Entering this city's new Frank Gehry-designed concert hall for a recent evening at the symphony, you might have thought you'd stumbled into the wrong venue. Aqua and lavender LED lights bathed the lobby. The sound system pumped out electronic music. Young women in stiletto heels and tight skirts ordered cocktails at a bar.
This was no nightclub, though. It was an experimental late-night music event from the New World Symphony called Pulse, aimed at attracting new audiences for live classical music by reimagining the traditional concert experience. The concert began with a DJ spinning electronic dance music. Then orchestra members performed traditional pieces by Mozart, Andrea Gabrieli and Stravinsky, with electronic-infused musical interludes.
Beneath vivid light displays projected on large screens, audience members were free to mill around the hall, drinks in hand, entering and exiting as they pleased. They could sidle up to the string section and watch the musicians up close, or mingle with other concert goers.
Pulse is one of many unconventional formats sprouting up around the country as orchestras try to regenerate aging audiences and improve their long-term financial prospects. Even the largest ensembles are looking to innovate, whether it's preconcert happy hours, performances in unorthodox spots like grungy warehouses or collaborations with rap, jazz and blues singers.
Purists may recoil at any tinkering with centuries-old performance traditions. And it remains to be seen how much of the audience for these genre-bending..........
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