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Week of April 15-21, 2002

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


CRAPPY BUSINESS: The lords of TV and movies can rarely be called artists. Instead of art, business rules decisions about what gets produced and what doesn't. So how do the moguls do at business? Tod Gitlin's new book concludes that "generally, they don't have very good reasons for doing what they do. And then, of course, if something succeeds, there's a retroactive, backpatting and genius-anointing operation. But that's the culture of the television-entertainment industry. Sometimes they'll get lucky and strike Survivor for a while." Salon 04/14/02 

MUSIC AS "DAY-PART": Why does classical music radio programming often sound so canned? How do they decide what music to play? It's certainly not like programming a concert. Instead, programmers are looking for a "sound" in an exercise known as "day-parting." Washington's WGMS has a "database containing descriptions of the music in the station's 10,000-CD library. Selections in the database are categorized according to a couple of dozen adjectives that the station has come up with to define each composition's 'mood and energy level'—among them 'boisterous,' 'pleasant,' 'tranquil,' and 'lively'." The Atlantic 03/02

SOME COLUMNS JUST BEG FOR ANGRY LETTERS: "It has been noted that the performing arts are the ones most suffering from the age divide. The audience for conventional theatre is dying and not being replaced. This does not trouble me much, as most theatre is simply dumb. It does not mean that art is dying... I do not know who would be better equipped to appreciate plays: old people, with their far longer attention span and patience for the static, or young people, who can actually hear. The ideal audience may not exist." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/21/02

THE SCIENCE OF THE AVANT GARDE: A professor of economics has applied statistical methods to the analysis of avant-garde painting - "treating aesthetic innovations as, in effect, a function of the labor market among bohemians." But though he has written a book on his findings, and submitted papers to leading journals devoted to the scholarly study of art and aesthetics, it seems no one in the art world is interested. Chronicle of Higher Education 04/15/02


STEALING THE ASSETS: "To many, Ron Protas is the most hated man in dance: a controlling and abusive manipulator intent on destroying the legendary Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance... Protas was dumped as the center's artistic director in May 2000 after years of losing money and butting heads with its members, including one incident in which he allegedly tied up a dancer 'to teach her fear.' But he's now attempting to wrestle away the one Graham asset he doesn't have in his possession: the dances themselves." New York Post 04/21/02

THE BILLY ELLIOT EFFECT: For the first time in its 76 year history, the Royal Ballet has admitted more boys as students than girls. The company attributes it to the movie Billy Elliot, which was released two years ago. The Telegraph (UK) 04/14/02

LIFE OUTSIDE BIG DANCE: Why would established male dancers leave London's Royal Ballet for a small uncertain company? In their early 30s, each could see their careers playing out. "It would have been so easy 'to play the game and stay in the company for a long time, winding down from Princes into character roles... and collecting your pension'. But none of them was prepared to sit out that kind of life. Like most dancers in big companies they often had to wait long periods between good roles and had to dance some choreography that bored or offended them in between. 'The more successful I was, the more bored I became. I was just repeating myself'." The Guardian (UK) 04/17/02


BECAUSE PROPPING UP THEIR DOLLAR WOULD BE TOO COSTLY: The Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) has announced a new plan to enforce union contracts outside the boundaries of the U.S. The move is aimed squarely at curbing the tendency of Hollywood studios to trim costs by making movies in Canada, and SAG's Canadian counterpart is not thrilled. Nando Times (AP) 04/18/02

CANCON TAKEN TO EXTREMES? "The most praised Canadian play in the Stratford Festival's 50-year history has been refused a Canadian TV production investment because its central character is Queen Elizabeth I, a non-Canadian, and the events do not take place in Canada. Hamstrung by a stringent rule affecting completely Canadian-content productions, the Canadian Television Fund... has refused an application from Toronto's Rhombus Media for a crucial 20 per cent investment to film Elizabeth Rex for CBC and Bravo. Toronto Star 04/19/02

WHAT, ME WORRY? Michael Powell (yes, Colin's kid) is chairman of America's Federal Communications Commission. He sees no problems with the rapid consolidation of media in the hands of a few mega-corporations. ''I mean, I can watch everything from a thoughtful piece on history on the History Channel to Fear Factor. I think we're in a period right now where we're seeing the very best that television has produced, and the very worst.'' Boston Globe 04/17/02

