform Ravel's Introduction and Allegro at SoundBox. The San Francisco Symphony has stepped boldly to the fore in the ongoing effort to attract younger listeners to live performances of classical music. On Dec. 13, musicians of the San Francisco Symphony gave the inaugural performance at SoundBox, the San Francisco Symphony's new performance space beneath Davies Symphony Hall and home to its newest concert series, according to San Francisco's KQED. The concept behind SoundBox is simple: take classical music out of the concert hall and put it in a cool-looking warehouse-like space with open ductwork and exposed concrete beams. Instead of surrounding it in darkness and quiet, put it in the middle of a light show and encourage people to chat on cell phones, tweet and otherwise click away on computers while they're taking in the music. Instead of putting the kybosh on drinks and munchies during the performance, belly up to the bar in the back of the performance space, take a drink and a nosh back to your table and nip and nibble as you enjoy the symphony. Finally, instead of performing only the Three B's, program an eclectic mix of old and new works, and present them with large-screen projections of thought-provoking images. "It's the most comfortable way for many to experience classical music," wrote KQED's Gabe Meline, who covered the opening night of SoundBox. "It's also the perfect date night. And yes, it's the coolest thing on the block." The SoundBox space was created from a rehearsal room in Davies Symphony Hall known as Zellerbach Studio A. Plenty of cosmetic work was done to give the space the hip facelift it now boasts. A state-of-the-art sound system also was installed, allowing for good acoustics for the range of repertoire performed in the cavernous space. "The venue unveiled on Saturday had the spacious charm of a funky but well-heeled nightclub," wrote San Francisco Chronicle classical music critic Joshua Kosman in his review of the Dec. 13 SoundBox inaugural concert. San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas saw the need to cultivate new concert experiences for younger audiences who seek the new, the different, the out-of-the-ordinary. "Part of the experience of being in this space will be to hear music of many different eras, from the earliest music, Gregorian chants, going back to the ninth century, to the newest music, which is being written as we speak!" Thomas explains on his web site. "To have a space in which the audience and musicians can explore this huge swath of time together is something I've always dreamed of, and now we have it." Read more:

  • Classical Goes Clubbing: SoundBox Makes Timeless Music Feel Brand New (KQED)
  • S.F. Symphony' SoundBox Great Addition to Area Venues (SFC)
  • Sound Box, San Francisco Symphony's New Experimental Performance Venue, Opens This Weekend (michaeltilsonthomas.com)