Disney Hall, The Sound, the Fury, the Wounded Knees

1 Footsteps on Disney Hall’s balcony stairs: They clatter, they clomp, and musicians onstage have been known to complain out loud. Berlin Philharmonic violinists, over on stage left, could be seen mocking the noisemaking before the start of one of their recent concerts here. Wanna bet they don’t do that in Berlin?

2 Want some real sound? Arrive early and drive down to Level 4 of the parking garage when it’s still fairly empty, and slam your door really hard. The echo — 10 seconds’ duration at the very least — will knock your socks off. Come back again, with drums and a tuba, and have a ball.

3 The rows in the “Orchestra East” and “West” sections taper off at the top to a single seat. Getting into that top seat demands a contortionist’s skill far beyond duty’s call.

4 So does making your way into any seat in the top balcony, an area made further dangerous by an impossibly steep rake, a front rail much too low, and the elevator that stops one floor below.

5 Compared to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s generous layout, the creature spaces at Disney do tend to be somewhat cramped. Pushing into a row takes its toll upon the knees; the up-and-down aisles were certainly not planned with social gatherings in mind. One remembers the disaster of a few years ago, when the Philharmonic moved its chamber-music series over to the misshapen new hall at the Skirball Center and was then obliged, by audience protest, to return to its former site at the Gindi Auditorium (losing many subscribers in the process). The Philharmonic may not be obliged to return to the Pavilion anytime in this millennium, but there are the wounded spirits and sore knees to mark the ongoing tight straits even so.

6 To say nothing of (ugh!) the garish new upholstery.

7 The stage floor on the right, where the cellos sit — announced as being hard oak but obviously something much softer — has already become so pitted by those instruments’ spikes that, a Philharmonic official told me recently, it has been slated for replacement. At Zipper Hall, across the street, cellists are forbidden to use spikes; there are other anchoring devices that work just as well.

8 Not all the news is bad. On December 8, in the small café at REDCAT, that haven of computerized wizardry downstairs from Disney, the electronic cash register had broken down, and the coffee was free.

9 An independent environmental study has come up with the information that the average temperature in the Disney Hall area in the afternoon, when the stainless steel of the building reflects the sun, is 10 degrees higher than before its construction. (Expect perfection of no one, says a recent Chinese cookie; even the sun has its spots.)

10 A guard on duty in the garden tells me that this has been a continued success, that crowds push into the lovely space practically all day. They come to admire the lavish plantings, but when darkness falls, you can also watch the crowds drift toward the garden’s west wall to watch the comings and goings in the top-floor apartments of the Promenade Condominiums across Hope Street. After all, Frank Gehry did describe Disney Hall as a living room for the city.

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