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Thursday, July 31, 2003

When Stalin Tried To Kill John Wayne A new book reports that Stalin was so enraged by the anti-communism of movie actor John Wayne, he tried to have him killed. "John Wayne - The Man Behind the Myth, by British writer and actor Michael Munn, says there were several attempts in the late 1940s and early 1950s to kill the man known to audiences around the world as Duke." The Age (Reuters) (Melbourne) 08/01/03

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Baryshnikov Up For "Sex" Mikhail Baryshnikov is coming to TV - as Sarah Jessica Parker's love interest in "Sex in the City." "I seem to have a tendency to do things that people think I shouldn't do. I think it's about time to do something my children can't watch." The New York Times 07/30/03

Kennedy Center Boss Named US Cultural Ambassador Kennedy Center chief Michael Kaiser has been appointed asa "cultural ambassador by the US State Department. "Kaiser said he has a different agenda from the artists'. 'Funding patterns are shifting. In some countries 70 to 80 percent of an organization's budget was being provided by the government. Government funding is being reduced or not growing. This is a time in history where the arts around the world are in transition'." Washington Post 07/30/03

Critical Memories Frank Rizzo remembers two theatre critics. "The theater world this month lost two distinguished critics who enlightened their readers as well as decades of theater artists. Boston's Elliot Norton, dean of American drama critics, died July 20 at the age of 100. Closer to home, Markland Taylor, who wrote for the New Haven Register and Variety, died in his home in Southbury on July 6. He was 67. Both were great influences, especially to this theater lover." Hartford Courant 07/27/03

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Music (Yes, Music) Of Ezra Pound Ezra Pound was off his rocker, of course. It's part of what made him such a great poet. That unhinged quality is also what makes his forays into the world of music simultaneously unsettling and fascinating, says Richard Taruskin. "He loved playing the fool, describing his aesthetic theories, the authentic fruit of his genius, in a semiliterate patois familiar to anyone who has read his letters or scanned the titles of his essays. And those theories drove him to compose music despite a confessed inability — vouched for by his fellow poets William Carlos Williams and W. B. Yeats, among others — to carry a tune." The New York Times 07/27/03

And You Think It's Hard To Run An American Museum? For 42 years, Irina Antonova has been at the forefront of the Russian art scene. The director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has fought battles with the old Soviet Politburo, and with today's opportunistic Russian politicians. "Antonova, 81, has combined elite connections, political smarts, love of art, courage and boundless energy to protect and promote [the Pushkin's] collection... But now, this and other Russian museums are reaching out to the world, and the most extensive Pushkin exhibit ever to tour the United States — a selection of 75 French masterpieces — opens today at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art." Los Angeles Times 07/27/03

Legendary Critic Schonberg Dies "Harold C. Schonberg, the ubiquitous and authoritative chief music critic of The New York Times from 1960 to 1980, whose reviews and essays influenced and chronicled vast changes in the world of opera and classical music, died yesterday... He was 87 and lived in Manhattan. Writing daily reviews and more contemplative Sunday pieces, Mr. Schonberg set the standard for critical evaluation and journalistic thoroughness. He wrote his reviews in a crisp, often staccato style that gave his evaluations unequivocal clarity and directness, attributes that earned him a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1971, the first for a music critic." The New York Times 07/27/03

Carter At 96 "Elliott Carter is a phenomenon. Now halfway through his 96th year, he is as productive a composer as he ever was – maybe even more so... There are no compromises with Carter. His music is tough to get to grips with in terms of all its complexities, wrought of conflicts, contrasts, contradictions and intricate rhythmic conundrums. Not that audience appreciation seems to be a top priority, or even a particular concern." The Telegraph (UK) 07/26/03

The Underdog's Filmmaker "John Schlesinger was once quoted as saying, 'What interests me is not the hero but the coward... not the success, but the failure.' That sense of empathy and melancholy pervaded the director's best films, which will be remembered as compelling portraits, not just of their particular times and places, but of characters at their most vulnerable and damaged." Schlesinger died last week after being removed from life-support machines. Washington Post 07/26/03

Friday, July 25, 2003

The Pianist Who Lives In Gershwin's Head Kevin Cole has carved out a niche for himself as America's leading interpreter as Gershwin's piano music, and has solidified his reputation as a crowd-pleaser with performances from coast to coast. But Howard Reich sees potential in Cole that goes far beyond simple performance. American orchestras all seem to struggle when called upon to plan a concert of classic American music (Copland and Bernstein aside,) and Reich thinks that Cole "ripe for an artistic directorship that doesn't yet exist, but ought to." Chicago Tribune 07/25/03

