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Charlotte Symphony Launches Innovative MERGE Series at Blackbox Theater

Symphonic and electronic combine with visual LED display for immersive experience

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This custom content article is supported by the Charlotte Symphony. Learn more about the organization’s MERGE: Symphonic x Electronic shows below and get tickets to their upcoming performances happening May 10-11 at Blackbox Theater.

Building on efforts to increase accessibility and reach more listeners where they are, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra this weekend will partner with Blackbox Theater to host a series of experimental immersive events called MERGE: Symphonic x Electronic. 

The first two shows will blend orchestral works performed by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (CSO) with contemporary electronic music and an LED projection show, creating a multisensory experience set to take place at Blackbox on May 10-11.

MERGE aims to explore the edges of musical possibility alongside live visual artistry, according to a release that announced the collaboration in March. The program will include works by composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and John Luther Adams, which will be merged with ambient downtempo soundscapes crafted by producer and DJ Push/Pull. 

Push/Pull stands behind a computer and turntables with a red, smoky background
Push/Pull will perform alongside the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra at Blackbox Theater on May 10-11 for a new event series titled MERGE: Symphonic x Electronic. (Photo by SIC Images)

CSO resident conductor Christopher James Lees will lead the orchestra during the weekend slate of MERGE shows. 

“It’s been incredibly exhilarating to collaborate with Push/Pull and fuse our distinct musical styles into this thrilling program,” Lees said. “In today’s multimedia-driven society, we hear as much with our eyes as we do with our ears, and we listen with our entire body at any performance. At MERGE, we’ll put the audience at the center of this visceral experience, fully immersing the room in sound and light.”

Read more: Charlotte Symphony’s Christopher James Lees Prepares Another Concert in Film For The Force Awakens

Charlotte Symphony CEO and president David Disk said this weekend’s event will mark “the beginning of an experimental initiative aimed at redefining the orchestra experience and engaging new audiences.” 

The evening will include original compositions by Push/Pull as well as arrangements by Asheville-based composer Benjamin Hjertmann, crafted specifically to help merge the sounds of CSO with electronic pieces, transcending conventional musical boundaries. 

Christopher James Lees leads the Charlotte Symphony for a score of Star Wars
Resident conductor Christopher James Lees will lead the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra during MERGE: Symphonic x Electronic. (Courtesy of Charlotte Symphony)

Tenorless, an artist who specializes in creating visual displays to match music, will use LED walls and projectors to create an immersive visual experience while the CSO and Push/Pull perform. 

“When these two worlds — classical and electronic — come together, they remind us that at their heart, both are simply tools in the hands of artists,” said Push/Pull. “Instruments and computers alike sit silently until brought to life by human creativity and passion. This event celebrates the merging of classical music’s tradition, virtuosity and composition with the expansive new sound design possibilities that electronic music provides. As we look forward to this unique blend of past and future, tradition and innovation, we’re reminded of the limitless potential of music to evolve and inspire.” 

Blackbox Theater, a music venue located on East Sugar Creek Road in what will become The Pass development at the northern tip of the NoDa neighborhood, has partnered with Blumenthal Arts for events in the past, which is what led to the new collaboration with Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, according to Blackbox owner Jay Tilyard. 

Tilyard said that, though the CSO is taking the lead on much of the planning and execution for the upcoming MERGE events, he has seen enough during those planning sessions to leave him intrigued about how the whole thing will play out. 

“The concept has changed a few times, as all that are involved are finding the best and most realistic path forward and how to deal with the limitations of time, space, technology and even audio mixing,” Tilyard told Queen City Nerve. “The placement of the instruments will be a big part of the immersion, but adds to the task of mixing live audio under unusual circumstances. I think it will be a fun challenge and will have some really cool results.” 

Read more: Raving at Blackbox Theater for Club Mythos Reunion Night

Doors open at 8 p.m. for each of the two MERGE performances. CSO and Push/Pull will perform at 9 p.m. Late Night Takeover, presented by Kouch Kollective, will begin with a live DJ set by Jack the Giant at midnight, followed by Empti b2b Scratch The Surface b2b Poetic beginning at 1 a.m. 

Tickets for MERGE: Symphonic x Electronic start at $20. Blackbox Theater, located at 421 E Sugar Creek Rd, is an 18+ venue and requires valid ID for entry. 

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