This will be the most-watched symphony video of 2014

This will be the most-watched symphony video of 2014


norman lebrecht

June 09, 2014

This is the Seattle Symphony letting its hair down at the weekend with conductor Ludovic Morlot and rapper, Sir Mix-A-Lot.

More than half a million people have viewed this video in two days. No other orchestra has anything half as viral.

However – you knew there was a however coming – this performance is a about men’s commodification of women’s bodies. It is lewd, rude, sexist and demeaning. If you don’t think so on first hearing, imagine he is singing about you or one of your loved ones.

None of the players in the orchestra smiles at the DJ’s lines or even looks up when he mentions them. UPDATE: Though we gather that the concert was attended by conference members of the League of American Orchestra, some of whom danced on stage (do shout if you recognise any of them).

This is not, in our view, something a symphony orchestra ought to be doing. Let Sir Mix peddle his rap somewhere else. Let Seattle promote itself on art rather than sell its orchestra to a sexist rant.

sir mixalot


  • Doug says:

    So, where was the symphonic music? I believe it was just pure coincidence that the orchestra was on the same stage as a rap performance. You call that an achievement? Why not mud wrestling, or better yet, strippers?

  • Anon says:

    You’ve expressed a noble sentiment, Norman. You’re absolutely right, of course, and your valor is much appreciated, but actually this is a perfect follow up in the wake of GlyndbourneGate. The imperfections of women’s bodies have been bashed in the media, now let them be celebrated.

    This song is an anthem for the underdog and it has been for a long time. So many women who’ve felt that they didn’t measure up physically hold their heads a little higher when they hear this song. To hear the Seattle Symphony play it, well it doesn’t get much better!

    This is just my personal opinion, and it makes no sense in the scope of feminist issues, but I say “Bravo, Maestro Morlot”, “Bravo, Seattle!”. And I really hope that those musty old middle-aged critics in London whining about female curves at Glyndbourne will be watching this. Take THAT, Rupert Christiansen!

  • Michael Berry says:

    At least there are no works in the canonical symphonic or operatic repertoires that feature men commodifying and objectifying women’s bodies. That is not, in my opinion, music that symphony orchestras should be playing.

  • Anon says:

    @ Michael Berry – you’re right. I guess we should just leave that to London music critics.

  • Gary Carpenter says:

    @ Michael Berry: Perhaps not in the symphonic repertoire, but there surely is in the operatic. Orpheus In The Underworld perhaps? Salome? Lulu? It’s not what they are all about of course, but they do anyway.

  • Gary Carpenter says:

    surely ‘are’ – oops…

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    What are you ranting about Men commodification of women’s bodies?
    Look at these gorgeous, intelligent and sensitive American women commodifying themselves gleefully. The most beautiful girl can only offer what she has. You’d not written a line about the Seattle Symphony for a long time but when finally US mass culture invades the temple of bourgeois musical tradition, you complain. Rejoice Norman! Soon in Kiev, my friend, soon in Donbass, down with Matsuev and Gergiev! Hurrah! See my Big O- bum-ah! Yeaaaahhhhh baby.

  • Emma McGrath says:

    It should be noted that Sir Mix-a-Lot only occupied about 15 mins of this concert, which was part of the Seattle Symphony’s ‘Sonic Evolution’ series. We also gave three world premieres, which paid homage to other Seattle popular music luminaries, and these works were very contemporary, possibly even challenging for this audience to listen to, as a good portion of them had never attended a concert at Benaroya Hall before. There was still a good reception from the audience for these other pieces, so we feel proud of the fact that we’re not just pandering to popular culture tastes, but also hopefully expanding people’s tastes and experiences. In the 2nd half we also played a short set with the local band Pickwick, which no-one seems to be upset about. In all honesty, being a part of this great and forward-thinking orchestra, it was just a bit of fun. Sir Mix-a-Lot was a really good sport, the song is a parody and not meant to be taken seriously at all. Many musicians in the orchestra were mouthing the words, and smiling, wearing sunglasses, dancing a little bit. During the same week we also did Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe (isn’t that predominantly about sex as well? There’s just no lyrics to be overtly upset about) and Dutilleux’s fabulous Symphony No. 2, which will be released as a live recording. Personally I find it very satisfying to perform lots of different things for lots of different audiences, and I agree that you don’t have to like it all, but it was really good fun and everyone at the concert had a fantastic time!

  • Doug says:

    isn’t that predominantly about sex as well?

    Well, that settles it, Ravel is on equal footing with ‘fity cent’ so in that case, let’s dispense with the orchestra altogether. It’s all about numbers anyway, right? Besides, rap and lewd dance demeaning to women are so much more fun than outdated music by boring old stuffy white men, right?

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    I am sorry, the display on stage was embarrassingly vulgar, anyway you wish to cut it. A concert hall is really no place for this type of bachelor stag act. However, having the courage to schedule and perform Dutilleux’s Symphony No.2 will not get you any “viral” time anywhere… Sad but so true; and that’s not your fault nor the Seattle Symphony’s.

  • Ronen Segev says:

    DJ? No, he’s not a DJ. I think calling him that pretty much explains where this article is coming from. Cranky! This is good fun and YES the orchestra is clearly enjoying it.

  • Tim Brooke says:

    I was at this event (I have to declare an interest, being Gabriel Prokofiev’s publisher). However, I can confirm that the orchestra were very much into the spirit of things. So much so, that Ludovic Morlot came on stage at the very opening and rapped his introductory speech to the audience, accompanied by the SSO percussion section.

    On the previous night he had given exemplary performances of Ravel and Dutilleux as already chronicled. The Sonic Evolution concert was exploratory and fun and, with a show of hands, demonstrated that several hundred people in the auditorium had never been to an orchestral event before.

    Aside from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s two songs and the set with local band Pickwick (that rounded off proceedings), the remainder of the concert (and the bulk of it, in fact) comprised three orchestral world premieres, commissioned for the event, which have perhaps been overshadowed somewhat by the unforeseen take-up to Mix-A-Lot’s offer for “a couple of ladies to join him on stage”.

    UK composer Gabriel Prokofiev (who had orchestrated Sir Mix-A-Lot’s two songs), also wrote his own 9-minute orchestral homage “Dial 1-900 Mix-A-Lot”, inspired by the rhythms and sound-world of Mix-A-Lot’s music; Portuguese composer, Luis Tinoco penned “FrisLand” (taking as its starting point the music of Seattle native, Bill Frisell), and Du Yun produced “Hundred Heads”, taking Ray Charles as her inspiration (Charles had spent a number of years living in the city).

    In two weeks time the SSO give all 3 early Stravinsky ballets in one evening. I would be very surprised if some of the new attendees didn’t return to Benaroya Hall on this and subsequent occasions.

  • DanP says:

    I’m sorry, but am I the only person who thinks this is completely moronic?