March 2011 Archives

The case for Terence Rattigan.

Toothless Tiger

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"Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" reviewed.


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Today's entry: Terence Rattigan on English reticence.

Amazing Recovery

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Photograph Stolen From Prague Museum Turns Up Four Days Later In La Jolla: A Happy Ending
I'm co-panelist with director respected by all sides of "Hide/Seek" controversy. Institute of Museum Ethics organizes day-long event.
Here's my weekly theater guide.


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Today's entry: Nancy Astor on success.
Baroness Thyssen Puts Her Collection On View, And In The Process Makes A Statement On "Value"
...John Dewey says that democracy is a community in the making.
Amman, Jordan has a fan-base for new music but first stop is a city carved from rock
Court allows sale of four works, against wishes of artist and his widow, to benefit the endowment. Failure of fundraising.


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A terrible play about the near future reeks of the not-too-distant past
He stepped down. Now he steps up again. Will he take seriously the concerns recently raised about his leadership?
When Jeremy Denk plays Ives, it makes you think that pianism might be the greatest human achievement.
Performance-based assessment, real time, via a concert band performance.


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This week's video: Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca in "From Here to Obscurity."


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Today's entry: Albert Einstein on success in life.
Met's New Asian Head, Mike Hearn, Made Far More Important Points In Recent NYT Article
It's at Lincoln Center, the Park Avenue Armory, the New York Philharmonic. An inspiration, and a challenge to established institutions.
Here's how I decide what regional theater companies to visit.


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Today's entry: Bertolt Brecht on success.
Why tomorrow's changes will amount to a row of beans
This long overdue reissue confirms that the album withstands categorization. Its daring and forthright iconoclasm has substance that outlives

Working From Home

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The choreographer works at home: 3 dances new to NYC at the Mark Morris Dance Center

Plan By Clyfford Still Museum OK'd; Which Museum Would Like To Buy Four Still Paintings?
Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto on accordion edition
"The hard necessity of bringing the judge...down into the dock has been the peculiar responsibility of the writer"
Pictures at an exhibition, or rather, at a symphony concert
"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" reviewed.
On the re-appropriation of a well-known British hymn on Broadway
UNESCO offers assistance for cultural protection, recovery. Officials decry failure to appoint new antiquities head. Mubarak reported under house arrest.
Forbes says the latest viral sensation has earned a million dollars. The truth is something much less.

University Blues

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Economic Woes Exact A Toll On University Art Museums and Performing Arts Centers. Really?
Paul Moravec and I are presenting scenes from "The Letter," our first opera, at the New School's Noir Festival.


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Today's entry: John Updike on everyday creativity.
To move the conversation in the arts forward, perhaps we need to blow up the format of the annual arts conferences
Some truly outrageous classical music album covers by designer Christopher Whorf.
The digital age has been all about niches. But there's a new mass audience gathering around self-published art...
What does an a cappella vocal ensemble do when its bass comes down with laryngitis? It hires a cellist, of course.
A fat-fingered typo and accidentally US Customs knocks out 84,000 legitimate, innocent websites in the process. Wait, it gets worse...
Known instances of damage up from previously reported 246 to 353. Four damaged National Treasures (up from two) specifically named.
Met and National Gallery were upset by Russia's decision to renege on handful of loans. What about "150 stunning objects"?
Is this poster behind the radiation oncology reception desk supposed to lift our spirits?
"The Book of Mormon" and "Ghetto Klown" reviewed.


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Today's entry: Goethe on nature.
A Support Groups For Museums Of American Art? Yes, Says The Amon Carter's New Director

Shrink or diversify?

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A new classical music audience might be emerging. But how will it affect mainstream classical music?
Some suuggestions in 'Pina'
Chinese ruler's lavish embellishments avoid crass ostentation through exquisite craftsmanship. How to visit his meticulously planned (never used) retirement retreat.
Here's my weekly theater guide.
On making a new friend in middle age.


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Today's entry: John Ruskin on nature.

