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Week of July 29-August 4, 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


WAR ON MUSIC: "During the last three years, the battle against file sharing has become the entertainment industry's version of the War on Drugs, an expensive, protracted, apparently ineffective and seemingly misguided battle against a contraband that many suggest does little harm. The labels' main strategy - busting the biggest dealers in an attempt to strangle the supply of free MP3s, while offering few palatable solutions to stem the demand - is a classic tactic from the War on Drugs book, and it has failed just as clearly." Salon 07/31/02

THE FUTURE OF FAIR USE: "When Congress brought copyright law into the digital era, in 1998, some in academe were initially heartened by what they saw as compromises that, they hoped, would protect fair use for digital materials. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Recent actions by Congress and the federal courts - and many more all-too-common acts of cowardice by publishers, colleges, developers of search engines, and other concerned parties - have demonstrated that fair use, while not quite dead, is dying. And everyone who reads, writes, sings, does research, or teaches should be up in arms. The real question is why so few people are complaining." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/29/02


THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: Is New York dance on the road to extinction, or at least irrelevance? On the surface, it seems like a silly question. After all, the Big Apple is the undisputed capitol of American dance, and one of the world's great centers of the art. Certainly, there is "a strong circumstantial case for New York still being the dance capital of the world - until you notice that every one of these attractions relies on a presiding talent that is either middle-aged, old or dead." So once the Baryshnikovs and the Cunninghams are gone, will young innovators like Mark Morris and Christopher Wheeldon really be able to carry on the tradition of great American dance? The Telegraph (UK) 08/03/02

NEW TURN IN HOUSTON: It's been 27 years since Houston Ballet last hired an artistic director. With Ben Stevenson's resignation, the company's choice of a new leader will say much about what direction it wants to go. "The perception is that it's a very good dancing classical company, not a great dancing classical company. ... That it had reached a very high level of (technical ability), but it has fallen back a bit," he said. "Everyone feels there's a company that they can personally improve. Whether or not that is a reality may be more because of what they've toured than what the company really is." Houston Chronicle 07/28/02

DANCING AS A CRIME: An Iranian American visiting Iran is arrested there for the crime of dancing. Is dancing dangerous? "The truth is that dance can be about communication, rumination and celebration. It embodies ideas about religion, politics, culture, individuality, survival and more. Is dance dangerous? The governments and religions that try to control and ban it think so. The Khordadian case is not just about one dancer. Before him, people have died for the right to dance or, sometimes, they have just died inside without it." Los Angeles Times 07/28/02

BUILDING A BRAND: A little good marketing and branding would get England's National Ballet back on the right track again. "Why has high culture such reticence to get down there and exploit its international reputation to bring in hard cash? Tuesday night showed the wealth of talent in the Royal Ballet, and the genuine charisma and star quality of their principals. But, for all the massive interest in dance, they remain known only to a relatively small and select audience." The Independent (UK) 07/27/02


PUTTING RARE CULTURE ONLINE: A project in Britain will digitize important artistic, historic, scientific and cultural records to make them available to all. The project includes, rare books, scientific records, old newsreels, photographs - many of the documents or records are currently inaccessible because of fear of damage, and it is hoped that digital records of them will help research. Wired 08/02/02

RIGHT TO OWN IS UNDER ATTACK: "The simple transfer of music, from home to car to portable device, could soon be ending. Content companies and consumer advocates are waging a vicious battle in Washington, with the future of consumer rights - and what you can do with products you have purchased - at stake. At the center of the fight: government regulations being written with the support of movie studios and record companies." Wired 08/02/02

YOUR RIGHTS THREATENED: US lawmakers are seriously considering legislation that would allow movie and music companies to hack into personal computers to check for content. "Maybe this grotesque legislation will die the death it deserves, once sensible people understand the consequences. But if it or something similar goes through, its passage will be only one more in a series of laws and wish lists that have a single purpose. The goal is to give copyright owners profound control over music, movies and other forms of information. The fact that this control would do enormous damage to your rights, and to the future of innovation in a nation that desperately needs more innovation, is apparently beside the point." San Jose Mercury News 07/30/02

