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Special tribute concerts chronicle Lou Harrison’s life with musical performances, audiovisual and documentary film presentations, personal commentary, and explorations of Harrison’s handmade instruments and visual art

SAN FRANCISCO, October 28SoundBox, the San Francisco Symphony’s experimental performance venue and late-night live music series, opens its third season on December 9­–10 with SFS Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas curating and conducting two concerts celebrating the life and work of visionary American composer, artist, writer, and activist Lou Harrison. This season marks the centennial of Lou Harrison’s birth; Harrison was born in May 1917 and passed away in February 2003.

In the first SoundBox shows of the 2016–17 Season, MTT takes the audience on a chronological journey through some of Lou Harrison’s most iconic musical works, including the original 1939 version of Kyrie from Mass to St. Anthony; Concerto No. 1 for Flute and Percussion; Canticle No. 3; and selections from Pacifika Rondo, Suite for Violin and American Gamelan, and Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra—a work which MTT and the SFS recorded during the 2012 American Mavericks Festival and released on SFS Media. The performance will also weave together excerpts from filmmaker Eva Soltes’s documentary “Lou Harrison: A World of Music,” multimedia projections, explorations of Harrison’s art, and use of hand-crafted one-of-a-kind instruments built by Harrison and his partner William Colvig. MTT—a longtime friend and champion of Lou Harrison’s life and work—will lead the audience through an immersive experience utilizing the unique tools available in the SoundBox space, including multiple stages, projection screens, and physical set-ups; the fully adjustable Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system; and the use of multiple physical spaces for audience mingling and pre- and post-concert entertainment. One hour prior to the performances, a Javanese-style gamelan ensemble will perform in the venue, in homage to Harrison’s love of Asian musical traditions.

An ardent champion of Harrison’s music throughout his career and tenure as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas comments: “Lou Harrison is a Bay Area icon who personified the kind of creativity, brilliance, and political and social activism that identifies the American avant-garde. Not only a gifted composer, Lou was a Renaissance man who merged Eastern and Western sensibilities and infused them into his work as a musician, instrument builder, painter, dancer, and calligrapher. Lou’s was a generous, warm spirit, and he was a man who spent his life using his talents to advance the work of other artists as well as the causes that were important to him.”

“What I saw in Lou from the beginning was a writer of great melodies, fused with an extremely rhythmic, and often mystical quality. Throughout my career, I have been able to bring him into the symphonic fold, programming his works at the San Francisco Symphony, and championing him as one of the great American Mavericks. Lou Harrison has left us a rich and prolific catalogue of inspired work, and showcasing it in SoundBox through performance, multimedia presentations, video, and art is an ideal way to mark the centennial of this great artist and human.”

Lou Harrison was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in the rich cultural environment of San Francisco, where he was exposed to a wide variety of music and art from diverse cultures, including Cantonese opera, Native American, Mexican, and Indonesian music, as well as jazz and classical music. Harrison was a student of Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, and was a champion of unconventional composers such as Charles Ives, Edgard Varèse, Carl Ruggles, and Alan Hovhaness. Harrison was fascinated with Asian music, and often incorporated the sound of the Javanese gamelan into his works. Additionally, he and his partner William Colvig constructed an “American gamelan,” a tuned percussion ensemble made of resonated aluminum keys and tubes, oxygen tanks, and other found objects. In addition to composing, Lou Harrison was a co-founder of the Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz, CA, a music critic for the New York Herald Tribune, a professor at Black Mountain College, a composer-in-residence at San Jose State University, and a passionate political activist in support of pacifism and gay rights.

The San Francisco Symphony continues to celebrate Lou Harrison June 23­–25 with performances of his Suite for Symphonic Strings in Davies Symphony Hall, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. For a list of West Coast celebrations of the Lou Harrison Centennial, visit

In addition to MTT’s December 9–10 performances, the third season of SoundBox includes four more distinct programs, each curated by a different artist: the January 20–21 shows are led by Bay-area composer and longtime SF Symphony collaborator Mason Bates; composer John Adams—whose 70th birthday is celebrated by the SFS in two weeks of concerts in February—leads the February 10–11 performances; MTT returns to curate two evenings of Italian music March 10–11; and SFS Principal Trombone Tim Higgins curates the April 14–15 shows, taking audiences on a journey through the eclectic history of the trombone from the 1600s to today.

Tickets for the December 2016 SoundBox centennial celebration of Lou Harrison go on sale at 10am on November 14 at and 415-503-5299. SoundBox tickets typically sell out within several hours.


SoundBox welcomes culturally adventurous listeners to evenings of eclectic musical exploration and discovery, all in a nightclub-like setting. Listeners are invited to experience live music in an intimate and casual environment while enjoying hand-crafted cocktails and gourmet snacks from the in-house bar, with a ticket price of just $45.

