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Wednesday, July 16


Staring Down Cultural Extinction "If someone suggested to a room full of people that 100 years from now, half of all the world's flora and fauna would no longer exist, it's likely that at least a few of them would be worried enough to so do something. They might donate a few dollars to the World Wildlife Fund, or maybe go so far as to sit atop a redwood that was about to be cut down. But what would the reaction be if someone suggested that half the world's cultures and languages would no longer exist?" Two someones are suggesting exactly that, and they're convinced that they can do something about it, too. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 6:23 am

Visual Arts

Lawsuit Threatens L.A. Exhibit "In a legal challenge that aims to block an upcoming show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the grandson of a Russian aristocrat is arguing that 25 of the artworks including paintings by Cezanne, Degas, Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh are stolen goods, looted from his family by Lenin's Bolshevik government in 1918 and later passed to Moscow's State Pushkin Museum." The lawsuit is a new tactic in a larger battle by the family of the Russian collector who owned the pieces to force legal recognition of the Bolshevik seizure. LACMA officials, presumably caught by surprise, aren't commenting just yet. Los Angeles Times 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 6:27 am

And Watch Where You Rub That Washcloth! The cleaning of Michelangelo's David is turning into quite the public event, and a fierce argument has developed over the proper way to free David from his layers of grime. "The row centres on whether the statue should be cleaned using water to restore it to its original state or by a dry cleaning method which would be less radical and only remove the worst grime, according to UK press reports on Wednesday. A petition has been signed by more than 39 international art experts to stop Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia using their planned wet technique and demanding that an independent commission should decide on the best method." BBC 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 5:23 am

Unveiling The New Guggenheim Taiwan The Guggenheim has unveiled plans for a new Taiwan outpost. "The proposed museum, designed by noted architect Zaha Hadid, includes several sections of the museum that can change position on demand. The entire West Wing, a two-story structure with a 3,583 square meter base is designed to move either through a rail or air cushion system into three different positions, while the East gallery includes a 440 square meter platform which can move between the first and second floor galleries like a gigantic elevator." Taiwan News 07/16/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 11:04 pm

German Looted-Art Commission Gets To Work A new German commission has been set up to work on disputes on looted art. "Germany has paid around 3bn to survivors of Nazi slave camps, and 30bn to victims of the Holocaust, but the issue of stolen property has not been resolved. The eight-member panel was set up after an agreement between the federal, state and local governments on its powers, but it can intervene only if both sides agree to let it act as an arbitrator. " The Guardian (UK) 07/15/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 9:05 pm

'60s Edinburgh Built Today "Much of the cultural life of Edinburgh today was shaped in the 1960s. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art was opened, the Traverse Theatre was launched and world-class contemporary art arrived in the city, perhaps for the first time. It was enough to make a Morningside lady drop her teacup. Now, a snapshot of this eventful decade is on show..." The Scotsman 07/15/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 8:57 pm


Washington Concert Opera Close To Shutdown Washington Concert Opera, an unusual company dedicated to presenting rarely heard gems of the operatic literature, is on the verge of financial collapse, and will "have to be restructured, hugely" if it is to survive, according to its board president. WCO ran a $200,000 deficit on an overall budget of $500,000 last season, and the board is unwilling to go into debt to keep the company singing. Washington Post 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 6:46 am

New York Phil Suddenly Unsure About Carnegie Merger The New York Philharmonic's merger with Carnegie Hall was supposed to be a done deal, with both sides thrilled with all aspects of the new partnership. But the Phil may be balking at the prospect of pooling its assets with Carnegie permanently, and orchestra officials are now openly talking about the possibility of merely becoming a tenant of Carnegie. "The very nature of this evaluation suggests that at least some board members have serious concerns about combining the two organizations. Indeed, the Philharmonic has been pulling back from its characterization of the merger ever since it was announced on June 1 as a fait accompli." The New York Times 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 5:47 am

Wait 'Til the Musicians' Union Hears About This! An Australian opera singer claims to have invented a computerized orchestra which can follow a conductor's beat, making it the perfect alternative to a live pit orchestra for ballets and operas. Critics and musicians are predictably dismissive of the cyber-orchestra, which basically involves one guy with a laptop following a conductor with his mouse, but small ballet and opera companies which can't afford to hire full orchestras are excited to try it out. BBC 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 5:38 am

