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The orchestra manager who three years ago ruffled critics nationwide by declaring the symphony orchestra is dead, has named one of the world's most sought-after theater directors as creative consultant. ``We're sending a little message to the musical world that we mean business by looking forward to the next 50 years, rather than backward to the last 250,''aid Ernest Fleischmann, executive vice-president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The consultant is Peter Sellars, the iconoclastic and avant-garde wunderkind whose extravagant theatrical and operatic productions have been labeled everything from visionary to renegade. He will help the orchestra devise special events, festivals,and community-oriented projects. Mr. Sellars spoke of strategies whereby a wider public comes to listen, and of breaking the orchestra into ensembles of various sizes and shapes to give the Philharmonic a physical presence in a range of neighborhoods that have never had access to it.

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Sellars spoke also of his ideas for many video productions both live and on recording. He said there is a large symphonic repertoire that could call for staging. There are a number of ways of experiencing music in space, he told a gathering of reporters at his appointment.

``We very clearly have come to the historical situation where we have to rethink some aspects of the symphony orchestra and create an ideology for the next millenium,'' said Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonic's music director designate who will work closely with Sellars. Audiences for Mr. Salonen's first concerts with the orchestra this year have been far less than capacity.

``We need the kind of fresh thinking that a man of Sellar's vital imagination ... can bring to us.''