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Week of  January 28-February 3, 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


STORYBORED: "It is one of the most notable features of this age of artistic over-production that just as the quantity of fiction produced has grown so alarmingly, so too has the number of observers ready lazily to declare that all life has gone out of the activity. We no sooner open the cultural pages of a newspaper than some commentator tells us that the novel, the theatre, the television play, the poem or the movie has died, but that somehow nobody else has noticed." The Guardian (UK) 02/02/02


THE MAN BEHIND MARK MORRIS: Behind every great artist there's a manager. Barry Alterman plts Mark Morris's course. "Barry meets people that I don't meet, he knows producers that I've met and maybe can't even remember the names of, and he's on the phone with them all the time, encouraging, cajoling." The New York Times 02/03/02

THE TYRANNY OF MUSIC: "American dance is obsessed with, or even tyrannized by, music. Of course, dance and music have been partners for ages and deserve to continue their pas de deux. Yet fundamentally dance does not need music. Dance needs rhythm." The New York Times 02/03/02

GETTING FIT FOR DANCE: Who's in better shape than dancers? But it isn't just dance that keeps them fit - members of the Alvin Ailey Company add swimming, tae-boe, weight lifting, step-aerobics, and jogging. "Your body is never going to be perfect. You want it to be better, sure. And you always want what someone else has." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 01/31/02

REINVENTING A CLASSIC: Just how popular is Riverdance? There are some 15 touring companies doing Irish dance worldwide right now. Before Riverdance came along there was no way to make a living as a step dancer... Glasgow Herald 01/31/02


BUYING OSCAR: Movie studios are busting their piggybanks trying to promote their films' Oscar chances. "Spurred by a wide-open competition for some of the top nominations, the most aggressive studios have mounted campaigns that by some estimates have already cost more than $10 million, easily double what a successful effort totaled only two years ago. A campaign of that magnitude would involve spending more than $1,500 per Oscar voter in the effort to win nominations." The New York Times 02/03/02

SEE CANADIAN: In the last two weeks of 2001, Lord of the Rings took in $40 million at the box office in Canada. By comparison, the top grossing Canadian-made movie for all of 2001 sold about $3 million worth of tickets. Canada makes some good feature films - so why won't the multiplexes show them and why won't audiences demand them? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/02/02

SEE KOREAN: Since 1967, Korea has had a film quota that requires local theaters to screen Korean films at least 146 days a year. The local film industry has been doing well, so now the government wants to drastically reduce the quota. Filmmakers are protesting. Korea Herald 02/01/02

LACK OF DIVERSITY: A new report chides the television industry once again for its white-maleness. "The report, which examined the 40 most popular series of the 2000-2001 season, reported that about 80% of drama and comedy episodes—or 663 of the 826 installments—were directed by white males. Black males directed 27 episodes, or about 3% of the total, while Latino males directed 15 episodes, or about 2%. Asian American males directed nine episodes. White females directed 87—or 11%—of the episodes." Los Angeles Times 01/30/02

THE POPULAR NEW BBC - DUMBING DOWN FOR RATINGS? For the first time since commercial TV was introduced in Britain (in 1954), the BBC scored more viewers than its commercial competition. Good right? "But just as BBC executives were congratulating themselves, the sniping began. The Beeb, as it is widely known here, was obsessed with ratings, its critics complained. It had not become the world's most prestigious public broadcaster by kowtowing to the masses. Indeed, to have nudged ahead of ITV in the scramble for audiences was the ultimate proof that it had dumbed down its programming." The New York Times 02/03/02

  • BBC RADIO AT RECORD LISTENERSHIP: BBC Radio listenership is up, beating out all commercial radio stations. "The number of people listening to BBC Radio each week has risen by 300,000 since September, taking the total to 32.7 million - a record since new monitoring methods were introduced in 1999." BBC 02/01/02

