Shake It Up, Baby

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Tonight at six o'clock, the San Francisco Symphony will phone me. I won't pick up. And tomorrow it'll happen again. No season ticket, thank you. Going to the symphony is too predictable, too worthy. The format is old -- velvet seats, the coughing, the deadly hush, the nothing to look at, the dutiful standing ovation. Some much-loved Brahms with the orchestra on auto-pilot and a premiere of something scratchy that makes you desperate not to laugh out loud. Shush!
But recently I was at Davies Hall to see the symphony perform The Matrix - that mind-bending movie with Keanu Reeves as Neo dodging bullets. Below a big screen the orchestra played the score.
And I left excited at the possibilities. Here was a sold-out audience, 30 years younger than usual, a lifeblood for the symphony. They loved it, filming on their phones or updating their Facebooks. Nobody minded. We laughed when Neo said, "I know kung fu." Nobody minded. The orchestra was energized, perfectly in synch with the action. It was powerful, visceral and overwhelming.
Of course, The Matrix is part of the symphony's summer programming. Mozart and Mahler will be back soon. But I hope we get Matrixy material too -- magical music, but a little looser. There are more films coming up. Or, how about matching Beethoven's Pastoral with David Hockney's mesmerizing videos of trees along a country lane?
Earlier this year Gustavo Dudamel brought his Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra to Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. That was another electric evening; fresh Latin music, swaying orchestra, a near-hysterical full house.
The symphony experience doesn't have to be dead. Like Neo, we all just have to be brave.

Shake it up baby!
With a Perspective, I'm Giles Goodhead.

Giles Goodhead works as a leadership adviser and is a writer based in Berkeley.