KID-PROOFING THE BIG SCREEN: It may be hard to believe in this era of family-friendly blockbusters, but there was a time only a few years ago when a PG rating was considered box office death, and directors intentionally inserted words and scenes designed to garner the adults-only R rating into their movies. So what's changed? According to one industry analyst, ""If you've got excessive violence or nudity, you're taking out a huge portion of America, conservative moviegoers included, not to mention the most lucrative audience of all, and that's the under-16 crowd." Denver Post 08/04/02

PBS AT THE GATE: PBS seems determined to make itself unloved and unwanted. "Like an underperforming child, you get angry at its failures because you so badly want it to succeed. But lately PBS hasn't even been responding to tough love. It does what it wants, for whom it wants, never takes criticism well and then can't understand why it gets hassled all the time." San Francisco Chronicle 07/31/02

  • PILING ON PBS: "This is all very nice and earnest, but PBS isn't getting sympathy and support from critics any more." So says a Canadian writer after observing PBS's various stumblings in recent months, and its sad, pathetic attempt to make generic, boring programs look exciting and new. With the Louis Rukeyser flap and the HIV-positive Muppet flap both thoroughly botched by network management, reruns of The Civil War simply aren't enough to cover up public broadcasting's glaring inadequacies anymore. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/01/02


A QUOTE BY ANY OTHER NAME... Bootlegs are the hottest thing in new music. "The debate over what bootlegs are and what they mean is taking place within the wider context of a culture where turntables now routinely outsell guitars, teenagers aspire to be Timbaland and the Automator, No. 1 singles rework or sample other records, and DJs have become pop stars in their own right, even surpassing in fame the very artists whose records they spin. Pop culture in general seems more and more remixed -- samples and references are permeating more and more of mainstream music, film, and television, and remix culture appears to resonate strongly with consumers. We're at the point where it almost seems unnatural not to quote, reference, or sample the world around us." Salon 08/01/02

SETTLEMENT AT 'MOSTLY MOZART': "Lincoln Center has reached an agreement with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, ending the four-day strike that led to the cancellation of 17 of the festival's 27 programs, according to a joint statement released by Lincoln Center and Local 802, the New York musicians' union. The remaining concerts that were to have featured the orchestra will not be reinstated. But the union informed its members late Friday afternoon that pickets at the festival would end." Andante 08/03/02

  • A TALE OF TWO FESTIVALS: There may be more to the Mostly Mozart strike than meets the eye. Critics are increasingly of the opinion that the management of the festival is playing with the notion of firing players or even scrapping the idea of a full-time festival orchestra altogether. Meanwhile, while Mostly Mozart is diminishing its own profile with labor disputes and cancelled concerts, the increasingly diverse but always light-hearted Lincon Center Festival continues to raise its profile and elevate its already considerable reputation. Washington Post 08/04/02

THE WORLD'S LARGEST CHAMBER MUSIC FEST: The Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival is the largest chamber music fest in the world. "Last year, with 106 concerts, attendance reached 57,000." How did the nine-year-old festival get so popular? Director Julian Armour says "he has succeeded by refusing to pander to his public, with relatively unknown composers such as Lutoslawski, Dutilleux and Romberg co-habiting alongside Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. This is an event for purists: unlike some 'classical' music festivals in this country, in Ottawa there are no Celtic fiddlers or Dixieland bands." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/31/02

STILL AFLOAT, BUT LISTING DANGEROUSLY: With the English National Opera furiously denying rumors of cutbacks and shutdowns at every turn, there is no small amount of panic surrounding the future of opera in the UK. The ENO is one of only a handful of companies in the world presenting classic operas in the local dialect (English, in this case,) and whether or not the rumors of crisis are completely true, there can be no doubt that the company is facing a very uncertain future in an age when opera is supposed to be making a comeback. The Guardian (UK) 08/03/02

