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Music for the Masses, by the Masses

Scott Lucas | October 25, 2013 | Story Galleries and Performance

A symphonic composition played by over 800 amateur and professional musicians huddled together on the foggy, windswept shores of Crissy Field? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but that’s the idea behind the Crissy Broadcast. It’s the brainchild of composer–master planner Lisa Bielawa (a San Francisco native and Philip Glass Ensemble veteran). Here, Bielawa shows why it won’t make your ears bleed.

HARMONIC HORNS: “There are 13 different foghorn notes that play across the bay. Six minutes into the piece, there’s a section where all our horns will be playing those notes—the notes of the San Francisco Bay foghorns.”

THE GOLDEN GATE PHILHARMONIC: “When I was in fourth grade, I joined a group called the Monday Afternoon Chamber Orchestra, run by Joan Murray. She’s 80 years old now, and the group that she founded is in this project.”

BASS PLAYER: “To be a team leader, you have to have an instrument that is extroverted, plays some loud, honking notes, and is portable. I told people that, and then the list comes back with a bass player. People have shown up with their instruments and convinced me that they will be in the piece.”

THE PRESIDIO MIDDLE SCHOOL PANTHER BAND: “If I really need the sound of a middle school band, why not use the group of kids who already sound that way? To fill the space at Crissy, I need a lot of joyful sounds.”

SCHOOL OF THE ARTS GUITAR ENSEMBLE: “They really wanted to play. I told them that we don’t have electricity to run amps. But it turns out that they have battery-operated amps that they wear.”

HYPERACUSTIC AVIANS: “Turns out that there are environmentally protected birds in the sand, so we have to be careful about the direction in which we play. ‘Aim your horns away from the protected species’—I love this stuff.”

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of San Francisco

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