Schlesinger Taken Off Life Support Director John Schlesinger, whose credits include Midnight Cowboy, which "received seven Oscar nominations and won three, for best picture, best direction and best adapted screenplay," and the critically acclaimed Sunday Bloody Sunday, has been taken off life support at the age of 77. Schlesinger had quadruple bypass surgery in 1998, and suffered a stroke in late 2000. BBC 07/25/03

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Frank Gehry, Set Designer? Frank Gehry does not generally work on a small scale. His buildings swoop and sway and generally defy you to ignore their presence. But the legendary architect is taking his vision into the background this month in upstate New York, where he will make his debut as a set designer for the theatre. Gehry's set for the Janacek opera Osud will be on display, albeit in a decidedly supporting role, at the SummerScape festival at Bard College. Washington Post (AP) 07/24/03

The Woman Who Danced Away Her Cancer It may be a bit new-ageish for some, but more and more people are becoming convinced that art has some profound healing powers. One of the leaders of the art-as-medicine movement is California choreographer Anna Halprin. "For more than 30 years, Halprin has been working out the dynamic of art's multidimensional power to heal mind and body, which many believe in but few have experienced in such a visceral, immediate way." Halprin claims to have beaten cancer with an intensive program of painting and dance, and while the medical community isn't about to give a lot of credence to that particular claim, doctors admit that art does appear to have some sort of as-yet-unexplained benefits to human health. San Francisco Chronicle 07/24/03

  • Previously: Art: The New (Old) Alternative Medicine "Art opens people up and delves deep. Anyone who's ever poured out his passion on a dance floor, sung John Mayer in the shower or felt rapture at Swan Lake knows it. But can that delving heal people, in both body and mind, as a veritable army of art therapists, drama therapists, dance therapists, cinema and photo therapists, expressive arts practitioners, patients, their families, hospice workers and holistic musicians believe?" San Francisco Chronicle 07/23/03
Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Man Who Painted San Quentin It's the last place you would expect to find serious art. But inside the dining hall at San Quentin State Prison in California sit "four epic murals... depicting California history from the building of the railroads to the post-World War II industrial boom... The astonishing sophistication of the work -- imbued with leftist political imagery extolling working-class virtues at a time when McCarthyism was rampant -- has for years been a source of intrigue to the few art historians and others familiar with the murals." This month, the single ex-convict responsible for the murals will be welcomed back to San Quentin as an invited guest. His name is Alfredo Santos. He hasn't seen his work in nearly fifty years. San Francisco Weekly 07/23/03

The Dave Eggers Show Chances are, you're either sick to death of hearing about Dave Eggers, or you can't get enough of him. Either way, there's little doubt that the ultra-independent Eggers is raising the bar for authors, publishers, and the book industry in general. His readings are more like stand-up comedy acts; his commitment to small, independent booksellers is legendary; and his burning desire to use his unexpected wealth and fame to craft a literary world based less around marketing and more around, well, literature, appears to be quite genuine. Of course, he's also ridiculously good at self-promotion, but then, that's part of the game, isn't it? Ottawa Citizen 07/23/03

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

BBC Phil Extends Conductor's Contract Gianandrea Noseda won't be leaving the podium of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra anytime soon. The orchestra signed the young Italian to a 3-year extension (through 2008) after only a year on the job, and the announcement met with cheers from the musicians of the Manchester-based ensemble. Noseda succeeded the French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, who many initially feared would be virtually irreplacable. The Guardian (UK) 07/23/03

A Billionaire's Vegas Dream "Billionaire Steve Wynn seems like one of those characters who could only exist in Las Vegas. Now 60, he has played as great a part in the creation of modern Las Vegas as anyone - and is now poised, with his latest, most spectacular venture, to leave his name permanently on the city's skyline... A couple of months ago, he spent more than $25m in the space of 24 hours, buying works by Cézanne and Renoir at Christie's and Sotheby's in New York - but in Las Vegas he is casino magnate, philanthropist, city father and enigma all rolled into one." Wynn's latest venture is a multi-billion dollar resort hotel, in which he will place his legendary art collection, and open two theaters featuring performances by the likes of Cirque Du Soleil. The Guardian (UK) 07/21/03