ISRAEL PHIL CANCELS AMERICAN TOUR: The Israel Philharmonic has canceled its American tour. "There were reports that the group could not find an insurance company willing to cover them for the trip, and that security firms were reluctant to guard the musicians and audiences." BBC 07/30/02

ODE TO SILENCE: Silence is much underrated - in our music, and in our everyday world. It's increasingly difficult to find quiet. “Once the air was filled with music. Now it is filled with noise. The young have never heard silence. In our polluted world they will never be able to hear it.” The Times (UK) 07/30/02

COMPETITION CORRUPTION: At its best, the tradition of musical competition is a way of preparing young musicians for the pressures of the professional world, and a proving ground for young soloists on the verge of greatness. But the world's great competitions haven't been at their best for quite some time, and these days, corruption and cutthroat tactics are the rule at most events. Pianist Nikolai Petrov, a veteran of the circuit, is proposing major reforms, and many observers are saying that the competitive world would do well to listen before it becomes completely irrelevant. Andante 07/30/02

IN SEARCH OF DIVERSITY: The Chicago Symphony recently hired its first-ever African-American musician as a member of the orchestra. Many critics wonder why it took so long. The answer is far from simple. Chicago Tribune 07/28/02

MUSIC IN THE MOUNTAINS: The Aspen Music Festival is one of the largest teaching camps in the US. Few if any of the 750 young people here will be the new Yo-Yo Ma, yet they swarm through this chic town, eager and hoping for the best. The most beautiful of arts offers career success to several and frustration to many. There is a kinship here with history's ambitious laborers and their largely unprofitable mines. Beauty beguiles the soul, but finding a way to make it feed the stomach is less easy. Quite rightly, such paradox is ignored at places like this." The New York Times 07/29/02


TEACHING WRITING IN THE BACK OF A PIRATE STORE: Dave Eggers' writing career is well established. But these days he's spending most of his time running and supporting a writing program for kids in San Francisco's Mission District. "Open just a couple of months, 826 Valencia is starting to buzz with young people who have heard about the space through word of mouth. They come for the free tutoring and workshops, but often are lured in by the sweetly twisted Disneyland that is the pirate supply store, with its strange little dioramas and hidden trapdoors." San Francisco Chronicle 08/02/02

MILLER THE IRONIC: One doesn't tend to think of Arthur Miller as an author of hilarious satire - he's generally perceived as being darker than a festival of film noir drenched in motor oil. So its no great surprise that he would choose a relatively remote location to try his hand at comedy. Miller's latest play combines crucifixion and commercialism in what Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater hopes will be an attention-getting progression in the career of America's arguably most famous playwright. The Star Tribune (Minneapolis/St. Paul) 08/04/02


LIFE OF THE BOOK: "Most books go through catabolic and anabolic cycles, just as foodstuffs are broken down to simple acids and usable energy, before the nutritional Lego is remoulded nearer to the heart's or liver's desire, using up some of the energy from the first step. So books, their information consumed, pass to charity shops, jumble sales, or through the hands of literate dustmen, to the lowest rung of dealer; and from there, they start an irregular climb, increasing in order, negative entropy, and incidentally price, until they reach the top collector of Wodehouse or Waugh, or the ultimate specialist in cheese or chess, concrete or campanology." The Guardian (UK) 07/27/02

WHAT'S THE SECRET? Readers seem fascinated by the act of writing, and they tend to ask writers detailed questions about their craft. "Musicians tend not to face these questions because it is not generally held that everyone has a symphony in him somewhere. Language however belongs to us all. Is there a hint of resentment in readers? 'We all speak English. We all write e-mails and letters every day. What's your secret? Just give us enough detail, and we can be inducted into the coterie, too.' It is almost as if some people feel that they were off sick or at the dentist's the day the rest of the class was told how to write a book, and that it isn't fair of authors to keep the mystery to themselves." The New York Times 07/29/02

BRITISH LIBRARY CLOSED BY STRIKE: The British Library was closed for the first time in its history by a strike Monday. "The 24-hour closure was over the library's refusal to raise a 4% pay award to staff. These include the library assistants - some of them earning only £10,000 to £15,000 a year - who usually bring the scholar his books from library stores." The Guardian (UK) 07/30/02

