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Week of  December 31, 2001-January 6, 2002

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


PROTECTING IDEAS TO DEATH: "Lawrence Lessig's passionate new book, 'The Future of Ideas, argues that America's concern with protecting intellectual property has become an oppressive obsession. ''The distinctive feature of modern American copyright law,' he writes, 'is its almost limitless bloating.' As Lessig sees it, a system originally designed to provide incentives for innovation has increasingly become a weapon for attacking cutting-edge creativity. Why, Lessig asks, does American law increasingly protect the interests of the old guard over those of the vanguard?" The New York Times 01/06/02

GOING FORWARD: Most novels are told in the past tense. But great art, great thinking happens in the present dreaming of the future. That's really the essence of modernism - using the past to build a future rather than declaring the past and future as cause-and-effect. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/02/02

WRESTLING WITH THE PIANO: A man decides that learning to play the piano is his passion, and embarks on a long journey to get better at it. "There may well be a psychoanalytical explanation for this wanting to lose oneself in a private realm of musical expression. Neurologists may one day find the answer in combinations of peptides and amino acids; in the metabolic affinities between specific neurons. They may also be able to explain to me why my musical memory is so dysfunctional and why my brain is so inadequately wired to my fingers. All this may one day become clear. Until then I shall stumble on, feeling that the act of playing the piano each day does in some way settle the mind and the spirit. Even five minutes in the morning feels as though it has altered the chemistry of the brain in some indefinable way. Something has been nourished. I feel ready - or readier - for the day." The Guardian (UK) 01/05/02


BUILDING A DANCE COMPANY: "Over the last 15 years, fed by the elegant choreography of its artistic director José Mateo's Ballet Theater has cultivated a distinctive ballet style, a critically acclaimed repertory of original work, a school and 20-member company. With performances of this season's Nutcracker, which ended on Sunday, the troupe has opened this erudite Cambridge's first home for professional ballet." The New York Times 01/01/02

THE EXAMINED DANCE: "The theoretical study of dance, using the broad content and methodology of the humanities, is still far less developed than in those other arts. And there is much less in the way of rigorous dialogue among well-trained scholars in the various theoretical disciplines." Aesthetics-online 12/01


RECORD MOVIE YEAR: The movie industry ended 2001 with its best year ever. "Movie-ticket sales for 2001 will total an estimated $8.35 billion by the end of New Year's Eve, up from last year's record of $7.7 billion, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. Factoring in an estimated 4 percent rise in average ticket prices, admissions were up about 5 percent, the first increase since 1998." Nando Times (AP) 01/01/02

SUNDANCE TURNS 20: "Sundance used to be shorthand for artistic legitimacy, a way for filmmakers to place themselves firmly outside the corrupt commercial imperatives of the studio system. Then the studios jumped atop the bandwagon. As the Sundance Institute celebrates its 20th anniversary with the start of its annual film festival on Thursday, organizers are grappling with how to maintain the fest's indie appeal and credibility, while accepting the fact that the 10-day event has been co-opted by many of the major studios as just another way to grab attention for a movie." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/05/02

THE CAMERA LIES: When Michael Jackson appeared on a TV special last fall, producers thought he looked too white compared to his brothers, so they "color corrected" him on the screen. Then they thought Whitney Houston looked too skinny, so they added a little weight to her in post-production. "Over the past two decades, the advent of digital technology and the increasing sophistication of CGI (computer graphics interface) software has radically transformed production of everything from feature films and television shows to music videos and advertising spots. Now, virtually anything is possible. 'If you can think it or dream it, you can do it'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 01/05/02

WHAT WAS THE YEAR'S BEST MOVIE? There seems to be no consensus "best movie" of the year among American film critics. Here's a list of critics' Top 10 lists for 2001. Chicago Tribune 01/06/02

BALKING AT THE BONUSES: Fans of DVD's have been attracted to the new format in part because of "bonus" material often included on the discs - interviews with cast and crew, and behind-the-scenes scenes. But the "extra material could start to disappear thanks to escalating costs and demands by talent and guilds. Studios are balking at new fees for script use and star participation, even as overall DVD sales surge and consumers embrace "special edition" packages." Toronto Star 01/01/02

