The Future of Orchestral Garments...According to Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony and The New School's Mannes and Parsons

By Logan K. Young on May 09, 2013 03:15 PM EDT

Kicking off the third annual Parsons Festival on Sunday, The New School for Design--alongside its sister school, Mannes College--presented an intriguing program called, The Future of Orchestral Garments.

Herein, Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra challenged students to envision the future of orchestral performance; the resulting event brought together fashion, music and technology in new and innovative ways.

Maestra Alsop and the BSO were in New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall's Spring for Music Festival.

"The BSO and The New School share a spirit of innovation," said Alsop. "It was great fun to unleash the students' and musicians' creativity to produce functional and fashionable performance attire--which is only 200 years overdue! I'm pleased to see that the same breathable fabrics that have benefited athletes are finally being considered for use in concert dress. The way the orchestra looks and feels on stage is yet another element that helps us create a concert experience that is as inspiring as the music we perform."

Parsons faculty members, fashion designer Gabi Asfour of threeASFOUR and wearable technologist Sabine Seymour, led the year-long collaboration.

The fashions were designed by students in the Integrated Design Program at Parsons, which enables students to chart their own course of study and approach fashion through a variety of alternative practices. Students created garments that brought together high-tech materials with vintage pieces, creating performance wear that is sustainable and responsive to the way musicians move and play.

Wearable technology, designed by students in Parsons' Design and Technology program, is being incorporated into several of the looks. This technology will demonstrate how the performance itself can be enhanced by new means of visual expression, with the garments and performance space itself serving as a canvas for motion and sound-activated digital projections.

"The BSO collaboration is one of a number of projects with external partners that bring together students and faculty across The New School," said Joel Towers, executive dean of Parsons. "Not only are we committed to providing our students the type of real world experience this project represents, but also to an interdisciplinary approach to design, which emphasizes collaboration with those in other fields."

In addition to meeting with BSO musicians during important benchmarks in the project, Parsons students engaged regularly with students from Mannes College, who provided knowledge and insight into the design process.

At Sunday's event, Mannes students performed three selections: William Bolcom's The Serpent's Kiss for solo piano, When Music is Missing, Music Sings by Stuart Saunders Smith (a percussion work for found instruments) and Lowell Liebermann's Piano Quintet.

"This partnership with the BSO and our New School colleagues at Parsons epitomizes Mannes' progressive approach to classical music education," said Richard Kessler, dean of Mannes. "Hands-on engagement with cutting-edge technologies and leading professional artists is fundamental to preparing the next generation of great performers to succeed in music's rapidly evolving world."

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TagsMarin Alsop, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Parsons, Mannes, Future of Orchestral Garments

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