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PEOPLE - September 2002

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Monday September 30

POET STANDOFF: Amiri Baraka became the Poet Laureate of New Jersey last month. This month, the governor of New Jersey asked him to resign the job because "a poem he read at a recent poetry festival implies that Israel knew about the Sept. 11 attack in advance. But Mr. Baraka said he would not resign, creating an unusual political quandary. Aides to the governor said he did not have the power to remove Mr. Baraka because Mr. McGreevey had not directly selected him. And a member of the committee of poets and cultural officials who chose Mr. Baraka said that group had no power to remove him either." The New York Times 09/28/02

SHOWMAN TAKES ON SOUTH BANK: Michael Lynch has just taken the top job at London's South Bank Center. Who would want this job? "The place has been paralysed for the past decade by planning blight, as five redevelopment schemes have collapsed or dissolved and the fabric has steadily declined along with morale. But Lynch is an optimist: "Look, I think the place is fantastic. I don't see it as one big problem, I see it as a series of possibilities. Just in terms of its position, it has unique advantages - even the Lincoln Center in New York doesn't get all its passing traffic." The Telegraph (UK) 09/30/02

Sunday September 29

RELEARNING HOW TO BE A MASTER: When Oscar Peterson suffered a stroke in 1993, he lost some of the lightning-fast reflexes that had allowed him to play with such velocity and facility. But , "as often happens, adversity had a silver lining: Peterson, whose playing was dismissed by some elites as overly glib, was forced to change. He says he stopped chasing so many notes and began thinking more about melody. He started to pay attention to less obvious elements of the music, altering harmonies ever so slightly, peering deep into the structures of a tune for inspiration. He gradually developed what he considers a whole new approach." Philadelphia Inquirer 09/29/02

Thursday September 26

MORGAN TO TATE MODERN: "Jessica Morgan, chief curator at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art since 1999, is leaving to take one of the top international jobs in her field: She will be a curator at the Tate Modern in London. Morgan, 33 and a British citizen, leaves Boston in November, after a decade of working in US museums... Her rise in the museum world has been rapid. She trained at London's Courtauld Institute of Art, came to the United States for a fellowship at Yale and another at Harvard, worked as a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, then as contemporary curator at the Worcester Art Museum, which she left after a year to take the ICA job." Boston Globe 09/26/02

Wednesday September 25

WE COULDN'T BE PROUDER: ArtsJournal senior editor and literary scholar Jack Miles is among 24 winners of this year's MacArthur Fellowships, the so-called "genius awards." Miles is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning God: A Biography and Christ, which is due out soon in paperback. He is also senior advisor to the president of the Getty. The New York Times 09/25/02

  • SECRET SELECTION: Winners never know they're being considered. "Since everything about the MacArthurs is cloaked in secrecy, only the anecdotal testimony of winners confirms that. The names of those involved in the selection process are closely guarded, too. Several hundred nominators submit names for consideration during rotating two-month windows." San Francisco Chronicle 09/25/02

Tuesday September 24

A NEW ENEMIES LIST: Harper's editor Lewis Lapham is one of dozens of Americans - Jimmy Carter, Rep. Maxine Waters, novelist John Edgar Wideman are others - who have been named as "internal threats" to the well-being of the United States by a group headed by former Secretary of Education William Bennett called Americans for Victory Over Terrorism. The group says Lapham and the others have a "blame America first" agenda. San Francisco Chronicle 09/24/02

THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS: After All Things Considered and Morning Edition, Terry Gross' Fresh Air is the most listened to program on public radio. Its audience has doubled in the past five years. She rarely interviews her guests in person... "I'm alone in a room with my headphones on and a microphone in front of me, talking to someone who's not even there. So you don't have to have that public presentation, you could be wearing anything and slouching in your chair and scratching your head. . . . I know that people are listening, but they're not looking at me, so that element of self-consciousness isn't there." The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 09/24/02

Monday September 23

LOOKING FOR THE NEXT BIG THING: Jay Jopling is the man who sold contemporary Britart to the public, introducing Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and others. Now, after ten years he's closing his original gallery and consolidating his four locations into one. Some critics have been saying he's lost his way in recent years, and the 39-year-old Jopling hopes consolidation of his spaces will help his focus. The Observer (UK) 09/22/02

NOT SUCH A BIG LEAP: When Anna Quindlen went from being a columnist for the New York Times to writing novels, she found that many of her readers were confused by the switch, and viewed the two vocations as opposite ends of the literary spectrum. She disagrees: "The truth is that the best preparation I could have had for a life as a novelist was life as a reporter. At a time when more impressionistic renderings of events were beginning to creep into the news pages, I learned to look always for the telling detail: the Yankees cap, the neon sign in the club window, the striped towel on the deserted beach. Those things that, taken incrementally, make a convincing picture of real life, and maybe get you onto Page 1, too." The New York Times 09/23/02