Big Turnabout

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Instead Of Selling The Rose's Collection, Brandeis Now Says It Will Renovate The Museum...And Celebrate It
I make my debut as a rock critic. It's more fun than I though it would be.
When does a four-figure vase rise to eight-figures? When many bidders believe they know more than auction experts.
If history's measure were moral and not chronological, Gov. Scott Walker would have to account for 146 deaths


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This week's video: John Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft in "The Cherry Orchard".


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Today's entry: Oscar Wilde on art and nature.
Picking up from where my last blog post ended, with my tail between my legs
At Washington conclave of museum lawyers from around the country, Smithsonian's Secretary shows that he still doesn't get it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the man who made Maroon 5 and Craftsman tools sound interesting
Can you identify who made these works? And other matters, including Victor Hugo's drawings using coffee.
Threat to New York prestige if assets are sold abroad

Modern Times

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Modern dance rules: Doug Varone, Trisha Brown, Martha Graham

"Priscilla Queen of the Desert" reviewed.


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Today's entry: James Whistler on nature.

It´s A First

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In June, The Venice Biennale Opens With A New Country: Saudi Arabia -- A Surprising Choice Of Artists

Chanter, You Stay

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The winner of Houston's Opera Vista Festival is announced.

Why I haven't been blogging

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Been on vacation! With photos of monkeys. But there's something exciting to post about, starting tomorrow...
I defy even the most hard-hearted of Republicans not to fall for the actor's self-deprecating and studious on-air demeanor
This is art designed for social networking: talent and idea and (often) news peg equal phenomenal audience reach

In one fell swoop

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How it feels to write the first draft of a full-length play in a single weekend.


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Today's entry: William Congreve on walking.
Netrebko bares all
Yodeling in instrumental music by Schubert -- and in "Take the A Train"
How a new symphony has the makings of a cop chiller
Foot explains, with ballet reviews as examples
Two instances of damage to National Treasures; 74 to Important Cultural Properties. An eerily resonant "Pompeii" artifacts show near epicenter.


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The top ten things to tell an artist after a bad concert.
Reflections on creative destruction and the arts and culture sector
It is the first day of spring and, naturally, Igor Stravinsky is on everyone's mind.

Preach It

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A cab ride into the gospel
For Artnet's 15th anniversary, Walter Robinson republishes the prototype of my CultureGrrl posts. I was more "professional" then than now.
And we're still counting the cost of the war in Iraq.