THE LOWLY WRITER: So TV writers' pay is getting cut because the American networks are losing money? No one's getting rich here, certainly not writers. "There are about 150 series per year with about an average of 10 staffers each, or about 1,500 staff writer/writer-producer, prime-time jobs per year. There are a required two freelance scripts given out per series for a maximum of about 300 freelance scripts per year. That's 1,800 possible jobs being fought for by over 10,000 active WGA West members (not including East Coast WGA members) and the additional how-many-more tens of thousands more non-guild members attempting to break in." Los Angeles Times 12/31/01

THE STAR IS A MURDERER? The Iranian movie Kandahar has had rave reviews in the international press this year. "However, it is now being claimed that one of the film's amateur actors is in fact the prime suspect in a political assassination that took place more than 20 years ago." BBC 12/30/01


US ALBUM SALES TAKE A DIVE: "Album sales in the US dropped by almost 3% in 2001 - the first year for a decade that has seen a decline. CD-copying, internet swapping, a weak economy and other popular forms of entertainment such as DVDs and video games have been blamed... A recent industry study found that half of those questioned had downloaded music from the internet in the last month, and 70% of those had burnt songs onto CD." BBC 01/04/02

GRAMMY NOMINEES: The Grammy Award nominees are announced. Conductor Pierre Boulez leads classical nominations with six. A complete list of nominations is here. The awards ceremony is February 27 in LA . Los Angeles Times 01/04/02

  • A GOOD YEAR: Job well done, writes one critic about this year's selection of nominees. "There haven't been many times over the last four decades when it has been possible to put the words 'job well done' and 'Grammy Award nominations' in the same sentence, but this is one." Los Angeles Times 01/05/02
  • SIGN OF CLASSICAL CHANGE: The most-honored classical release this year - a live performance of Berlioz's opera The Trojans, nominated for for best classical, opera and best engineered recording, was not produced by a commercial recording company, but by the London Symphony Orchestra." Los Angeles Times 01/05/02

KERNIS AT THE TOP: Composer Aaron Jay Kernis has been winning all the music world's top prizes for composers, including the Grawemeyer and the Pulitzer. He's also getting some of the most prominent commissions by major orchestras. "He's capable of irony and wit, but won't take cover behind those qualities. There's a lot of passion to his writing, and what ties his disparate pieces together are the grand gestures, the way he'll go for a big romantic statement." Christian Science Monitor 01/04/02

GRASS ROOTS: American roots music (called "Americana" by some) is find a swell of new fans. "Americans want to hear the hybrid blends of folk, blues, country, rockabilly, and regional sounds (zydeco, Cajun, native American) known as roots music, Americana, or its punk-edged cousin, alternative country. Theories regarding Americana's popularity abound - though it must be noted that most of its practitioners disapprove of 'genre-fying' music at all." Christian Science Monitor 01/03/02

CHANGE AT THE TOP: Many of the orchestra world's most prestigious ensembles are about to get new music directors - a new generation of conductors set to shape orchestral music for the 21st Century. It's about time. Andante 01/02/02

WILL OPERA SURVIVE? Gerard Mortier wonders about the future of opera: "For years now, like vampires, we so-called managers and artistic directors have been sucking fresh blood from film and theater directing to secure a little more eternity for opera. I have taken great delight in doing so. The experience was an important one - it brought about refreshing new interpretations of works. In the meantime, however, this process has itself become clichéd, possibly even a pure publicity reflex. Will it be possible to keep opera from becoming a dead language and gradually disappearing from our so-called educational canon, just as Latin and Greek are vanishing from our classrooms?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/04/02

A NEW STANDARD OF SUCCESS? It is a strange phenomenon of an uncertain time in the orchestral world that many top ensembles are announcing year-end fiscal numbers that would have been considered horrifying a couple of years ago, but can still be said to place the orchestra well out of the danger zone inhabited by groups in Toronto, St. Louis, and elsewhere. Case in point: the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which ran over $1 million in the red in 2001, but is going ahead with a massive venue expansion plan and shows no signs of making cuts. Detroit Free Press 01/02/02