THE BATTLE FOR WNYC: When New York public radio station WNYC lost its FM tower on the World Trade Center, its classical music programming got compressed to late night hours on its sister AM band. Now that FM is up and broadcasting again, the classical music hasn't expanded to its former proportions again. Changes at the station signal a rift between WNYC's ambitious corporate-style managers and more traditional staff. New York Observer 01/30/02


AUDIO DREAMWEAVER: The modern pop music recording features an array of digital tricks to correct pitch, blend harmonies and manipulate the sound so it's "perfect." So how come some of the best selling recordings (hi there Garth Brooks) leave their tracks raw and "uncorrected"? Denver Post 02/03/02

THE POWERHOUSE FINNS: What is it about Finland, these days? "Half a century after the death of Jean Sibelius, his tiny Nordic homeland has emerged as a musical superpower of the new millennium. A fierce national commitment to musical culture has made the Finnish scene the envy and the talent reservoir of countries throughout Europe and North America." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/02/02

CRUSADING FOR MENDELSSOHN: Mendelssohn is certainly a solid member of the classical music canon. And yet, two scholars, say - he is underappreciated for his accomplishments. The pair have been cataloging and recording what they say are "hundreds of unpublished or rediscovered pieces," and they're pushing scholarship on the composer. The New York Times 01/31/02

REINVENTING ST. PAUL: The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which bills itself as "America's Chamber Orchestra," is reinventing itself, making changes in its home concert hall, and planning more tours to large cities. The goal? To be "the beacon for cultural excellence" in the Twin Cities. "Thirty years from now, when people talk about Twin Cities arts groups, we’d like the first thing off their tongues to be the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. It’s no different than what the arch did for the city of St. Louis." St. Paul Pioneer Press 01/31/02

THE WELL-TRAINED SINGER: "Since the 1950's American singers have been valued for their solid musicianship. But the current generation of Americans in their 30's and early 40's, by and large, is especially well trained. These artists have been through the rigors of species counterpoint, keyboard harmony, ear training, dictation: the works. Such extensive preparation shows in their ability to learn music thoroughly and handle contemporary scores." The New York Times 02/03/02

GLASS PANEL CRASHES AT LA SCALA HOME: A glass panel crashed into seating during a performance at La Scala's temporary theatre in Milan. "No-one was hurt as the panel, one of 100 attached to the side walls of the new Arcimboldi theatre, crashed onto empty seating on Wednesday during a performance of the ballet Excelsior." BBC 02/01/02

TOON TUNES: The Sydney Symphony Orchestra is performing scores from classic Bugs Bunny cartoons while projecting the cartoons above the stage. "We ended up finding bits and pieces of it in attics, garages and personal collections. The cartoons were then edited so that their scores were removed - allowing the music to be performed live - while leaving the sound effects and dialogue intact." Sydney Morning Herald 02/01/02

AND YOU THOUGHT THIS STUFF ONLY HAPPENED IN ALABAMA: The Catholic hierarchy in Naples, Italy is taking a cursory shot at the city's leftist government, denying permits for the use of several of Naples's historic churches for concerts. Among the well-regarded guest musicians who may be left out in the cold is La Scala director Riccardo Muti. The local monsignor is questioning "whether performing artists should be chosen "mainly for their showmanship and social acceptance rather than for their personal commitment in bearing witness to the values of the Gospel." Andante 01/28/02

REPORTS OF MY DEATH... So some orchestras are struggling in the business of survival of late. And some may even go out of business. But the orchestra is hardly dying as an institution, writes David Patrick Stearns. There is too much evidence to the contrary. Besides, "those orchestras will survive, because the public, more unconsciously than consciously, knows that when its opera company and symphony orchestra go away, the only thing left in many cities will be congested strip roads, plastic burger signs, abandoned bowling alleys and cable TV." Andante 01/27/02

CANNIBALIZING THE MUSIC BIZ: The music recording industry is weak right now, and the very structure of the business is changing. Recording companies are cutting artists from their rosters, and musicians, sensing weakness, are trying to get more control and better deals for themselves: "After years of being taken advantage of by the large recording companies, we realize we do have some power. We are doing it because now is the time." The New York Times 01/28/02