Monday, July 21, 2003

Dayton Remembered As Selfless Donor Minneapolis philanthropist Ken Dayton, who died this past weekend, was one of the last of a dying breed of arts supporters: the generous donor who is content to watch his money do good things without expecting or even desiring a personal payback. Dayton, who gave well over $100 million to the Minnesota Orchestra and the Walker Art Center over the past half-century, never wanted his name on a building, and despised the trend towards such self-aggrandizement among younger donors, saying "They want - in giving as in everything else - a quick payout, an immediate return. Alas, in too many instances giving is becoming cause-related marketing." Minnesota Public Radio 07/21/03

Marketing Specialist Takes The Orchestral Reins in Sydney The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has been running in the black, but that doesn't make its newest managing director's job any easier. Times are tough in the orchestral world, and Libby Christie knows the perils of operating a business with high overhead and unpredictable income sources. What she doesn't know much about is music. Christie is one of a new breed of orchestral administrators who are hired not for their love of classical music, but for their business savvy. Christie herself describes her expertise as being in "branding, marketing and top-line business development with potential sponsors." That's the kind of corporate-speak that often makes boards happy, but can make musicians nervous. Sydney Morning Herald 07/22/03

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Minnesota's Biggest Arts Benefactor Dies It is not an overstatement to say that without Ken Dayton, Minneapolis would never have gained a national reputation as a city of the arts. "He and his wife, Judy, were key players in a small group of wealthy, socially prominent Minneapolis families who remade the city's artistic life in the last half of the 20th century. They helped it evolve from a Midwest city with a few robust old civic institutions into a national model of thriving contemporary and traditional culture, renowned for its philanthropic support... [They] contributed more than $100 million to the Minnesota Orchestra, the Walker Art Center and other civic, social and cultural causes." Ken Dayton died this weekend, one day shy of his 81st birthday. Minneapolis Star Tribune 07/21/03

Ivry: Jacobsen Influenced Whole U.S. Literary Culture "The poet Josephine Jacobsen, who died last week in Maryland at age 94, was a cultural exception. Although she never attended college, she earned the respect of her fellow writers and was named poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (the honorary job now called United States poet laureate) in 1971. She did not gain widespread recognition until her 60's, although her collected poems, In the Crevice of Time, and selected prose, The Instant of Knowing, which appeared when she was an octogenarian, are still in print and winning new readers at a vigorous clip." The New York Times 07/19/03

The Woman Who Knows How To Rebuild Iraq When the U.S. government needed a blueprint for rebuilding Japan after World War II, they looked not within the American military-industrial complex, but to a cultural anthropologist named Ruth Benedict. "The choice to rely so heavily on cultural anthropologists in the rebuilding of a defeated enemy has particular resonance now as the United States struggles to rebuild a stable and viable Iraq, a country that, like Japan, is seen as both impossibly foreign and forbidding." The idea of rebuilding a foreign nation without a deep and abiding knowledge of and respect for its culture seems risky at best, but there seem to be few Ruth Benedicts around to help with the current mess in Iraq. Or, perhaps more accurately, if they do exist, no one's asking for their help. The New York Times 07/19/03

High Priestess of Bach Dies Rosalyn Tureck was one of the leading Bach interpreters of her generation, and a celebrated keyboardist who also embraced contemporary music, making her Carnegie Hall debut not on the piano or the harpsichord, for which she would become so well known later, but on the strange and eery electronic instrument known as the theremin. Brash and opinionated, she once snapped to a colleague, "You play it your way; I play it Bach's way." She passed away at her New York home this weekend, at the age of 88. The Guardian (UK) 07/19/03

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Appreciating Celia Cruz "Celia Cruz, who died yesterday of brain cancer at 78, was one of the great singers of the century. Her voice inspired awe, her phrasing was unimpeachable, her output was prodigious and she had more of the ineffable quality sabor than perhaps any other singer in the history of Latin music. Sabor means flavor, but in this context it translates best as swing, and that's what she did - swing hard - for 50 glorious years. She was the Aretha Franklin of salsa, the unchallenged queen. She practically invented the genre, and then went on to perfect it." Washington Post 07/17/03

Dylan Lyrics Trace Interesting Path Of Appropriation "Bob Dylan's appropriation of material from Junichi Saga's 'Confessions of a Yakuza,' first published in 1989 and translated into English in '91, isn't merely another tale of purloined text (see Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jayson Blair, et al.). It's a fascinating study in artistic process and influence. The path from a forthrightly anecdotal history of a professional Japanese gambler to a set of elusive, emotionally turbulent songs set in the American South is steep and mysteriously twisted." San Francisco Chronicle 07/17/03

