M83 and the LA Phil

Last night I attended a sold-out concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall uniting M83 with the LA Philharmonic. Being a subscriber this season paid off as I ended up sitting dead center in the third row, Anthony Gonzalez's U-shaped bank of Macbook Pros and synthesizers directly in front of me. The program looked promising...

  1. The music of M83 (solo)

  2. Arvo Pärt - Fratres

  3. Debussy - La Mer

  4. M83 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic

...but though I love M83 and the LA Phil and the music of Pärt and La Mer, and though I think the acoustics at that venue are near perfect, as with your favorite foods it's not clear that the whole will equal, let alone surpass, the mix of the parts.

A valid concern, it seems, as the collaborative piece that concluded the concert was the least appealing of the program. Sean O'Laughlin, who arranged similar collaborations between the LA Phil and rock acts like Belle and Sebastian and The Decemberists, opted for a sort of earnest and straightforward melodrama that lacked the type of unique slow build of peculiar sonic landscapes that makes M83's music so appealing to us introverts. The collaborative arrangement featured a choir of women garbed in white, like nurses, a drum set, and overwhelming strings that left me unclear what Gonzalez was doing with his gear, so drowned out was his input.

As an event, though, it was an overwhelming success. I haven't seen the hall so full all year, the usual crowd of aged patrons replaced by a sea of what looked like hipsters dressed for prom. In this recession, an event that can bring in a younger audience and expose them to some classical pieces that are musical neighbors to a rock act they know is an event worth learning from. Having to read body language, always a dangerous task, I'd say half the orchestra bought into it and half had to strain to keep their eyes from rolling, but I find events like this more appealing than so-called crossover discs, with classical musicians playing with, say, Bobby McFerrin.

M83's solo set made good use of the acoustics of the space (aided by some aggressive lighting design), and I'm partial to Fratres and La Mer. It was a well-designed program. M83's work has always occupied prime real estate on my iPod, perhaps because it feels like an anthem of an introvert. Letting someone know you listen to M83 is like saying, "I may be quiet, but I contain multitudes."