Symphony takes bawdy route to fame

UNCONVENTIONAL: Ms Bounds (right) and other members


    Jun 12, 2014

    Symphony takes bawdy route to fame


    THE Seattle Symphony commissioned the piece that won this year's Pulitzer Prize for music, Become Ocean, by John Luther Adams.

    But it is a late 20th-century work that is bringing the orchestra broader fame this week: its performance with Sir Mix-A-Lot of his bawdy song Baby Got Back, which by yesterday had been seen more than 1.8 million times on YouTube.

    A seven-minute video of the song, opening with the lyric, "I like big butts and I cannot lie", has gone viral, stirring both admiration and dismay among other classical musicians, who have argued online about whether it was an inspired bit of fun or a tawdry gimmick.

    The video even created a new star: "the lady in the black dress", as she became known on the Web. The woman was a member of the audience who joined several dozen other women on the stage with Sir Mix-A-Lot. Their enthusiastic dancing created an online sensation.

    The woman in question, Shawn Bounds, said in an interview that she had "the time of her life" at the concert on Friday, and had not realised at the time that the performance would be preserved on video.

    Asked about her performance, she laughed. "I've had 20 years of practice - I've been dancing to that song for 20 years," said Ms Bounds, 38.

    The concert was viewed with envy by some for the way it brought the symphony to a broad audience on the Web, and derided by others as a cringe-worthy gimmick.

    For years, many orchestras have tried to lure audiences with a non-traditional repertory, from pops concerts and film scores to video game music and orchestrated versions of music by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

    But, in this case, the aspirations were a bit higher, said Ludovic Morlot, the orchestra's music director. He said in an interview that the concert was part of the orchestra's Sonic Evolution project, now in its third year, in which the orchestra commissions serious composers to write new works inspired by musicians with roots in Seattle.

    Past commissions have been inspired by the works of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Alice in Chains.

    In this case, the orchestra commissioned Gabriel Prokofiev - a grandson of the composer Sergei Prokofiev - to write Dial 1-900 Mix-A-Lot.

    It was after its performance of that piece that Sir Mix-A-Lot took to the stage, backed by the orchestra, to perform.

    "We wanted to share with new audience members the power of live symphonic experience," Morlot said.