Space and Symphonic Frontiers

Whether you’re a secret NPR fan who tunes in from time to time to get your “serious” on or a full-blown out-of-the-closet-in-love-with-it type of listener, you’ve most likely heard announcements for events at Symphony Space and thought, “What kind of space is this, really?” Is it all about the symphony or does it showcase cool music, too? Are there any other types of shows that go on here? And, perhaps most importantly, who actually goes to these events?

I was wondering myself until I saw Miranda July at Symphony Space not too long ago. She’s a peculiar writer/actor/performance artist and the mind behind the irresistibly engaging and quirky films Me and You and Everyone We Know and the more recent The Future. Her appearance at Symphony Space was part of Selected Shorts, an ongoing series of contemporary writers reading their work. The readings involve celebrities, other writers, dancers and whatever makes the sometimes-stale literary event into something else. An artful happening, if you will.

And that’s what Symphony Space does to the idea of the symphony itself. Check out the Cutting Edge Concerts and New Music Series. See old material re-imagined (Sondheim on solo piano? By a jazz dude?). Be moved by ancient, otherworldly instruments playing trippy music. Bring your kids to check out Caspar Babypants, the alter ego of the lead singer from the Presidents of the United States of America. He now makes indie rock for children. All this is in a room so sweetened with acoustic perfection that you might find yourself transported inside one of those high-end headphone sets with the package that reads, “For the discerning audiophile.”

There are a lot of interesting events this April at Symphony Space, but if I had to choose one, I’d make my way back to the Selected Shorts Series. The final installment of the month (on April 25) features one of my favorite writers, Zadie Smith, and the award-winning Irish novelist Colm Tóibín “joining forces to present stories they love.” I suppose that’s what Symphony Space is, after all: A great place to visit for people who like a little rock and roll with their classical, a bit of play in their profundity and a healthy dose of levity in their heavy space.

alan semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a writer, musician, English teacher, and occasional visual artist. Besides LI Pulse, his work has appeared in Newsday, Adbusters, Chain, The Lyric Review and numerous other print and online publications, anthologies, and chapbooks. His first full-length book of poetry is In the Architecture of Bone (Genpop Books 2009). You can visit him digitally at and find out about his music at