LA SCALA CLOSES: La Scala's opera house closed its season last weekend and now the house is closed for a major renovation. But the closure has many worried. "La Scala's management says the work will be completed in three years and that the house, its gilt and glory fully restored, will be ready for opening night Dec. 7, 2004. 'Temporarily closed for repairs' has been the kiss of death for some of Italy's other important opera houses. Their stories are as melodramatic as Maria Callas' love life." Chicago Tribune 12/31/01

KEYS TO SUCCESS? Should classical music popularize itself like the visual art industry has? "Classical music doesn't suit that sort of hype. Its sedentary, spiritual quality tends to appeal to older people. Unlike the visual arts, it demands communal concentration - something most young people, raised on a culture of soundbites, are not prepared to do. It can't be sampled at a glance, it's not visually exciting. It also happens to be horribly labour-intensive. Worst of all, classical music is in the throes of an identity crisis, because its principal tools are 18th- and 19th-century creations, with a few 20th-century accretions. The vast majority of orchestras and venues have failed to reinvent themselves in a way that suits modern media." Financial Times 01/01/02

TROUBLE GETTING MUSIC: Many music fans looking for recent classical recordings in stores before Christmas were stymied. Selection in stores is lousy and distribution is limited. So where did all the music go? "It must be said that the downturn in the disc business doesn't herald the end of classical music. Box office figures for live performance remain good to excellent here and elsewhere. Yet veterans of the disc biz say it's rarely been worse." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/01/02

DOWN YEAR FOR CONCERTS: On the American concert circuit, "the top 100 concert tours sold 34.4 million tickets in 2001, down about 7 percent from 37.1 million the year before, according to an analysis by Pollstar magazine." U2 earned $109.7 million, the second highest gross ever for a tour (The Rolling Stones 1994 tour earned $121.2 million). Contra Costa Times (AP) 12/31/01


WHO'S WHO OF SMART: A new book attempts to determine who America's leading intellectuals are by counting media mentions. Dumb methodology but great fun. "The top public intellectual by media mentions in the last five years turns out to be Henry Kissinger, followed by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Sidney Blumenthal comes in seventh, which of course undermines the entire enterprise." New York Observer 01/02/02

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS (HAPPILY) UNKNOWN: "Successful, of course, is not synonymous with famous. For famous, you might choose a name such as Riopelle, Thomson, Carr, Pratt or Colville. But Eric Dennis Waugh has likely sold more canvases than all of them - combined. In fact, he's sold more paintings, by far, than anyone else in Canada (and in most other countries as well). Eric Dennis who? Exactly." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 01/03/02

MESSING WITH THE POPE: Last month the acting head of the National Endowment for the Arts turned back two grants; one - for a production of Tony Kushner's Kabul play eventually was approved, but the other, for a retrospective of conceptual artist William Pope, was not. Pope's work is hard to categorize. "Combining performance, installation and sculpture, it is formally exacting but improvisational, politically pointed but comedic. Social inequality and consumerism are among his targets, and although his work deals intensively with the issue of race, it upsets preconceptions of what 'black art' should be." The New York Times 01/01/02

EDWARD DOWNES, 90: Edward Downes, famous to millions of opera lovers as the host of weekly Texaco Opera Quiz heard during intermissions of Saturday broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, has died at the age of 90. Nando Times (AP) 12/30/01


SURPRISE WHITBREAD WINNER: "Patrick Neate has won the Whitbread novel award with his second book, Twelve Bar Blues, beating strong favourite Ian McEwan. The surprise winner receives £5,000 in prize money and goes on to compete for the Whitbread Book of the Year - worth £25,000 - alongside the other Whitbread winners and the winner of the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year." BBC 01/04/02

