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- 11/12/16--07:26: _'Leaving The Table'...
- 11/12/16--07:59: _Hollywood, It's Tim...
- 11/12/16--17:37: _A sad song of music...
- 11/13/16--18:03: _Stage Door: Sweat, ...
- 11/14/16--06:04: _Saturday Night Live...
- 11/14/16--06:52: _Aaron Tveit, Hamilt...
- 11/14/16--08:02: _5 Truths About Crea...
- 11/14/16--14:17: _Songs From Home
- 11/14/16--15:04: _Chie Hitotsuyama - ...
- 11/14/16--20:08: _Corinna Sowers-Adle...
- 11/14/16--20:19: _Remembering Leonard...
- 11/14/16--20:22: _"Searching For Sign...
- 11/15/16--03:22: _Gerhard Richter: In...
- 11/15/16--08:05: _Franz Kafka's insom...
- 11/15/16--11:26: _We Need Artists To ...
- 11/15/16--12:51: _The Met Turns 50 -...
- 11/15/16--12:56: _Dragonflies & Color...
- 11/15/16--12:58: _Surviving Doomsday:...
- 11/15/16--13:08: _From Bach To Beyonc...
- 11/15/16--16:44: _Art Brexit L.A.
- 11/12/16--07:26: 'Leaving The Table'--A Eulogy For Leonard Cohen
- 11/12/16--07:59: Hollywood, It's Time To Stand Up
- 11/12/16--17:37: A sad song of musical censorship in India and Pakistan
- 11/13/16--18:03: Stage Door: Sweat, Not That Jewish
- 11/14/16--06:04: Saturday Night Live, Leonard Cohen, Hillary Clinton And 'Hallelujah'
- 11/14/16--14:17: Songs From Home
- The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo
- The How and the Tao of Folk Guitar
- Mechanics of Frailing Banjo
- Songs For Sunday
- The Crisfield Banjo Retreat Songbook
Four Seasons On Brick Kiln Road
(not a music book, but it will give you a glimpse of the small town I call home)
- 11/14/16--15:04: Chie Hitotsuyama - Artist - Serious Paper & The Intensity Of Being
- 11/14/16--20:19: Remembering Leonard Cohen
- 11/14/16--20:22: "Searching For Signs" By Katharine "Kat" Kramer
- 11/15/16--03:22: Gerhard Richter: In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort
- 11/15/16--11:26: We Need Artists To Help Us Navigate This New World
- 11/15/16--12:51: The Met Turns 50 - Part Three (Finale)
- 11/15/16--12:56: Dragonflies & Colors: Meet Artist Pepa Poch
- 11/15/16--12:58: Surviving Doomsday: Of Wolves And Penguins
- 11/15/16--13:08: From Bach To Beyoncé: Is Classical Music Dead?
- 11/15/16--16:44: Art Brexit L.A.
I have to etch these words into my memory forever, while they are still fresh, while I am still stunned, while I am still reeling: Leonard Cohen has passed away, aged 82 years.
His music is playing on a loop in my room as I write this, his words are playing on a loop in my mind. I find myself suddenly making frantic online purchases of live Cohen recordings on vinyl--1970's landmark Isle of Wight album, Field Commander Cohen dating from his 1979 tour, and a 1988 concert from one of my favorite venues (Toronto's Massey Hall).
Undoubtedly, there are millions of people all around the world who are feeling his loss. Perhaps they knew him personally during the early days in Montreal. Or they could have crossed paths with him in New York City at the Chelsea Hotel. Maybe there's a Greek family living in his old house on the island of Hydra, who could regale visitors with anecdotes left in its dusty corners. Maybe there's a woman in England who owns everything he's written--all the poetry (from his first offering Let Us Compare Mythologies from 1956 to Book of Longing, released five decades later. Maybe there's a man in America who recently added Cohen's two novels to his collection--the semi-autobiographical The Favorite Game and the ecstatic, drug-fueled, gorgeous torture that is Beautiful Losers.
