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Week of  November 26-December 2, 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


IS WAR GOOD FOR DANCE? Has September 11th saved American dance? TNR's Jenifer Homans observes that post-modernist dance had become ingrown and vacant. "September 11 certainly has focused our minds, and some things, at least, are clearer than they were before. It is now possible to say, with a new conviction, that nostalgia, sentimentality, and postmodern narcissism make for inadequate and spiritually vacant art." The New Republic 11/26/01

ATTACK ON COPYRIGHT HOARDERS: Lawrence Lessig wants to change US copyright law. Why? "American copyright laws have gotten so out of hand that they are causing the death of culture and the loss of the world's intellectual history. Copyright has bloated from providing 14 years of protection a century ago to 70 years beyond the creator's death now, and has become a tool of large corporations eager to indefinitely prolong their control of a market. Irving Berlin's songs, for example, will not go off copyright for 140 years." Wired 11/27/01


SUMMING UP STRETTON: Ross Stretton is barely into his first season as director of London's Royal Ballet, but his influence is already being keenly felt. "His line on the 'heritage' repertory seems tough - ballets, he says, need to change over the generations because dancers today are so different from 'the chocolate box-sized ballerinas of 50 years ago'." The Guardian (UK) 11/28/01

THE ATHLETE BECOMES DANCE: Judith Jamison has created a dance about Olympic athlete Florence Griffith Joyner for her Alvin Ailey company. She writes about the process of choreographing an idea into dance. The New York Times 12/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A HOME OF THEIR OWN: It's a tough time to be out raising money, but the Alvin Ailey company has begun a $60 million campaign to build a new home of its own. The New York Times 11/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)


THE PROBLEM WITH COMMUNITY STANDARDS: The movie Fat Girl has been banned in Ontario because it violates "community standards." Of all the reasons to ban something, this kis the most idiotic. "Quite simply, there is no community. There are thousands of communities. And there is no reason for the most conservative and least sophisticated of those communities to impose their standards - to impose what amounts, at root, to taste - on my community. Just as my community doesn't force other communities to watch French art films." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/01/01

THE NEW FACE OF ART FILMS: "A new kind of art house movie has come to town, a distinctive type of picture with its own audience that exists alongside traditional (and still very much admired) fare, but is as different from it as chalk proverbially is from cheese. Several qualities, at times together, at times standing alone, typify these new kinds of films. But it's what they lack that defines them: Let's call these features, for shorthand's sake, heartless art films. It's the new face of alternative cinema, so we'd better get used to it." Los Angeles Times 12/02/01

THE NEXT DISNEY? John Lasseter, the animation wiz behind Toy Story is being called the Walt Disney of the 21st Century. "He gives the impression of being a sane man who has, until recently, been considered crazy. 'In order to work in animation, part of you has to be a child that's never grown up." The Telegraph (UK) 12/01/01

IT'S TOUGH TO BE A KID, AT LEAST ON TV: "Forget about the innocent challenges of flirtation and infatuation. Forget about exfoliation, and the sting of the Stridex pad. Today's TV teens wrestle with nothing less than alienation, isolation, spiritual hunger and the emotional pitfalls of irony. When it comes to coming-of-age TV, the teen-age wasteland is more T. S. Eliot than Pete Townshend." Orange County Register 11/28/01

BIG BOX OFFICE: So Harry Potter opened big. Very big, racking up record box office in its first week of business. But will it topple Titanic's $600 million take at theatres? Titanic was more of a marathon runner, as people returned again and again to see it. And Harry? So far, it's in a head-on sprint. Will it have legs? The New York Times 11/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MOVIE LOTTO: Ten thousand movie-producer wannabes submit their scripts in competition for a $1 million prize to film their project and be distributed by Miramax. Is this any way to make a movie? New York Magazine 11/26/01


NOW THAT'S CROSSOVER MUSIC: "What is perhaps the most ambitious musical venture on the internet culminates in a live 48-hour interactive web broadcast this weekend... From midnight GMT on Saturday December 1, the webcast consists of both acoustic and computer music, live concerts and events from associated sites in New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Diego, Oakland, Seattle, Tokyo, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Krakow, Amsterdam and Rome, involving well over 200 performer-participants." Gramophone 11/28/01