  • NEATE SURPRISE: "When my book was published it did not make the barest ripple on the surface of the nation's literature, so to win an award beating Ian McEwan and Helen Dunmore is just absurd." BBC 01/04/02

CLUES TO THE FRENCH MIND: A French poll listing of the 50 greatest books of the 20th Century says some important things about the French. First, about half of the books on the list aren't French. Second - none of the English books were written before World War II. And there are no important contemporary American authors represented. "They still have a rather Francophone understanding of English and American literature. As nothing, of course, to American and British parochialism in respect of foreign literature. But also I detect a kind of eagerness to be part of a wider world. Many French people think that France must engage more fully with the outside world: they are alarmed that the Anglophone world is leaving them behind. This world of hundreds of millions of English speakers seems in its unstoppable immensity to them to be consigning France to a sort of museum culture." The Guardian (UK) 01/05/02

BULLISH ON PUBLISHING: The Dow Jones might have had an off year in 2001 (the index fell 7.1 percent), but publishing companies did well with their stock prices. The Publishers Weekly index tracking stock prices of 22 publishing companies rose by 10.3 percent. Book manufacturers and book retailers had a very strong year while e-publishing struggled. Publishers Weekly 01/02/02

SAVING BOOKS: The Library of Congress has begun plans to de-acidify a million books in its collection. "More than 150 years ago, papermakers started using chemicals that made their product acidic and thus more susceptible to decay." The Library has a "plan to de-cidify about 8.5 million of the library's 18.7 million books, a move that is intended to add hundreds of years to the life of the books." The New York Times 01/01/02

A BIZARRE YEAR: "The creepy revolution that has been transforming the business most radically since the mid–90s or so — the eradication of independent publishing houses and booksellers by massive, international "mass–media" conglomerates — has been the over–riding story of our recent literary times, with each year bringing sickeningly deeper realization of the impact of that take–over upon our intellectual and spiritual lives, not to mention how much you pay for a book, and who gets to write them. This year, however, that story seemed to become, suddenly, old news, or at least news too wearying to acknowledge anymore." MobyLives 12/30/01


BROADWAY DOWN: Broadway ended 2001 with ticket sales down by $22 million and selling 500,000 fewer tickets. "Broadway theaters recorded $373,128,667 in sales for the season starting in June. That represents 6,473,223 tickets sold. The equivalent figures for 2000 were $395,311,555 and 6,981,071 tickets." New York Daily News 01/03/02

LONDON THEATRE'S BIG CHEESE: Who's the biggest cheese in London theatre? Andrew Lloyd-Webber tops The Stage magazine's annual poll. "The musical maestro and West End venue owner heads the list for the second year running. Despite a slow year for Lloyd Webber productions, his company Really Useful Group is seen as a hugely powerful influence and his reputation extends worldwide." Director Peter Hall just makes the Top 20 list at No. 20. The Guardian (UK) 01/03/02

HIGHEST-PAID BRITISH ACTRESS IN HISTORY: Who's the highest-paid British actress of all time? Now it's Jane Leeves, who has signed a £20 million contract for a new season of the US sitcom Frasier as the "semi-psychic physiotherapist Daphne Moon - earning more than triple the fees of Britain's highest-paid Hollywood actress, Catherine Zeta Jones." The Guardian (UK) 01/01/02

OUR BEST PLAYWRIGHT? Okay, he's a little late, but John Heilpern writes that Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul is the "best play of the past ten years." "His new play is a magnificent achievement on every challenging,deeply compassionate level. It confirms Mr. Kushner’s place—if confirmation has been needed - as our leading playwright, to whom attention will always gladly be paid." New York Observer 01/02/02

TOP BILLING: "Sorting out the billing for a play is an archaic and labyrinthine business, the rules of which are understood only by a very few: but basically, the more famous you are, the more you can hog the advertising and the light bulbs. What all actors hope for is to get their name above the title of the play on the poster. " The Guardian (UK) 01/02/02