Of course, Cohen has also been an enduring and supremely gifted songwriter who wed evocative and lasting imagery to a spellbinding vocal delivery and mystical musical presence. And yet I argue that his greatest legacy is as an evergreen inspiration to innumerable musicians--legendary musicians and unknown legions alike. His appeal as an artist whose work begs for startling new interpretations will last as long as there are voices to sing and ears to hear.
Jeff Buckley, John Cale, Nick Cave, Judy Collins, Anohni (formerly Antony Hegarty), k.d. lang, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Rufus Wainwright--this is merely a shortlist of others who have brought Cohen's work to new fans suddenly enamored with these enigmatic, timeless songs. Buckley was the John the Baptist who paved my way, and Cohen the sacrilegious and articulate, holy and unchaste Christ figure I discovered on a road to some modern Damascus.
The more I delved into Cohen's extensive artistic output--Selected Poems, 1956-1968, the singular masterpiece of a song that is "Suzanne," the brilliant yet ultimately underrated 1974 record New Skin for the Old Ceremony, and onward to his last musical testament, You Want It Darker--the more I felt an inextricable connection to the man himself.
I was drawn to his provocative union of the sacred and the sexual, the Judeo-Christian with the secular. I was comforted by his insatiable search for spiritual truth wherever he might find it--from Judaism and a brief flirtation with Scientology to Zen Buddhism and Hinduism. I intrinsically understood his lifelong struggle with depression. His hopeless Romanticism and unending role as love's great, forlorn nomad provided encouragement as I explored similar themes in my own poetry and opera libretto.
And as I struggle to come to terms with the world's loss of Cohen, his lyrics appear now as the most prescient wisdom, the most pressing truth:
"If it be your will/ That I speak no more/ And my voice be still/ As it was before/ I will speak no more...If it be your will/ That a voice be true/ From this broken hill/ I will sing to you/ From this broken hill/ All your praises they shall ring/ If it be your will/ To let me sing" ~"If It Be Your Will" from Leonard Cohen's Various Positions (1984)
This post was originally published on teh Huffington Post contributors' blog.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
One morning, over breakfast, my father said to me "If a man can't go his own way, he's nothing. The moment you give up what you stand for for fame or money, that's the moment you lose your soul."
Yeah, it's heavy talk for a kid over Rice Crispies, but, my Dad was a pretty deep guy. And, he was a man who stood up, and spoke the truth. Sometimes, it made me cringe with nervousness. But, in the end, it was what made me most proud. And that was how that morning's particular chat started. I asked why more people like him didn't stand up and speak up. He told me the truth.
Hollywood is full of pussies.
It always has been. There have always been those that bowed out from doing the right thing, and hid behind whatever cloak they think made their cowardice palatable.
And then, there were those few. The mavericks. The do-what-is-righters, no matter what the cost is on the other end of maintaining their integrity. The ones that stood up to be counted on the right side of history. The ones who weren't afraid of losing something as pointless as wealth or fame in the face of doing the most important thing. The right thing. The moral thing. The thing that God gave you the wealth and the fame to speak against. So that you could make a difference.
You were granted the power. You didn't earn it. You didn't deserve it. You were blessed with it. That's how fame and fortune work. Some, who are full enough of themselves to think that they are in charge of fate itself, talk of "hard work" and "paying your dues" and "fruits of my labors" and blah blah blah. There are a hundred other people. A thousand other people. Hell, more. Who want it as bad as you do. Who work as hard as you do. And who deserve it as much as you do. Probably more. But they weren't in that one place, at that one time, where everything changed. That was luck. That was fate. And that was the Universe telling you that you have been chosen.
Not because it wants you to buy a big house with a swimming pool and a movie theater, not because it wants you to have big parties and invite all your famous friends over to eat goat cheese and see your new piece you bought in Paris last week, not because it wants you to shield your eyes from the paparazzi while running to your car from your workout with your trainer.
The Universe granted you a gift for you to STAND THE HELL UP.
You were given power so that you can use it. You were given people who follow you, and look up to you, so you can point to things in the world that are unjust, and call those people to action. You were given that giant, swelling bank account so you can use that money to ease the suffering of someone, something, somewhere, in the world. You were given the ability to do the right thing, because it needs to be done.
Because the world needs real heroes, not the ones you play on the screen.
