If you’ve been away for the past week you may have missed the hoopla surrounding the YouTube video of Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s (SSO) performing Baby Got Back with Seattle rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot. The video has racked up nearly two million hits on YouTube as well as a great deal criticism and praise and it’s that last bit that I find completely baffling.
Opinions appear to swing toward two primary extremes on the pendulum; haters dislike the lyrics while fanboys go so far as to ascribe virtues of outreach and inclusion.
That latter group is genuinely puzzling; if you want to an example of one of the absolute best outreach programs to minority communities that pursues the effort with genuine deference look no further than the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Latino Community Collaborations initiative which functions within their larger Lyric Unlimited community partnership program (granted, you’ll probably need to call or email in order to gather info since it is more difficult than it should be to find a dedicated resource page about the program at their website).
So where does that leave the SSO’s Sir Mix-A-Lot event? Simple, it’s a pops concert featuring a promotional attraction. That’s it, end of story. The show’s success can be gauged by the same two simple metrics applied to the vast majority of pops programs:
Did it clear a profit?
Did it damage the orchestra’s reputation?
I can’t answer Question #1 and Question #2 is in the eye of the beholder. What do you think?
Postlude, if you’re really into Classical/Rap mashups, then you’ll likely enjoy Peter Schickele’s Classical Rap from the 1990 album Oedipus Tex & Other Choral Calamities: http://youtu.be/4aq_V06-nyQ. Granted, I have zero clue why it’s set to anime but there it is.
6 thoughts on “Enough Already!”
Perhaps no more or less tacky or genius than the Colorado Symphony’s dope concerts? Times sure are a-changin’ but I’m not yet convinced it’s all for the best. What I do know is that Europe and the Far East are still laughing at us, even more than before.
Is there any data on whether people who attended an orchestra’s pops series attended the classical series? I find it unlikely that many people go to both or switch.
Question #1: I’m guessing it cleared a profit with presumably one rehearsal. Question #2: refer to Ben Zander’s Rule #6. I was at the League conference, but missed this.
Personally, I’m curious to know if that’s the case for #1 or not. there’s always the potential that a large marquee artist fee could eat into the profit margin.
It might not play in Peoria, but that’s okay. Reading the SSO’s own description (on the YouTube link), they didn’t seem to be going for ‘outreach’, or presenting a simple pops concert with a headliner. Here’s an org celebrating the uniqueness of their community. Would that more orgs would do that! As to being inclusive, there are still many people in our communities who aren’t comfortable at a symphony concert, and imagine we’re all stuffy. Showing them that we’re actually diverse musicians and all of this is on one long continuum? Yes, please!
If this was my orchestra and I knew I was going to get 2M+ views, I’d post it too. But that said, it made me feel a bit icky because I knew that (whether it was the SSO’s goal or not) it will be used industry-wide as an example of “outreach and inclusion” – just as you said. To me, featuring a 90s rapper is just indulging in nostalgia – just not the Mozart and Beethoven kind of nostalgia. And that’s fine, and hopefully they filled the hall – but I agree: let’s just let it be a promotional attraction.