Moussorgsky Lite

[fusion_text]The USC Symphony Orchestra came to the Granada Theater in Santa Barbara to play “Pictures At An Exhibition,” the only classical piece I can hum, not counting those that have been turned into rock songs. The orchestra was fine, so far as I can tell, and the Moussorgsky work remains my favorite. The gimmick was accompanying animation, projected on the Granada’s new, overrated digital screen that descended behind the orchestra. Instead of enlarging the esthetic experience, it diminished it. Our attention was divided. When something funny happened on the screen, the audience tittered awkwardly, wondering if this could possibly be the composer’s intent. Maybe because we are accustomed to seeing first, hearing second, the music necessarily wound up as background to the cartoons, not vice versa. And the cartoons, for all their ingenuity, were never meant to stand alone or even take first place. When great music is played, how much better it is to leave the images to the listener’s imagination.

One note in passing about the Granada’s movie screen, which was introduced with much fanfare this year. We have seen two movies on it: To Kill A Mockingbird and Lawrence of Arabia. First, the screen seems far away, compared to the experience of a movie theater, or even a living room. Second, the sound does not envelop you as it does in a movie theater. There is a feeling of separation; you can study the film, but you don’t experience it.[/fusion_text]