And I'm not talking about the kind gestures, where you stop to greet your fans spontaneously, or meet some poor soul whose dying wish is to get your autograph. Those things are great, and worthy, and by-God-of-course-you-should things that all famous people should do. That should be the minimum cost of doing business. What I'm talking about are HERO actions. You know, the ones where you stand against the system, where you stand against your "people" that say "that won't be popular in China/MidWest/Indonesia/BibleBelt/Middle East/Russia/ButmostlyChinawhereticketsalesarehuge!", where you look at those people and say, simply, strong and quiet, "F*&K. THAT."
Where you realize that you have enough of the money, and the house, and the stuff, and the fame, and the power. But what you don't have enough of is peace, equality, righteous action, bravery, humanity, love. You don't have enough of that moment, when you stand back from what you've done, and can say to yourself, quietly, "There. I did that thing. The right one."
The thing that makes the difference. The thing that helps, that saves, that changes. The thing, in service, to any other than yourself.
Call out social injustice. Make films that others refuse to, because they are too unwatchable/unpopular/controversial/notbankable. Point you finger towards those things that need attention. Stand out in the sun, in the rain, hand in hand, with those who need you. Go on camera, and speak out for a cause you believe in. Post it on your instagram, and your Twitter, and don't think for one second, as you push that send button, "I hope I don't offend my audience base...".
Stop being a pussy. Start being a hero. And do the right f*$king thing.
I won't list here those that I have learned would rather protect their net worth than speak out. Those that are more worried about their "brand" then the duty to their soul. That care more about those that buy their tickets than those that need their help.
Instead, I will list a few folks from this glitzy, great world of make believe that, then and now, made their mark as a person who stood up. Who spoke up. Who were ready to be reckoned with. Those ones, the real men and real women, who did right. And, I will start with my gutsy, outspoken and fierce folks who paved my way.
Tom Laughlin. Delores Taylor. William Wellman. Mark F*%KING Ruffalo! Ryan Gosling. Leonardo DiCaprio. Marlon Brando. Jospehine Baker. Bette Davis. Jane Fonda. Harry Belafonte. Marlene Dietrich. Ida Lupino. Joaquin Phoenix. Alvah Bessie. Herbert Biberman. Lester Cole. Ring Lardner, Jr. Kirk Douglas. John Howard Lawson. Albert Maltz. Samuel Ornitz. Adrian Scott. Dalton Trumbo. Teddi Sherman. George Clooney. Willie Nelson. Patricia Arquette. Carrie Fisher. Emma Watson. Cate Blanchette. Rooney Mara. Kate Mara. Charleton Heston. Sidney Poitier. Paul Newman. Ossie Davis. Robert Redford. Ruby Dee. Frank Capra. George Stevens. Elizabeth Taylor. Quincy Jones. Heather Rae.
Let's make this the tip of the iceberg, Hollywood. Let's decide that being the hero in real life is more important than being one in fiction. That being the heroine, working to end real suffering in the world, is better than big box office. That being a fine, brave human being whose voice stands firm and strong in the face of adversity, no matter the cost, is the ultimate measure of success.
That decency, with some rebel tossed in, is the true happy ending.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
At the end of September 2016, the Indian motion picture producer's association, India's largest organisation related to entertainment, announced a ban on all Pakistani artists.
Indeed it is a sad reminder of last year, when the Indian ultra regionalist Maharashtrian-based party Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt a performance by celebrity singer Ghulam Ali in Mumbai, forcing the concert to be cancelled.
What are we to make of these episodes that occur now with depressing regularity, enjoy prime-time popularity on Indian television and then die down, only to be recalled when yet another event takes its place?
As with so many things, there is a historical explanation for the appropriation of music and performance practices as part of the nationalist project in both India and Pakistan.
As a historian, I have investigated the very complex and contested history that music in North India had with Partition - when India and Pakistan were divided in 1947. The artificial boundaries that nationalism constructed then are being reinforced to this day via these music disputes.