Working to create demand

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What we've been doing at the SPCO to create demand for our concerts
¨Vertical Vintage¨ Suite Of Works By James Turrell Makes Sense Even If You´re No Fan
An urgently needed initiative: Missions will soon travel to Egypt and Tunisia to "assess the need for assistance."
Houston's unique contemporary opera festival, now in its final stages, draws a crowd right to the front lines of creative inspiration.
It seemed inevitable that my love of television "reality" competitions would cross with my fascination in opera, but I had no idea this would happen in Texas. f you want to know what's going on in contemporary opera today (and I mean that literally), you need to be in Houston. The thrilling Opera Vista Festival introduced six composers of new operas on Wednesday, and based on audience response to brief performances, two have already been eliminated. Names of the four finalists won't be revealed until tonight, and only one lucky winner will receive the prize of having his or her complete opera staged next year in Houston. I'm on the edge of my figurative seat, and can't wait for tonight's competition. On Wednesday at University of Houston's Moores School of Music, artistic director Viswa Subbaraman greeted the eager-to-vote crowd, reminding us that Opera Vista is the only "American Idol-style contemporary opera competition around." Certainly there are many such events for aspiring opera singers, but OVF is the only one I know about that focuses rather on composers. During intermission, the elegant Subbaraman told me that his committee looked through more than 40 new operas before choosing this year's six finalists. The presentation format is straightforward and manageable for the audience. First the composers draw lots to determine the order in which their opera scenes will be offered. Each has two minutes to introduce the work, followed by a seven-minute excerpt, and then a limited period of questions from four judges. At the end of the evening, audience members cast ballots to determine four finalists. Tonight, the composers will have to entertain inquiries from the audience as well. Tomorrow night (Saturday, March 19), the winner is announced, along with a full staging of last year's winning opera, namely Lembit Beecher's And Then I Remember. If there is a particular trend I've noticed in nearly four decades of concert-going, it's that audiences want to interact more directly with conductors, performers, and composers. I remember when conductors began turning around to face an audience and "explain" the piece they were about to conduct, and I hated it. I also hated what I used to think were inane questions in those early post-performance Q&A sessions. "Did you choose the music first, or did you make the dance and then look for music?" seemed to be the most obvious one at a modern dance performance. Personally, I couldn't have cared less about such matters, and I disliked the idea of turning a concert hall or opera house into a kind of informal classroom. Years later, however, I accept that there has been a serious disconnect between creators, performers, and ticket-buyers, and in my current observation, the dialogue among them is starting to become more sophisticated. At Opera Vista, it's perfectly high-class, and the festival is doing an enormous amount to cultivate a savvy contemporary opera audience here in Houston. This year's contestants hail from America, Israel, Spain, and Sweden. Stylistically, the work is wide-ranging and the composers seem to have been chosen precisely for their vast differences from the other finalists. The judges include artistic director Subbaraman, composer Daron Hagen, Irish conductor and artist manager Iarlaith Carter, and opera director and librettist Buck Ross. The opera that hit me over the head on Wednesday was Matthew Peterson's Voir Dire, based on Jason Zencka's libretto of actual criminal court transcripts. "Remember, I'm from Florida," a soprano sings, "I'm not used to the cold. Wisconsin took my fingers in its mouth," she continues with insistent drama. Moments later, describing her criminal lover, she sings poignantly, "His kiss tasted of cigarettes and breath-mints," and the only accompaniment is a cool marimba. I'm not certain why, but within less than a minute, the piece gave me goose-bumps. Perhaps it was the driving rhythmic ideas, coupled with the "real" words of actual criminals, as well as the neo-romantic harmonies. The setting of the text is evidently skillful, and one judge remarked aptly, "You know the difference between inherently fast and inherently slow words." I think that Voir Dire could likely be this year's winner, depending on how things go tonight. Peterson certainly had my vote. Other works struck me for their delightful oddity. I voted also for Spanish composer Sonia Megias López (a former student of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Phil Niblock), who tried as best she could in English to convey her imagined fully-staged opera, which she described as "a mix of theater, music, and dance, with two projection screens and two chairs, representing the two hemispheres of the brain." News from Silence: The Monkey is evidently a multi-disciplinary work, focused on the inner turmoil of a male lead character, who is a dancer rather than a singer. "We hear what is in his brain, not what is real," she explained. There were no orchestral players, and the score comprises (at least in excerpt) seemingly random vocal events from a small chorus. Subbaraman, like the other judges, offered comments intended to help round-out the audience's experience. "This was the most beautifully-drawn score we saw this year," he explained. And when certain of the other judges complained that the score might not be readily transferable to another opera company, Ross suggested that a recording could convey it more readily. The only real flop for me was John Biggs' old-fashioned setting of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, performed with piano accompaniment and much of it spoken. Biggs is a charming man, the kind of guy you'd hope to have as a father-in-law, and he made a warm impression on the crowd. But I was certainly with the judge who commented, "The problem with this piece is that it's so continuously cool that it's hard to know when the singing should begin." Really, what is the point of taking a well-know play and just adding your music to it? Oops, wasn't that what happened with Previn's Streetcar Named Desire, another opera that didn't hold my interest? I'll be back on Sunday to relay news of the winner and also to describe the Beecher opera featured on Saturday's program. Next month I'm off to Dallas for performances of Boris Godunov and Rigoletto. Later this year I'll hear Phil Glass's Hydrogen Jukebox and Handel's Julius Caesar in Fort Worth. Then there's the rest of Houston Grand Opera's season, which includes not only the world premiere of Franghiz Alizadeh's Your Name Means the Sea (apparently the story focuses on the relationship between an American artist and an Azerbaijani singer), but also performances of Ariadne auf Naxos and The Marriage of Figaro. Really, there is no dearth of opera in the Lone Star state.
... and a Brit takes over in Copenhagen
"Arcadia" reviewed.
What happens when an orchestra hires a critic-in-residence? So far, not much.