MORE BRITS READING TO KIDS: A new poll in the UK reports that the number of parents reading to their children has more than doubled in the past two years. "Ninety percent of those polled said they regularly read to their child, compared with 40 percent when the same question was asked in 2000." The popularity of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter is offered as a reason for the jump. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07/31/02

MAINLY MALE (AND EVIDENTLY THAT'S OK): Is it a problem that The New Yorker publishes many more male writers than female writers? Dennis Loy Johnson's survey of bylines so far this year revealed an overwhelming number of male writers. But aside from a few letters reacting to his research and a defensive letter from the New Yorker, Johnson's surprised the issue hasn't touched more of a nerve. MobyLives 07/29/02

'THE GREAT GERLACH' JUST DOESN'T SOUND RIGHT: "Was Jay Gatsby, the title character of F. Scott Fitzerald's most famous novel, a distinguished Austrian baron,or a poseur bootlegger who changed his name to cavort with the rich and famous of Prohibition-era New York? That is the question at the centre of an international literary hunt to unearth the shady details of Max von Gerlach, the man experts believe to be the prototype for the mythic American tycoon who graced the pages of the 1925 novel The Great Gatsby." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/04/02

HEAVENLY REPRODUCTION: There are only four 'nearly-perfect' copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the U.S., and sadly for the type of scholars who break out in hives when they contemplate having to actually leave the Boston-New York-Washington corridor for a couple of days, one of the copies is all the way out in Austin, Texas, where an armed guard keeps it under constant watch. But the University of Texas is near completion of a project to digitize all 1300 pages of its Gutenberg, to the delight of religious scholars. Much of the book is already online, and the quality is said to be far superior to any previous reproductions of a Gutenberg. Chicago Tribune 08/01/02


MORE TICKET WOES TO COME: "According to new statistics from the League of American Theaters and Producers, Broadway's main trade group, only about one in three theatergoers is buying tickets more than four weeks in advance. That figure is a sharp departure from the typical 50 percent that producers had grown to expect over the last decade, a period of remarkable prosperity for Broadway as a whole... Factor in a weak economy and weak advance sales, and some Broadway insiders say they expect producers may just close long-running shows rather than risk a series of weekly losses." The New York Times 08/04/02

FRINGE BENEFITS: The largest Fringe Festival in the world opens this weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the largest in America opens in Minneapolis. Fringe festivals have become increasingly popular in the last decade, with the main attraction being the chance for the public to get a look at the type of non-mainstream artists whose work often goes unnoticed, underfunded, and unreported on. In fact, some longtime fringe fans have expressed concerns that the whole idea has become too big and popular, and fear that fringe festivals may soon go the way of independent film festivals, which are often accused of having been coopted by the 'establishment' they are supposedly disdaining. BBC 08/04/02 & Saint Paul Pioneer Press 08/02/02

EASY AUDIENCE: "It may be more difficult to please the critics - but to make the Los Angeles theater crowd happy, it seems that all you have to do is finish the show. Can't act, can't sing, can't dance - but, hey, nobody's perfect. Posing the question 'Are there too many standing ovations in Los Angeles?' touches a nerve with some members of the local theater community, who insist this is a misconception fueled by jaded journalists who attend way too many opening nights, where the house is papered with friends, agents, celebrities and the performers' moms and dads." Los Angeles Times 08/02/02

IF ONLY THERE WASN'T THAT DAMN AUDIENCE: "Theatre-going, unlike the solitary darkness of movie-watching, is undeniably a communal experience. We're all in it together, and when theatre becomes magical, it is because we react together, because our emotions surge collectively. The only problem is all those other people – whether it's the one person sitting next to you (for whose enjoyment you feel illogically responsible) or everyone else in the theatre, who all seem to be misunderstanding the entire performance. Whatever and whomever, your response to a play is dangerously vulnerable to the behaviour of others." The Independent (UK) 07/31/02