BUILDING A BETTER ORCHESTRA: Why do some orchestras flounder along - some even going out of business - while others always seem to thrive? Sure there's something to quality and repertoire and having enough money. But "the most important factor is the one that most audience members are probably least aware of: the board and its leadership. San Francisco Chronicle 12/02/01

TOUGH TIMES FOR ORCHESTRAS: What's wrong with orchestras? "The go-go years of the 1990s masked some structural problems in certain orchestras. Budget woes are forcing a reexamination of these cultural flagships and their relevance: What is the place of a 19th-century institution playing largely classical European masterworks in multicultural 21st-century North America? And what does it mean to a city to lose its symphony? Toronto has come perilously close to finding out. So has St. Louis." Christian Science Monitor 11/29/01

HOW TO PLAN A CONCERT HALL: Before there's a design, before there's a budget, there's a guy. A guy who takes all the hopes and aspirations for a new concert hall and starts funneling them into a new $200 million concert hall. In Atlanta the guy is Tom Tomilinson, and the Atlanta Symphony is counting on him. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 12/02/01

A NEW GEORGE: "A last album of George Harrison’s music was being finished in secrecy in the months before his death. He played tracks from the CD to his family and friends in his private room at a Los Angeles hospital last Sunday, four days before he died." Sunday Times (UK) 12/02/01

AN EXPENSIVE ART: "Running opera is a task of byzantine complexity, involving vast sums of money. English National Opera turns over £26.3 million a year; Covent Garden £51.2 million; Welsh National Opera £13.6 million. The Arts Council of England doled out £38.3 million to opera in 2000/1. And yet only about 6% of the British population went to the opera in 1999/2000. More than three times as many people saw a play in the same period and nine times as many went to the movies. It's hardly surprising, then, that opera makes people cross." Charging £155 for a seat, how can it not make money? And yet it doesn't. The Guardian (UK) 11/29/01

HOW THE DEAF HEAR MUSIC: "Although music has been an important part of deaf culture for centuries, no one has known how the brains of deaf people experience sounds. Now a study of magnetic resonance images shows how brains "rewire" so they can use sound vibration to sense music using the same brain region that is used for hearing." National Post 11/28/01

$4 MILLION BAILOUT FOR TORONTO SYMPHONY: "The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has struck a deal for a government-sponsored $4 million rescue plan. Under the deal, which involves the co-operation of federal and provincial cultural ministries, the money would be released to the TSO by its sister organization, the Toronto Symphony Foundation, which controls the symphony's $23 million endowment fund." Toronto Star 11/28/01

A FLORIDA HATCHET JOB: The Florida Philharmonic has big money problems. Are those to blame for the callous way conductor James Judd was forced from his job last week? He was provoked into resigning by musicians who thought his nods at programming new music "turned off subscribers." The players "made it a condition of their agreement last week to take pay cuts that Judd, the music director, no longer control programs. Naturally, he resigned." Miami Herald 11/25/01

YOUTH ISN'T EVERYTHING: European orchestras have recently gone on a binge of hiring young conductors, unproven conductors in their 20s and 30s. "Youth can, however, flatter to deceive. Many a bright new baton has been broken by orchestral intransigence or premature promotion. The sudden rush of young bloods is no proof of a podium renaissance. Europe's neophilia is but a reverse symptom of America's sclerosis, indicating that musical organisations on both sides of the Atlantic have simply forgotten how to pick 'em." The Telegraph (UK) 11/28/01

CRITICAL REVIEW: "Music criticism in a postmodern age has only two options: to become more fractured, or more inclusive. Different kinds of music have different purposes, and need to be attended to in different ways. An attitude that works at a stadium rock show may fail in a dance club. A newspaper critic who promotes rock or classical against every other kind of music is missing most of the picture. As Marshall McLuhan said, 'Point of view is failure to achieve structural awareness'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/27/01

