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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Decoding Symphony Subcriptions

No wonder subscriptions for classical seasons are graying. Surveying the 2007/2008 subscription-calendar circular for the San Francisco Symphony (sfsymphony.org) makes doing your taxes look like child’s play. It also confirms that, at least from a marketing standpoint, regular symphony-going remains systemically as much about a social calendar as it does a cultural one, if not more so.

Of the included four-part instructions on “How to Read This Chart,”* it’s not until the fourth and final step that it’s suggested that the program of a particular concert (the music being performed) might play a role in the customer’s decision-making. (And the summaries of the pieces don’t help much, for that matter. Composer Chen Yi is “a Chinese woman who is on the cutting edge,” Mendelsshon‘s Violin Concerto in E minor is “one of the most popular ever written in the repertory” and Saint-Saëns‘ Symphony No. 3 is, simply, a “thriller.”)

Still, there’s a great season ahead, with many highlights concentrated in early 2008: Iannis XenakisA I’lle de Goree (with Bach and Schubert), January 17 – 19; Olivier Messiaen‘s L’Ascension paired with Gustav Mahler‘s Symphony No. 1 (which has an exceptionally ambient opening half minute or so), January 24 – 26; and György Ligeti‘s site-specific San Francisco Polyphony (with Bartók and Dvořák), February 7 – 9. There’s also a full program of Charles Ives‘ music, November 15 – 17. Among the living composers with work being performed this season are Mark-Anthony Turnage (June 5, 7) and Magnus Lindberg (June 19 – 21), neither of whom are strangers to electronic textures.

* "How to Read This Chart: 1. Choose the day of the week that works best for you to come to the symphony; 2. Find the group columns listing series on that day; 3. Glance down a column to find which dates are in a particular series; 4. Look across the row from each date for concert details."

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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