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Today's entry: W.R. Burnett on humilation.
NY Times' Johnson said Brooklyn's "Tipi" show "speaks down to its audience." Not so. Did he miss the historic tepee?
a rising star principal, a teachers union leader, and member of the governing board for state education policy together in one room...
For Some Very Good Reasons: An Exploration Of A Hot Topic That Goes Beyond NYT Piece
Thoughts on why music directors in west coast orchestras sojourn on these shores for so long
More specific thinking on the topic - -
Human Rights Watch, Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company, Guggenheim all issue statements regarding artist's boycott. Are safeguards sufficient?
Fast upon publication of missing objects, some recoveries and arrests. New inventory of 27 objects missing from a storehouse compiled.
this one's from England
Here's my weekly theater guide.

Just because

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See the Dave Brubeck Quartet play "St. Louis Blues" in 1961.


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Today's entry: W.R. Burnett on self-criticism.
Birgit is not pleased, oh no...
Protesting artists raise concerns that were supposed to have been addressed by an agreement signed last September. Just lip service?
What Happened When Visitors To Tate Britain Were Observed Viewing -- Classic Or Contemporary?

Catching My Breath

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Two local cultural gems and an observation

Catching My Breath

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Two local cultural gems and an obsevation


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This week's video: Bing Crosby and Johnny Mercer sing a medley of Mercer's songs.


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Today's entry: W.R. Burnett on a gangster's view of Bing Crosby.
Bruno Leicht writes from Germany: "I still love it. What tricky writing for the clarinets, huh?"
Bruno Leicht writes from Germany: I still love it. What tricky writing for the clarinets, huh?
And More On Its Antiquities: Charges And Defenses, A New "Final" List of Missing Objects
Whatever we do takes time, money, focus, patience, and persistence. Do we have it?
A "final list" published, with photos documenting losses. Hawass sends his regrets to UNESCO conference. Newspaper details allegations against him.
The truth can now be told about the Michelangelo "testicles test." My personal remembrances of the provocative, profane scholar.
This Time, A Window On What Living Artists Are Doing In the Egyptian Revolution
If you think Smithsonian's "Hide/Seek" was sensitive, wait till you hear Kevin Gover's NMAI Washington plans. Also: Denver, Brooklyn, Manhattan.

What's in a name

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It's semi-official--my Duke Ellington biography has a new title.
The first Duke Ellington song I ever heard, long, long ago.


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Today's entry: W.R. Burnett on violence.

Teaching how to learn

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One-to-one computing is changing the ways teachers teach. What will this mean for our relationship with audiences?
It's too soon to determine the cultural toll when human toll is paramount. But here's what I know so far.
Extended vocals, amplification, and Pop Rocks

The Voice as Instrument

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...four different vocalists who are able to create their own worlds of sound with their voice, in ways truly extraordinary

Writers on Fighters

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The Library of America anthology
"AT THE FIGHTS: American Writers on Boxing" reads like an elegy for the fight game.

Why Kenny Dorham?

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Because it has been too long since you heard him and because in these rare videos you see him playing

Joe Morello, 1928-2011

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When Brubeck offered him the drum chair, Morello accepted on the condition that he be featured as a soloist.
Director Venable Answers Five Questions About Discoveries, Deaccessioning And More

Somewhere or other

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On trying to feel at home--again--in Manhattan.

Just because

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See John Scofield and Medeski, Martin, & Wood play "A Go Go."