SoundBox launched in December 2014, and the first two seasons witnessed ten sold-out shows and overwhelming critical acclaim. “San Francisco has a superb new performance venue for music…[the] tremendous opening event of SoundBox…was as exciting for what it offered as for what it promised,” wrote Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle. Georgia Rowe, reviewer for the Bay Area News Group, called it a “thrilling debut,” writing, “the classical music establishment has been wringing its hands for years, trying to figure out how to attract younger audiences. They can stop now. Michael Tilson Thomas has found the solution.” SoundBox has subsequently made the “Best of San Francisco” lists of both San Francisco Magazine and 7×

During its first two seasons, SoundBox shows have been curated by a variety of artists, including Michael Tilson Thomas, the SF Symphony percussion section, the SF Symphony Chorus and Director Ragnar Bohlin, composers Nathaniel Stookey and Samuel Adams, conductor Edwin Outwater, performance artist Meow Meow, and the LA-based artist collective CHROMATIC. Themes have included the French avant-garde, 1960s California counter-culture, technology in new music, cabaret culture of the Weimar era, and more.

SoundBox is located at 300 Franklin Street at Hayes Street, and accommodates approximately 500 people, some seated and some standing. The venue offers an alternative to that of the traditional concert hall experience. The space is designed for general admission seating with banquettes, ottomans, barstools, café tables, and high top cocktail tables. SoundBox has a full bar serving specialty cocktails and gourmet bar bites for enjoyment during the performances. The doors open at 8pm for each event, with the music beginning at 9pm. General Admission; Limited Seating; All tickets $45.

Guests at SoundBox are invited to share their experience using the hashtag #SFSoundBox on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Audience members can access more information on the works performed during each concert on the SoundBox App, available on iPhone and Android.

SoundBox images are available in the online press kit. Television segments on SoundBox have also been aired by PBS NewsHour and Associated Press.

MTT Leads Lou Harrison Centennial Celebration

Friday, December 9, 2016
Saturday, December 10, 2016

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor and curator
Eva Soltes music consultant and filmmaker
Adam Larsen video designer
Luke Kritzeck lighting designer
Members of the San Francisco Symphony
Members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus

Pre-concert: Live Javanese-style gamelan performance

HARRISON / Kyrie from Mass to St. Anthony [original 1939 version]

HARRISON / Concerto No. 1 for Flute and Percussion
I. Earnest, fresh and fastish
II. Slow and poignant
III. Strong, swinging and fastish

HARRISON / Canticle No. 3



HARRISON / Selections from Pacifika Rondo
I. The Family of the Court
IV. In Sequoia’s Shade
VI. A Hatred of the Filthy Bomb
VII. From the Dragon Pool


HARRISON & DEE / Selections from Suite for Violin and American Gamelan
I. Threnody
II. Estampie
V. Chaconne

HARRISON / Selections from Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra
IV. Canons and Choruses (Moderato)
V.  Allegro (Finale)

Additional program and artist information will be announced at a later date.



SoundBox is located at 300 Franklin Street at Hayes
All shows begin at 9pm | Doors open 8pm
General Admission | Limited Seating

JANUARY: Mason Bates
Friday, January 20, 2017
Saturday, January 21, 2017

Composer and DJ Mason Bates and SFS Director of Summer Concerts Edwin Outwater co-curate a program exploring music written in response to natural settings. These performances—featuring music both old and new—will culminate in the SFS premiere of Bates’s The Rise of Exotic Computing for sinfonietta and laptop.

FEBRUARY: John Adams 70th Birthday Celebration
Friday, February 10, 2017
Saturday, February 11, 2017

Composer and conductor John Adams curates a program interweaving his own works with that of new compositional voices.

MARCH: Michael Tilson Thomas
Friday, March 10, 2017
Saturday, March 11, 2017

APRIL: SFS Principal Trombone Tim Higgins
Friday, April 14, 2017
Saturday, April 15, 2017

San Francisco Symphony Principal Trombone Tim Higgins curates a program exploring 400 years in the history of the trombone, featuring music spanning from Antonio Bentali (Italy, 1605–1669) to Ludwig van Beethoven (Germany, 1770–1827) to Astor Piazzolla (Argentina, 1921–1992).
Connect with @SFSoundBox on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram:

SoundBox is made possible by Sakurako & William Fisher and Marcia & John Goldman, with additional support from the Scorpio Rising Fund at Vanguard Charitable as advised by Nicholas & Susan Pritzker, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

SoundBox features the Meyer Sound Constellation Acoustic System, made possible with generous support from Meyer Sound.

The San Francisco Symphony receives support from over 10,000 individual donors and 150 partner institutions.

Emirates is the Official Airline of the San Francisco Symphony.

San Francisco Chronicle / is the Official Media Partner of the San Francisco Symphony.

– SFS –

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