Michael Billington: “Rufus Norris has made clear that he wants the National to more visibly represent the nation at large: if that means more work by women and greater racial diversity, I am happy to fling my hat in the air. But that need not – indeed should not – mean an almost total severance with the past.”
Archives for January 2017
“In any parlance, the specific meaning of ‘normal’ has important consequences, especially if it is given a privileged position in the world. Anything that veers – from having green eyes or hearing voices to living with hydrocephalus – would be abnormal in one sense or another: uncommon, rare, atypical, potentially inadequate, suboptimal or deficient in some way – and in need of being brought back to some norm. Yet, it could be controversial, or just plain odd, to pathologise such variations; especially if they are functional in some way.”
Voices are being heard, of course. Songwriters would be hard-pressed to resist the actions and rhetoric of the Trump presidency. But what rabble is being roused? Are the modern protest singers preaching to choirs? A nation is divided, and many of the protest songs are not of the unifying “this land is your land” kind.
“The virtues of digital turn out to be the vices as well. Having all the music on earth at your instant disposal turns out to be almost the same as having none; Spotify’s playlists show people picking the same tunes over and over. Digital life’s too self-absorbed—either we evolve quickly away from the social primates we have always been or else we will quietly suffer from the solipsism inherent in staring at ourselves reflected in a screen. It’s too jumpy; concentration, from which all that is worthwhile emerges, is the great loss.”
Small venues are often encouraged to ‘buddy up’ with larger venues to develop their skills, expertise and knowledge. This can lead to an erosion of confidence, implying that small venues are somehow inferior and need help or advice. Small venues operate differently from larger ones, in that they manage their resources extremely well and develop a close understanding of and relationships with their audiences in ways that larger-scale organisations sometimes find difficult to achieve.
“The 2.8% decline is almost all attributable to a fall in visitors from overseas, despite an increase in tourists visiting the UK. Overseas visitors now account for 47% of all visitors to the sponsored museums, while a like-for-like comparison shows they accounted for 49% the previous year. Visits by people from the UK continue to show marginal growth, roughly mirroring population trends.”
You may not know the term, but you’re familiar with “visual pareidolia” – it’s when you see an animal in a Rorschach blot or the Virgin Mary in a slice of toast. It happens with sounds, too – as when some parents heard in a Fisher-Price doll’s giggles and coos the sentence “Islam is the light.” Philip Jaekl explains how it happens.
Nathan Cole: As I put in my first set of numbers, my stand partner made a sound, a kind of groan cut short. I looked over, the point of my pencil still on the page. “Did you want my markings on the bottom instead?” “We don’t mark fingerings here,” he said.” “Here, you mean at this spot?” “I mean in this orchestra.” His face softened, and he added, “Sorry, you’re probably used to seeing them, right?” I was indeed used to seeing fingerings as a matter of course. My mind was fairly blown. “How do you play all this music then?” My stand partner paused, as if he’d never considered the question before. “Practice?” he suggested. When you ask, be ready for the answer.
“What would the elimination of the NEA mean for the arts in the US? In terms of actual direct support, very little. Many foundations, other funding bodies, and individuals dole out more for the arts each year than the arts endowment: for example, New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs 2016 budget was $165 million, with additional funds dedicated for capital projects; philanthropist David Geffen’s $100 million gift to New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2016 outstripped the NEA’s direct granting budget that year. But the NEA has impact far exceeding its direct grants.”
Richard Roxburgh, currently starring on Broadway with Cate Blanchett in The Present: “In terms of the study of alcohol and its effects, I probably have an unfair advantage in that I am, A, Australian, and, B, an actor. I’ve had probably an unhealthy overexposure to the shenanigans of booze over time.”
Rem Koolhaus: “The Centre Pompidou was maybe the last moment that a museum competition won with that degree of abstraction, radicality and that degree of newness. It was more a hypothesis than a project and I think museum competitions since then have moved as far as possible away from that. The very model of a museum that the Pompidou offered has been avoided as much as possible by subsequent museum competitions, juries, clients and realisations.”
“In 2013, Australian documentarian Anna Broinowski was granted a rare chance to research North Korea’s cloaked and powerful propaganda film industry. … [This excerpt] from her book Aim High in Creation! chronicles the bizarre final days of Broinowski’s North Korean film production boot camp, when she was unexpectedly cast as an ‘evil American wife’ in a film about the 1968 capture of the U.S. spy ship, the Pueblo.”
Matt Burriesci, executive director of the Providence Athenaeum: “If we’d like to discuss metrics, deliverables and results, then we must ask how our interests have fared by employing this economic strategy. … Where, exactly, are the results? They are not to be found in the opinions of our policymakers”
The RSS (for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) is a Hindu nationalist group compared by some to the Tea Party and by others to the Ku Klux Klan. The Jaipur Literature Festival is a swanky, high-minded gathering that would consider the RSS both morally repugnant and vulgar. Until this year, that is.
Novelist Siddhartha Deb calls out the event and (especially) its sponsors: “One of India’s largest entertainment companies, Zee is best known for a news channel that serves as the media bludgeon of the Hindu right, its favorite term of abuse, usually flashing in extremely large font, being ‘Deshdrohi,’ or ‘Nation-hater.'”
Back in October, NatWest announced that it would no longer provide services to RT, the Russian-government-sponsored news channel. Russian officials promptly cried “Censorship!” and threatened to retaliate against the BBC’s operations in Russia. Now NatWest (which is owned largely by the British government) has announced a settlement.
“The effects of this relatively tiny allocation are clear: despite India’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, many of its national museums remain uninspiring, hardly drawing any visitors despite their incredibly affordable entry prices. And several heritage sites, including the iconic Taj Mahal, are in a bad state, suffering from the effects of poor maintenance and pollution. Some important monuments …, including prehistoric megaliths and temple ruins, have even gone missing.”
In Philadelphia: Revolutionary Art
In today’s New York Times, I wrote about the conservation and erection of George Washington’s surviving field headquarters tent – a fragile thing, as you may well imagine. … read more
AJBlog: Real Clear Arts Published 2017-01-30
The Composition Program of My Dreams
When I was an undergraduate student, I won a prize that got me a reading session with the school orchestra. I showed up for the session and discovered that one of the professors had decided … read more
AJBlog: Infinite Curves Published 2017-01-30
Snapshots from the Culture Crash: 1
Longtime music journalist Steve Mirkin has been, like a lot of us in the creative class, though a series ups and downs since the Internet remade journalism and the recession undercut the middle class. … read more
AJBlog: CultureCrash Published 2017-01-29
Chuck Stewart And Ed Berger, RIP
Two non-musicians prominent in the US jazz community have died in the past week. … read more
AJBlog: RiffTides Published 2017-01-29
Monday Recommendation: A Film About Rhaasan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk, The Case Of The Three Sided Dream (Arthaus Musik/Monoduo Films) … read more
AJBlog: RiffTides Published 2017-01-30
“The experiment brings to mind Komar and Melamid’s “Most Wanted” project in the 1990s, in which that Russian duo created paintings based on polls of what people from various countries like to see in art. Here, the cast, with help from the musician Liljie, go through vignettes that illustrate some of the survey’s results.”
“The dilemma here is how do you get young people at any age to start being interested in jazz? There is some research that says that people imprint on music in their romantic years, the time that they’re dating. That would be high school through college, more or less. Jazz is losing generations of young people because they’re not exposed to it during that time. Jazz is no longer the music of rebellion, hip hop is. This is not something that’s easily solved.”