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Week of June 17-23, 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


SHAKESPEARE - IN NEED OF AN UPDATE? Is Shakespeare's language too archaic for the modern reader to understand? "Are non-English-speakers, as some Shakespeare scholars have suggested, more at home with their translated Shakespeare than English-speakers with their genuine article?" A new book suggests some updating and clarifications might be in order. The Economist 06/14/02

PATENTLY WRONG: The number of patents granted has exploded in recent decades. A sign of increasing innovation and progress? Perhaps. But tying up new ideas in patents are "just as bad for society as too few. The undisciplined proliferation of patent grants puts vast sectors of the economy off-limits to competition, without any corresponding benefit to the public. The tension between the patent as a way to stimulate invention and the patent as a weapon against legitimate competition is inherent in the system." Forbes 06/17/02

WHAT'S THE VISION? Rem Koolhaas "may be our greatest contemporary architect, but the nature and volume of his production indicate that he wants to be more than that. He plays the game of cultural critic and theorist, visionary, urbanist, and shaper of cities for the globalized, digitized, commercialized world of the twenty-first century. If we don't begin thinking critically about what he's doing, how our cities look and function might greatly reflect his influence - and what we get might not be what we want." American Prospect 06/17/02


TALKING ABOUT THE STATE OF DANCE: In Miami 400 dance administrators from around America gather for Dance USA. "As the artistic directors of ballet companies from across the country discussed the trials of the past year, money troubles seemed outweighed by advances, such as the number of troupes moving into new buildings or performing arts centers. And in a forum for modern dance choreographers, strategies for attracting audiences ranged from offering birthday cakes at concerts to casting local religious leaders in dances." Miami Herald 06/21/02

DANCING IN THE REAL WORLD: How to grow the audience for dance? Take it to where people are - the pubs, the streets, the offices. "Site-specific choreography, as Ashford defines it, is a relatively recent phenomenon, although the use of unconventional venues, such as art galleries, museums, warehouses and lofts, for what is known as location-based dance, has a much longer history. These venues provide choreographers with a natural performance space, without the formality and conventions of the theatre. They also allow the audience to experience the performance in a different way." London Evening Standard 06/21/02

A NUTCRACKER GONE WRONG: Donald Byrd's company is shutting down after 24 years. Of course it's a funding issue, but Byrd says the company's gamble on a major production didn't pay off. "For the company, The Harlem Nutcracker was supposed be like capital campaigns for some organizations. It was supposed to push us to the next level of institutionalization. And when you fail at that, you're like a presidential candidate who doesn't win the election. You are tossed out and forgotten." Los Angeles Times 06/19/02

STEVENSON TO DFW: Houston Ballet director Ben Stevenson has been named artistic director of the Dallas Fort Worth Ballet. In 27 years in Houston, "Stevenson doubled the size of the Houston corps, built up a major school of ballet and recruited significant talent. As a choreographer, he gained attention for a great variety of works but was particularly acclaimed for evening-length ballets in the romantic tradition." Fort Worth Star-Telegram 06/19/02


RECORD HOLLYWOOD: Major Hollywood movie studios took in a record $31 billion last year, up by $1.3 billion from the previous year. "Home video, spurred by the continued rise of DVD sales, was again the biggest contributor to the overall growth, accounting for 40% of all-media revenue, according to a summary of annual global results. Backstage 06/19/02

WEBCASTING FEES SET: The US Librarian of Congress has cut royalty fees internet webcasters will have to pay to play music. The copyright office had proposed a fee of .14 cents per song. The new rates "require webcasters to pay record labels .07 cents each time a song is streamed live and .02 cents for archived or simulcasted streams. Temporary copies, such as ripped copies of CDs that are used to create the digital streams, will cost companies 8.8 percent of their entire royalty fee." Webcasters say that the fees will put them out of business. Wired 06/20/02