CANNES JURY ANNOUNCED: The Cannes Film Festival has announced the jury for this year's festival - five directors and three actresses, including American actress Sharon Stone. The Age (Melbourne) 04/18/02

FAMILY VALUES: G-rated family films are suddenly hot in Hollywood. "Studios have already decided that they're going to make more G, PG and PG-13 films, said a market researcher for the major studios who didn't want to be named. Often criticized in conservative political and cultural quarters for ignoring family values, studios are now vying for hard-to-find quality material with gentle themes and universal appeal." Toronto Star 04/16/02

NPR PROGRAM CHANGES EXPLAINED: National Public Radio's major reorganization of its programming has many worried about how NPR will cover culture. "People say NPR is going into pop culture. But we should cover popular culture in the same smart way as when we cover news events." San Francisco Chronicle 04/16/02

HOGGING CREDIT: It seems everyone in Hollywood is unhappy about the way credits for movies are allocated. "All you have to do is go to the movies and look at the proliferation of producer credits, and you can recognize that there's a problem. (There is) a trend, which I think we are in the process of reversing, toward the devaluing or undervaluing of the producer and his role, because if you can give that credit to anyone, the implication is that it doesn't mean anything." Backstage 04/14/02 

DIGITAL SCRAMBLE: The demand for digital projection in movie theatres is growing. And fast. Trouble is, the companies that make the $130,000 projectors can keep up with the orders. And with the next installment of the digitally produced Star Wars coming out soon, there's a scramble to get the best equipment. Wired 04/15/02

POOH RIGHT BACK AT YOU: A New York Post reporter says she was fired by the newspaper "at the behest of Disney, after writing stories about the Mouse House's long-running Winnie the Pooh litigation." Now she's filed a $10 million suit against the newspaper and Disney. Yahoo! (Variety) 04/15/02


BYE BYE DUTOIT: The Montreal Symphony has finally accepted Charles Dutoit's resignation from the orchestra and says it will begin a search for his successor. "The announcement came the day after the musicians voted on a resolution to invite Dutoit back. The results of that vote were not revealed and there was no indication that they would be. It was also unclear at the time of the vote whether the resolution would have any effect on Dutoit." Andante 04/18/02

INTERESTED, BUT NOT THAT INTERESTED: A new study by the sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation finds that, while nearly a third of American adults profess to be "interested" in classical music enough to listen to it regularly, only 5% go to live concerts. The study does not say how many of the "interested" adults were doing their regular listening while standing in an elevator. Andante 04/21/02

BIG TIME JAZZ: Female jazz singers are hot right now. Recording companies are scouring clubs to find the Next Big Thing, and sales are going well. Why? Diana Krall. Her breakout success selling albums has singers and producers dreaming big. And suddely there's a crop of new voices. Los Angeles Times 04/14/02

ROME GETS A MEGA-HALL... "Rome on Sunday will inaugurate the largest concert hall complex in Europe - three separate theaters centered around an open-air arena designed by famed architect Renzo Piano. The $140 million project, one of the largest undertaken in Rome since World War II, will give the Eternal City its first major-league auditorium. It will be used to showcase chamber music, opera, contemporary music, theater, ballet, and symphonic performances." Nando Times (AP) 04/20/02

  • ...WITH MEGA-PROBLEMS: No one would deny that it's about time Rome got a decent concert hall. But the new Music Park has been a typically Italian fiasco from beginning to end: a controversial (some would say bizarre) design, a series of cost overruns, and lack of any sort of urgency to finish the thing have resulted in an embarrassing disaster of an opener, in which almost none of the complex will be completed. The Times of London 04/19/02

DUMB TIL YOU'RE NUMB: Why are fewer people listening to classical music on the radio? "The big problem is that music has been progressively dumbed down over the years, and not just at WNYC. Talk about music has replaced music itself, or the music is guitar sonatas and easy-listening favorites, background noise that drives away serious devotees. The public can judge quality. If you cheapen a product enough, eventually no one will want it. It is no surprise people have stopped tuning in." The New York Times 04/17/02