NEW NEA CHIEF DEAD: Michael Hammond, who became the chairman of America's National Endowment for the Arts only a week ago, was found dead in Washington Tuesday. "Hammond, 69, a composer and former dean of Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, had told his staff on Monday that he was sick, and stayed home that day. Monday night he attended a dinner and cocktail party at the Shakespeare Theatre but left halfway through. When Hammond didn't show up for meetings Tuesday morning, several members of the staff went to the house he had borrowed in the American University Park neighborhood. When no one answered the door, they called the police." Washington Post 01/30/02

PARALYSIS CAN'T DERAIL CONDUCTOR: Mario Miragliotta was a promising conductor who had recently finished his term as music director of the Santa Barbara Symphony and had been appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, when he got into a car accident last June that left him paralysed, unable to move his hands or legs. Determined to overcome the injuries, he's been working daily to get back on the podium, and he's got a concert coming up... Los Angeles Daily News 01/28/02

AMERICAN TRUMPETER BEATEN BY SPANISH POLICE: American trumpeter Rodney Mack, currently living in Spain and serving as principal trumpet of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, was viciously beaten by a gang of out-of-uniform Spanish police two weeks ago. The officers did not identify themselves to Mack, who thought he was being mugged, and offered up the explanation that they thought he was a car thief who had been seen in the area. Mack's injuries are preventing him from performing with the BSO on its current tour of the U.S., and he is preparing a lawsuit against the police. The New York Times 01/31/02

FAMILY BUSINESS: When Michael Stern (son of violinist Isaac) was starting out his career as a conductor, his father told an interviewer it was "unlikely" his son would have a performing career. Paavo Jarvi (son of conductor Neeme) says trying to make a career as a conductor is tougher when you have a famous parent in the business. "People are rightly suspicious of nepotism and family connections, and that is something I can understand.'' Miami Herald 02/03/02


TO THE AUTHOR WHO STICKS WITH IT: There aren't many places to publish fiction anymore. That hasn't stopped people from writing it though - The Atlantic gets about 250 short stories a week submitted by hopeful authors. That works out to one story published for every 1000 sent in. Even if you get rejected though - keep trying. The Atlantic has rejected writers for years before finally publishing them. Those "who just keep writing sooner or later find a workable voice and form, in ways that are unconscious." Hartford Courant 01/31/02

TOLKIEN RULES CANADIAN PUBLISHING: What was the biggest selling book in Canada last year? Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings series and its prequel, The Hobbit, which sold 1.5 million copies. "That's more than the combined number of books Canada's medium-sized publishers sell in a year. A bestselling book in Canada usually accounts for 70,000 copies (a John Grisham or Danielle Steel, for example)." So much for the Canadian book business. Toronto Star 02/02/02

THEY BUY POTTER, BUT THEY BORROW POOH: When Britons go to the library, they go for AA Milne. The author of Winnie the Pooh is the most-borrowed British author, well ahead of JRR Tolkien in second place. Beatrix Potter is in third place, Jane Austen fourth, and Shakespeare fifth. JK Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series, is in 57th place. The Guardian (UK) 02/01/02

STICKING TO THE TRAIL: How to have a successful career as a writer? Novelist/playwright Michael Frayn says: "The only advice that I could think of giving to a young writer is to write the same thing over and over again, changing things very slightly and going on delivering it until people accept it. Very simply, people want reliability and continuity in a writer. If you buy cornflakes you want cornflakes." The Guardian (UK) 01/31/02

ANTI-THEFT: After the rash of high profile authors recently caught plagiarizing, one critic wonders how to stop plagiarism. Shame, that's how. Letting authors make financial settlements with those they have stolen from doesn't help the reader. Slate 01/30/02