The Mob Boss Wife And The Art Gallery The widow of crime boss John Gotti is apparently an artist. And she's having a show. "A Chelsea gallery is opening a show of Victoria Gotti's artwork tonight - and a portrait of the late Dapper Don is one of 20 paintings up for grabs. Gotti, who is rarely seen in public, told the Daily News she's been painting for years. She doesn't have any professional training, which may be obvious to some art critics. But like Picasso, she apparently does have a blue period." New York Daily News 07/17/03

Carol Shields, 68 Carol Shields, one of Canada's most acclaimed writers, has died of cancer at the age of 68. "Since the publication of her first novel, Small Ceremonies in 1976, Shields wrote numerous works of fiction - including the 1993 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Stone Diaries - plays, short story collections and poetry. Her books have also won a Canada Council Major Award, two National Magazine Awards, the Canadian Author's Award, and a CBC short story award." Canada.com 07/17/03

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Mamet: Playwrights Must Confront Violence Of Racism David Mamet says playwrights have a responsibility to confront the violent past of racism in America. "I am old enough to remember separate waiting rooms, restrooms, and drinking fountains in the American south: one set for blacks, one for whites. Looking back, one says: 'Was there ever a greater, more widespread or persistent delusion than that of racial superiority?' And the answer was and is: 'No.' So, though I decry and abominate the computer, the mass media and, indeed, most things that differentiate the 21st century from the 19th, I remind myself that I have lived to see the beginning of the end of American racism - and that is something to have lived to see." The Guardian (UK) 07/17/03

Conlon: Americans Haven't Learned How To Listen To Classical Music James Conlon is the poster boy for the talented American conductor who has to go to Europe for his talent to be recognized. But with his appointment to the directorship of Ravinia, the summer festival of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Conlon is coming home at last, and sounds excited to be here. But he believes that there is much "missionary work" to be done before American audiences will be capable of digging their minds into a classical concert the way, say, German audiences do. "To them, music is not simply an entertainment or an aural sensation. They listen, they think, they feel, they question. I think we need several more generations of classical music lovers in America before we get to that point." Chicago Tribune 07/16/03

Monday, July 14, 2003

Buena Vista Star Dies Compay Segundo, the Cuban singer and guitarist who came to international attention in the 90s with the 'Buena Vista Social Club'has died at the age of 95. "Mr. Segundo, who rose to global fame in his 90's after decades of obscurity, was the most accomplished of the dozen or so Cuban musicians gathered in Havana in 1996 by the American producer Ry Cooder for a recording session meant to recapture the lost music of the pre-Revolutionary Havana nightclub scene." The New York Times 07/15/03

Benny Carter, 95 Jazz axophonist Benny Carter died over the weekend. "Carter's career was remarkable for both its length and its consistently high musical achievement, from his first recordings in the 1920's to his youthful-sounding improvisations in the 1990's. His pure-toned, impeccably phrased performances made him one of the two pre-eminent alto saxophonists in jazz, with Johnny Hodges, from the late 1920's until the arrival of Charlie Parker in the mid-1940's. He was also an accomplished soloist on trumpet and clarinet, and on occasion he played piano, trombone and both tenor and baritone saxophones. He helped to lay the foundation for the swing era of the late 1930's and early 40's" The New York Times 07/14/03

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Zeffirelli - An Energetic 80 "Reports of director Franco Zeffirelli's decline - physical, artistic and mental - have been exaggerated. He may be 80, and suffering balance problems - the result of an inner-ear ailment, contracted after a botched hip operation - but in the past six months alone, he has completed a film about Maria Callas, staged opera productions in Italy and the US, and had a huge success with Luigi Pirandello's Absolutely! (perhaps) in London. He is now back at Covent Garden, for the first time in nearly 40 years, to direct Pagliacci." Financial Times 07/11/03

Thursday, July 10, 2003

CalArts Dean Resigns "Susan Solt, dean of the school of theater at CalArts and the school's Center for New Theater, has resigned. She will take a position on the faculty and work as dramaturge in the theater writing program headed by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks." Los Angeles Times 07/11/03

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Protest Over Concert At Grant's Tomb The Grant's Tomb Memorial Association is protesting a televised concert last week that used the New York memorial as a backdrop last week. "Beyoncé performed in front of Grant's final resting place for the July 4 special NBC aired Friday night. The singing siren was surrounded by a band, gyrating dancers and hundreds of screaming fans in a show that was taped days before Independence Day. "This particular memorial also happens to be the man's tomb. ... This is something I think people should take into consideration." New York Daily News 07/08/03