POLAROID'S HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY: The Polaroid Corporation went bankrupt last fall, and photgraphy enthusiasts are wondering about what will become of the company's extensive collection of photographs. "The collection, amassed over six decades, is a window on American culture, an invaluable tool for anyone tracking the evolution of photography, and a medley of photography's biggest names." Los Angeles Times 01/06/02

EUROPE'S BOLDEST CULTURAL PROJECT SINCE BILBAO? "One of France's richest men unveiled plans for a modern art museum that promises to be Europe's boldest cultural project since Bilbao's Guggenheim and London's Tate Modern. Francois Pinault, whose collection includes 1,000 works by such masters as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Amedeo Modigliani, and Joan Miró, picked Japanese architectural legend Tadao Ando to design the museum, describing the trapezoid building as 'a spacecraft suspended on the River Seine'." The Christian Science Monitor 01/04/02

SLASHED PAINTING RETURNS: A Barnett Newman painting slashed by a vandal in Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum four years ago has been restored and rehung. "To the untutored eye, it is nearly impossible to tell that the 8-by-18-foot dark-blue painting, with a thin light-blue stripe, or zip, as the artist called this signature element, on the right and a broader, more dominant whitish zip to the left, had been repeatedly slashed with a small knife. The damage by Gerard Jan van Bladeren — a frustrated artist who told authorities he didn't hate all art, just abstract art and realism — left conservators with one of the biggest challenges of their profession: how to repair, seamlessly, a large-format, basically monochromatic canvas." The New York Times 01/04/02

PROTECTING THE TAJ MAHAL: As India and Pakistan threaten war with one another, "Indian officials are working on plans to camouflage the white marble monument, should it accidentally come under fire from Pakistani fighter jets." Yahoo (Reuters) 01/02/02

AFGHANISTAN PLEDGES TO REBUILD BUDDHAS: The new government of Afghanistan says its will restore the giant Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban last year. "The restoration of the Buddhas is one of our top priorities, along with the revival of the media and broadcasting sector." Times of India (AFP) 01/02/02

MUSEUMS RESIST WWII LOOT CLAIMS: Twelve major international museums (including New York's Metropolitan) are resisting claims on two dozen Durer drawings, which were looted by the Nazis in World War II. The drawings were recovered by American troops after the war and turned over to Prince George Lubomirski, who then sold them. The claims center around whether the drawings were returned to their rightful owners. The Art Newspaper 01/01/02

WORLD'S LARGEST ART: An Australian artist by the name of Ando has created the largest artwork in the world, a 4.3-million-square-metre big image of Eldee Man. The work, recently unveiled in time for Australia's Year of the Outback, depicts a smiling stockman in scored earth on the Mundi Mundi plains of New South Wales." National Post 01/01/02

MAKING SENSE OF ART: "Two obstacles face those who hope to enjoy art without spending every waking moment contemplating it. One obstacle is overabundance. Every spring an army of talent breaks out of the art schools and tries to break into art, making the art world a terrifying microcosm of the global population crisis... The other obstacle is that much of what happens in any given year, including 2001, strikes most people as crazy." For 20 years, a Canadian magazine has been helping art fans cut through the clutter. National Post (Canada) 01/03/02

FUSS OVER WORDS: The new Memphis Central Library opened in November. Outside the library dozens of famous quotations were inscribed in stone, among them "Workers of the world, unite!" "This phrase from the Communist Manifesto caught the eye of two county commissioners and a city councilman, and in these days of heightened patriotism a smoldering debate was ignited on a popular radio talk show, in the letters and opinion column of The Commercial Appeal of Memphis and in the three politicians' own correspondence and phone calls. What is appropriate public art?" The New York Times 12/29/01

THE STORY OF THE FAKE PICASSOS: Turkey has taken down four paintings it had said were Picassos after they were proven to be fakes. "The paintings' provenance had always been slightly questionable. They were acquired by the state after undercover detectives posing as buyers infiltrated an art smuggling ring. The Turkish authorities concluded that the pictures had been looted from Kuwaiti royal palaces during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990." BBC 12/30/01


