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Week of  June 2-8, 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


BETTER LIVING THROUGH ART: Its economy in shambles, its system controlled by criminals, some are proclaiming that Russia is finished as a force in the world. Russian art, on the other hand, after a difficult decade, seems to be doing better and better. Can Russia-the-country learn some lessons from Russia-the-art? 06/06/01


SALMAN RUSHDIE ON THE EVILS OF REALITY TV: "The television set, once so idealistically thought of as our window on the world, has become a $2-shop mirror instead. Who needs images of the world's rich otherness, when you can watch these half-familiar avatars of yourself - these half-attractive half-persons - enacting ordinary life under weird conditions? Who needs talent, when the unashamed self-display of the talentless is constantly on offer?" The Age (Melbourne) 06/07/01

YOU GOT RHYTHM: Research with a bunch of finger-tapping volunteers shows that people do have an innate sense of rhythm, and can adjust to changes in tempo which are too subtle to be perceived consciously. The next step is to see if these findings explain why musicians in a group can synchronize so well. The New Scientist 06/03/01


THE ROYAL BALLET'S NEW DIRECTION: After 15 years, London's Royal Ballet has a new director. Ross Stretton is loading up his first season with new works by choreographers, many of whom are new to the company. The Times (UK) 06/06/01

PHILLY DANCES: In the mid-90s it looked like modern dance might be finished in Philadelphia after three important choreographers closed their companies and left. But instead, dance is thriving, with new companies, a rejuvenated audience and a lively mix of new choreographers. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/03/01

A NEW PATRON FOR ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET: The Duke of York - "better known for his action-man associations, a passionate devotion for golf and a figure more suited to an operatic baritone" - will succeed the late Princess Diana as patron of the English National Ballet. The Times (UK) 06/06/01


PBS MAKES AN EFFORT: America's Public Broadcasting Service announced what it called a major programming shake-up for the coming fall season. Changes include a new free-flowing documentary program which sounds an awful lot like public radio's "This American Life," and a slot for some vaguely defined "reality TV." Even with the changes, however, PBS still isn't taking any serious chances to attract new viewers. Nando Times (AP) 06/08/01

THE CASE OF THE FAKE BLURBS: Just why would Sony make up blurbs by a fake critic to hype its movies? And why such lame blurbs at that? Does anyone really pay attention to those unfailingly positive snippets from critics published in movie ads? Critics know the worth of their opinions don't they? MSNBC 06/06/01

  • MOVIE FANS SUE SONY: Sony has now repeatedly apologized for creating a fictitious blurbmesiter to hype Sony movies. But that's not good enough for two movie fans, who are suing Sony for "deceptive, unfair and unlawful business practices." They mean to hurt Sony. 06/08/02

RUNNING IN PLACE: Is the Australian Broadcasting Company sinking? Management is deserting, and "ratings have dropped by 20 per cent since the start of the year, and the national broadcaster now has a low 13 per cent share of the audience in five capital cities, down from an all-time high of 24 per cent." Why? ABC's schedule is essentially the same as it was five years ago. The Age (Melbourne) 06/04/01

"R" - KISS OF DEATH: A new study says that movies receding an "R" rating "can lose as much as 40 percent of potential opening-weekend earnings because of stricter compliance with the R rating's ban on viewers under 17 who aren't accompanied by a parent or guardian." Boston Herald (AP) 06/04/01

NATIONAL EXPOSURE: Why does Los Angeles' public television station produce so little national programming? "Sitting in the nation's film and television production capital, not to mention its second-largest TV market, KCET contributes relatively little original programming to PBS's national schedule. Its 45 hours in fiscal 1999 were approximately one-fifth of what PBS's top producer, WNET in New York, provided." The New York Times 06/03/01 (one-time registration required for access)


CATCHING A PLAGIARIST: In the world of new music, plagiarism can be hard to detect, and harder to prove. Composers borrow themes from each other and from their own previous works all the time, and who is to say where the line is drawn? And since most new music is not widely heard, many experienced musicians may be unaware that a plagiarized work has been performed elsewhere under a different name. In Washington, D.C., it took a member of the audience to catch a composer's deception. Washington Post 06/07/01

TOWER SQUEEZES CLASSICAL INDIES: Record store giant Tower Records is trying to set new terms for small independent labels of classical music. The chain has been losing money, and now it wants the labels to wait longer for their money. The indies say the changes would ruin them. The New York Times 06/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LOOKING AHEAD: Ottawa's recent "Strings of the Future International String Quartet Festival" made a point of celebrating not only the classic sound and unique musical mesh of the form, but the time-honored tradition of pushing the limits of what two violins, a viola, and a cello can do. The future may sound very different than what we're used to, but quartets plan to be around, regardless. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/07/01

