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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Viral video spins classical music world into a tizzy

By Michael Vincent on June 11, 2014

Sir Mix-A-Lot, far left, performing “Baby Got Back” with the Seattle Symphony. Credit: Ben VanHouten
Sir Mix-A-Lot, far left, performing “Baby Got Back” with the Seattle Symphony. Credit: Ben VanHouten

By now you’ve all probably all seen the viral video featuring Sir Mix-A-Lot and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra that has got everybody up in arms via my old colleague Norman Lebrecht.

But if you’re a member of Gen X, you’d probably wonder what all the fuss is about, as the song, Baby Got Back, was hip hops answer to “big is beautiful”, as told through the refrain, “I like big butts and I cannot lie” (I can’t believe I just wrote that).

Remember folks, this was 1992 we’re talking about here.

The video has been seen by almost 2 million viewers since Tuesday, and it shows no sign of slowing. It’s a public relations dream for the SSO, who has been struggling immensely to keep patrons happy and attract new faces. Little did they know it would lead to this.

The seven-minute video had sparked a debate whether or not it is a tacky gimmick, or a genius collaboration of fun and spectacle.

The video even created a new internet star known as “the lady in the black dress.” The 38 year-old woman was a member of the audience asked to join women on stage to dance along to the performance by Sir Mix-A-Lot. This was Shawn Bounds’ first time at the symphony, and when asked about her performance by the New York Times, Ms. Bounds stated, “I’ve been dancing to that song for 20 years […] “All I remember is me, Sir Mix-A-Lot, and the Seattle Symphony — as far as I was concerned, no one else was there.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 5.23.34 PM
Sir Mix-a-Lot and Shawn Bounds, Credit: Ben VanHouten

According to SSO Director Ludovic Morlot, the concert was originally part of the Sonic Evolution project, which commissions composers to write new works inspired by Seattle musicians. Now in its third year, the initiative commissioned Gabriel Prokofiev, the grandson of Sergei Prokofiev, to pen “Dial 1-900 Mix-A-Lot.”

Seattle-based Sir Mix-A-Lot was asked to take to the stage, backed by the orchestra, to offer his Grammy Award-winning single as part of the concert after Prokofiev’s new piece.

Musical Toronto audiences might recall Gabriel Prokofiev was recently in Toronto to present a number of concerts as part of his visit to the faculty of Music at the University of Toronto as the Roger D. Moore Distinguished Visitor in Composition.

Profokiev comments on his blog: “My aim with this new Sir-Mix-A-Lot-inspired orchestral work was to really get inside the musical mind of Sir Mix-A-Lot; to understand how his rhythms, textures, sounds and harmonies worked, and to create a contemporary orchestral composition that was true to the music of Sir-Mix-A-Lot.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is in all its glory:

Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent
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