Florida Phil Rescue Effort Sputtering Musicians and supporters of the nearly-dead Florida Philharmonic have been scrambling to put together the funding necessary to save their orchestra or, at the very least, give it some financial breathing room until a more permanent fiscal plan can be realized. But after starting strong, the rescue mission has stalled badly, and its organizers admit that they're running out of time. By the end of this week, the orchestra's board, which many musicians have accused of running the organization into the ground, may decide to convert the company's bankruptcy filing from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, which would mean a final, permanent shutdown. South Florida Sun-Sentinel 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 5:33 am

The Orchestra Healer To suggest that classical musicians are physical workers, like athletes, is to invite a wave of snickers and snide jokes about the fat guy in the back of the second violins. But the repetitive motion of playing a string instrument, for example, is tremendously stressful to the muscles involved, and increasingly, orchestra musicians have been sustaining career-threatening injuries from the simple act of pulling a bow back and forth. Enter Janet Horvath, who is on a one-woman crusade to teach orchestral musicians how to avoid such injuries. Horvath's credentials: she's a cellist who, back in college, was hurting so badly that she couldn't turn a doorknob, but who has now served as associate principal cello of a major American orchestra for 20 years. Minneapolis Star Tribune (AP) 07/15/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 5:10 am

Did Bob Dylan Steal His Word? (Couldn't Be) "The discovery last week (first reported on the front page of The Wall Street Journal) that Mr. Dylan may have lifted as many as a dozen lines for his remarkable 2001 album, 'Love & Theft,' from Japanese writer Junichi Saga, and his 1989 book 'Confessions of a Yakuza,' is a nonstory. The singer, as anyone with even a passing interest in pop music and American culture of the last 40 years knows, is both playful musical archaeologist and sly trickster - a man of many masks." OpinionJournal.com 07/16/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 10:48 pm

Tuned In... The art of piano tuning is becoming more scientific. "The Kansas City, Mo.-based Piano Technicians Guild says computers are now used by at least half the 10,000 tuners who service America's 18 million pianos." The debate about the quality of tuning manually versus that using technology is about equally split... Los Angeles Times 07/15/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 8:36 pm

Opera Buff-a "Onstage nudity is costing Opera Australia nearly three times the going rate, as it gears up for the production of the passionate Richard Strauss opera Salome. During the Dance of the Seven Veils, four dancers will unveil just about everything, at a total cost to the company in nudity payments of $140 per performance." The Age (Melbourne) 07/16/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 8:14 pm

Arts Issues

Libeskind, Silverstein Agree To Team Up On Ground Zero Rebuild Ground Zero will be rebuilt with oversight from an apparently tenuous partnership between architect Daniel Libeskind and developer Larry Silverstein. Still, for New York officials, any partnership is better than the uncertainty that has been dogging the project. "The agreement... came during an eight-hour negotiating session that stretched from Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning... The impasse centered on how much influence Mr. Libeskind would have on the design of the first office building to go up at the site, the 1,776-foot tower that will define the rebuilt trade center's presence on the Lower Manhattan skyline." The New York Times 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 5:56 am

Will California Wipe Out Its Arts Funding? California - known as a center of creativity - could soon become the first American state to eliminate its arts funding. "Cultural groups and artists say the death of the 28-year-old agency would have a ripple effect throughout the state. They predict as many as 14 regional arts councils receiving Arts Council funding could be eliminated, and the National Endowment of the Arts would divert $1 million earmarked for Arts Council distribution to other states. The state ranks 40th in the nation in per capita arts funding." San Jose Mercury-News 07/15/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 10:46 pm