REMAKING THE ROYAL OPERA: "Over the past four years a succession of chief executives has pledged to improve access to the Covent Garden: cheaper seats, schools' nights, TV relays, giant screens in the piazza. And, to greater or lesser degree, they have failed." What makes new Royal Opera chief Tony Hall think he can do better? The Guardian (UK) 06/06/01

  • AN ENCOURAGING START: "As though flourishing a mission statement of consumer choice and value for money, Hall has produced a schedule that is by far the richest since Georg Solti's opening season in 1961." The Telegraph (UK) 06/06/01

FINALS LIST FOR CLIBURN RAISES EYEBROWS, AND HACKLES: Six finalists have been picked in the Cliburn Piano Competition, but the judges' choices were far from popular. "Flash will beat class every time," complains one critic. "Some of the choices are obvious," says another. "But some prompt the inevitable 'What on earth were they thinking?'" You can judge for yourself; audio clips of performances at the competition are available on line [Real Audio required], and another site provides biographies of all the competitors and the judges. And to wrap it up, there's the Cliburn Competition site as well. Dallas Morning News & Fort Worth Star-Telegram 06/05/01

  • LOUDER FASTER... After listening for a week to pianists in the first round of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, critic Scott Cantrell has some suggestions for wannabe competitors - playing loud and fast might get you applause - but applause isn't everything... Dallas Morning News 06/03/01

MIGRANT LABOUR: "British oboists, cellists, opera singers and ballet dancers are alleging that cut-rate and, many argue, second-rate performers from the former Soviet bloc threaten to cost British performers their livelihood." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/03/01

WHERE ARE THE BUYERS? Canadian recording companies are holding emergency meetings next week to discuss a dramatic drop in CD sales. What has happened? "Hundreds of thousands of music lovers are now using technology that punctures the formerly airtight box that bonded recording artist with record labels, retailers and customers. They aren't hard to find. Give them the protection of anonymity and they will tell you their stories of plundering." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/03/01

DOWNMARKET: The Pittsburgh Symphony is feeling the effects of Wall Street's downturn. "The PSO's endowment was a robust $133 million going into this fiscal year. The size of the endowment put the organization in the top 10 for American orchestras. As it nears the end of its fiscal year on Aug. 31, however, the endowment fund has dropped to $113 million." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/03/01


CRACKING THE TIC CODE: Jazz pianist Michael Wolff has achieved no small measure of success, and has done so despite a disability that has sidelined countless other performers. Tourette's Syndrome is one of the most misunderstood conditions out there, but in the eccentric world of jazz performers, Wolff has had no trouble being accepted. Washington Post 06/08/01

READY TO PILE ON? As a critic, James Wolcott is brutal in his assessment of others - especially other critics. Now he's about to release a book. A novel. About a cat. Revenge, anyone? New York Magazine 06/04/01

A GAY PLAY? REALLY? NY theatre critics Ben Brantley and John Simon were guests on Charlie Rose last week, when the conversation took a bizarre turn: " 'There's a type of play that Ben likes that I don't,' Simon said. 'For lack of a better word, I would call it the homosexual play.' Brantley looked stunned. 'I don't quite categorize it like that,' he replied. 'Well . . . sometimes categories creep up on one without one's even realizing that they're there,' lectured Simon." New York Post 06/06/01

BEING PHILIP GLASS: "You spend your whole life pining for the moment when you can play as much music as you want to, and write as much as you want to, and interact and collaborate with anyone you want to, practically -- and it's taken me 40 years to get to this point from the time I was a student -- and the trouble with it is that it's a very demanding but very exciting life." CNN 06/04/01



THIS YEAR'S HOTTEST PUBLISHING PHENOM? Jabez - it's a kind of "anti-self help book. "Since November, The Prayer of Jabez has sold 4.5 million copies, zooming to the top of myriad best-seller lists." What's the attraction? "It may be that the Jabez craze is driven not so much by our insatiable desire to be richer, thinner, more significant - but by our exhaustion in the effort." The New Republic 06/06/01

ORANGE PRIZE WINNER: Australian novelist Kate Grenville wins the Orange Prize, the UK's richest fiction award, worth 30,000, for The Idea of Perfection. Margaret Atwood, who had previously won the Booker Prize had been the favourite. BBC 06/06/01

  • GENDER WAR: The Orange Prize for Literature goes to "the best English-language book authored by a woman and published in Britain." But this year, administrators of the prize decided that a parallel all-male jury would be created to come up with its own list of finalists, but that only the decisions the all-female jury would count. "It's at this point that most people intelligent enough to read and write, or at least to blink their eyes, might begin to suspect that establishing two competing juries, one male and one female, for the same award was a surefire headline-grabbing publicity stunt designed to morph into a headline-grabbing gender war." Ottawa Citizen 06/04/01

