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Week of  April 20-27, 2001

1. Special Interest
2. Dance
3. Media
4. Music
5. People
6. Publishing
7. Theatre
8. Visual Arts
9. Arts Issues
10. For Fun



GLOBAL CROSSING: Countries around the world struggle to shore up their local cultures in the face of pervasive and seductive American popular culture. Are Americans the bad guys? Part I - The Movies. 04/27/01


THE TROUBLE WITH DANCE: No question dance is having a tough time these days. What's the problem? Nine dancers, choreographers and critics write about the difficulties. Village Voice 04/24/01

MUSIC OR NOISE? YOUR BRAIN KNOWS: The same part of your brain that distinguishes between logical sentences and nonsense also can identify a false chord sequence - even if you have no musical training. "It raises the possibility that language and musical ability appeared at the same time in human evolution." New Scientist 04/23/01

CAN WE TALK? "In recent decades what one might have imagined as a conversation between those who look at a work of art and say, 'It's beautiful' or 'It's new,' and those who say, 'But what is beauty?' or 'But what is newness?', has become very different. Basically, there is no conversation. There is hardly even a debate. Instead there is a rancorous face-off. There are theorists on one side and appreciators on the other side, and when they look at one another all they see is cartoons." The New Republic 04/20/01

AFRAID TO BE CREATIVE: Is the reason we're creative, the reason we create culture because we're afraid? After "a survey of existing literature from social scientists," a Hungarian sociologist concludes that they have undervalued the role of fear as a motivating force in the creation of culture." Central European Review 04/25/01


MORE BALLET STRUGGLES: Ballet Chicago is, to put it bluntly, little more than an afterthought in the Chicago dance scene these days. The company, founded as Chicago City Ballet in 1974, has always relied on a classic, Balanchine-esque style of performance in an industry that is constantly reinventing itself. But years of mismanagement and organizational chaos left the troupe in shambles, and in danger of vanishing completely. Now, backed by its successful training academy for young dancers, Ballet Chicago hopes to rise from the ashes of its past failures. Chicago Tribune 04/22/01

BALLET WARS: The Kirov Ballet is performing in London, but it will cost you as much as £170 for a seat. Only a few steps away, though, the "stars" of the Bolshoi are performing for about half the ticket price. But you might get what you pay for... Sunday Times 04/22/01

  • A MATTER OF HONOR: "The Bolshoi or the Kirov? The old Soviet juggernaut or the jewel in the Tsarist crown? Who will be the eventual victor? It’s a fight they both want to win, for whoever does take home the title takes home more than critical acclaim and public affection. They also take home our much-needed pounds. Life is tough in Russia these days, even for much-loved cultural institutions, and both the Kirov and the Bolshoi depend on foreign trips to keep them going." The Times (UK) 04/23/01
  • THE LEGEND FLICKERS: A budget version of the Bolshoi wandered in to London this week. "The Bolshoi makes much of the financial imperative to mount cash tours like this: at what cost to its soul? Compare its programmes with current offerings in our ballet companies, and with the imminent visiting attractions of the Dutch and San Francisco companies, and there's no doubt who's being left behind." The Telegraph (UK) 04/27/01



FOR THE SOUL OF PUBLIC RADIO: "Public radio has come a long, long way from the 1970s, when the image it projected was one of earnest granola-crunchers trying to save the world. Today, public radio is a big business (if a nonprofit one) with big money and big egos — a high-quality source of news and information for the well-educated, well-heeled professionals who can afford to contribute, and for the corporate underwriters (read: advertisers) who cater to them." Boston Phoenix 04/26/01

SENATORS ATTACK MOVIES: US Senator and former vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman has introduced a bill that would "make it illegal to market to minors R-rated movies, M-rated video games and music with parental advisories. Industry officials said the proposal tramples on free-speech rights and would be rejected by the courts. The senators disagreed." Dallas Morning News 04/27/01

AS SEEN ON TV... The Australian government has become a big TV commercial advertiser - ads promoting going to school, promoting the country's centenary... Just what is government trying to promote here and why? Sydney Morning Herald 04/26/01