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Today's entry: W.R. Burnett on a gangster's view of jazz.
Former Head Iraqi Antiquities Board, Till Forced To Leave
Krivda achieves variety by alternating long tones, swoops and declamatory phrases that give his solos the quality of speech.

Conductors Talking

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There are times when a conductor should talk and others when he or she should shut up
Barnes' Barnes to be interred on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Spring 2012. Foundation won't disclose amount of money raised. Lawsuit futile.
"So the problems for the arts and arts education are linked in a viscous cycle."
...this Duke Ellington "soundie" will do the job.


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Night thoughts on an earthquake.
Mexico And Austria Move Toward A Path-breaking Exchange: My Coach For Your Crown
Florida Stage's "Ghost-Writer" reviewed.


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Today's entry: Stephen Sondheim on critics and musicals.

Objections to Michael Kaiser

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Are the arts really less daring than popular culture? And if that's true, is the Kennedy Center helping to fix that?
What do thousands of eyeballs really translate to at the end of the day?
AAMD's recent attempts at forceful statements were seriously flawed. Executive must be expert policy advisor, fact-checker, copy editor, spokesperson.
Director Reveals How The Galleries Will Be Installed; It's Not Chronologically
Here's my weekly theater guide.


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Today's entry: Stephen Sondheim on Ethel Merman's anger.
The internet has been central in recent protests. And turning it off means...

Opera acting footnote

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Carlo Bergonzi was a great actor with his voice, even if he looked like a lump on stage.
Schumer will criticize the narrow focus on domestic discretionary spending. He will say that approach not only is harmful to economic growth, but also does not meaningfully reduce the deficit.

Diva gets engaged

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Give the maestro the chance to make his less punishing schedule work. Could the amazing Nelsons do Birmingham AND Boston?
Musicians strike back at conductor's claims

Who's That Lady?

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A Student Of Max Beckmann Unveiled; Will Some Museum Decide To Give Her A Show?


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This week's video: Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two perform "I Walk the Line" in 1955.


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Today's entry: Stephen Sondheim on the trouble with wordplay.

Support for pop culture

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Notable arts people support popular culture, even saying that it's more daring and inventive than the arts currently are.
"Decision-makers should be able to take advantage of other options for cost-saving before resorting to such potentially harmful approaches."
Some sorely needed coherent documentation to aid in recovery of missing objects---not from Egypt but from University of Pennsylvania.
Some sorely needed coherent documentation to aid in recovery of missing objects---not from Egypt but from University of Pennsylvania.
In which we discover the joys of condiment time-travel. Recipes included

Rib Music

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There was a time when making, finding and listening to music on record was difficult and dangerous.
A composer and a concerto we need to know.
"That Championship Season" reviewed.


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Today's entry: Stephen Sondheim on poets as lyricists.
What's The Difference, Architecturally Speaking? Not Much, Says Aaron Betsky
A paean from the proud mother of an acoustic engineer. Could she please improve the sound at Avery Fisher Hall?
In the arts capital of the world, middle school students don't get even the 108 hours required by state law.
While other districts figure out how to hold the line, SDUSD goes backwards.
Disjointedly berating his accusers, he digs himself deeper into reputational sinkhole. New archaeologists' demonstration wins continued independence of antiquities ministry.
Brief thoughts on a few arts happenings I got to over the weekend

To the left

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When the soundboard is centered, left to right, fewer people can see my hands, but the sound is better
Ian MacFadyen has written an astounding essay about the artist-poet-novelist whom William Burroughs regarded as his equal.

A New Look

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Don't go away. You've come to the right place. This is Rifftides, but with a new design.
Janet Landay Resigns From Executive Director Job; Didn't We Just Go Through This?


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I'll be leaving Florida on Friday with sharply mixed feelings.