THE GOLDEN AGE OF OPERA? "In all of Canada, back in the 1930s, there wasn't a single permanent [opera] company regularly peddling Giacomo Puccini and Richard Wagner. And in the United States, the situation wasn't a great deal better. Today? Opera America... embraces 117 professional companies in 45 states and 19 more in five provinces, and those companies are not the only ones currently active." Toronto Star 04/20/02

BAD MUSIC OR PIRACY? Worldwide recorded music sales were down five percent in 2001. "Plagued by pirate websites and growing use of technology which allows music lovers to burn tracks on to CDs, legitimate sales fell across the world's biggest markets including America, Germany and Japan. Experts believe the growth of internet download sites has been such that one in every three recordings sold around the world is now illegal, costing the industry £2.9bn a year." Oddly enough, the only countries to see a rise in sales were England and France. The Independent (UK) 04/17/02

'POOR ME' DOESN'T WASH: Is the music recording business suffering? "Imagine a business where they cut the number of products released; raised the prices of their products to more than 20 bucks a pop; had a significant number of their distributors go out of business; reduced the amount of marketing money spent to promote each product; saw major promotional money and discounts from the two years of dot-com mania disappear; and saw complete turnover and management problems at one of their biggest providers, EMI. Yet in spite of all of these things, [the industry] sold more CDs and for more total dollars than the previous year. I would tell you that is a business that has had a great year. The RIAA has tried to paint the picture that the industry is suffering because of file sharing. It's not. There is more evidence that it has benefited from it." Phoenix New Times 04/13/02

RECORD PRODUCERS TO BLAME FOR DOWNTURN? Recording industry execs blame last year's five percent decline in sales on digital file trading. "But critics of the recording industry say that by treating their consumers as thieves - oftentimes before any legitimate business alternative was offered - millions of people have turned their backs on the music industry. They have voted with their computers - flocking to technologies that allow them to download music whenever they want, move it into any portable device, and share it with their friends." Wired 04/17/02

ORCHESTRAS (FINALLY) DISCOVER THE INTERNET: It's been nearly a decade since online information became a crucial aspect of American life, which means it ought to be just about time for American orchestras (always the land tortoises of marketing in the arts world) to discover that they might be able to use the internet to their advantage. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra "retooled its Web site in August 2000, in part to boost its online ticket sales. Since then orchestra officials said the group quadrupled its online ticket sales... Other U.S. orchestras are reporting similar gains." Chicago Tribune 04/21/02

MUSIC BY LAPTOP: "In a larger sense, nearly all of the music you hear today, both recorded and live, is electronic. This doesn't necessarily mean that it's digital - many studio engineers and artists remain fervently attached to analog hardware, with its arguably greater warmth and richness. But the computer is inextricably woven into all stages of the modern recording process: Even acoustic music such as string quartets and bluegrass is spliced and diced with all-purpose mixing software like Pro Tools and Logic. The wandering tones of mediocre (but marketable) singers are routinely treated with pitch-correcting programs like Antares Auto-Tune. And no one balks at drum machines anymore." Wired 04/15/02


MASUR ATTACKS HIS NY CRITICS: Outgoing New York Philharmonic music director Kurt Masur unloads on his New York critics in an interview in Le Monde. "He said that he had been unfairly called 'a Communist, an anti-Semite, a dictator'." Andante (Le Monde) 04/15/02

TAUBMAN MIGHT GET AWAY WITH IT? Former Sotheby's chairman Alfred Taubman could face a "maximum three-year term and a fine of at least $1.6 million to $8 million for leading a six-year antitrust conspiracy with Sotheby's rival, Christie's" that cost sellers as much as $43 million in overcharges. But the US Probation has recommended Taubman serve no prison time. The New York Times 04/19/02

KNIGHT PLAYWRIGHT: Alan Ayckbourn is one of England's most popular playwrights. He's "an odd mix. He plays the relaxed, easy-going egalitarian but, at the same time, he is clearly keen on his K (Though people singularly fail to cope with it. The milkman said: 'Congratulations on your knighthood, Mr Ayckbourn') and I reckon his six honorary degrees and two honorary fellowships are important to his sense of self-esteem." The Telegraph (UK) 04/18/02