HOORAY FOR BOLLYWOOD: The Indian film industry - known as Bollywood - serves an audience of one billion, with "films that have transparent plots and enough buoyancy to float the length of the Ganges. People don't like realistic movies. Day to day life is tough. When they go to the movies, they want a fantasy trail. Any movie that touches real life is always a flop." Hundreds of such films are made each year, and they're beginning to find an audience in the US. Newsday 04/25/01

THE BOOK WAS BETTER? "After death and taxes, the third certainty of life is that the release of a movie adaptation of a classic novel will be the occasion for some littérateur to compare the two forms and find movies wanting." But they're different animals aren't they? Salon 04/23/01

REALITY, ANYONE? Hollywood has never been about subtlety and nuance, but many in Tinseltown are disturbed at the seeming inability of filmmakers to portray Mexicans as anything but the most blatantly stereotypical characters. In movie after blockbuster movie, Mexicans show up either as the conniving, evil villains, or as the poor-as-dirt peasants praying at the shrine of American power for their salvation. Los Angeles Times 04/24/01

IT'S A LONG ROAD FROM SUNDANCE TO THE BANK: First prize at the Sundance Festival went to The Believer, the story of a young Jewish neo-Nazi. Several major companies were ready to buy it, until someone checked with people at the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. They did not like the film. Now, no one seems interested in buying it. The Boston Globe 04/22/01

SHOOTING LOOTING IN CAMBODIA: Phnom Penh is known for cheap dope, under-age sex and corrupt cops. What better place for Hollywood to shoot Tomb Raider? The locals are happy to pick up extra money, but UN officials don't like shooting a movie "among those ancient temples in northwestern Cambodia. Aside from fear of physical damage, the film's very title rang foul, given that the temples are still being mercilessly pilfered by antique hunters." Fox News 04/21/01



TOO SEXY FOR MY MUSIC... At the British Classical Brit awards, a controversy about sexing up classical music to sell it. Should the girl group Bond, with their skimpy clothes and popped-up music be part of the show? More traditional musicians object. The Independent (UK) 04/27/01

PRICES ON DEMAND: Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall experiments with price/demand tickets. If a concert is selling well, the price of a ticket goes up. "When tickets first went on sale for an Oscar Peterson concert, the best seat in the house was selling for $125. Because tickets have been selling well, that price has gone up to $150." CBC 04/26/01

MISSING TRIO: The classical music world has lost three important figures in the past few weeks - conductors Giuseppe Sinopoli and Peter Maag, and educator/composer Robert Starer. Boston Globe 04/27/01

DSO SUBSCRIBERS INCREASE: Auto sales may be down in Detroit, but the Detroit Symphony is having a record-breaking year for subscription tickets. In fact, it's the third year in a row that DSO subscription sales have set a record. "If we can get someone to attend once a month, that person is really involved. We're a part of their life, and they're very likely to stay with us." The Detroit News 04/25/01

PLAYING WITH BACH: Some classical music purists object to director Peter Sellars' stagings of a couple of Bach cantatas. But maybe experiments such as these are exactly what are needed to reinvigorate the art form. New Statesman 04/22/01

DEATH OF AN ORCHESTRA: Philharmonia Hungarica, an orchestra founded in Germany by Hungarian refugees, has disbanded after more than forty years. The ensemble was renowned for its complete recording of Haydn symphonies in the 1970s, but fell on hard times earlier this year when the state support it had relied on was withdrawn. Andante 04/24/01

REDEFINING "CUTTING EDGE": When John Corigliano won the Pulitzer Prize for his "Symphony No. 2" last week, a number of questions were raised about the piece, the composer, and the state of composition. The winning work is a rewrite of an earlier work, which apparently did not merit any similar recognition. The composer has been accused of playing to audiences while ignoring "serious" musical convention. But what good is convention if no one wants to hear it? Philadelphia Inquirer 04/24/01