CREEPY, YES, BUT FLATTERING: Every year, playwrights send out dozens of scripts, tapes, and video recordings of their work to theatre companies around the world which are considering what works to place on their upcoming seasons. But one Canadian author recently became suspicious of one particular request for samples of his work, and a quick investigation revealed that the individual behind the request was not a producer at all, but a more-than-slightly unbalanced theatre buff living on the Virginia-Tennessee state line with a massive collection of ill-gotten theatrical gains. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/30/02


ELEVATING THE WHITNEY: "In what is believed to be the largest donation of postwar American art to any museum, the trustees of the Whitney Museum of American Art have joined forces to give it a trove of 86 paintings, sculptures and prints that experts value at $200 million... The joint gift is the culmination of a three-year effort led by the Whitney's chairman, Leonard A. Lauder. During that time trustees quietly, almost stealthily, scoured artists' studios, art galleries and auction houses — and even their own living rooms — for the kind of important postwar American work that has been increasingly vanishing from the market as it has been acquired by collectors and institutions." The New York Times 08/03/02

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: "Like critics trying out adjectives to describe a perplexing canvas, investigators and art experts are looking at the theft this week of two Maxfield Parrish paintings from a West Hollywood gallery and straining to understand. Most find the thief's work 'sophisticated.' But they also label the $4-million disappearance 'disturbing,' 'puzzling' and 'weird.'" Los Angeles Times 08/03/02

THE UFFIZI'S NEW GATE OF HELL? The Uffizi is getting a new exit, and it's been designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. Trouble is - official Florence hates the proposal. "Is the talk of this art-blessed town these muggy midsummer days really an aesthetic disaster-in-the making, as fired-up opponents like film and opera director Franco Zeffirelli would have it - or an unappreciated artistic vision, as frustrated proponents contend? Or, to put it another way, would Dante have assigned architect Arata Isozaki to inferno or to paradise?" Nando Times (AP) 08/02/02

SPRUCING UP STONEHENGE: A £57 million plan to dress up the Stonehenge site is unveiled. "Even the critics agree that the design for the visitor centre, or 'gateway'as English Heritage prefers to term it, is lovely. Australian architects Denton Corker Marshall have almost buried the building in the ground in their anxiety not to eclipse the monument. From the air it will show as silver parallel lines in the earth, and from the ground as pewter-coloured metal slabs roofed with turf. A car park will have trees around it for camouflage." The Guardian (UK) 08/01/02

NEW ATTENTION FOR WOMEN ARTISTS: As a group, women artists have not received nearly the attention of their male counterparts. But in Australia, a recent string of big sales of work by women artists has caught the attention of collectors. Sydney Morning Herald 07/30/02

ANOTHER AUCTION SCANDAL? Sotheby's is facing a crimminal investigation over a £49 million Rubens painting which was sold by an Austrian woman earlier this month. "Public prosecutors in Austria launched an inquiry after they were handed a dossier from an anonymous source claiming the company had conspired with the painting’s owner to conceal the true identity of the Old Master." The Scotsman 07/28/02

"WHAT IS HAPPENING IS A CRIME": Greece is building a museum at the base of the Acropolis to house the Parthenon Marbles, if Britain ever returns them. Greece is rushi9ng to get the $100 million museum open before the 2004 Olympics. But "a growing number of critics say the government is damaging other antiquities in a rush to make the museum ready in time. They charge that excavation at the museum's site at the foot of the great Acropolis citadel has uncovered substantial Roman, Byzantine and Stone Age ruins that provide vivid archaeological snapshots of ancient Athens, and that development should be delayed while the remains are studied." Washington Post 07/29/02

REVERSE BEGGING: An artist in Colchester England is given £300 and had 24 hours in which to spend it. He began asking people on the streets if they'd like it. "Instead of asking people for spare change I said, 'Would you like some spare change, mate?' When people saw that image they automatically went into their beggar mode, and said, 'No mate'." BBC 07/28/02


