David Byrne: Big Money is Killing Art


THE ravages of the one percent -- and what their surge has done to culture -- is one of my abiding concerns on the blog. Now the Talking Heads frontman, who's been quite outspoken lately on the politics of culture, weighs in on what the plutocracy has done to visual art. A New York Times post looks at his complaint as well as the context around it. “I used to be able to convince myself that … [Read more...]

Farewell to Poet Galway Kinnell


Twenty years ago, a few friends and I piled into an old car and drove up to the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at a little CT town to see one of the titans of American poetry read. The night transformed me, and those friendships, in ways hard to put into words. Now Galway Kinnell has died, after a long and rich life. He and his thundering voice will be missed. Here is a link, from the Poetry … [Read more...]

When Music Sounds Like a Cash Register: Taylor Swift


WHAT happens when a society gets obsessed with those who win at the capitalist game, when marketing becomes the new religion, and the gatekeepers of art and music stop caring ab0ut the fields in which they labor but get hypnotized by the machinery of star-making? We get "artists" like Jeff Koons or Taylor Swift. The onetime country singer -- the descendent of several generations of bank … [Read more...]

Slowcore with Bell Gardens


A FEW years ago I went to the LA club I still think of as Spaceland to see an indie rock band; I think it was Army Navy. The opening band seemed to have a lot of people, and they opened very slowwwly... but by the end of their set I'd been transported. They're somewhere between Radar Bros and Sigur Ros. That group -- LA's own Bell Gardens -- has a new album out today, Slow Dawns for Lost … [Read more...]

Saariaho: Finnish Composer


ONE of the several nice things about conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen being back more solidly in Los Angeles, where he has a post with the LA Phil, is the steady infusion of strong new or modern music from Scandinavia, a region which has been on a roll for the last few decades. Last night I saw a Salonen-conducted concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall that includes pieces by Janacek, Sibelius and the … [Read more...]

Techo-Utopianism and the TED talk


MOSTLY, I try to dig into the arts and culture in this blog. But there are times when digital technology demands attention; technology has become the water in which we all -- musician and scribe and architect alike -- swim. That's why I'm especially pleased to nudge readers toward a piece that's been floating around for a while which even some informed people may have missed: "We need to talk … [Read more...]

Lonnie Johnson’s Guitar


THERE'S been a lot of bad news for culture and society lately, so I want to offer one of my occasional bits of inspiration. Jazz and blues player Lonnie Johnson is one of the greatest-ever American musicians, and one of the most underrated guitarists in history. His playing predates Robert Johnson and many of the Delta blues masters, and he developed a more polished urban style that to T-Bone … [Read more...]

Stop Working For Free


BY now, the movement urging artists, writers, musicians and other creatives to stop donating their labor has made some noise in the culture: It's one of the key issue for today's exploited creative class. But I've not seen the subject framed as well as this new Daily Beast story, with its subhead: "Remember when people volunteered to help the poor? Nowadays the poor volunteer to help the … [Read more...]

How Artists Do (and Don’t) Make a Living


A NEW study is starting to draw attention, and it confirms some of what we've suspected: That despite the rise of university programs to educate artists, the employment market for the fine arts continues to tighten. So we're left with more and more people stranded, often with significant amounts of student-loan debt. And the number of people can actually make a living as an artist with a fine-arts … [Read more...]

Rosanne Cash on Our Culture’s Big Lie


LATELY the country-steeped singer-songwriter has become vocal and eloquent on issues of artists's rights, including an appearance before lawmakers in Washington, DC; she's also on the executive board of the Content Creators Coalition. The freshest thing about the arguments made by this daughter of St. Johnny is that she looks not only at technological and economic but the cultural causes of our … [Read more...]