THE END OF PBS? With PBS' ratings falling to historic lows, critics are wondering whether the network will survive. PBS president Pat Mitchell: "We are dangerously close in our overall primetime number to falling below the relevance quotient. And if that happens, we will surely fall below any arguable need for government support, not to mention corporate or individual support." FoxNews 06/18/02

THE FOLLY OF BIG RADIO: Clear Channel Communications is, for all intents and purposes, the face of American radio in the era that has succeeded the notorious Telecommunications Act of 1996. The company has a near-monopoly in many markets, and nationwide, radio has never sounded so bland, so demographically targeted, and so predictable. Clear Channel claims that such tactics are what the public wants, but overall listenership is down 10% since 1996. Furthermore, some reports have Clear Channel bleeding at the wallet at a time when it should be raking in the dough. Is this the death of radio as we know it? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Washington Post) 06/23/02

STREAK OF INDEPENDENCE: While the big movies rely more and more on boffo opening weekend at the box office, the marketing and distribution of smaller independent films is being rethought. "The challenge is finding the right small movie to schedule opposite a behemoth. It's an evolutionary process. The increase in independent films jockeying for art-house space has changed the equation, as has alternative programming on cable that's really satisfying." San Francisco Chronicle 06/17/02

MISSING WOMEN: "According to an annual study that counts the number of women working on the 250 top domestic grossing films of the year, the number of women directors declined from 11 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2001. Women accounted for 14 percent of writers in 2000. In 2001, the percentage dropped to 10." Wired 06/17/02

NPR'S "CLUELESS" LINK POLICY: National Public Radio has become the object of ridicule on the web for its policy of requiring webmasters to apply for permission to link to stories on NPR's site. "By Wednesday afternoon, the NPR link form was the No. 1 item on Daypop, which ranks the popularity of items in weblogs. 'If you take this to its logical end, if you did this to everyone at every site, the Internet would break down. So the policy is borne of either cluelessness or evil - and I'd like to think that the Car Talk and tote bag people aren't evil." Wired 06/20/02


THE 6 MILLION PHENOM: After two years the soundtrack from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? "the Grammy-winning album of blues, mountain and other Americana music, has sold more than 6 million copies and is still hovering on Billboard's chart of the Top 20 albums in the country." This despite the almost total absence of playtime on commercial radio in the US. The album has been so successful, it's spawned new recording labels hoping to promote this genre of music. Nando Times (AP) 06/20/02

OVER THE CLIFF: "Europe's top orchestra and four of America's Big Five are changing hands, the biggest baton handover in memory." This kind of top-level turnover would be cause for concern in any industry, writes Norman Lebrecht. But the orchestras have botched it. "With conservatism in full cry, musical America is entering an epoch of dullness that one would hardly cross the road to experience, let alone the Atlantic. The slow decline of symphonic concerts has taken a sharp downturn with the shunning of the next generation. This sorry outcome could have been foretold, and has been." London Evening Standard 06/19/02

BLAME THE TEACHERS? So many classical musicians sound the same - middle of the road and bland. Is it because of how they're trained? "This sort of standardisation of education over the last hundred years has certainly raised the degree of professionalism. But standardisation has also become a danger. Is it any surprise that musicians tend to sound the same, look the same, and function as replaceable parts for orchestras, concert seasons and advertising? Is it a surprise that the individuality that might make for a remarkable moment of experience at a concert is missing?" Ludwigvanweb 06/02

ORCHESTRAS LOOKING UP: Thirteen-hundred orchestra administrators met in Philadelphia last week to talk about the state of the business at the annual American Symphony Orchestra League meeting. Despite a few orchestras with financial problems, "the overall health of orchestras is so strong that they are in better shape now than they were one or two decades ago." Andante 06/17/02

USE ME/ABUSE ME: The recording industry is worried about sales of used CDs. "The industry worries that the expanding used market is cannibalizing new-CD sales, as well as promoting piracy by allowing consumers to buy, record and sell back discs while retaining their own digitally pristine copies. One proposed remedy being debated by record label executives is federal legislation requiring used-CD retailers to pay royalties on secondary sales of albums." San Diego Union-Tribune 06/14/02

