Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Season Announcement: Stanford Live

I spent the greater part of yesterday afternoon at Stanford, first attending the season announcement for what used to be Stanford Lively Arts, then touring the still-under-construction Bing Concert Hall.

Stanford Lively Arts has a new name: Stanford Live. I'm happy that there's no Yahoo!-like exclamation point at the end, unhappy about the change. Stanford Lively Arts means something. Stanford Live could be anything at all: a radio show, an online class, you name it. And its proximity to Bing Concert Hall made me put together some associations that are surely unintended:
Windows Live - Bing Search Engine
Stanford Live - Bing Concert Hall
Microsoft just killed the Windows Live brand. The Times article I link to says that nobody had any idea what it meant. Ditto Stanford Live. NOTE: Bing Concert Hall has nothing to do with Microsoft. It's named for the donors, Peter and Helen Bing.

The organization very kindly presented attendees with some nice schwag: a 2 GB thumb drive containing PDFs of the season brochure. Here's a photo (weird, I do not remember taking it upside down):

Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to plug thumb drives into my work laptop unless they're company-issued, so just now I don't have access to the season brochure, just to the press releases.

I am dismayed by the opening season: there's a smattering of new music and some interesting programs, but the season calling card is 14 programs focussed on...............Beethoven. Music professor Stephen Hinton listed a few benefits to the campus of this focus, saying that it will be a model of integrated programming. They will link to other events and classes:
  •   Freshman seminar
  •   Reactions to the Record 2014 
  •   George Barth in the music dept will teach a related seminar
  •   Continuging Ed class
  •   Research Seminar: Enlightenment and Revolution; Heroism in the Age of Beethoven
During the Q&A period, I asked Stanford's personnel to elaborate on their ideas for new audience development, and also asked how the focus on Beethoven would further audience development. Stephen Hinton handed this off to Wiley Hausam, the recently-appointed managing director of Bing Concert Hall. His answer included "The integration of Beethoven into Stanford's curriculum, student-driven programming, getting students into a concert setting who may not have heard classical music in such a setting, friends and family of students, ongoing exploration; the awakening of those things we feel when we hear such masterpieces."

In the press release, Stanford Symphony conductor Jindong Cai is quoted saying   “The opening of Bing Concert Hall will change the landscape of music-making on the Stanford campus. In keeping with the magnitude of this change, the Beethoven Project will represent a signature endeavor for the Department of Music and the perfect series of events with which to begin our residency in the hall.” Color me skeptical. What this looks like from the outside is a play-it-safe season.

The inaugural program at Bing Hall has been announced, and there's no new work, though we will get to hear works by "maverick" composers John (Coolidge) Adams and Lou Harrison.

New music during the season will include works by Laurie Anderson, a John Luther Adams commission, the US premier of a work by Steve Reich (on an all-Reich program performed by the composer and alarm will sound), and two short operas by Stanford composer Jonathan Berger (to be performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the male ensemble NY Polyphony, and others).

Kaiser Stanford?

Then we decamped for a visit to under-construction Bing Concert Hall. It's very much a construction site; the exterior glass is installed, but within you see mostly concrete and cinder block, with Romex all over the place and occasional wallboard. The sails and cloud, part of the hall's acoustical design, are installed, but not the interior wood, seats, stage, etc.

I am sure the hall will sound great, considering that the acoustics are designed by Yasuhisa Toyota of Walt Disney Concert Hall fame, and the interior design seems lovely. Excellent storage and practice spaces are provided, and fine amenities for performers as well as visitors. I sincerely hope that the seats will be roomy and comfortable.

The exterior is projected to look like this:

(Screen capture from Stanford Live's web site)

Here's what it currently looks like, from the rear of the building, in a photo I took yesterday:

The turquoise stuff will be gone, but the entire building is that uniform ochre color. I think it is ugly and monolithic, and makes the building look remarkably like a current-generation Kaiser Permanente medical office building. Perhaps there will be decorative elements breaking up the mass of light adobe; perhaps it will look better in different life. Perhaps it's intended to match older stone buildings on campus. Perhaps it will look better from other angles.

But...what counts most is how it sounds and how it functions as a concert hall. We'll find all of that out in January.


Stephen Hinton and Jenny Bilfield were extremely enthused about the effect on Stanford of having Bing Hall. I heard the phrase "game-changer" more than once. I heard about the "community, harmony, and intimacy" that would be created by the seating arrangement in the hall, with the audience arrayed around the stage and the "orchestra" section audience level with the stage.

Well - I'm not sure how Stanford is measuring the effects of Bing Hall to tell whether it develops community and changes the game. Certainly having a new facility with great rehearsal spaces can provide new opportunities to students and faculty alike. There was some mention of community organizations using the hall. I asked whether rental rates would be set to make use of Bing Hall affordable by community groups (remember the giant rental rate increases at the Legion of Honor, which chased a few groups out?), and got some hemming and hawing. They hope so, but they're thinking of community organizations working in collaboration with Stanford organizations and departments. That could be a way to exclude community organizations that don't meet the standard of "collaboration." I hope that's not the case.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It looks like a concert hall designed by the aliens from Close Encounters.