TRAILBLAZER: Marin Alsop has probably accomplished more than any other female conductor. "How big a role I've played in [blazing a trail for other women] I'm not certain," Alsop says. "But I'm always very happy when young women [today] who are interested in the field think [being a woman is] a nonissue." Christian Science Monitor 04/19/02

A LEGACY OF HIT-AND-MISS? Norman Foster is to Britain what Frank Lloyd Wright was to the U.S. - a beloved creator of buildings, an icon of architectural prowess. But time opens as many wounds as it heals, and success attracts critics like death attracts flies, the upshot being that as Foster approaches the last years of his career, his legacy is far from assured. The Guardian (UK) 04/20/02


KINGS OF U.S. FICTION: Which author sold the most books in the US last year? Good try if you answered John  Grisham; he led the list the previous seven years. No, the "top-selling work of hardback fiction in the US last year was written by the Reverend Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Desecration, the ninth volume in the series Left Behind, sold 2,969,458 copies, nearly a million ahead of Grisham. If the literati of New York look down on Grisham, the other two are too low even to register on their radar screens. The Age (Melbourne) 04/15/02

WHO MAKES BOOKS EXPENSIVE? Why do book prices get higher with every passing year? Is it the publishers' fault, as Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio has been saying to all and any who will listen? Nonsense, say the publishers. Just look who gets the biggest percentage of every sale... MobyLives 04/15/02

STUDENTS DON'T READ CANADIAN: Canada's writers may be winning all sorts of awards, but Canadian students aren't reading the home-grown books. A new study says that the average Canadian student reads five Canadian books by the time of graduation. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/17/02

WHAT SHOULD LIBRARIES BE IN THE DIGITAL AGE? With so much information flowing through the internet, what should the role of libraries which are the traditional repositories of information, be? "Digital technology has split the confluence of medium and content hitherto known as the book. While information's infrastructure is public domain, information itself is a private commodity. Intermediaries such as booksellers and librarians have now become superfluous in certain areas of the information market. This is especially true in the realm of scientific, medical and technical literature, which by trying to combine two incompatible functions is both expensive and inefficient." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04/16/02

REALITY PROGRAMMING, CANADIAN STYLE: Celebrities go on CBC radio to try to convince people that the book they are talking about should be the book the entire country reads. At the end of each round, people vote one book "off the island." An interesting way to pick a book for the entire country to read? "What I have trouble with, first of all, is the underlying notion that the only way listeners will participate in Canada Reads is if famous personalities - well, at least 'world-famous coast to coast' - tell us what to read. It isn't possible to find a single novel that captures the imagination of an entire country." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/16/02

SUBJECT TO REVIEW: What makes an author great, or a novel a classic? Although we may not want to admit it, literary greatness is just as subjective as the success of whichever bubble gum pop act is making teenage girls shriek on MTV this week. "Literature, which some may like to conceive of as an immutable set of timeless verities, solid as granite and fixed as the stars, instead is every bit as fragile as any other human creation." Chicago Tribune 04/21/02

YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN: "Every lifetime reader has sweet memories of books read in adolescence that were totally captivating, that changed his or her outlook on life, that opened new worlds. The question is: do we dare revisit these books 20 or 30 years later? It can be like seeing your first love after all these years, and now she has a sullen look and you realize it was always there and how could you have missed it?" Toronto Star 04/20/02

ART OF PACKAGING LITERATURE: "Building an author's career, particularly a writer of literary fiction, is a brick-upon-brick process, and tending to that structure is what the business is about." So "why are first literary novels — the hardest sell in book publishing — afforded the more expensive hardcover start? Because so many book reviewers are snobbish about things literary and get nervous about reviewing even trade paperbacks, a format they tend not to take seriously. (Forget mass-market paperback entirely when it comes to reviewing.)" The New York Times 04/18/02