STEPHEN KING SAYS NO MORE NOVELS: Stephen King has a new novel coming out. So what? He publishes so many books in a year that he even made up a pseudonym so publishers could handle the overflow. So it may be his last. "You get to a point where you ... basically recycle stuff," he says. "I've seen it in my own work. People when they read Buick Eight are going to think Christine. It's about a car that's not normal, OK?" A couple more projects, "Then that's it. I'm done. Done writing books." CNN 01/29/02

PLAGIARISM AND TECHNOLOGY: In the last month, two prominent American historians have faced charges of plagiarism, and lately, it seems that not a month goes by without some well-known author or other standing accused. It's not that the problem of plagiarism has become appreciably more widespread than it used to be - it's that new computer programs can compare texts far more efficiently than ever before. San Francisco Chronicle 01/29/02

STANDARDS OF FAIRNESS: A new copyright law has been passed in Germany that mandates that publishers must pay freelance writers a "fair" compensation that is "standard in the trade." The big question is how this will be enacted. What is fair? and if "standard" practice is unreasonably low, will it be fair? Perhaps predictably, publishers are unhappy with the new law. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01/29/02

IT'S NOT PLAGIARISM, IT'S A TRIBUTE: Olaf Olafsson is "vice chairman of Time Warner Digital Media, father of the Sony PlayStation and an acclaimed novelist." But his latest book contains numerous passages stolen word for word from "the late, great Bay Area food writer M.F.K. Fisher." Contacted about the copying, Olafsson says what he did wasn't copy but pay "tribute." He says that "readers familiar with Fisher, who died in 1992, will recognize the borrowed passages and understand he's paying homage." 01/27/02

HOW/WHY TO READ: Who needs a book to tell them how to read? "Professorial how-to-read books have always struck me as eminently avoidable, in part because such lamentations are wearisome, even if not altogether untrue. If the lay reader knows enough to know that she needs to pick up a book on reading, why must her self-knowledge be met with a harangue against philistinism? Besides, all criticism teaches us how to read; literary essays instruct best when they are not overtly instructive. Or so I thought." The New York Times 01/27/02


THE BROADWAY AUDIENCE: Who goes to Broadway shows? White (81 percent) college-educated (75 percent) women (63 percent) over 40 from out of town (47 percent) with an average annual income of $93,000. New York Daily News 01/28/02

THRILLED BY HIS SUCCESS...SORT OF: Playwright Mark Ravenhill's play was such a success at London's National Theatre that it's moving to the West End. He's thrilled - sort of. "Only in Britain can a play - and a playwright - slip easily from the subsidised theatre into the commercial sector. Only in Britain can a writer move freely from Artist to Entertainer and back again - or indeed dispense with any concerns about what is Art and what is Entertainment and just write. But is this a good thing?" The Guardian (UK) 02/02/02

SONDHEIM SUIT SETTLED: The backer who financed Stephen Sondheim's Gold and then sued for rights to the production has dropped his lawsuit. "In exchange, if the show is produced commercially, he will be reimbursed the approximately $160,000 he had invested in its development." The New York Times 02/02/02

SHARING THE RISK AND REWARDS: "Some of the biggest names in UK theatre including Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Fry are appealing to wealthy stage fans to back a new company that will share the risk of putting on costly stage productions. Theatreshare, headed by Fry and allied with Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, hopes to become a major player in the West End." BBC 01/29/02

LONG WHARF'S NEW DIRECTOR: New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre has hired Gordon Edelstein to be its new artistic director. Edelstein is currently director of Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre, where he's credited with reviving the company's artistic and financial fortunes. Seattle Times 01/28/02

  • RESCUING LONG WHARF: Gordon Edelstein's appointment as new director of New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre "is seen among theater insiders as a much-needed lift for Long Wharf, which has been experiencing decreased revenue, declining subscriptions and mixed notices. It is difficult to interpret whether the slide is because of the recession, the shock of Sept. 11, a reaction of the loss of [previous director] Doug Hughes' leadership, or programming." Hartford Courant 01/30/02