NO LONGER A PRESIDENT, ALWAYS A POET: Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic president who began his public life as a celebrated poet and playwright, shared a New York stage this week with fellow ex-president Bill Clinton and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, and offered up "a 1,600-word meditation of self-deprecation and self-doubt read in a sandpapery voice." Havel will step down from his post in February, but his place in history has long been assured. The New York Times 09/23/02

Sunday September 22

JOAN LITTLEWOOD, 87: "Acclaimed theatre director Joan Littlewood, who broke new ground in stage acting, has died at the age of 87. Born in 1914 Littlewood was one of the most controversial and influential theatre directors and drama teachers of the 20th Century... Radical and outspoken, she was said to have been feared by the authorities, and snubbed by the Arts Council. But for many Littlewood was a woman ahead of her time." BBC 09/21/02

MELLOWING WITH AGE: "Colin Davis spent years in the 'amateur wilderness' and was known for his fiery temperament. He suffered personal and professional upheavals - he once booed his audience from the stage - but went on to find success abroad. At 75 he is now recognised as one of the UK's finest conductors." Did the change come with maturity, or with the realization of a sea change in the music world, with power shifting from conductors to musicians? Or did Davis merely decide that all the bombast got in the way of his real mission of making great music come alive? The Guardian (UK) 09/21/02

Friday September 20

BITING THE HAND THAT FAILS TO FEED: Days after press reports surfaced suggesting that Alberto Vilar, opera's most dedicated and generous patron, would be missing payments on some of his pledges, the Washington Opera has removed his name from its young-artists donor list after a $1 million payment was not made. "Rumors have circulated for months that losses at Vilar's Amerindo Investment Advisors... would hamper Vilar's ability to fulfill his philanthropic pledges. Vilar has rescheduled some payments and said in the [New York] Times that in some cases he was 'not on top of the status of the payments.' But several large recipients of Vilar's philanthropy either declined to discuss his giving or confirmed that he was on schedule with payments." Washington Post 09/20/02

WAS MUNCH A NAZI COLLABORATOR? Like many who lived in France during World War II, conductor Charles Munch (later the distinguished director of the Boston Symphony) claimed to have been aiding the French Underground. But an article in a current Skidmore College publication plants Munch squarely at the center of collaborationist Vichy culture in Paris during the war. ''He was a superstar of the cultural scene of occupied Paris who made the transition without missing a beat to the postwar scene in Boston.'' Boston Globe 09/19/02

Thursday September 19

VILAR LATE ON GIFTS: There are reports arts philanthropist Alberto Vilar has fallen behind on promised pledges to arts groups. "Because Mr. Vilar's Amerindo Technology Fund has decreased by nearly 50 percent each year for the last three years, there has been wide speculation in the arts world that he would default on several of his extravagant pledges to cultural organizations. There is uneasiness in classical music circles, for example, that Mr. Vilar may be late on payments to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Salzburg Music Festival, the Kirov Opera and Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and that he may have failed to pay for the supertitles he had installed at the Vienna State Opera." The New York Times 09/19/02

  • VILAR SAYS PRIVATE FUNDING MODEL IS "NUTS": Speaking at a conference on philanthropy in Ottawa Canada "the 61-year-old Cuban-American high-tech stock investor surprised his listeners by characterizing the American model of depending on private support for the arts as 'nuts'." Toronto Star 09/19/02

HIRST APOLOGIZES: Britartist Damien Hirst has apologized for his comments about 9/11 comparing the attacks on the World Trade Center to art. ""I apologise unreservedly for any upset I have caused, particularly to the families of the victims of the events on that terrible day. I think the idea of looking at the 11 September attacks as an artwork is a very difficult thing to do. But I don't think artists look at it in a different way." BBC 09/19/02

Wednesday September 18

BARENBOIM ATTACKED: Conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim, in the Middle East giving concerts, was attacked in a restaurant in Jerusalem Tuesday. His attackers called him a "traitor for giving a performance in Ramallah on Tuesday. (His wife responded by throwing vegetables at the activists). There were also reports that right-wing politicians had proposed that Barenboim should be put on trial for entering the occupied territories without permission." Ha'aretz 09/18/02

Sunday September 15

MUSIC OF THE PEOPLE: Canadian tenor John MacMaster may be the perfect poster child for opera's newfound popularity among the great unwashed masses. He describes arias as "orgasmic," insists that there's nothing in a Mozart score that should be any more vexing to the average concertgoer than the latest Broadway hit, and explains the allure of the form thusly: "You don't have to understand it. You just have to experience it. We go out there to deal with the most important themes of life and death and fear and loathing and jealousy. You name it and you'll find it in an opera score." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 09/14/02