Is The Art Or Applause Dying? Rupert Christiansen observes that audiences seem less enthusiastic with their applause these days. "Why should this be? As a culture, we are much less repressed than we used to be. Nobody any longer fights back the tears manfully - in fact, you can hardly switch the radio on without hearing some disaster victim collapsing into gut-churning sobs. We are repeatedly exposed to the sounds and images of extreme drama, both actual and fictional. This may mean that the excitement that live music stimulates is less intense and surprising - we hear it, after all, every day, reproduced with a fidelity that wasn't possible in the pre-FM, pre-digital era. The passivity of television and a certain fed-on-a-plate laziness about our consumption of art also contribute to the fall in the clapometer." The Telegraph (UK) 07/16/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 9:15 pm

Alternatives To State Arts Funding? "The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has reported that total funding for state arts councils will be $354.9 million in 2003, down more than 13% from the $408.6 million recorded for 2002. And with budgets in California and a few other states in limbo, that figure could still take a tumble." So are there alternative public arts funding plans that could work? Backstage 07/15/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 8:19 pm


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
Posted: 07/16/2003 6:03 am


O'Neill Conference Looks Increasingly Female At Connecticut's O'Neill Playwrights Conference, women playwrights are taking an increasingly major role. "The League of American Theaters and Producers reports that the audience for Broadway shows in the 2001-02 season was 63 percent female the same percentage of plays by women (63.6 percent) that get script-in-hand public performances at this year's playwrights conference. But nationwide, according to American Theatre magazine, only 17 to 18 percent of plays produced in professional theaters in 2001-02 were written by women. In the same season, 16 percent of productions were directed by women." New Haven Register 07/13/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 10:54 pm


Gatenby Resignation Raises Questions When Greg Gatenby abruptly resigned from the directorship of Toronto's International Festival of Authors earlier this week, speculation raged about what bizarre set of behind-the-scenes circumstances could have led to the departure of such a popular figure from one of Canada's most high-profile literary organizations. The full story still isn't known, and may never be, but the often-frosty relationship between Gatenby and Harbourfront Centre chief William Boyle seems to be at the center of the story. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/16/03
Posted: 07/16/2003 6:17 am

  • A Backstage Drama Worthy Of A Novel "The dramatic parting of Harbourfront Centre and Greg Gatenby, announced Monday, was preceded by months of wrangling, intrigue and attempted fixes. Gatenby and Harbourfront officials are saying nothing, but based on the testimony of other players, the breakdown of the relationship emerges as a tale full of ultimatums, threats, end runs and cameo appearances by well-known personalities." Toronto Star 07/16/03
    Posted: 07/16/2003 6:16 am

Kenyan Wins African Writing Prize Kenyan author Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor has won the Caine Prize for African Writing. "Her story is written in the voice of an aristocratic Rwandan refugee in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. The prize, worth $15,000, is given for a short story written in English by an African author and is considered one of the most prestigious awards for African literature." BBC 07/16/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 8:25 pm


The Summer Of The Documentary? While big blockbuster movie fatigue seems to be setting in this summer, a handfull of documentaries are finding traction. A few can even be called big successes - by documentary standards..."Even the most costly docs rarely exceed a $1 million budget. Whereas a blockbuster like 'Terminator 3' might play on 3,500 screens, documentaries are lucky to make it onto 100. In the world of blockbusters, the (box office) mark to hit is $100 million, but in the world of documentaries, it's $1 million." San Francisco Chronicle 07/15/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 10:45 pm

PBS And CNN Need To Update Their Resumes PBS is in a world of denial. "For the most part, it creates fine programming, the kind that TV critics would love to champion. But PBS hasn't learned that it's in a competitive environment. No longer is the business so starkly simple that one can say, 'We make quality programming, and everyone else airs garbage.' The fact is, cable channels do much of what PBS does, equally well, and market it better. The disadvantage for PBS is that the system it operates under is a gigantic mess - the local stations wag the dog and always have." San Francisco Chronicle 07/15/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 10:43 pm

ABC Stepping Away From "Reality"? ABC says it will wean itself off reality TV (the genre was described by one ABCer as "crack cocaine" for its seductiveness to programmers). "They all just look the same. They're all focused on interpersonal, petty relationships. They generally have some kind of vote-out mechanism. Many of them seem to get progressively more salacious." Or could it be that ratings for "reality" TV are just way down this summer? Philadelphia Inquirer 07/15/03
Posted: 07/15/2003 8:41 am

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