E-BOOKS FORGOTTEN? At this year's BookExpo, traffic was brisk in the print-book areas. But "it was a different scene in the area referred to by many conference goers as the Internet Ghetto. Business on publishing's new frontier was quiet and the number of exhibitors was way down, from 120 in 2000 to 80 this year. Last year, all anybody talked about was e-publishing. This year, the subject was as rare as an out-of-print book." Wired 06/04/01

BOOK SALES DOWN: "Despite a healthy economy and the popularity of J.K. Rowling's novels about a kid wizard, sales of general interest books dropped 3.3% in the USA last year, according to an industry study." USAToday 06/04/01

HOW TO RUIN THE AUSTRALIAN BOOK INDUSTRY: Australia proposes to change its copyright laws and admit books published in other countries without tariff. "But if Australia becomes an open market, the Australian publisher will have to compete with American and British editions of the same book. Safe inside their own copyright territory, the Americans and British get Australia as a bonus. They don't even have to pay the author for this new market, because of the firmly entrenched practice of paying export royalties." Sydney Morning Herald 06/04/01


LET'S CANCEL THE TONYS ON TV: So this year's Tony broadcast's ratings went up. "In principle, the show's mix of artistic celebration and commercial improvement sounds great. If the Tony telecast could bring bigger audiences to Broadway without doing more harm than good, who would complain? But it can't. The Tony telecast diminishes what the Tony awards celebrate, and a great deal more besides, and ought to disappear before it can do so again." The New Republic 06/06/01

SHOULD AWARDS BE DITCHED? There are too many awards. They encourage all the wrong sorts of behavior. So "should there be a moratorium on theatre awards? Is the whole process corrupt, commercial, absurd? Are there just too many awards? Or is award-granting a real service to the theatre community and to the public at large?" Backstage 06/07/01

ENGLISH RULES: "The language of international commerce is perceived as cosmopolitan, cool and attractive to a younger, increasingly sophisticated audience - which is why it is used to advertise everything from cigarettes to high fashion." Theatre too. Frankfurt's English Theatre is thriving - in fact it's the cool place for Germans to hang out. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/08/01

PRODUCERS PRODUCES: True to predictions, The Producers walked away with most of the trophies at Sunday night's Tony Awards. Producers won a record 12 Tonys. "The show had already broken two Broadway records, selling more than $3 million worth of tickets the day after it opened and drawing 15 Tony nominations, beating the previous record, held by Company in 1971." The New York Times 06/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • STRONGEST LINK: " 'Voting people off the island' is part of what Tony voters have done by giving The Producers every one of the record 12 Tonys for which it was nominated - the small island of Manhattan doesn't have room for everyone. For some shows, closing notices will not be long in waiting. For a few besides The Producers - Proof, 42nd Street - awards will lead to profitable tours into that larger world for which Broadway is the tryout." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/04/01

GOODBYE BRITS: "The success of The Producers and 42nd Street surely marks the last rites of the doomy, gloomy through-sung British blockbusters that conquered the world in the Eighties and kept on running for most of the Nineties. The joy in New York at getting back to what it has always done best is everywhere apparent, not least at Sunday night's Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall." The Telegraph (UK) 06/05/01

HUGHES QUITS: By most accounts, over the past four years Doug Hughes had reinvigorated New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre as its artistic director, and had ambitious plans for the future. But Monday he abruptly resigned, citing an "unworkable" relationship with the chairwoman of the board of trustees. It's a tangled story some are having difficulty swallowing. Hartford Courant 05/06/01

I'LL REVIEW WHEN (IF) I WANT TO: The Auckland Theatre Company had announced a new policy where special "media night" performances of new plays would be held for critics. But reviewers for New Zealand's publications - including the NZ Herald - protested, insisting on being able to see whatever performances they wanted. So the theatre has backed down. New Zealand Herald 06/04/01

DEFENDING THE RSC: The Royal Shakespeare Company's Adrian Noble has been taking heat for his plans to restructure the company. "Noble envisages a revitalised Stratford that is a mecca for artists, a centre of scholarship and a place that offers audiences flexible performance spaces. He vehemently justifies the new system on both practical and philosophical levels." The Guardian (UK) 06/04/01


VIENNA'S BOLD AMBITION: Vienna's new contemporary arts center is ambitious - "in its ambitions this project is right up there with Tate Modern, the Bilbao Guggenheim and the Getty Center: an international focus for the arts on a scale that only few institutions and metropolitan spaces can aspire to." Financial Times (UK) 06/08/01

TATE MODERN - SUPERSIZE ME? Tate Modern wants to double in size? "Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota wants more space because there are living artists out there, especially in America, who are reaching a certain age and are 'looking for places where their work can be seen': Elsworth Kelly, for example, or Robert Rauschenburg, or Jasper Johns. The hope is to seduce them with beautiful expanses of new gallery, so the Tate can have many versions of its room of paintings given to them by Mark Rothko." London Evening Standard 06/06/01