REACHING OUT: Detroit's Michigan Opera Theatre mounts a new production of Armen Tigranian's Anoush, the Armenian national opera, in its original language. So what? So what because the company used the opera as a way to reach out to a part of its community in Detroit that now feels connected to the company. Toronto Star 11/24/01


REMEMBERING GEORGE: George Harrison's demise removes the impressionable enthusiast whose inquisitive nature guided the Beatles beyond the frontiers which had hitherto constrained the attitudes and behaviour of four-piece beat groups from the industrial cities of the north. He may not have written the songs for which they will be remembered, but without his gift for discovery the group might have taken quite a different course and possibly a much less interesting and productive one. The Guardian (UK) 12/01/01

THE NEXT DISNEY? John Lasseter, the animation wiz behind Toy Story is being called the Walt Disney of the 21st Century. "He gives the impression of being a sane man who has, until recently, been considered crazy. 'In order to work in animation, part of you has to be a child that's never grown up." The Telegraph (UK) 12/01/01

CRITIC'S CRITIC: By the end of his life (he died at age 85 last week) former Washington Post music critic Paul Hume had stopped listening to music, said his wife. It didn't interest him anymore. But "the defining characteristic of Hume's tenure was an intense love for everything about music and the making of it. That may seem like an awfully obvious thing for a music critic, but it can't be taken for granted." Baltimore Sun 12/02/01

DOMB RETURNS TO TSO: "Daniel Domb, the injured cellist involved in a legal battle with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, returns to Roy Thomson Hall tonight to play his first TSO concert in 18 months." The principal cellist is one of the most respected in North America, but the TSO management tried to have him fired after publicly doubting his claims of disability. Toronto Star 11/29/01

A JAZZ EMPIRE: Jazz impresario Norman Granz "believed in jazz as the great American art form, and insisted that its artists get the same respect as those performing classical music. A non-musician, Granz became one of the most powerful and influential figures in a genre defined by musical invention. In the '50s, it sometimes seemed the jazz world was the Granz empire because of his omnipresence as impresario, concert promoter, label head and talent manager." Washington Post 11/28/01

JARVI RETURNS: Conductor Neeme Jarvi returned to the podium over the weekend with his first concerts since he suffered a stroke last July. "The instant Jarvi appeared from the right stage entrance for the first time Friday night, the audience of 2,200 rose and cheered 'Bravo, maestro!' and Bravo, Neeme!' " Detroit News 11/25/01


THE LONELIEST CRITICS: Book critics are having a hard time these days. Many papers are eliminating stand-alone book review sections, more and more authors are striking back at reviewers who displease them, and, let's face it, a lot of people simply don't do a lot of reading these days. So are book reviews still relevant, or even necessary? Gulp. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/30/01

BEST-SELLING BOY POET: "Who could possibly have conjured the idea that two of the biggest word-of-mouth best sellers of the year would be written by a boy who is 11 years old? A boy suffering a chronic, life-threatening disease? And both of them books of poetry? There is something irresistibly appealing about how undaunted this boy has been in creating his art, a particularly dreamy story for a season that is supposed to be jolly but will be somewhat less so this year for many people." The New York Times 11/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ECONOMICS OF CANADIANISM: Canadian writers are hot these days. They're also heavily subsidized. With the Canadian dollar at a deep discount to the American, Canadian writing is cheap. It's now to the point where it costs less to read Canadian than American. On top of this, must we also have national chauvinism? National Post (Canada) 11/26/01

THE FIRST BILLIONAIRE AUTHOR: JK Rowling is on her way to becoming the world's first billionaire author. She's sold 124 million books, but the real money is coming from numerous merchandising deals. "Rowling received an advance of around $3000 (US) for the first story of her schoolboy wizard hero, ahead of publication in 1997. Her negotiating position has strengthened immeasurably since then." The Age (Melbourne) 11/27/01

