Shanghai Buddha

As I write, a giant, three-headed, three armed bronze Buddha statue is being dedicated by Mayor Gavin Newsom at the Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza, located across the street from San Francisco's City Hall.I went to look at the copper welded sculpture, which at that point was still encased behind a protective wire fence, yesterday morning. Against the blue sky, Chinese artist Zhang Huan's Three Heads Six Arms (2008) makes for an awesome sight.The piece weighs 15 tons and measures 26 feet tall by 60 feet long. One of the most impressive … [Read more...]

What A Lucky Gal I Am

Yesterday evening was one of those evenings which made me feel so joyful and blessed to be doing what I do in this great city.The soiree started off with dinner for four at Mayes Oyster House on Polk Street with the formidable Los Angeles-based composer Morten Lauridsen, the poet, head of arts and culture programs for the Aspen Institute and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia, and Tamsin Smith, the founder of Slipstream, an ethical business incubator based in San Francisco. The conversation grooved around such … [Read more...]

Student Composers

It's no surprise that student composers often create music that sounds like the music of their teachers. As in most if not all fields of learning, students learn by emulating the techniques and principles that their teachers pass on to them. And creating music that's in the mold of the teacher's style is flattering and more likely to gain approval. It's usually the case that students are not expected to create anything wildly original, but rather to follow the rules and build something that's well-made. Creativity, if it comes at all, is a … [Read more...]

Commuter-Friendly Music

It was by accident that I heard about the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra's Rush Hour concert series. My composer friend, Gabriela Lena Frank, invited me to attend a performance by the group tonight, Friday. The orchestra is premiering a new work by Gabriela, her first violin concerto. Gabriela is the SFCO's composer in residence.When I said I sadly wasn't available, she told me about a "quickie" series of late afternoon concerts run by the orchestra -- occasional hour-long concerts at the Contemporary Jewish Museum which are free to members of … [Read more...]

New Jazz Center for SF

The San Francisco Jazz Festival's parent organization, SFJAZZ, is opening its first permanent home in the city in 2012. The building, which will be located in Hayes Valley near many of the city's other key arts organizations such as the SF Ballet, SF Opera and SF Symphony, is touted as "the west coast's first facility dedicated to jazz music and education" -- a sort of Lincoln Center of the west, if you will.The 35,000 square foot building is being designed by local architect Mark Cavagnero. It will include a state-of-the-art auditorium that … [Read more...]


I want to give a big shout-out today to my neighborhood bookstore, Bibliohead, in Hayes Valley, San Francisco.I feel very lucky to live around the corner from this place. The Gough Street store is like Dr. Who's time and space travel machine, the Tardis. The store is cramped and musty, with books wobbling on wooden shelves and plenty of dark corners to while away the hours in. The staff is helpful and the inventory surprisingly comprehensive. It's the kind of place where you can buy a mottled 1950s edition of the J. S. Bach partitas to play on … [Read more...]

A Manifesto

As part of a recent editorial job application for a web-based media startup, I was asked to put together my "blue sky vision" for coverage of the Bay Area culture scene. I didn't get the gig, though I was told the reasons for this are not to do with my ideas but rather the fit with the job; "I don't see you as a career editor," the person in charge of hiring for the position astutely told me last week.In any case, I thought I would take this opportunity to share what I came up with, ideas-wise. Some of what follows in my "Bay Area Cultural … [Read more...]

Oakland: A Theatre Desert

While researching my weekly Bay Area arts column for last Sunday's New York Times last week about Oakland's burgeoning arts scene, it came to my attention that while Oakland is flourishing in most areas of the arts and especially in the visual arts and music, its theatrical offerings are pitifully slim. Besides TheatreFIRST (which has after long travails found a home for itself at the Fox Theatre) and Woman's Will (which maintains both a San Francisco and Oakland address), there are, to my knowledge, no other professional theatre companies in … [Read more...]