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Today's entry: Richard Wilbur on the function of poetry.
Reflections on the role of nonproft arts groups in arts education, inspired by the HBR article "Creating Shared Value" by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer
Retail Chain Steps Up In Seattle, Reducing Need To Raid Museum's Endowment
The video of Wellstood playing was removed by whoever posted it. We managed to find an even better one
Worthy, empty sentiments. In protecting sites, Egypt's best efforts have been insufficient. Until losses are documented, recovery efforts are hamstrung.
Wisconsin protesters channel their inner Jean Valjeans in the capitol building.
"UNsafe" music by Threadgill, La Barbara helps American Composers Orch re-invent

Democratic pop

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Pop music -- which so many people think is purely commercial -- in fact functions like a wild democracy, where musicians can do just about anything they want.
Whatever his intentions, Egypt needs someone of greater candor, credibility, accountability to address tragic antiquities mess. Campbell's call to action.
Our need to rethink entire systems...
Small arts organizations pay fiscal sponsors between 5-15% of their income. What should they get in return?
CNN Says He "Will Resign If Asked," But Hasn't; Plus A Tale Of Allleged Corruption At The Gift Shop
Increasingly rare, a counterpoint to the "school reform" tsunami. Jon Stewart gets it right.
What we see changes who we are
Once upon a time, Leonard Bernstein and John Gielgud were on TV. Now they're on DVD.
David Lindsay-Abaire's "Good People" reviewed.


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Today's entry: W.H. Auden on the meaning of doubt.
Obama has Rollins' vinyl, read Portnoy's Complaint - but arts & ed bucks?
With Zahi Hawass Gone, Cairo Museum Insider Leaks New Inventory Of Missing Items
Most urgent priority: Call in outside assistance to protect and preserve the archaeological sites looted and vandalized on his watch.
James Levine and Peter Gelb discuss Met Opera's future, two weeks before maestro's sudden (but unsurprising) Boston Symphony resignation yesterday.


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Experiencing Sylvain Chomet's latest Oscar-animated feature in a near-empty movie theatre calls the losing battle of art to commerce to mind in a piquant way
These cuts may very well kill some very fine and important organizations...
Reports In Arabic Say Zahi Hawass Has Resigned -- CONFIRMED
Do something, and do it now.
Looting Hits Metropolitan Museum's Storehouses, And Much More, Plus News From The Art Loss Register And Hawass, Too

What art is

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Art has migrated away from the formally designated arts, and now can be found in popular culture, and in fact throughout our society.
Here's my weekly theater guide.


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Today's entry: W.H. Auden on technology and desire.
Are popular apps a threat to the free flow of information and creativity?


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A symposium at Southwestern University wasn't limited to experts. Just about the entire audience joined in the discussion.

Subbing for Levine

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Boston needs to make a big decision
Almost. Carlos Slim "Opened" Soumaya Last Night -- To Notables. The Rest Of Us Wait A Bit

Herb & Dorothy

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A documentary about two unlikely art collectors inspires
"Teachers are destroying America with their chalk-stained irregular blouses from Loehmann's and Hyundai windshields."

Galliano - latest

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Antiquities minister's stated reasons for possibly stepping down may not be his only ones. Allegations of misdeeds were recently published.


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This week's video: Virgil Thomson talks about ragtime in Kansas City.


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Today's entry: W.H. Auden on blasphemy.
You can use AAM's online form to lobby legislators---particularly urgent this year. Is di Suvero's abstract work "strongly political"?
I have always thought that the degree programs in the performing arts more closely resembled career and technical education than more purely academic areas.

Opera acting finale

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How stage actors learn to act -- and why that makes them better actors than opera singers are.
Composer John Luther Adams teaches me a thing or two
During tremendous growth in education spending, arts ed declined for children of color. What can we expect today and tomorrow?
What Do They Add Up To For Art Museums? A Message That Should Not Be Ignored
Administrators are quick to cut athletics, band, cheerleading, art and music because they have the vague impression that those are luxuries.

Banksy: Artist Loses Bid for Oscar

Exit From the Gift Shop is this year's Citizen Kane, which didn't get an Oscar either. Plus the history of graffiti......
fresh this morning, from Abbey Road
Eugene Fodor, 1950-2011

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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