THINGS GO BETTER WITH COKE? Opera Australia wanted to cash in on some sponsorship dollars for its production of Donizetti's Elixir of Love. So it decided some strategic product placement was in order - Coke became the "elixir" of the title. No big bucks were forthcoming, though. The Age (Melbourne) 04/23/01

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE NEW: What do orchestras owe to audiences when they present new music? New music often requires repeated hearings before it can be appreciated. Should performers expect audiences to put in that work? Sequenza/21 04/18/01

ARTS-GRANT-IN-RESIDENCE? Nowadays almost every orchestra runs some sort of composer-in-residence program. But are such programs really useful to composers, or are they about getting money from arts councils? The Guardian (UK) 04/21/01



(NEW) LIFE BEGINS AT 90? Composer Elliott Carter is still going strong at the age of 92. "Even now Carter's stature is more thoroughly appreciated in Europe than it is in his native US, where he has always been regarded with some suspicion. His music has always demanded concentration and never provided easy, ephemeral rewards." The Guardian (UK) 04/27/01

THE NEW TENOR: José Cura is the next Placido Domingo, and if you don't believe it, just ask him. The feisty and self-promoting Argentine has been building his reputation for years, and now, as the Three Tenors start to fade from public view, Cura is more than ready to assume the mantle of the new operatic superstar. National Post (Canada) 04/25/01



DIFFICULT TRANSITION: "As if in microcosm of the rest of society, the book business is being changed by the rise of mega–corporations and new technology. It's being made further tumultuous by issues of consumerism and individual rights that can't keep up. And the spate of court cases may have just put the tumult into hyperdrive." Mobylives 04/22/01

RACISM IS... Last week, a panel of teachers in South Africa ruled that Nadine Gordimer's book July's People was unsuitable for high schools, and, said the panel of white South Africans, the novel was "deeply racist, superior and patronizing. It is no wonder that this message is not very popular in South Africa, even 10 years after the end of apartheid: It is one of those unpleasant truths that are likely to be ignored or suppressed for the sake of political correctness." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/27/01

WRITING MANUAL: Want to be a writer? Here are 13 helpful rules to getting in print - "Avoid clichés like the plague." National Post 04/26/01

THE BOOK DONE GONE: The author of The Wind Done Gone, a parody of Gone with the Wind says she's shocked at the outcome of a court case that says she ripped off characters from the original Gone with the Wind and that she violated copyright. "I did not seek to exploit `Gone With The Wind.' I wanted to explode it." The New York Times 04/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NOW THEY LISTEN: When he was alive, Kenneth Burke's books and ideas puzzled his colleagues. "But in recent years, critics have read them with something like deja vu: Burke's literary analysis extends to the most far-reaching speculations about those familiar topics in contemporary theory: language, power, and identity." Chronicle of Higher Education 04/23/01

FLAT BOOKS: Exports of American books to the rest of the world stayed flat last year. It "marked the fourth year in a row of little change in book exports with export sales ranging between $1.90 billion and $1.84 billion in the 1997 through 2000 period. Exports to the top 15 markets for American books rose 0.4% in 2000, to $1.662 billion, and represented 88.5% of all exports." Publishers Weekly 04/23/01

THE MAGIC OF THAT FIRST BOOK: An author always remembers the thrill of seeing that first book in print. "Whether you're a novelist, a poet or a nonfiction writer, initially there's something giddy and unreckonable to that process by which an untidy manuscript is converted into the neat, durable-looking, hinged rectangle of a book." The New York Times 04/23/01 (one-time registration required)

THE E-MAIL EFFECT: Is the informality of e-mail dumbing down our literateness? There's no question it's having an influence. The e-mail genre affects "contemporary American writing courses, in particular the principle that content is not to be sacrificed to form. Thus creative writing, according to the latest methodology and the e-mail genre, gives preference to the spontaneous word over all formalism - a bold thought that provokes contradiction." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/23/01


RETURN TO DRAMA: Musicals are still the hot fare on Broadway, but serious drama is back. "Six dramas and one comedy-drama - nearly double the number in recent seasons - are currently on Broadway stages. And make that eight dramas, if you count Neil Simon's The Dinner Party, which is advertised as a comedy but is more serious than a typical Simon play." Christian Science Monitor 04/27/01

