Sir Mix-A-Lot, Pickwick to Perform at Seattle Symphony's Sonic Evolution

Sonic Evolution gives popular music the symphonic treatment

!--paging_filter--pOne of the many cool things about the Seattle Symphony’s groundbreaking Sonic Evolution program, according to maestro Ludovic Morlot, is that it brings people to Benaroya Hall who’ve never been there before. People such as, say, Sir Mix-A-Lot, who, before the photo shoot for this magazine, had never set foot inside the phenomenal concert hall (he was visibly wowed by the acoustics), but who will take the stage there this month—with the symphony playing backup on a new orchestration of his songs “Posse on Broadway” and “Baby Got Back.” brbrSurprising new takes on much loved Seattle music is the whole point of Sonic Evolution, an innovative program Morlot first dreamed up for the 2011–2012 season—his first as music director of the symphony. “The best way to grow is through unusual and unexpected collaborations,” he says. “They give a different perspective on so many things.” brbrIn the case of Sonic Evolution, the collaboration takes two forms. First, world premieres by acclaimed young composers from all over the world, whom the symphony commissions to write entirely new pieces that pay tribute to Seattle’s ongoing music heritage. Past events have featured stunning original work based on the music of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Quincy Jones, Alice in Chains and Blue Scholars. Next year’s plans include a composition based on Pearl Jam’s oeuvre, and Macklemore is on the list of options for future iterations. brbrThis year’s inspirations are jazz pioneer Bill Frisell (reshaped by Portuguese composer Luís Tinoco), Ray Charles (tackled by Shanghai native composer Du Yun) and Sir Mix-A-Lot (remixed a lot by English composer Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of the legendary Sergei Prokofiev). But don’t expect to hear glorified Muzak versions of the music. For the composers, Morlot explains, “The rule is it can’t just be an orchestration of the songs. They need to look at the whole landscape of the work, the style of sounds used, even the messages in the lyrics. They can’t quote material. We don’t want the audience to recognize any of the songs.” brbrWhile this might sound counterintuitive to fans (“Just play the hits!”), at previous Sonic Evolution shows, the tactic has proved a huge success—thanks especially to Morlot’s selection of highly inventive composers. Listeners are treated to complex new soundscapes that honor and echo the source material (a familiar chord here, a scrap of reminiscent rhythm there) without being enslaved by it. brbrThe second component of Sonic Evolution is live performance by an up-and-coming local band, which plays several of its own songs as orchestrated for the full symphony. Star Anna and Hey Marseilles received this honor at the previous two installments, and this year is a special case—with both Sir Mix-A-Lot (whose real name is Anthony Ray) and soul-inflected indie rock band Pickwick performing songs (orchestrated by Prokofiev and composer David Campbell, respectively) upstage as the Grammy-nominated orchestra plays along right behind them.brbrThe intention of all this, Morlot says, is to “expand the symphonic repertoire by commissioning young composers, and give attention to the Seattle music scene by collaborating with local bands.” He emphasizes that all the musicians involved—the composers, invited performers and symphony players—benefit in this scenario, because everyone brings some piece of the experience back to their own music making. Sir Mix-A-Lot knows exactly what he means. “You hear things really differently when you’re coming from a different genre,” he says. “And I always incorporate the new sounds I hear into my music.” Sir Mix-A-Lot is thrilled by what he’s heard so far of Prokofiev’s orchestration. “The integrity of the song is there, but it sounds huge,” he marvels.brbrA portion of the crowd will attend Sonic Evolution specifically to hear Sir Mix-A-Lot—in whatever form—which is, of course, part of the impetus behind the program: to bring new audiences to the symphony. “It’s exciting because some people will come for Sir Mix-A-Lot, some will come for Pickwick, some will come because they are eager to hear the new voices of the young composers,” says Morlot. “These audiences are always very mixed.” The symphony reports that single-ticket buyers, which include new attendees, make up about 22 percent of the Sonic Evolution audience. Approximately 29 percent of these new attendees will return for other symphony concerts.brbrBut in addition to making the symphony compelling to new (and younger) crowds, Morlot believes Sonic Evolution comes closer to symphonic concerts of yore. “It’s important to remember that the concert hall was originally a place where music making happened collaboratively, sometimes improvisationally. We’ve lost this idea over the years,” he says. “But when you come to the concert hall, you should be able to hear music written by living composers, who share the stage with all kinds of different artists.”brembrSonic Evolution. 6/6. 8 p.m. $19–$29. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St.; 206.215.4747; a href="" target="_blank"

The Must List: Merry Mutts and Meows, Fantagraphics Turns 40 and Geekcraft Expo

The Must List: Merry Mutts and Meows, Fantagraphics Turns 40 and Geekcraft Expo

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Watch artists carve ice sculptures outside Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion each Saturday through New Year’s Eve

Must Meow
Merry Mutts and Meows
(12/10, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.) Hosted by Pawsitive Alliance, a local nonprofit that seeks “to help end the killing of adoptable dogs and cats in Washington by increasing adoptions, supporting spay and neuter program and improving pet retention,” this free holiday adoption event at Magnuson Hangar will feature over 100 homeless dogs and cats looking for their furever home. Prospective pets will be up to date on vaccinations, spayed or neutered and those adopted go home with a goodie bag. Purrfect!

Must Party
Fantagraphics Turns 40
(12/10, 6-9 p.m.) The 40th birthday bash for Fantagraphics Books celebrates the publication of the 600-page printed oral history We Told You So: Comics as Art with live music and wild stories from or about famous artists, such as Peter Bagge, Ellen Forney, Jim Woodring, Art Spiegelman, and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, whose Love & Rockets was ranked number one by Rolling Stone as the greatest graphic novel of all time (excluding superhero comics). The comics art show stays up through January 11. 

Must Craft
Geekcraft Expo
(12/10–12/11, times vary) Not just a crafts show, this is a curated show of handmade creations by and for geeks: Star Wars undies, Scooby-Doo wallets, outrageous heels, Chain Saw Massacre pillows and mugs that read, “I’m just saying nobody has ever seen me and Wonder Woman at the same time.”

Must Sniff
Willy Wonka in Smell-O-Vision
(Through 1/2, times vary) Enjoy Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in Smell-O-Vision. Sing along with such classics as “The Candy Man” and “Pure Imagination” while devouring bags of treats, and reflect on how the film might have played if it had starred Peter Sellers—whom author Roald Dahl wanted to cast—rather than Gene Wilder. SARAH MURPHY 

Must Behold

Winterfest Ice Sculpting
(Saturdays through 12/31) “Art is not eternal,” said author Ken Kesey, and that’s extremely true of sculptures by Chan Kitburi, the Marysville postman who won the 2015 World Ice Art Championship, and Janson Iwakami of Renton’s Amazing Ice Sculptures. Kitburi and Iwakami carve their visions—quickly—into specially made crystalline ice outside Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion each Saturday between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, creating new designs every time. You can watch them carve from noon to 2 p.m., and then contemplate the finished sculptures, which remain on display throughout the day. JAKE LAYCOCK