Lisa Hirsch left a comment on my December preview mentioning SF SoundBox, whose opening I had omitted. I started to reply to her comment and realized I needed more space, so here are my thoughts:
SF SoundBox. . . . I went back and forth on including that. My criteria for the things I list is: (1) something I'm going to or (2) something I'd like to go to, given world enough and time. In other words, this list is what they now call "curated." I have a number of swirling thoughts on Sound Box, some of which I will unload here, since you bring it up.
For those who don't know, SF SoundBox is a new initiative by the SF Symphony to create a small informal space for performances. It's in a former (maybe still current?) rehearsal room in Davies Hall. It will rely heavily on a Meyer Sound System. Programs start late in the evening and there will be drinks and snacks (excuse me, "small plates"). I think they also plan to incorporate audio-visuals into the shows. Basically, it's a night club.
I wish them well with it, but it's really not my thing, and not just because the late start times make it a non-starter for someone like me who thinks 8:00 PM is too late to start a show (ironically, I will be in SF that night, but it's much easier to get to Davies from my home in San Leandro than from where I'll be in SF).
I'm put off by the reliance on an electronic sound system. I know it's standard for certain styles of music, and it's creeping more and more into "classical" performances, but I think hearing music in the moment and without enhancement is worth the trouble and enhanced music maybe not so much (as with everything I'm saying, I realize that opinions and tastes will differ on this).
I'm really put off by the self-consciously cool vibe. I assume they're trying for an SF equivalent of NY's Poisson Rouge, which I'm sure is a fun place for many but I always imagine people sitting there self-consciously eating nachos (or other foods that crunch) and deliberately talking during the music to show they "get it." If you really want to listen to music, as opposed to basking in your own coolness, you are OK with sitting there silently. You are also OK with not imposing yourself on those around you. That's something that has evolved in concert halls. Night clubs are different. And that's great, but that's why I don't go to night clubs (or whatever the kids call them these days).
I wonder what kind of research they did on the potential of a place like this, or whether they're just dreaming of a cool involved late-night audience that would of course eat this up with a spoon. As ad agencies and politicians know, you can get awfully far by appealing to how people want to see themselves, as opposed to how they actually have to live, but how many people are going to show up often enough for late-night innovative concerts for this to be worth the expenditure?
Also: though I find it admirable of the SF Symphony to experiment with new types of concerts and concert presentations, I have to say I'm puzzled that most of these ventures, however interesting and worthwhile and fun on their own, do not involve major musical works for orchestra, which is the basic purpose of a symphony orchestra. It seems like an admission of defeat, in a way, as if they feel large orchestras just really aren't what people want these days. But what else are they for? There are already lots of groups that perform chamber music or have interactive concerts etc. (Contrast this with the Berkeley Symphony, which has a major commitment to big new works for orchestra, as opposed to the little tidbits the SF Symphony drops into its schedule).
So: I wish them well, I hope it's a big success, I'm sure I'm missing out, but: this is not for me.