North Indian music mixes complex social worlds
Until 1947, music, or more specifically classical music, in North India belonged to a complex social universe. It was written and performed in princely establishments, courts and bourgeois public spheres in cities. It was present in both Hindu Vaishnav temples and Sufi Islamic silsilas - social circles that formed around specific teachers and followers, where music was an integral channel for experiencing mystic ecstasy.
From these cultural and social milieu sprung qawwali, a form of spiritual devotional music popular to this day across South Asia.
North Indian music flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries, in virtually all of Mughal North India, which extended from Gujarat in the west to Jaunpur and Benaras in the east (the current state of Uttar Pradesh); from the Punjab to the Mughal Deccan. It was part of a composite, Indo-Islamic culture, identified then as as "ganga jumni tehzib".
The style incorporated acoustic elements from diverse sources and rested on a multi-lingual repertoire, conveying the simplicity of both Hindu bhakti and Islamic sufi poetry.
This poetry was inspired by popular devotional movements associated with Hinduism and Islam in the 15th century, which emphasised personal devotion and the value of a teacher. It commanded diverse genres that moved reasonably effortlessly between court and kotha: a space most commonly understood as brothel, but which was also part of the popular entertainment scene.
North Indian music also adapted musical instruments from South and Central Asia to produce new instruments such as the sitar and the sarod, and improvise with new conceptions of melody and vocalisation.
This music was carefully nurtured by specialist families with access to a vast repertoire and a galaxy of brilliant teachers, finding support in small courts that persisted even after the Great Mutiny of 1857, when the Indian army revolted.
Following the mutiny, musical families were much reduced in power and stature, but found new enthusiasts among a growing middle-class gentry whose rise occurred in a new context of western education and colonial employment.
Music and modernity
The heightened middle-class appreciation of music was mediated through the experience of modernity, which inevitably fed new anxieties about inheritance, culture and heritage that had to be projected in a way that was appropriately modern, chaste and spiritual.
Music, practised by courtesans and Muslim Ustads (teachers and masters), had to be reconciled with the new aspirations of a western-educated, middle-class Hindu society. They needed to repurpose this entertainment to suit a Hindu-accented concept of Indian-ness.
The resolution that unfolded was a series of experiments in the late 19th and early 20th century, including publishing primers on music and setting up music appreciation societies. These were initiated by nationalists and publicists such as Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande and Vishnu Digamber Paluskar.
The societies that we mention here were early expressions of a growing middle class interest in music and its reformers who ended up assuming responsibility for music's teaching and transmission. They also brought existing practitioners such as Abdul Karim Khan into a new regime of aesthetic standardisation and institutional support.
Ustads were persuaded to turn over their repertoire to be standardised and printed, while courtesans were marginalised in subtle and sometimes violent ways. Women were forced to give up their profession or move into new spaces afforded by the cinema, refashioning themselves in an appropriate manner as Jaddan Bai, the mother of legendary and pioneer Bollywood artist Nargis, did.
Forced to choose sides
After Partition, these hereditary practitioners were asked for the first time to choose the country they would live in. It was only then that the music of the region began to bear the scars of a violent disruption and division.
What was to happen even to the naming of this practice - was it to be Hindustani classical music or ilm e mausiqi Pakistani? This was a question that cut right to the heart of the problem; a question that musicians on both sides of the divide agonised over even as they struggled to maintain claims to lineage and authenticity.
Artists moved across borders, confused by the way events transpired. Some found it easy to settle down and make a niche for themselves, such as singer Noor Jehan, who settled in Pakistan. Others found it difficult to juggle offers in India with stays in Pakistan.
Following Partition, Bade Ghulam Ali (1902-1968), the legendary singer from the Punjab and a doyen of the Patiala musical style, came back to India and was helped to acquire Indian citizenship by Morarji Desai, the chief Minister of Bombay in 1957.
There was no doubt that the violence of displacement and the zeal of the new states to prove their fidelity to national identities represented a loss for performers. Listeners too were ultimately losers, even if the politics of representation and consumption numbed them to the fractures that music and performance practice had sustained.
The debate is not framed in the same way today, but it was certainly a pressing one when Pakistan opted for a different set of musical forms and cultural symbols to define its distinct heritage.