MASSACHUSETTS CUTS ARTS SPENDING 62 PERCENT: Despite the calls of thousands of arts supporters lobbying their state representatives, the Massachusetts state legislature cut the state's arts budget from $19.1 million to $7.29 million for fiscal 2003, its lowest level since 1994. The 62 percent cut will wipe out whole categories of programming and funding. Boston Globe 08/02/02

ART WITHOUT THE GOVERNMENT? What would happen if government arts funding simply went away? A panel put together by the Australia Council debated the question this week. "Scenarios ranged from the rise of venture capitalists prepared to invest in the future income stream of artists to the 'swallowing'of the arts by big business, undignified corporate tussles over naming rights and aggressive branding of artworks." Sydney Morning Herald 08/02/02

AND BY 'STABILITY,' WE MEAN 'LOTS OF CASH': Lincoln Center is the world's largest performing arts complex, and with great size comes great financial difficulty. The center has been in nearly continuous upheaval for the better part of a decade, but a new president promise to bring stability. More than that, Reynold Levy, who in May became Lincoln Center's fourth CEO in less than two years, is promising to raise $1 billion in the next decade to help stabilize the complex and fund a massive, and massively controversial, renovation. Andante (AP) 08/04/02

KENNEDY CENTER HONORS: This year's Kennedy Center Honors have been announced. Chosen are Paul McCartney and Elizabeth Taylor, conductor James Levine, actor James Earl Jones and dancer and actress Chita Rivera. "Now in their 25th year, the Honors are presented by the nation's performing arts center as a tribute to those who have distinguished themselves in the fields of music, dance, theater, film and television. The honors will be bestowed at a State Department dinner Dec. 7, followed the next night by a Kennedy Center gala." Washington Post 07/31/02

ARGENTINA'S GREAT DEPRESSION: "As Argentina struggles to survive a four-year economic calamity that in statistical terms is now the equivalent of the Great Depression in the United States, the impact on the nation's cultural life is felt in every way and at every level. Cultural producers are not only scrambling to try to do more with less, they are being forced to rethink the role, function and nature of culture in Argentine society." The New York Times 07/30/02

SUMMER FEST: This summer there are a record number of arts festivals across America. There are "3,000, drawing an audience estimated at up to 130 million and accounting, by industry estimates, for close to $2 billion in spending. With the number of arts festivals nearly doubling, by some accounts, since the mid-90's, the festivals have changed the ways Americans consume culture." The New York Times 07/30/02

THE VISA PROBLEM: Getting visas for foreign artists to come into the US to perform has become tougher. Visas are delayed, or in some cases denied, "sometimes for reasons that are understandable and sometimes for reasons that seem arbitrary. Among the artists denied entry were 10 of the 28 members of an Iranian troupe that performed at Lincoln Center Festival 2002 this month, and most recently a Yugoslav pianist with a recording on EMI Classics to his credit and a recommendation from the conductor Christoph Eschenbach in his file." The New York Times 07/30/02

10. FOR FUN 

TATE IN SPACE... Think today's ambitious museums have lost perspective with their expansion plans? The Tate pokes fun at its ambitions. "First there was Tate Britain. Then there was Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives. Next, coming to a galaxy near you: Tate in Space - an extraterrestrial art-exhibition venue for space tourists in search of intergalactic cultural enrichment. 'In order to fulfill their mission to extend access to British and International contemporary art, the Tate Trustees have been considering for some time how they could find new dimensions to Tate's work. They have therefore determined that the next Tate site should be in space'." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/31/02

NOW FOR A SOMETHING THAT REALLY MATTERS... What are the greatest cartoon characters of all time? TV Guide has made a list. And no one's bound to be entirely satisfied. No. 1's bad enough, but "the most serious scandals are near the end of the list: Yogi Bear and Boo Boo (36) beating the more ingenious Wile E.Coyote and the Road Runner (38); the charming stammerer Porky Pig (47) out-talked by the incomprehensible Donald Duck (43); two ingratiating magpies, Heckle and Jeckle (25), flying higher than the definitive bird/cat combo Tweety and Sylvester (33)." Sydney Morning Herald 08/02/02