BUCKS FOR STAR WRITERS: Is it fair that big movie stars can earn tens of millions of dollars out of a film's budget? Must be, or the studios wouldn't do it. Now the same thing is happening to books, where enormous advances are being gambled on authors. "Increasingly, the big publishers are becoming like financing and distributing houses. They're like the major film studios in Hollywood. It's like opening a film at 300 theatres if Tom Cruise is starring in it. Everybody evaluates risk differently, but they're betting on a pretty sure thing." National Post 04/11/02


WHATEVER - IT SELLS TICKETS: "Nudity in theater can wear many different masks. It can be revolutionary or regressive, powerful or pointless. It can be comic, erotic, heroic, subversive, insightful or just plain god-awful. It may be as old as the art of theater itself, a vestigial remnant of ancient tribal rituals designed to sublimate or stoke primitive passions." Or it may be a shameless attempt to draw a crowd desperate to see Kathleen Turner in the buff. Los Angeles Times 04/21/02

CRADLE OF TALENT: London's Bush Theatre is turning 30, and its list of alumni talent is formidable. "For three decades and more than 350 productions, this tiny powerhouse of British theatre (100 seats, all of them uncomfortable) on unsalubrious Shepherd's Bush Green in west London, has developed so much nascent talent that, by rights, it should be called the National Theatre." The Telegraph (UK) 04/18/02

ARE BRITISH THEATRES RACIST? A new report suggests it. "Of 2,009 staff jobs in English theatre only 80 were held by black or Asian workers at the most recent count. Only 16 out of 463 board members were black or Asian. A survey of 19 organisations in a range of art forms in 1998 found that 6% of staff were black and Asian, but that more than half of those worked in catering or front-of-house areas. Ethnic minorities are variously estimated to form 10 to 15% of the population as a whole." The Guardian (UK) 04/17/02

WHY THE PRODUCERS FIRED HENRY GOODMAN: Goodman is a good actor. So why did he get canned from a great role in Broadway's The Producers? Perhaps because Nathan Lane made the part so well. "Lane is fat, lovable, vastly camp and totally harmless - an American cross between Elton John and Frankie Howerd. Goodman could hardly be more different. As London audiences who saw his recent Olivier-winning Shylock will recall, he oozes danger, cruelty and anger. Lane's humour is comfortingly white and cuddly; Goodman's is disconcertingly black and biting." Casting is, as they say, an inexact science. The Telegraph (UK) 04/17/02

NOW THAT'S DEVOTION: When one thinks of the world's great theatre centers, one might be forgiven for overlooking Albania. But the tiny European country's National Theater sells out nearly every show, despite the poverty of its public and a building so dilapidated that hardy audience members carry umbrellas to deflect the rainwater that leaks through the ceiling. The government would love to fix up the National, but no one knows where the money would come from. Minneapolis Star Tribune (AP) 04/18/02


FIGHTIN' WORDS: "The head of London's National Gallery is slowly 'killing off' the institution, according Julian Spalding, a former director of Glasgow's museums. Mr Spalding said [National director] Neil MacGregor has done a deal with Tate boss Sir Nicholas Serota so the National does not show work dated after 1900." BBC 04/19/02

SOTHEBY'S, CHRISTIE'S FACE ANTITRUST ACTION: The European Commission is charging the world's two largest art auction houses with collusion and anticompetitive practices. Sotheby's and Christie's are said to have formed a 'cartel' nearly a decade ago. The charges come on the heels of former Sotheby's chairman Alfred Taubman's conviction on price-fixing charges in the U.S. BBC 04/19/01

  • TAUBMAN MIGHT GET AWAY WITH IT? Former Sotheby's chairman Alfred Taubman could face a "maximum three-year term and a fine of at least $1.6 million to $8 million for leading a six-year antitrust conspiracy with Sotheby's rival, Christie's" that cost sellers as much as $43 million in overcharges. But the US Probation has recommended Taubman serve no prison time. The New York Times 04/19/02

THE PROBLEM WITH ROBERT HUGHES: It looked for a time earlier this year that critic Robert Hughes would direct this the visual arts component of this year's Venice Biennale. So why didn't it happen? " 'Because of a series of complex problems with Hughes, the Biennale would not even have got underway,' says the director of the Biennale. 'He's a specialist in gratuitous polemics. He insulted the Italian Government. He said Australia should be allowed to sink into the sea'." The Age (Melbourne) 04/19/02