To this day, artists from Pakistan who sing classical music find receptive listeners in India and share the general feeling that politics has very little understanding of a deeper and shared aesthetic experience. Nasiruddin Sami, a Pakistani musician, has very close links to Delhi musical traditions and is very popular in the city.
This is certainly not to argue that both India and Pakistan did not nurture new creative artists or experiment fruitfully with genres such as the ghazal in Pakistan's case, a poetic form that consists of rhyming couplets and that has enjoyed an immense resurgence.
If in every home one child was taught Hindustani classical music, this country would have never been partitioned.
Today, we live in a world that is saturated with sights and sounds that leak across borders, despite prohibitions and state posturings. In the digital age, bans make even less sense than older versions of censorship.
It appears mindless when governments speak of patriotism as some extreme form of clan loyalty, before which all sensibilities have to wither away.
Equally disquieting is that we, as consumers of infotainment, almost never seriously interrogate the banal but sinister intentions of government propaganda.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
The Trump presidential win isn't expected to help the Rust Belt states. Despite campaign rhetoric and NAFTA vitriol, manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas for decades.
A tech-based economy has been wreaking havoc on American industry for years -- and no one exemplifies that pain better than the workers in Sweat, now off-Broadway at the Public Theater.
Written by Pulitzer-Prize winner Lynn Nottage, Sweat is set in Reading, Pennsylvania. The action moves between 2000 and 2008, the Bush years, as a once-prosperous town endures the upheaval of global economics and shifting domestic priorities.
Unions no longer hold sway. Management lacks loyalty to the plant where generations of workers proudly gave their all.
The play opens as Jason (Will Pullen) and Chris (Khris Davies) are released from prison. Former best friends, they are now estranged, caught in a vortex of regrettable action that effectively seals their fate. Similarly, their mothers, Cynthia (Michelle Wilson and Tracey (Johanna day), once tight as sisters, are shattered by events.
The pace is well calibrated; the action veers back in forth in time, charting the fall of the plant: strikes, lockouts and personal repercussions. The tragedy is that the tight-knit group doesn't hold management more accountable for their plight. Instead, racial harmony and deep friendships unravel, replaced with anger and fear.
This is class warfare -- with the working-class turning on itself.
The power of Sweat is that Nottage takes time to build her relationships and circumstances. She gets the tone just right. Workers' struggles are viewed with compassion and understanding.
She instinctively grasps that all politics is personal.
The cast is uniformly excellent, as is Kate Whoriskey's tight direction. Sweat is a compelling drama that exposes the dark underbelly of America's manufacturing decline. It personifies the anger of those who feel cheated -- and the chaos that ensues when ordinary people are pushed to a breaking point.
This is social realism elevated to art.
Once you're ready to move to the comic realm, consider the shpilkes (Yiddish for anxiety) and artistry of Monica Piper, whose tender and funnyNot That Jewish is at New World Stages.
"Do I have a Jewish heart?" 7-year-old Monica Piper asks her mother. "Of course, darling. We're Democrats."
So begins Piper's 90-minute solo show, part-memoir, part Jewish exploration. It's a portrait of a Jewish-American world, the post-war baby-boomer Bronx, replete with two striking parents. Her father, a former entertainer for whom humor is a religion, and a beautiful mother loaded with charm and sass.
Wondering why they always went downstairs to her aunt's for Shabbat dinner, Piper's mother explains: "Do you want to cook for nine hours or do you want to take an elevator?"
Little wonder Piper grew up to become an Emmy-winning comedy writer, with Rugrats, Rosanne and Mad About You to her credit. Much like her parents, she sees the humor and pathos in everyday life -- and has a way of expressing it in a lovely, intrinsically Jewish way: sardonic and insightful.
The show begins and ends with her quest. She's proud to be Jewish, though regrets she isn't better educated in its traditions and beliefs. Instead, she champions the ethical aspects of Judaism: deeds, acceptance and compassion.
That sentiment is interwoven throughout, as we journey from a New York childhood to her adult life in Los Angeles, with hilarious stops for romance, heartbreak and hope en route.
The well-crafted production showcases Piper's considerable gift for storytelling. Kudos to her for turning laughter and tears into a memorable theater experience.