LINING UP HEAVYWEIGHT NOVELISTS: "Phyllis Grann, former CEO of Penguin Putnam, is heading to Random House Inc. as vice chairman. Most observers believe the move sets the stage for a titanic struggle for star authors such as Tom Clancy and Patricia Cornwell with her old employer. Grann is also credited with helping shape the careers of other strong-selling authors, including Robin Cook, Dick Francis, Alice Hoffman, Nora Roberts and Amy Tan." New York Post 11/27/01

THE MEANING OF AWARDS: Everyone assumes that winning a big literary award helps the sales of a book. But how much? "After four years of effort, Bookscan has managed for the first time to sign up enough bookstores to make a credible measurement of the award's impact on a book's sales before and after." The answer is - if the book is not well-known before the award it can help enormously - this year's National Book Award poetry winner sold 12 times as many books the week after winning. But sales of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, already the talk of the season, were unchanged from the previous week. The New York Times 11/26/01 (one-time registration required for access)


THEATRE AFTER THE USSR: How has theatre changed in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union? As the system and patronage changed, so did the way of making theatre. And as the needs of the audience and the aesthetic of the time evolved, so too did the impetus behind making theatre. A group of Russian theatre artists discusses how their world has changed. The New York Times 12/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A PIECE OF THE LOOT: Everybody in the theatre world has been talking about the Producers producers' nerve of charging $480 a ticket for some seats to the show. Now they're also talking about how all that extra revenue is getting split up. How does it figure in percentages and cuts for various unions and other interested parties? New York Observer 11/28/01

NO WONDER SAM MENDES WANTS A BREAK: He won three Tonys a couple years ago with Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing; his first movie, American Beauty, brought him the 1999 directing Oscar; he's finishing up his second movie, The Road to Perdition, with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman; his Broadway revival of Cabaret is a hit, and this season he'll be directing all-star casts in Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya. Then he plans to quit his day job. Newsday 11/27/01

LLOYD-WEBBER FOREVER: Andrew Lloyd Webber is at the place in his career where some are writing his professional obituary. But though his last show flopped and some of his long-running vehicles have closed, he's full of energy for the future. "I have got more tunes sitting around at the moment than I have ever had in my career. If anybody wanted a tune, I could write it. I have two or three of the best things I have ever written in my little locker." The Telegraph (UK) 11/26/01


SAVING THE BMA: Neil MacGregor has finally been named the new head of the British Museum. He's "often referred to as 'a national treasure' for his inspired running of the Trafalgar Square gallery for the past 15 years, was the obvious choice to succeed Robert Anderson, who leaves next summer. But he will take over at one of the most delicate moments in its history, when the boost provided by its spectacular Great Court conversion is being wiped out by a catastrophic drop in foreign visitors because of the foot and mouth and September 11 crises. The Guardian (UK) 11/29/01

FREE AT LAST: The idea was tossed around British art circles for years, debated for months, and this weekend, it all comes to fruition. Beginning December 1, admission charges to England's major museums will be scrapped, and the public will be welcomed free of charge. The move follows similar plans in Wales and Scotland, and is made possible through a tax restructuring by the UK's government. BBC 11/30/01

SAATCHI TAKES ON THE TATE: In a direct challenge to the London museum establishment, Charles Saatchi has announced he is opening his own "museum," located between the Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Even "calling his new gallery a museum is seen as a direct challenge to the subsidised art establishment. But sources close to him last night revealed that he also intends to match Tate Modern head-on by staging themed exhibitions from borrowed works, and not just shows of his own contemporary artists." The Guardian (UK) 11/29/01

SOTHEBY'S CHAIRMAN WAS ABOVE CRITICISM: "A leading law firm, retained by Sotheby's in 1997 to investigate possible collusion in the auction industry, repeatedly questioned the company's chief executive, Diana D. Brooks, but not its chairman, A. Alfred Taubman, the lawyer who headed the inquiry acknowledged yesterday in the price- fixing trial of Mr. Taubman." The New York Times 11/30/01 (one-time registration required for access)