ARTISTS DEMAND BETTER DEAL: Recording artists are demanding better treatment from recording companies. "In recent weeks, several long-simmering lawsuits and legislative reforms seeking to change the way major labels handle artists' contracts have come to a boil. The biggest player in this movement is the Recording Artists Coalition (RAC), led by Don Henley, which wants to shorten the length of deals and require labels to offer artists health benefits." New York Daily News 06/17/02

TIMIDITY AT THE OPERA HOUSE: Opera is thriving in the U.S. these days, as the advent of supertitles and the reinvigoration of the notion that opera is just theatre with better music draw a new generation into the fold. Furthermore, the new popularity has led to a flurry of newly commissioned operas by big-name composers. But so much of the contemporary output seems to be lacking in a certain daring - are composers pandering to the crowd, afraid to challenge them too much, lest they alienate the public again? The New York Times 06/23/02

TCHAIKOVSKY PRIZEWINNERS: The 12th International Tchaikovsky Competition wrapped up this weekend with Japanese pianist Ayako Uehara taking first prize in high-profile piano division. For the first time in the competition's history, the judges did not award a first prize in the violin division. Andante (Kyodo News) 06/22/02

HIP-HOP NOT JUMPING SO HIGH: "Sales of hip-hop albums in the first quarter of 2002 were down an eye-opening 26% from the same period last year, by far the largest drop among major pop genres, and longtime observers on the scene have been grumbling that innovation and star power are on the wane." Los Angeles Times 06/19/02

PLAYING FOR NO ONE? Where's LA's jazz scene? Actually there's plenty of innovative playing going on. But it's underground - in the schools and in small out-of-the-way venues. The bigger clubs are mainstream and few of the hot young players have much visibility. "The playing is brilliant. But no one, no one, seems to be creating music that is connecting to an audience out there." Los Angeles Times 06/20/02


J. CARTER BROWN, 67: For 23 years Brown was director of the National Gallery in Washington DC, where he greatly expanded the museum's collections and oversaw the IM Pei addition. He was founder of the Ovation TV arts channel, and director of the Atlanta Olympics arts festival, as well as chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The New York Times 06/19/02

  • THE POPULIST PATRICIAN: J. Carter Brown held one of the most powerful artistic posts in the nation, and yet his legacy is one of making art accessible to everyone. "Brown, an unashamed elitist, was also an inclusionist. He was a patrician multiculturist. To a museum that had only shown (and still only collects) objects from the West, he brought African art and Indian art, South Pacific carving, Noh robes from Japan, scimitars from Turkey, Costa Rican gold." Washington Post 06/19/02

RALPH SHAPEY, 81: Ralph Shapey, who died last weekend at the age of 81, was "perhaps America's most relentlessly self-challenging composer, his catalogue having roughly 200 pieces for a huge range of ensembles. He also cared a great deal if people listened. In 1969, he went on strike as a composer, refusing to allow performances of his works until conditions for modern music improved. At one point, he even threatened to burn it all, which was possible since none of his music had been published and was all in manuscript." The Guardian (UK) 06/17/02

WHAT'S THE VISION? Rem Koolhaas "may be our greatest contemporary architect, but the nature and volume of his production indicate that he wants to be more than that. He plays the game of cultural critic and theorist, visionary, urbanist, and shaper of cities for the globalized, digitized, commercialized world of the twenty-first century. If we don't begin thinking critically about what he's doing, how our cities look and function might greatly reflect his influence - and what we get might not be what we want." American Prospect 06/17/02


KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT? Never fails - every year there are a couple of prominent accusations of plagiarism. But there's a problem - "there is no single, universally accepted definition and, consequently, no effective punishment. We don't develop a fund of experience or build up much history on this topic. Cases like [those of Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin] come out once or twice every year, and always the same fundamental questions are asked. What is plagiarism? We don't make much cultural progress on the issue. As with pornography, people think they know plagiarism when they see it. However, the definition of plagiarism changes depending on the writer's role and motivation." Poets & Writers 06/02

RANDOM NUMBERS: Random House has posted a $14 million loss for the second half of last year, its first loss in four years. "All major publishers felt a decline in demand for books because of the recession and the terrorist attacks, but none of the other major publishers that publicly report results suffered as much. Revenue for the last six months of the year fell slightly at Penguin Putnam, held steady at HarperCollins and rose to $377 million from $350 million at Simon & Schuster. None reported losses." The New York Times 06/17/02

BUSH APPEALS LIBRARY FILTERING: The Bush administration is appealing last month's federal court ruling striking down a requirement that public libraries install filtering software on their computers to block pornography. The court had ruled that filtering software wasn't able to block porn without also filtering other sites. Wired 06/20/02

WEIGHTY MATTERS: Why do successful American books seem to be getting fatter? "Recently, there seems to have been a correlation between enormous novels and enormous advances. Over the past five years, the American literary scene has been littered with big, fat books marking their author's claim on the Great (Big) American Novel: David Foster Wallace's truly infinite Infinite Jest, at 1088 pages; Don DeLillo's Underworld, 832 pages; and Thomas Pynchon's most recent, Mason and Dixon, 784 pages." The Age (Melbourne) 06/21/02

ACADEMIA ATTACKS STUPIDITY: Why are we stupid? A new book compiles some ideas. "Robert Sternberg's premise is that stupidity and intelligence aren't like cold and heat, where the former is simply the absence of the latter. Stupidity might be a quality in itself, perhaps measurable, and it may exist in dynamic fluxion with intelligence, such that smart people can do really dumb things sometimes and vice versa." Salon 06/19/02

THE STORY OF MY (EXAGGERATED) LIFE: So many recent memoirs seem to contain exaggerated (or fabricated) stories. Is it that real life isn't interesting enough? Or is it that as fiction it wouldn't ring true? "What gives in the world of nonfiction these days? Why is it leaning so close to — maybe even into — the world of fiction? And why don't they just call it fiction?" MobyLives 06/19/02


CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? So Broadway had its first down year in a while. "But when you consider the terrible trauma of September 11, which initially looked as if it was going to bring Broadway to its knees, the figures strike me as remarkably resilient. My hunch is that Broadway is actually faring better than the West End." The Telegraph (UK) 06/17/02

HE'S BACK... Garth Drabinsky, the Canadian theatre impressario whose empire came crashing down amid scandal a few seasons back, has won some of Toronto's top drama awards for his comeback show this past season. "Four years ago, in an unceremonious way, I was stripped of every award I ever received in theatre," he said after accepting the outstanding production award. Toronto Star 06/18/02

THAT WAS FAST: Now that Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura has decided not to run for reelection, "plans for The Body Ventura" - a musical that promised, among other things, a sung-through political debate and dancing Navy SEALs - have been scrapped." St. Paul Pioneer Press 06/19/02

KING ON TOP: The National tour debut of The Lion King in Dallas has been a hit. In a ten-week run the show attracted 214,000 customers and sold $13 million in tickets. The city also figures the show generated $52 million for the Denver economy. Denver Post 06/20/02

BOLLYWOOD DREAMIN': It's the summer of Bollywood in London, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bollywood Dreams has opened in the West End. Is it something new and different? "It's a bold, inventive shot at something new that misses the target. Crucially the music by the famous Indian composer, AR Rahman, played by a tiny, 10-strong orchestra, falls blandly between two worlds. Far too often it sounds more western than Indian. The mix is dull." London Evening Standard 06/21/02


