Best Arts Innovation: Untitled

Of the novelties and surprises of Ludovic Morlot’s tenure as the Seattle Symphony’s new music director, none have been as exciting—or borne greater implications for the future—than the “Untitled” series of late-night new-music concerts in the Benaroya Hall atrium. They launched last October with a daring program of musical high modernism (Cage, Scelsi, Feldman) and packed the house, creating a buzz like I’ve never witnessed. There’s no shortage of cool contemporary music in Seattle, but the success of “Untitled” is even more far-reaching; it’s drawn new listeners, not only for itself but for other SSO offerings. New-music fan Stuart McLeod had drifted away from regular concert attendance (even though he was the orchestra’s database administrator for years): “I worked for the SSO until 2006 and have seen maybe only one concert since . . . I tired of the same repertoire from year to year. The first ‘Untitled’ program brought me back, when I heard they were going to do Cage, Feldman, and Xenakis . . . Since that first ‘Untitled’ concert I’ve been back twice.” Tamiko Terada, who works for Seattle Opera, agrees. “The ‘Untitled’ series is what first got me in the door. I recently purchased my first symphony subscription ever for the upcoming season.” Imagine: Cage and Schoenberg as gateway drugs to Beethoven and Brahms. So much for conventional wisdom about modern music as audience repellent.

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