HELPING ARTISTS, NOT CORPORATIONS: There are countless organizations devoted to funding art, and millions of dollars are spent every year by philanthropists doing their part to bring new works to the world. But most of the available cash comes in the form of grants that can only be applied for by incorporated non-profits, leaving independent artists out in the cold. But in Pennsylvania, a familiar foundation has begun devoting a good-sized chunk of change to helping out the proverbial "starving artist." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 01/03/02

THE IDEA OF GENIUS: "Do any artists deserve a transcendent label? At one time such questions would have seemed somewhat strange. Philosophers have argued about how to define genius, not about whether it exists. But challenges to the idea's validity have become commonplace in recent years. Genius has been judged to be little more than a product of good marketing or good politicking." The New York Times 01/05/02

CHANGE OF VENUE: In the past decade new performing arts venues have sprung up all over Atlanta. But some have not lived up to their extravagant ambitions. "Now, facing serious deficits, an unforgiving economy and a loss of creative leadership, two of the biggest halls are confronting their greatest challenges. The question is not whether they can survive, but whether, in a newly competitive market, the venues can continue to be as experimental in their programming." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 01/06/02

OF INTELLIGENCE AND MORALITY: A new book looks at the politics of intelligent people. "It is now a commonplace - but for all that still unnerving - that it was very often not merely the stupid but the highly intelligent who gave their support to the Hitlers and the Stalins of the last century. Anyone in search of an explanation for this fact might therefore think it better to look not to the quality of mind of these devotees but rather to their character, their moral psychology. This is an intricate, treacherous field of inquiry, and one for which we have no particularly powerful philosophical idiom: since at least the 18th century, philosophers have given over the matter to novelists, and the older vocabularies - of corruptibility, of akrasia, or weakness of will - no longer have broad intellectual resonance." The New York Times 01/06/02

LINCOLN CENTER SUFFERS MORE HITS: Lincoln Center's controversial $1.2 billion refurbishment plans got a double hit Wednesday when new New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg "suggested that the project would have to be delayed" and that the city might have difficulty in following through with a promised $240 million contribution. Meanwhile, Lincoln Center's interim executive director said she was leaving to head Philadelphia's new Kimmel Performing Arts Center. The New York Times 01/03/02

OLYMPICS CULTURAL CHIEF RESIGNS: The director of the Athens Cultural Olympics has resigned. The cultural event is to be held in conjunction with the 2004 Athens Olympics. "The resignation was the newest head-on blow to the 2004 Games organizers, who had been dogged by infighting, bureaucracy and delays. The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly warned Athens to quicken its work if it wants to host good Games. The Cultural Olympics, initially envisioned as similar to the ancient Greek poetry and art contests that were held along with sports competitions in Ancient Olympia, were one of Greece's strong points in winning the bid for the 2004 Games." Andante (Xinhua) 01/02/02

WHERE ARE THE ARTISTS? The tragedy of Sept. 11 has made all of us return to the human project of making sense of the world with new vigor; but four months out from the bruising blow to the nation's sense of security, there is little coherence to the sense being made by our professional 'sense makers,' the nation's musicians, playwrights, poets and visual artists." Washington Post 12/30/01

10. FOR FUN 

WARNED OFF: Those warning notices theatres post in their lobbies often seem so arbitrary or unnecessary. The New Yorker offers a list of lobby notices it would like to see: "WARNING: During this afternoon's performance, there will be a chatty women's group from Great Neck seated directly behind you." The New Yorker 12/31/02

UNTITLED IMAGINATION: "These days, artists seem to have about two choices when it comes to titles: Either you refuse to christen your work at all - except as 'Untitled,' the artistic equivalent of 'John Doe' - or you name it so obscurely, the title barely hints at anything the work's about." Washington Post 01/04/01

THINK YOU KNOW ARTS? Think you know what happened in the arts this year? Been following the papers and keeping up with your daily dose of Arts Journal? Well, check out The Guardian's Arts Quiz and see how well you score (AJ's editor took the test and...ahem...only managed 11 right answers out of 20...) The Guardian (UK) 12/31/01