NOISES ON: The hit musical in London right now is Umoja, a survey of South African culture and history. A big part of the show is the drumming. Fast. Furious. Loud. Mostly loud, so loud that neighbors are complaining and officials are threatening fines. The producers, who may have to pay for insulating the theater, argue that "In all fairness, you don't buy a flat in the West End and not expect some level of music and noise - this is the entertainment capital of the world." BBC 01/30/02


MAKING SCOTTISH GALLERIES WORLD CLASS? Scotland is spending £26 million to refurbish the National Gallery of Scotland and Royal Scottish Academy. The Playfair Project has been "heralded as the country’s most important visual arts event for years," intended to ensure that the galleries "achieve an international status on a par with the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York." So why has the ambitious project polarized Scotland’s artistic community? The Scotsman 02/02/02

YA GOTTA BELIEVE IN IT, AT LEAST: The director of London's Institute for Contemporary Art - a hotbed of conceptual art - has called for the sacking of the organization's chairman of the board. A few weeks ago, chairman Ivan Massow derided current conceptual art and many of the artists who practice it as a waste of time. The Guardian (UK) 01/30/02

MONKS PUT IMPRESSIONISTS ON THE BLOCK: Christies's will auction three Impressionist paintings February 4: Vlaminck's La Seine a Chatou, Renoir's L'Estaque, and Monet's Golfe d'Antibes. They are expected to bring in about $20 million for their owner, the Franciscan order of monks. The paintings were donated to the Franciscans anonymously; the auction money will fund projects in Africa and Latin America. CBC 01/31/02

EXPANSION PLANS IN PHILLY: "The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which ran out of exhibition space in the mid-1970s, is finally ready to expand. It announced yesterday that it had hired a nationally known museum designer to convert a landmark art deco building on Pennsylvania Avenue into galleries and offices... The renovations will take about two to three years and cost $25 million, museum director Anne d'Harnoncourt said." Philadelphia Inquirer 01/31/02

REBUKING THE LOUVRE: French culture minister Catherine Tasca has publicly rebuked Henri Loyrette, the new director of the Louvre. Loyrette had earlier lamented that "budget restrictions required the museum to close one-quarter of its galleries every day because of a shortage of security guards." Tasca accused Loyrette of lack of discipline and grandstanding. "Tasca's reprimand has stunned many of France's cultural leaders, not only because bureaucratic power struggles rarely go public here." The New York Times 01/30/02

ANCIENT DIVIDE: A prominent New York antiquities dealer has gone on trial charged with dealing in ancient objects said to have been smuggled out of Egypt in the early 1990s in violation of Egyptian law. "The case, seen by many as a test of the American government's resolve on stolen antiquities, has divided the art world. It has sent a chill through antiquities dealers who fear more aggressive policing in an area where proof of provenance can be hard to come by, and it has greatly cheered archaeologists who hope that such prosecutions will help cool the illicit antiquities trade." The New York Times 01/30/02

MAKING THE SMITHSONIAN SMALL: Milo Beach, former director of the Freer Gallery, joins the growing chorus of those who believe that Smithsonian chief Lawrence Small has ruined the Smithsonian: "Judging from recent words and deeds, the present administration of the institution views the life of the mind with astonishing indifference. The secretary, for example, spoke to the assembled staff of the National Museum of American History and left the distinct impression with many that the day of curiosity-driven research was over at the Smithsonian." Washington Post 01/27/02

FRENCH MUSEUMS SUFFERING: Last year was a disaster for Parisian museums. After September 11, attendance dropped by as much as 30 percent. Aggressive security scared off some visitors, and strikes at some museums meant that even if you did try to visit a gallery, it might be closed. "At the Louvre, visitor numbers for 2001 have fallen to 5.2 million compared to 6.1 million in 2000, down by 13.9%. This includes all the visitors admitted for free during the strikes. If only the paying visitors are compared, numbers are down by almost 25%." The Art Newspaper 01/25/02


BEWARE - ARTISTS AT THE GATES: In the UK, enrollment is down in university science courses, and up in arts and humanities. Whether that's good news or bad depends upon your outlook: the information was presented to Members of Parliament as warning; it indicates, said one MP, a "slide toward the cheap end" of academia." The Guardian (UK) 01/31/02