ME AGAINST THE WORLD: How can one play change so much? A playwright marvels at how interpretations of his play change when it is transferred from one country to another. "Cultural assumptions were batted back and forth, cultural specificity went clean out the window, and time and again I was forced to ask not what could my writing do for the rest of the world, but what could the rest of the world do for it?" The Guardian (UK) 04/21/01

PRODUCING AN INVESTMENT: Theatre is a risky investment. But Mel Brooks' The Producers had such potential it easily attracted financial backing. Now those backers stand to make a big return on their investments. The New York Times (AP) 04/25/01 (one-time registration required)

  • A GOOD REVIEW CAN HELP: The Producers, which opened this week on Broadway to rave reviews, broke Broadway box office records Friday, selling $3 million worth of tickets on a single day. (Lion King previously held the record for $2.7 million in single-day sales). The New York Times 04/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A VIEW OF THE NEW: It's generally considered a good era for new British theatre. English theatres are hot for new material. "According to Arts Council statistics, new writing made up 20 per cent of staged work in subsidised theatres from 1994-96, more than the classics." The Times (UK) 04/25/01



CASHING IN ON ART: "For years synonymous with showgirls, gambling, and glitz, Las Vegas is reinventing itself: High culture is the gambit this time, and, in true Vegas style, there's nothing small about these new ambitions. "If you look at the history of art in the Western world, where the support is you are going to find art being made, whether that support is coming from banks or businessmen. Now, we're finding casinos with the money, and they are investing in art and culture." Christian Science Monitor 04/27/01

ANOTHER DOTCOM CASUALTY: Last year, as everyone was getting into the dotcom business, the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Museum announced a joint web project. So where is it? The project's been dissolved... The New York Times 04/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SMITHSONIAN TURMOIL: Lawrence Small, a former investment banker who was president of Fannie Mae, is only the second non-scientist to lead the Smithsonian in more than 150 years. But his leadership so far has riled almost everyone. "In the short 15 months since he assumed that office he has become what is surely the most reviled and detested administrator in the Institution's history." Washington Post 04/27/01

IS THE BUST A BUST? A marble bust on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art was suddenly and quietly removed a few weeks ago. Now some critics "want to know why, if the museum was so confident the bust was genuine, did it take the piece down so quickly and refuse to provide evidence to back up its claims?" 04/26/01

STEAMED BACON: Francis Bacon's estate has filed suit against the artist's former gallery, alleging "undue influence" and breach of duty in a claim which could be worth £100 million The estate claims Marlborough kept up to 70 percent of the revenue from sales it made. BBC 04/25/01

HYPE OVER CRITICISM: How many Guggenheims are too many? Hard to say. Director Thomas Krens suggests there may one day as many Goog outposts as there are Starbuck's. The museum buildings themselves have become as big an attraction as the art inside. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/24/01

A HIT WITH THE CROWDS: Though its former curator continues to criticize it, Australia's Museum of Contemporary Art had its most successful year last year, with a 74 percent increase in attendance. Sydney Morning Herald 04/25/01

FAKE STOLEN TURNERS: It looked like two Turners stolen from the Tate were finally about to be returned. But at the "drop" it was obvious the canvases were fakes. "They weren't just bad fakes, they were awful. It became clear the whole thing was just a scam by two chancers." The Guardian (UK) 04/23/01

THE BUSINESS OF MUSEUMS: "In recent years, California politicians have learned that providing the home folks with swimming pools and fire trucks would win them front-page publicity, which is why the state budget has been saturated with such items. But perhaps the most intriguing form of contemporary pork barrel spending is an explosion of state-financed museums commemorating one thing or another." Sacramento Bee 04/23/01

NUTTY GENIUS: Le Corbusier may have been a genius at architecture. But he was also completely nuts - indeed, it's amazing he ever managed to design anything, says a new book. London Evening Standard 04/22/01

