LOS ANGELES — AT 6 p.m., as the balmy night air whooshes between downtown skyscrapers, an assemblage of the tuxedoed and begowned gathers atop the Museum of Contemporary Art. While they pack their cheeks with brie and strawberries, music from a live guitar trio wafts from the nether reaches of galleries below. Inside, the private viewing of ``Arata Isozaki: Architecture, 1960-1990'' is nice, but there is a schedule to keep.
At 7 p.m., into waiting shuttle-buses, crowds disperse and reappear two blocks away. On the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage, UCLA Music Professor Robert Winter is cracking educational jokes about Beethoven and Berlioz while explaining musical fine points of the evening's program to come.
Next (at 8 p.m.), Beethoven and Berlioz (Symphony No. 2 and Symphonie Fantastique respectively), courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic - but there's more.
At 10 p.m., upstairs in the Grand Hall, a rock-and-roll band is belting out Elvis, Beatles, and the B-52s. Red, white, and black balloons festoon the chandeliered ceiling. Between swirls on the parquet dance floor, couples raid the complimentary dessert buffet.
Welcome to the latest brainstorm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a new subscription offering known as ``Philharmonic Style.'' The idea is to attract a younger crowd to the normal subscription series by wooing them with a whole evening of festivities in one place. At stake is the future of symphonygoing itself.
``We're reaching out to a new, perhaps younger audience,'' says Ernest Fleischmann, executive vice-president, who set off a national controversy three years ago by declaring the traditional symphony orchestra experience ``dead.''
He found out recently that the average age of his concert subscribers was 60. Knowing that the orchestra pulled in 45 percent of its $29 million budget during the 60-day Hollywood Bowl season - where outdoor dining and other spectacles are legend - Fleischmann decided to soup up his downtown offerings as well.
``We also went for crossover marketing,'' says Vanessa Butler, associate director of promotion. ``We know that art lovers tend to be music lovers and vice versa.'' This season's tickets sold out (2,600 plus) in eight weeks.
``I love classical music but going all the way downtown for one concert seemed a bit much,'' says David Grober, a 39-year-old film producer, who lives in Marina Del Rey, about 40 minutes away. Mr. Grober bought tickets to the inaugural season ($115 for three concerts), took a date, and liked everything about it.
``It was nice to have an excuse to get downtown to the museum, as well,'' he says.
To mix up the action, organizers not only chose different art exhibits and classical music fare, but band music as well. After the first Philharmonic Style evening opened on Feb. 9 with an Edward Ruscha exhibit and all-Mozart concert, an international music extravaganza followed with the latest Latin and European beats. Concert 2 (described above) was followed by music of the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Concert 3 (on April 20) featured the museum's permanent collection, then Haydn, Carter, and Sibelius, follo wed by dance music of Glenn Miller, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. Next season's series of three art/concert/dance evenings begins Dec. 7.
The new idea has some rough edges for those who do not want to squeeze into a crowded bus in nice clothing, or bring another pair of shoes to rumba. And the Philharmonic folks are stuck with what the museum is offering on symphony night.
``But if you want to develop tomorrow's audiences today, you've got to think more broadly about their wide range of interests,'' adds Ms. Butler.
``In the days of perfectly recorded compact discs, you've got to give them additional reasons to get out into the arts community.''