STRIKE CLOSES BMA: The British Museum is closed today after 750 museum workers went on strike, protesting government cuts in funding. "Some 100 strikers picketed the museum, handing out leaflets to members of the public. It is the first time the museum has been closed by industrial action in its 250-year history." BBC 06/17/02

NEW ICA CHAIRMAN: Alan Yentob, the BBC's director of drama, entertainment and children's programmes, has been named new chairman of London's Institute of Contemporary Art. The ICA's previous chairman left in a blaze of publicity, declaring that concept art was "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat that I wouldn't accept even as a gift". The Guardian (UK) 06/14/02

FIGHTING FOR SCRAPS: There is so little high-end art available for sale in the UK that when even a minor sale comes up for auction, there's a feeding frenzy. The Telegraph (UK) 06/17/02

LOOKING OUT: This edition of Documenta is the most international and outward-looking yet. "The main themes of this Documenta are migration, precarious post-colonial constellations, cultural intermixing and changing perspectives within a new global society. All the sore points, the terrible conflicts which often trigger or prevent these changes, are given center stage: the tortured Balkans; the misery of the underdeveloped and exploited; racism; the genocide in Rwanda; the hell of a South African gold mine; South American military dictatorships; guerrilla wars; Sept. 11, 2001; the refugee ships sunk in the Mediterranean with their unretrieved bodies, searched for by teams of underwater archaeologists. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/16/02

OVERLOAD: An exhausted Peter Plagens marvels at the sheer size of the event. And how much explanation the art takes. "Never in the history of contemporary-art shows have so many viewers been asked to read so much while standing on such unforgiving concrete floors." It's also difficult to sort out. "Hardly any of the art in Kassel lives up to the huge political burden placed upon it." With the show's attempt "to get art to act as a rebuttal to the G8’s style of globalization, Documenta has turned itself into a clever, but only occasionally convincing, Didactamenta." Newsweek 06/24/02

UNDERSTANDING FREUD: This summer's hottest art show in London is the Lucien Freud retrospective at Tate Britain. At 79, Freud is generally considered Britain's top living artist. "Let me be clear about this: at every stage in his long career, Freud has painted wonderful pictures. In a show with 156 works, I am talking about no more than a dozen misses or near-misses, but they are enough to show that painting does not come easily to Freud. He's a thrilling artist because when he performs, he doesn't have a net to catch him if he falls." The Telegraph (UK) 06/19/02

LOST IN THE WTC: "Among the major losses of a historic and archaeological nature was the Five Points archaeological collection, which, excavated in the early 1990s had been stored in the basement of Six World Trade Center, the building that was destroyed when the facade of Tower One fell into it. Only 18 of about one million unique artifacts documenting the lives of nineteenth-century New Yorkers survive." Archaeology 06/19/02

WHERE'S THE PUBLIC IN CHICAGO'S PUBLIC ART FUND? Chicago's Public Art Fund spends millions on public art, financed by the city's percent for art ordinance. Some of its projects are highly visible, yet critics charge that the program operates in secret and lacks accountability. How much money does it spend? How does it decide what to buy? You'd think public records would be available, and yet... Chicago Tribune 06/20/02

SISTER WENDY'S PRIVATE TOUR: Sister Wendy's trip through American museums for her recent series didn't include a stop at LA's Norton Simon Museum. So the museum made her an offer she couldn't refuse, and Wendy obliged with a private tour captured on tape. "It's a little strange that Sister Wendy, known more for her broad telepopulist appeal than for the eloquence or originality of her insights, should be sequestered in the back room of a deluxe suburban vanity museum. But such an improbable arrangement is actually pretty much par for the course in the long, strange trip of the art nun's career." LAWeekly 06/20/02