IRISH MUSEUM APPOINTMENT DISPUTE: The Irish Museum of Modern Art has asked Brian Kennedy to be its new director. Kennedy is director of Australia's National Gallery, and his term has been marked by controversy. Two of the IMMA's board members have resigned in protest over how the decision to appoint Kennedy was made. And now the Irish minister of culture may get involved. Irish Times 11/30/01

CUTTING THROUGH THE ANIMOSITY: "Who knows what makes visual art so hard for people to cope with? For whatever reason, it seems to be pilloried more in the public domain than other art forms. As an art critic, you are mindful of this. If people don't understand a work of art, they will often not simply move on; they will dig in and actively hate." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/29/01

TIME TO PAINT THE TOWER: It's time to paint the Eiffel Tower again. "The tower evolved from bright red when it was built in 1888 to dark brown by 1892, and to yellow 7 years later. After a fleeting foray back to red in the 1950s and 60s, the society plumped on its current brown in 1968." 11/29/01

PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD IN PERIL: Some 50,000 glass-plate photographic negatives made in the 19th and early 20 centuries sit in storage deteriorating in storage in Beijing's Forbidden City. "We are afraid to open the boxes because we don't have the conditions to protect the negatives. But the longer we wait, the greater the danger that the gelatin will not hold and the photos will be destroyed forever." International Herald Tribune 12/01/01

THE UNDERGROUND MUSEUM: "Awarded the 2004 Summer Olympics, Athens quickly bored two subway lines through the heart of the city. With the ancient city sometimes no more than a paving slab away, workers overturned 65,000 square metres of ground and uncovered a wealth of glorious things. Thankfully, most artifacts survived and have now taken their place in the most mobile of museums - the subway." National Post (Canada) 12/01/01

MINIMAL FUSS: The problem with Minimalism is there's just too little to it. "Prejudice puts minimalism close to the top of the pretentiousness charts: a philosophy that passes off next to nothing as if it was something, a creed that sells new clothes to emperors. But like all art, minimalism should be seen in its historical place - that it was a reaction to, and an advance on, what had gone before." The Guardian (UK) 12/02/01

QUITE A RAU OVER SOME ART: His name is Dr. Gustave Rau, and he is the owner of one of the world's greatest privately held collections of European art. He is also quite elderly, and of dubiously sound mind, a condition which has caused his own lawyers to seek for control of the collection to be wrested from him. As it turns out, Dr. Rau, who spent a couple of decades setting up clinics in rural Africa, still has quite a bit of fight left in him. The New York Times 11/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

STEALING RUSSIA BLIND: Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, thieves have plundered art from the region's museums. "In the 1990's hundreds of millions of dollars in art, antiques, books and manuscripts were stolen in Russia, mostly from cultural institutions in St. Petersburg like the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian National Library, the State Russian Museum, the Academy of Fine Arts and the State Hermitage Museum." The New York Times 11/28/01 (one-time registration required for access)

LEONARDO DRAWING DESTROYED: Restorers in Florence have destroyed a recently-discovered Leonardo drawing when they attempted to clean it. "Restorers submerged the drawing in a solution of alcohol and distilled water, a common restoration intervention," and the ink dissolved. The Art Newspaper 11/26/01

KICK 'EM WHEN THEY'RE DOWN: "The Guggenheim is no longer a museum of art so much as it is a kind of market-driven experiment in cultural anthropology. This once great institution has become a dark pit of cynicism - a black hole at the center of the museum world - where shows are selected on no basis other than the availability of corporate sponsors and the expectation of a box-office gold mine." The New Republic 11/20/01

GLEE IN DESTRUCTION OF ART: Eyewitness accounts of the Taliban's systematic destruction of art in the Kabul Museum last year say that the destruction was carried out with glee. "They walked through the National Museum here last year, inspecting each object to determine which ones depicted living beings. And then they raised their axes and brought them down hard, smashing piece after piece of Afghan history into oblivion. Over three days, as the Taliban ministers walked from one artifact to another, an Afghan archeologist and a historian followed at a respectful distance, pleading for mercy as if begging for the lives of their own children." International Herald Tribune (LATimes) 11/24/01