THE CRITICS HATE IT: Critics are piling on the design for the new World War II memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC. "Friedrich St. Florian's design for the National World War II Memorial diminishes the substance of its architectural context. The design does not dare to know. It is, instead, a shrine to the idea of not knowing or, more precisely, of forgetting. It erases the historical relationship of World War II to ourselves. It puts sentiment in the place where knowledge ought to be." The New York Times 06/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MARTHA STEWART IN THE SMITHSONIAN? Nothing against rich people - but should money allow you to choose what goes into a museum? The Smithsonian seems to be in a conflict of judgment as big donors get a very large say in some new projects. Washington Post 06/05/01

BATTLE FOR THE STORY OF A NATION: Australia's recently-opened National Museum attempts to tell the history of the country, and it has been generally praised by critics for being surprisingly candid. But documents obtained by the Sydney Herald show that deciding how that story would be told and what would get into the museum was a fierce behind-the-scenes battle. Sydney Morning Herald 06/05/01

WHAT TO DO WHEN IT'S STOLEN? "Selling stolen art in the auction business is, unfortunately, nothing new. At issue is the degree of liability an auction house has if it is learned that they have sold stolen goods--or at least goods to which the title is in dispute - and what the unwitting buyer can claim in recompense. In other words, how financially responsible should an auction house be when it fails to provide the kind of rigorous background check that can ensure buyers they aren't buying hot art?" 06/04/01

MIES BACK IN FASHION: After a decade and a half in which Ludwig Mies van der Rohe has been "the juiciest target of those who attribute the physical alienation of American cities, at least in part, to the glass-and-steel high-rises on which he was the supreme authority," the architect is suddenly hot again. Why now? Perhaps it's a reaction to "frustration in some quarters with the blob-and-matchstick work of the post-Gehry generation of architects." ARTNews 06/01

WHAT TO CLEAN? Experts are piling on in condemning the Ufizzi's plan to clean Leonardo's Adoration of the Magi. "It's ridiculous. I have not the slightest idea why they want it cleaned. These are the first sketches and first ideas that the master put down with his brush, and who is to say which of these lines were really his?" The Telegraph (UK) 06/03/01

ART IN THE SLUMS: When Jacobo Borges proposed a new museum in one of the worst slums of Caracas, critics said few would come to such a bad location to see art. "But six years later, the Jacobo Borges Museum is one of the most celebrated in South America - and not just because the neighborhood is bad." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 06/03/01

TECH-SAVVY: "Instead of taking place on the margins, in out-of-the-way galleries with the requisite electrical outlets, technologically based art, which now includes digital projects, has increasingly become the main course." San Francisco Chronicle 06/03/01


A MATTER OF RESPECT? In March, a federal judge in San Antonio ruled that the city had illegally eliminated funding of an arts group because city officials didn't like the views the group expressed. Was the decision a "victory for freedom of expression" or is it "judicial over-reaching," interfering with the right of the city to determine who gets support? "This ruling helps educate us all to see just what is the role of art in speaking for those who are different or express unpopular views." Dallas Morning News 06/04/01

OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVES: The Irish Arts Council and a partnership including the Irish Times and the national airline are bring critics from outside Ireland to observe and comment on Irish culture. Irish Times 06/03/01

AIDS AND THE ARTS: AIDS has had an enormous impact on artists. "But the epidemic's toll on the arts can't be measured only by the sum of lost artists, their unfinished projects and unmet potential. A climate marked by caution, accommodation and a sometimes gutless superficiality is also part of the disease's legacy." San Francisco Chronicle 06/03/01

SANTA FE THEATRE: "Santa Fe's newest performance space is also one of its oldest. The 70-year-old Lensic Theater - a film and vaudeville palace that became a mainstay for generations of local movie-goers - has been reborn" as a performing arts venue. Backstage 06/07/01

A LITTLE CULTURAL DEBATE: As the British election gets closer, the Conservatives and Labour parties are duking it out over arts policy. Labour says the Conservatives' "under-investment, misplaced priorities, and lack of organisation held back access and excellence" during the Thatcher years. Conservatives say arts policy under Labour has become too bureaucratic and controlling. The Art Newspaper 06/01/01



   "MANNING" SPEAKS OUT: Recently, Sony Pictures was forced to admit that several glowing quotes being used to market its movies came from "David Manning," a nonexistent critic. A Boston journalist has tracked Manning down in the zen ether, however, and finds out that "you're better off not existing. You think Roger Ebert exists? At this point, he's just a concatenation of pixels." Boston Herald 06/07/01