Wednesday September 11

HIRST - 9/11 WAS "ART": Controversial artist Damien Hirst told the BBC yesterday that the attacks on the Pentagon and the Wolrd Trade Center were a work of art. "The thing about 9/11 is that it's kind of an artwork in its own right. It was wicked, but it was devised in this way for this kind of impact. It was devised visually." Describing the image of the hijacked planes crashing into the twin towers as "visually stunning", he added: "You've got to hand it to them on some level because they've achieved something which nobody would have ever have thought possible, especially to a country as big as America." The Guardian (UK) 09/11/02

Tuesday September 10

SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED: Darcey Bussell has been a star of London's Royal Ballet for 13 years. "She received an OBE at 25; she has modelled for Vogue; appeared on French and Saunders; her statue is in Madame Tussaud's; her painting is in the National Portrait Gallery and, if you look her up on the internet, you'll find 5,880 websites matching her name." But what she'd really like to be - is a Bond girl. The Telegraph (UK) 09/10/02

Monday September 9

HAMPTON'S LAST RIDE: Jazz great Lionel Hampton takes a last ride in New York as he gets a New Orleans-style funeral procession through Manhattan - led by Wynton Marsallis and an all star band of colleagues. "Not surprisingly, the spectacle of these splendidly attired musicians wailing their blues-tinged dirges while slowly marching in the middle of the street - oblivious to traffic lights and even to traffic - caused a stir. New Yorkers who had been watching from curbside fell in behind the band. Television crews and newspaper photographers, who had been tipped off that a New Orleans-style parade would unfold on this morning, meanwhile crowded in front of the parade and walked backward, so as to capture the action head-on." Chicago Tribune 09/09/02

Sunday September 8

BIG IDEAS IN CLEVELAND: Franz Welser-Möst takes over as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra this month, and with that ensemble's track record, you might think that the new man would be a bit intimidated. But Welser-Möst has some big plans for America's most unlikely super-orchestra, and he isn't worried in the least about the public reaction. "One of this orchestra's many wonderful qualities is the humble attitude. I love that. When you come to conduct, it's not like they know it all. It's about the result, the product, not about the prestige... What's so exciting in Cleveland is when you make programs, people will come. Some programs you couldn't do in London. Maybe in Vienna. In Berlin, impossible." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 09/08/02

YOU MEAN HE HASN'T BEEN KICKED OUT YET? "Lord Archer, the novelist, jailed for perjury in July 2000, faces expulsion from the House of Lords under proposals for reform of the second chamber to be presented to Parliament next month. Senior members of the cross-party group on Lords reform intend to ensure that Lord Archer is caught retrospectively by a planned bar on peers convicted of a serious criminal offence." The Telegraph (UK) 09/08/02

Friday September 6

PEACE THROUGH MUSIC? Conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim is an internationalist through and through. "One of the few advantages that the 21st century has over the early 20th and 19th is, he believes, the pluralism of its societies. 'Human beings have not only the possibility but almost the duty - yes, the duty! - to acquire multiple identities.' He paddles his arms in a short, expressive backstroke. 'That's what globalisation means at its most positive. That you can feel French when you play Debussy, that you feel German when you play Wagner. You do not have to be one thing'." The Guardian (UK) 09/06/02

VLADO PERLEMUTER, 98: The French pianist studied with Moszkowski and Cortot, gave his first piano recital in 1919 and studied Ravel with the composer himself. "His classes became legendary. His teaching embodied the great qualities of his own playing - an impassioned care for detail and also an architectural vision of each piece as a whole." The Guardian (UK) 09/06/02

Tuesday September 3

GREAT VIBES: "Lionel Hampton was a defining voice for a generation of musicians who understood that it was possible to entertain without sacrificing one's quest for inventiveness. And he did so with consummate skill." Los Angeles Times 09/02/02

Sunday September 1

LIONEL HAMPTON, 94: It's a good bet that, absent Lionel Hampton, the world would never have come to think of vibraphone as a great jazz instrument. But Hampton, who "until recently continued to tour the world with his own immensely popular big band, was an extremely important figure in American music, not only as an entertainer and an improvising musician in jazz, but also because his band helped usher in rock 'n' roll." Hampton died in a New York hospital this weekend. The New York Times 09/01/02

GLIMPSES OF THE POET'S WORLD: A collection of letters, photographs and poems belonging to the American poet Carl Sandburg sold at auction this week for better than $80,000. The contents of the collection, which was owned by one of the poet's closest friends, are fascinating scholars, who say some of the pieces provide further insight into Sandburg's dalliances with espionage, his connection (however slight) to Soviet communists, and his decision to support FDR after considering a presidential run of his own in 1940. Chicago Tribune 08/31/02