AIN'T IT GRAND: Venice is planning a new bridge across the Grand Canal. "The design by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, combines an innovative shape with a span of 83 metres and a width of nine. It will be the only bridge in Venice to be illuminated at night." It should be completed by next year. The Art Newspaper 04/23/01

SHOULD COLLECTIONS BE OPEN? Few museums have more than a tiny fraction of their permanent collections on display at any one time. But some museums are trying to make more of their collections available. Some laud the new openness. Others think it a bad idea. "Big collections are treasures, but you have to put it in some context people can relate to. The public wants stories – they don't want row upon row of stuff." US News 04/30/01

LOSING THE INITIATIVE: Have other media surpassed traditional visual arts? Jean-Christophe Ammann, director of the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt thinks so: "The problem is that artists today react rather than act. With all the media available to them, they have somehow still failed to create valid and uniquely identifiable models." The Art Newspaper 04/20/01



NEA CHIEF TO LEAVE JOB: Bill Ivey has resigned as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Ivey, appointed by Bill Clinton had said he'd like to stay on in the job in the Bush administration, but evidently the administration had other plans. "Ivey's quiet manner was credited as setting a harmonious tone with Congress." Washington Post 04/25/01

  • BILL IVEY'S NEA STYLE: Not many post mortems yet on departing National Endowment for the Arts chairman Bill Ivey's term. Here's an earlier assessment. "To be sure, his willingness to avoid language that strikes some as elitist has helped the NEA's standing both on and off Capitol Hill. But does it really help the agency fulfill its mission to improve the arts in America?" The New Republic 04/26/01

WHY SPORT AND NOT ART? When international athletes come to Australia to compete, their every move is dissected in the press. But when a large gathering of artists comes, there's nary a mention. Why is that? Sydney Morning Herald 04/27/01

BLAME THE CULTURE? The problems in aboriginal communities are often blamed on colonization. But an Australian anthropologist says "immense social problems being experienced in Aboriginal communities do not stem only from a history of colonial conquest, prejudice and racism but may also be maintained by certain indigenous traditions and beliefs." Sydney Morning Herald 04/26/01

SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY: Ten years ago newly-elected Michigan governor John Engler announced plans to "eliminate the state arts council and drastically cut public funding to the state's cultural institutions," earning the wrath of the state's arts organizations. In a bizarre turnaround, this week Michigan arts advocacy group ArtServe is awarding Engler a special award for his service to the arts. Detroit Free Press 04/24/01

HEADS ARE ROLLING: Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez has launched a campaign to free Venezuela from what he calls a "rancid oligarchy." And the first victim of this "cultural revolution is Sofía Imber. "Imber, 76, an art critic, founded the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in 1971 in a garage and made it into one Latin America's most admired arts institutions." The New York Times 04/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

SOME HELP FOR THE STATES: "The Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds, a leading supporter of arts and cultural programs, is giving state arts agencies $9.6 million to broaden interest in the arts. The initiative, which the New York-based foundation plans to announce today, will help the agencies rethink the way they operate." Washington Post 04/24/01

NO, AUSTRALIA LOVES THE ARTS: Last week a report was released that said audiences for the arts in Australia are declining. But a survey of major arts organizations contradicts the report's finding. Indeed, audiences are growing... Sydney Morning Herald 04/23/01

BOSTON T1 PARTY: Perhaps it's still a sign of its immaturity as an artform that art created in a digital medium is all lumped together as "digital art." After all, digital includes music, computer and video art. The biggest digital art festival opens in Boston, home to one of the largest communities of digital artists. Boston Globe 04/21/01


TV SHOW SETS UP ARTISTS/CRITICS: British TV show takes a decorator and gives him a four-week crash course in contemporary art, then passes him off to critics. They're fooled. The Observer (UK) 04/22/01

YEAH, BUT CAN THEY PLAY "DON JUAN"? Richard Lair is the conductor of the world's first and (one hopes) only orchestra made up entirely of elephants. They have a new CD. It is getting good reviews. Seriously. Philadelphia Inquirer 04/23/01