ANTICIPATING HARD TIMES: Just as large corporations often lay off workers in an attempt to be ahead of sharp economic downturns, arts groups are beginning to look for ways to save money in anticipation of a period of reduced cash flow. The unique combination of the events of September 11 and the national recession has created a jittery atmosphere which has arts administrators questioning everything, from programming decisions to expansion plans. San Francisco Chronicle 11/29/01

  • CALIFORNIA CUTS: The California Arts Council, citing hard economic times, says it will probably have to cut the amount of money it gives arts groups by 15 percent next year. Among the cuts will be arts education grants. "Starting next September, hundreds of schools won't get arts funds." San Francisco Chronicle 11/28/01
  • THE HOTEL/MOTEL BLUES: Tourism is way down in San Francisco. That's bad for arts groups on two counts. First, it means attendance at art events is down. Second, the city's tax on hotels and motels generated $11.6 million last year for the arts, and declining occupancy means big cuts in tax collections for the arts. "The latest forecasts predict that the Grants for the Arts program will have 25 percent less money to dish out in 2002 than it did this year. San Francisco Chronicle 11/27/01
  • BAY AREA ARTS CRASH: "On their own, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 aren't going to sink any Bay Area arts organizations. But they have accelerated the economic downturn that was already roaring through the arts community, sending tremors through medium-size and smaller organizations. What happens in the next few weeks - prime fund-raising season for all nonprofit groups - will be critical to the survival of not only some Bay Area artists but also of their counterparts everywhere." San Francisco Chronicle 11/27/01

THE LINCOLN CENTER PROBLEM: The restoration of New York's Lincoln Centre is an exciting project. So why has it gathered up so little public enthusiasm? "Of the $1.2 billion budget of the redevelopment plan for Lincoln Center that will soon be made public, only 15 percent is devoted to public space. It is, however, a crucial 15 percent. For in one respect the critics are right: the center's public spaces are miserably flawed. To make them perform on the same level as the artists who tread its stages is one of the plan's stated goals." The New York Times 12/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BUILDING A BETTER CRITIC: "Most of the available writing on the arts today consists of consumer guides that provide brief synopses or trivial background information. These guides are not about providing substantial and thought-provoking criticism. The shortage of critical approaches has spurred a team of researchers to spend the past three years investigating the issues and considering solutions. The project is sponsored by the Thailand Research Fund and is titled 'Criticism as an Intellectual Force in Contemporary Society.'" Bangkok Post (courtesy Andante) 11/29/01

10. FOR FUN 

THE ACCENT CANNA TAKE ANYMURE, KEPTIN! An Edinburgh professor has released a tutorial for actors wishing to learn a Scottish accent, perhaps the most-often massacred dialect in Western film. The biggest challenge in teaching Americans and Brits the Scottish sound, it turns out, is getting them to stop trying to talk like Scotty from Star Trek. BBC 11/29/01

THE FORBIDDEN SONGS: A new recording of Italian songs is prohibited in Italy. "The truth is, you would not be sitting listening to this music in Italy: the police there will not allow it to be performed. For now the only place that you are going to hear it is on a new compilation CD called Il Canto di Malavita. The musicians who play on the album insist that it is simply a record of rather gory folk songs, but gore is not the reason these songs have long been an illegal commodity in their home country. These are Mafia songs - blood-drenched ditties that document a secret strand of Italian folk culture." The Guardian (UK) 11/26/01

PAINTER OF LIGHT (AND SUBDIVISIONS): Thomas Kinkade sells thousands of paintings. Now he's also selling homes in Northern California. "The California painter has licensed his name and artistic inspiration to Taylor Woodrow Homes, a London-based housing developer. With Kinkade's paintings as a guide, Taylor Woodrow laid out a 101-house gated community called the Village. Streets, houses, fixtures and landscaping will epitomize Kinkade's nostalgic style. About 300 people tour the Village's model homes each week. Seven homes have sold so far." Los Angeles Times 11/25/01