Photo: Joan Marcus
Countless Americans woke up Sunday morning with the words of the late Leonard Cohen echoing from their night's dreams, "From your lips she drew the Hallelujah. Hallelujah."
Hillary Clinton, performed by Kate McKinnon, played the piano and sang Cohen's masterpiece to open Saturday Night Live. Across the world last week, tributes were offered to the poet who guided us through our individual crises and the shared mourning of 9/11, and now we are comforted by his Hallelujah:
... all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who'd out drew ya
... It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
Then, Mrs. Clinton looked directly into the camera and out of McKinnon's lips came the words we need to hear, "I'm not giving up, and neither should you. And live from New York, it's Saturday night."
Part of the beauty of the scene was that we were experiencing the greatness of American (and Canadian) democracy in a personal sense, bonding with both Hillary Clinton and the artist who was actually on the stage. We were sharing the "secret chord" with the actual woman who had been our Secretary of State. How else could we respond to the emotion when her character sang such lyrics?
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew ya ...
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
We will keep up this battle for democracy by drawing upon art, comedy, music, street theater, and smart political tactics to declare that racism and sexism can't take over the White House. We'll step up to the comedy stage, go into the streets, employ social media and not-yet-invented tactics, and draw upon traditional backroom politics to battle for our ideals. Even as other anti-Trump political and governmental leaders work with his administration to avoid worst case scenarios, we must embrace bipartisan coalitions, as well as rigorous investigations of the FBI's possible interference into the election and Trump's business affairs with Russia and others.
We must also reach out to Trump supporters. And that brings me back to McKinnon's brilliant performance. Her statement of determination at the end prompted boisterous shouts at the screen, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" It was the personal expression of Hillary's grief that brought me to tears.
We're destined for some bare-knuckled brawls, but we must be as willing to offer the olive branch as to engage in political battle. To get our country out of this mess, we must also understand the suffering of so many millions of Americans that produced Trumpism. If we can be so deeply moved by a television performance, surely we can be open to the grief of the individuals who voted for the other side.
Trump opponents must openly thrash out our thinking on the dilemmas that all Americans now face, as we must also converse with Trump voters. So, here are my first and contradictory thoughts:
When Richard Nixon was reelected and when Ronald Reagan took office, I was horrified. On the eve of Watergate in 1972 and with Gore v Bush, evidence was already available that something was suspicious about with the way Nixon and George W. Bush were elected. But, few denied that they were our presidents. We didn't challenge their legitimacy until proof emerged and was documented through our time-tested institutions.
Conversely, had Father Coughlin, George Wallace, or David Duke received 270 electoral votes, would Americans have felt compelled to say we hope their administrations succeed?
A clear distinction between Trump voters and Trump must be communicated. I don't know how many of his voters are racists, sexists, and xenophobes, but I know that it is not my job to judge my fellow human beings. Even when Trump voters have deplorable beliefs, that is different than having a president who got into office by appealing to the worst of them. Trump voters have first amendment rights.
Trump, however, sought the responsibility of representing America. Anti-Trump voters have the right to take any legal actions we believe necessary to rid the White House of anyone who proclaimed such hatred.
Who knows what will happen next? All I can say for sure is that a venerable American institution, Saturday Night Live, did its patriotic duty when making us listen anew to the words:
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
On the eve of the 2016 election, Broadway's brightest gathered at the Dramatists Guild Fund Gala at Gotham Hall in New York, NY for Great Writers Thank Their Lucky Stars: The Presidential Edition.
The evening honored patrons of the arts and philanthropists John Breglio, Georgina Chapman & Keren Craig and Linda G. Levy while fundraising for the the Dramatists Guild Fund, the charitable arm of the Dramatists Guild of America, with an auction.
After they performed, I caught up with the stars to ask them how they were feeling and what they would name a musical about the 2016 election.
Mandy Gonzalez - Hamilton, Wicked, In the Heights
"I read something by Christopher Hayes. [Tonight is like] Christmas Eve and the night before a life-threatening surgery... I think it would be called, 'I'm With Her!'"