Classic Promoter Maria Vandamme is on a crusade to promote Australian classical music. "Founder and artistic director of the embryonic and critically acclaimed - locally and internationally - music label, Melba Recordings, Vandamme has also established the philanthropic Melba Foundation. Her motivation behind the record label is the fact that Australian music is not particularly well known overseas. Vandamme believes our image internationally is skewed, at once bizarre and unbalanced. 'We are a sporting nation, we have lovely beaches, a few famous movie stars and directors - end of subject. This means that our music isn't recognised and that needs to be corrected'." The Age (Melbourne) 07/09/03

The Royalty Hunter John Hichborn is a one-man royalty tracker. "Royalty tracking, as an industry, has become increasingly important in the electronic age, when well-known songs are sampled for commercials, thrown onto cheap CD compilations, and even used for video games. There can be considerable money at stake. A publisher is supposed to be paid 8 cents per song for each copy sold. The writer then receives his share from what he has agreed to as part of the deal. That can add up. 'The record industry is a swamp of disappearing money'." Chicago Tribune 07/08/03

Monday, July 7, 2003

Arthur Miller Vs. The Mayor Of Jerusalem Playwright Arthur Miller was awarded this year's Jerusalem Prize, but for last week's ceremony he sent a videotape in which he criticized Israel's policies. This angered Jerusalem's newly elected ultra-Orthodox Jewish mayor who said "Miller was a 'universal dramatist' who had reached his peak more than 50 years ago. He condemned the tendency of intellectuals to 'always criticise the actions of the state of Israel and sometimes even impose colonial criteria on the issues'. He further attacked Miller for sitting on a 'literary Olympus tens of thousands of kilometres from here to voice criticism'." The Guardian (UK) 07/07/03

LI Philharmonic Lets Exec Go - Blame His Inexperience Last year when the Long Island Philharmonic went looking for a new top executive, they came back with Christopher von Zwehl. Of course he had no background in music; apparently the orchestra's board was impressed that von Zwehl had raised money for "a proposed freight ferry from Kennedy Airport to New Jersey" and had been instrumental in "bringing the battleship USS New Jersey to that state." Last week the orchestra let von Zwehl go, admitting he wasn't up for the job. The problem? "Lack of knowledge about music and the classical music business was a hindrance." Newsday 07/06/03

Sunday, July 6, 2003

Domingo To Sing And Conduct Opera "Not content with continuing to sing both old roles and new in defiance of his 62 years, Placido Domingo is preparing to embark on another new project. For Domingo is about to sing in an opera - and then to conduct it. Far from passing the baton, he intends to pick the baton up." The Guardian (UK) 07/05/03

Thursday, July 3, 2003

Jazz's Greatest Flautist Exits Stage Left "Herbie Mann, the versatile jazz flutist who combined many musical styles and deeply influenced genres such as world music and fusion, died late Tuesday. He was 73... Mann will be remembered for playing different styles of jazz and then combining them. He did bebop and cool jazz, and toured Africa, Brazil and Japan searching for new sounds." Toronto Star 07/03/03

Slim Shady, Master Poet? By all the usual measures, the rapper Eminem should be despised by the cultural elite. His lyrics are violent, misogynistic, and homophobic, and he has systematically dismissed all suggestions that a musician with his talent doesn't need the bigoted gimmickry to make it big. So how is it that young Marshall Mathers has come to be hailed as the next great poet of the music world by no less an authority than Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney? "The endorsement is just the latest indication that Eminem's public image has completed the transition from obscene thug to gifted lyricist... The star from the trailer park is becoming, in the words of Britain's The Independent, 'the new darling of the liberal establishment.'" National Post 07/03/03

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Explaining Stanley Crouch Stanley Crouch was famously fired from his critic's job at JazzTimes. "Crouch's position has less to do with color than it does with sound. He defines jazz within famously narrow limits—a music that doesn't stray far from the blues or the techniques that have traditionally produced it, musicians who never, ever forget where and how the sound was born. One doesn't have to be black to find a groove (though some critics have taken him to mean this), but one must be willing to bow to the "Negro aesthetic." He is convinced that the white establishment resents a musical history from which it can't help but feel alienated, and so champions jazz that sounds "white" instead of jazz that looks backward. In this view, the desire to innovate past swing is tantamount to fearing its origins and the people who created it. The lines between the advancement of a music and the rejection of its history become entangled in the vast mire of racial politics." Reason 06/27/03

Minister Of Culture Takes Time Off To Play Concerts Brazil's minister of Culture is Gilberto Gil - a big music star. But he's taking a month off from his ministry job to go on tour in Europe boost his income. "The 60-year-old recording artist earns $2,900 (£1,700) a month in his government post but says this is not enough to maintain his standard of living." BBC 07/01/03

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