HOW ABOUT A HARLEY AD AT GUGGENHEIM VEGAS? As automakers seek to attract an upscale demographic to their more expensive models, advertisers have found a secret weapon to making the cars look even more impressive on TV: architecture. Prominent buildings around the country are popping up in adds for Porsche, Audi, and Infiniti, to the delight of those in charge of the buildings. Not only do the ads afford much-desired exposure, but there's a tidy profit margin for the use of the facilities as well. Chicago Tribune 04/21/02

FEAR OF THE FUTURE? What has happened to the idea of revolutionary art? "Among the unexpected silences of today, the most significant to me is the lack of sustained interest in ideal, perfected, or revolutionary states of being. Where are the social utopias, the celebrations of a transformed consciousness, the visions of renewal and rebirth? Given the new millennium and the extraordinary scientific advances of this time, it seems strange that so few contemporary artists have a hopeful or otherworldly gleam in their eyes. Today, the future is typically regarded with dread." New York Magazine 04/15/02

REINVENTING THE PRADO: Madrid's Prado is one of the world's great museums. But it has fallen into great disrepair. Now the museum's new director has plans to modernize and overhaul how the museum is run and how its art is shown. "Although it is Spain's most visited museum, and home to works by Goya, Velazquez and El Greco, less than 10% of its 15,000 works of art is actually on display." BBC 04/15/02

MENIL LOSES DIRECTOR: "For the second time in three years, the Menil Collection has lost a director and named an interim chief to manage the museum and help find a replacement." Houston Chronicle 04/12/02

THE CONSTRUCTION THAT NEVER ENDS: Miami's Bass Museum has been closed for renovations for four years. "The Bass' renovation was expected to take just 18 months when it began in February 1998, and now the museum's extended closure is producing operating deficits. This year's $500,000 shortfall was covered with cash reserves, but those reserves could be exhausted by September. Among the reasons why the Bass' opening has been delayed are shoddy construction and administrative lapses. Miami Herald 04/16/02


WHAT RIGHT COPYRIGHT? Is the US copyright law overly protective? Some critics not only believe that it is, but that "property talk limits our imagination—it is severely limited when influential figures such as Jack Valenti use the word theft eight or nine times in a given speech, because it is impossible to argue for theft." Valenti replies that "copyright is at the core of this country's creativity. If it diminishes, or is exiled, or is shrunk, everyone who belongs to the creative guilds, or is trying to get into the movie business, or is in television, is putting their future to hazard." Village Voice 04/17/02

ARTS REBOUND IN OZ: After a down year in 2000, Australian arts consumption went up dramatically in 2001. "Cinema remained clearly the most popular arts entertainment with eight out of 10 people continuing to take in at least one movie each year, and patrons increasing the frequency of their cinema outings from 10 to 11 trips a year. Live bands were the second most popular choice with attendance ratings jumping to 51 per cent. Public art galleries attendances rose to 50 per cent of the population and live theatre jumped 7 percentage points to 48 per cent." The Age (Melbourne) 04/19/02

MEASURING THE HUMANITIES: "How can we articulate in compelling ways the continued importance of the humanities to our national life? A fundamental part of the problem, we quickly discovered, is that it is almost impossible to find reliable and up-to-date data on many aspects of the humanities - in contrast to the sciences, which have long been the subject of, and had access to, a broad collection of quantitative information." So a new project has been created - "the Humanities Indicators, a set of empirical databases about such subjects as the education of students in humanistic disciplines; the growth of traditional departments and new fields; the employment of humanists both within and beyond academe; and the availability of financing for the humanities." Chronicle of Higher Education 04/15/02

GETTING CLOSE TO GROUND ZERO: Numerous arts companies have expressed interest in becoming part of a cultural center proposed for Lower Manhattan near Ground Zero. "What is clear is that Ground Zero has captured the imagination of many in the arts and culture business." But it is also making it harder for arts groups with other projects in the city to get attention. Andante (Crain's New York Business) 04/14/02