TYRANNY OF THE ACOUSTIGUIDE: Thinking about reaching for one of those handy acoustiguides now so popular at many museums? Think again. "It makes choices for you. It pick winners. Most museums that use the system restrict it to a (growing) menu of ‘masterpieces’, effectively relegating great tracts of their collection into a sort of art-historical Division Three – there to be scanned indulgently if you happen to have some quirky personal attachment, but clearly far beneath general interest. So immediately your choices are curtailed. Then, once the audioguide has imposed its snobbery on you, it sets about telling you, with varying degrees of skill and subtlety, what you ought to think about the art on show, and this is where the real trouble begins." 05/26/03


MAKING A SHOW OF CUTS: With states across America facing budget deficits, many have proposed cutting public arts funding. Arts budgets are small compared to overall state budgets, but they're highly visible (read: they make good poster-children as candidates for fiscal austerity). Backstage 06/19/02

GOTTA LOVE THOSE GAYS AND BOHEMIANS: A new study sure to make Jerry Falwell cringe suggests that cities with high populations of "gays and bohemians (artistically creative people)" are more likely to thrive economically than those populated by, presumably, straights and dullards. The study focused on the economic impact of the "creative class" on large American metropolises. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 06/23/02

LINCOLN CENTER'S NEW LEADER: Bruce Crawford, former general manager of the Metropolitan Opera has been chosen as the new chairman of Lincoln Center, succeeding Beverly Sills. "In addition to presiding over Lincoln Center, the country's largest and most important cultural institution, with constituents like the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet, Mr. Crawford will oversee the center's often contentious $1.2 billion redevelopment plan." The New York Times 06/18/02

ART VS. BASKETBALL: Community activists in Los Angeles are clashing over how best to use a 3-1/2 acre vacant lot in the city's Little Tokyo neighborhood. Residents want a gym to house their basketball league, but an art museum whose property backs up on the lot wants to turn it into an "art park" connecting the multiple cultural institutions in the neighborhood. Sports usually win out over art in these disputes, but which proposal is better urban planning? Los Angeles Times 06/19/02

THE LOTTERY CRUNCH: Britain's lottery helped spur a wave of cultural building in the past few years that has transformed the country's cultural infrastructure. But lottery revenue is shrinking, and estimates for maintaining he UK's "heritage" over the next 10 years will be "nearly £4 billion, of which £800 million is needed for museums and galleries." The Art Newspaper 06/14/02

10. FOR FUN 

SEX WIPES AWAY MEMORY: A study reports that a little sex in a TV show wipes away viewers' ability to remember commercials. "Researchers found that people watching shows packed with sexual innuendo, performers with revealing clothes or sexual scenes were much less likely to remember the ads both immediately after the show and a day later." Sydney Morning Herald 06/20/02

ELVIS LIVES: Elvis has just scored his 18th No. 1 hit in the UK. A DJ funky remix of Elvis Presley’s A Little Less Conversation. How? Soccer. The song was used in a sports ad and has become Britain’s unofficial World Cup anthem. The Times (UK) 06/17/02

MUSICIANS - SMARTER THAN THE REST OF US? A new study says that musicians have larger brains than other people. "Medical scans found that instrumentalists and singers have 130 per cent more grey matter in a particular part of their brains compared with those who are unable to play a note." But how do you explain Ozzy Osbourne? The Scotsman 06/18/02

SO FUNNY, EVEN MY CATS LAUGHED (REALLY): So you think TV and movie critics sit around trying to think up clever little quotes so they can see themselves blurbed in big letters in ads? Hmnnn... "In writing columns and reviews, getting quoted is never my agenda. Nope, not on my radar screen. No ego here. I have too much integrity for that. My validation comes from within." Los Angeles Times 06/21/02

PRINCE OF A MISTAKE: Earlier this week three works by Prince Charles were put up for auction in Birmingham. Interest in the watercolors was high - they were listed at a few hundred pounds, but they eventually fetched £20,000. The day after the sale, though, it was noticed that a mistake had been made - the art wasn't painted at all - they're lithographs. "Worth a few hundred pounds, they were excellent copies of the original works, but of interest more for their novelty value than their artistic merit." The Scotsman 06/20/02