LANGUAGE OF ART AND SCIENCE: Science, like art, helps explain the world around us. And yet the language of science, the words used to explain it, are often not easy to understand. Likewise, art has not often helped us to learn about science. But there are signs that art is taking new interest in expressions of science. National Post (Canada) 01/30/02

WHERE ARE WE GOING? When you're right in the middle of consuming contemporary art, it's difficult to see where its going. "Certainly, in the free-for-all that is contemporary art, the challenge is to find any connection within the chaos of its styles, influences, cross-influences and impulses. As art critics, we're largely dancing in the dark." Hartford Advocate 02/01/02

HOW ARTISTS MAKE A LIVING: The Urban Institute has announced plans to study the support structure for artists in nine major American cities. According to the Institute, there has never been a scientific investigation into what types and amounts of support are available to assist artists, and the information found in the study will be used to compile a national database for artist use. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 01/31/02

SLOW TALKING: Does the ease of e-mail and instant messaging and cell phones degrade our ability to communicate eloquently? "I have witnessed a manifest decline in the grammar, literary style, and civility of communication. People are less likely these days to stroll down the hall or across campus to converse. Our conversations, thought patterns, and institutional clockspeed are increasingly shaped to fit the imperatives of technology. It is time to consider the possibility that—for the most part—communication ought to be somewhat slower, more difficult, and more expensive than it is now." Utne Reader 01/30/02

THE LINCOLN CENTRE MESS: "Lincoln Center is a community in deep distress, riven by conflict over a grandiose $1 billion redevelopment plan that was supposed to repair its deteriorating buildings and bring the cultural jewel of New York into the twenty-first century. But instead of uniting the center's constituent arts organizations behind a common goal, the project has pitted them against one another in open warfare more reminiscent of the shoot-out at the OK Corral than of a night at the opera." New York Magazine 01/28/02

SO NO ARRESTING SALLY MANN, GOT IT? "Massachusetts' highest court has overturned the child pornography conviction of an art student who photographed a 15-year-old girl with her breasts exposed. The Supreme Judicial Court said Monday that John C. Bean, who was taking courses at the Worcester Art Museum, 'had no lascivious intent' and the pictures were 'neither obscene nor pornographic.' A judge had sentenced Bean to six months' probation on a charge of 'posing a child in the nude.' Bean also faced having to register as a sex offender." Nando Times (AP) 01/28/02

10. FOR FUN 

JUSTICE MAY BE BLIND BUT NOT ASHCROFT: Washington's Justice Department building has a Great Hall where department events and ceremonies are held. The grand room is decorated in Art Deco style, and the walls feature great figures in history. Also two enormous partially nude statues - "on the left, the female figure represents the Spirit of Justice; the male on the right is the Majesty of Law." But it seems that Attorney General John Ashcroft, known as a "strongly religious and conservative man" is embarrassed by the statues, so the department has ordered the statues be covered up with draperies installed last week "at a cost of just over $8,000." 01/28/02

MY FAIR HEADLOCK: A Broadway show based on the life of a real person? Sure, lots of them. But, a politician? Well, yes, it's been done. But, I mean, this one's about Jesse Ventura. Jesse Ventura, the former wrestler who's governor of Minnesota? Yeah, him; and it's a musical. Um... I think that will be a first. Baltimore Sun (AP) 01/31/02

CRITICAL WRECKAGE: The wreckage of the car art critic Robert Hughes was driving in Australia when he had an accident, has been put on display in an art exhibition at the Perth International Arts Festival. "The car, reduced by wreckers to a block, is being displayed in a perspex box littered with fishing lures, lines and hooks, a crushed pair of spectacles, brake-light fragments and a crumpled beer can. Also in the box is a mangled copy of Hughes' most famous work, The Fatal Shore, as well as a battered edition of The Cooking of Japan, a Time Life book." The Age (Melbourne) 02/01/02