Nell Benjamin - Legally Blonde, The Explorers Club
"We kind of are writing one. My husband and I are writing about a renaissance fair called Huzzah!, and it's essentially about a very charismatic knight who has a very dark ages mentality that manages to, with his charisma, convince them that we really need to live in the past. And the woman who has been running the fair, trying to do the work, unheralded, not a star, who has to kind of take him on, even though she doesn't have that star power. She only has hard work, determination and smarts. Sounds strangely familiar?"
Raul Esparza - Company, "Law & Order: SVU," "Hannibal"
"I don't know about you but I've been a total news junkie. It's like a heroin fix. I don't know what I'm going to do after tomorrow. My friends come over and they're like, 'You have to turn off the TV. Turn it off. You have to stop.' And I start flipping back and forth between MSNBC and Fox. I don't want to be biased. I want to see what the coverage is!... 'Hit the road, Jack. And don't you come back no more!'"
Stephen Schwartz - Wicked, Godspell, "The Prince of Egypt"
"I guess the song for tonight, just because we were - the Sondheim song, 'I'm Calm,' from A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum."
Kate Baldwin - Big Fish, Finian's Rainbow
"'I Want to Hide.' 'Wake Me When It's Over'... It would be, 'Gotta buy a pantsuit!' for Madam President."
Aaron Tveit - "Braindead," "Graceland," Next to Normal
"I like the one I just sang. 'Morning Glow' is nice. It's about hope, and we have so many more great things about this country and the way that we get to live than all the negativity that's been going on. No matter what happens, we're going to all push forward together. I try to stay in that space. The lyrics to that song were very poignant. I think it's going to be OK. I think everyone's going to be OK."
Great Writers Thank Their Lucky Stars: The Presidential Edition was directed by Annette Jolles, with a script by Jonathan Tolins and music direction by Charlie Rosen.
As a 31-year-old artist and writer, I met 87-year-old cloistered nun and ceramics artist Sister Augustine. At the time, I was stuck at a crucial crossroads in my life, and a stalemate in my career. Meanwhile, Sister Augustine had been long forgotten by the world as she quietly worked six days a week in the studio and shop she had founded in the 1960s on the grounds of the oldest Benedictine convent in the country.
As I recount in my memoir Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life's Greatest Questions, the next five years were the joyride of a lifetime for us -- artist to artist.
During our hundreds of weekly visits, Sister Augustine not only showed me the blueprint for living a life grounded in purpose and hope, she also revealed five very important truths about creativity that anyone anywhere can use.
Creativity Has No Expiration Date
As a result of Sister Augustine's nearly 45-year career as a self-taught artist -- spent mostly under the radar and with little fanfare, there is at least one of her Nativity sets in all 50 states, as well as in Japan, England, and Germany. And her other clayware pieces have travelled as far away as Central America, Africa, and even Russia. Not too bad for a simple farm girl who joined the convent in the early years of The Great Depression!
However, it was during the last five years of her life, from ages 87 to 92, that Sister Augustine would create her most famous oeuvre and become a celebrity in her own right. Using leftover paint (so as not to waste a single drop) and applying it to clayware bowls and vases (often as a means of cleaning off her brushes while doing other pieces), Sister created her Gussie's Special series. Each of the nearly 500 abstract Gussie's Specials she created during those final years presents an explosion of glorious color and emotion.
Inspired Takeaway: It's never too late for creativity, and even in the most remote corners of our existence, second acts are always possible.
Creativity is Contagious
After each of my heart-to-heart visits with Sister Augustine, I would go home reinvigorated and often start a new Americana Folk Art painting or add new material to the beer cookbook I was writing. The creative energy and humility I experienced in Sister's simple four-room studio unclogged my mind and propelled me in my own creative endeavors.
Inspired Takeaway: Surround yourself with creative people and resources, especially if you feel uninspired or somehow blocked in your work and life.
Creativity is Life
I once asked Sister Augustine to create a self-portrait of herself using a small plaster mold of a nun in full, traditional habit -- including the bib apron smeared with paint that she always wore. When she obliged, I looked at the miniature replica of her and better understood how our life itself is the purest embodiment of creativity, and, in turn, creativity has a living, breathing, growing spirit all its own.
Inspired Takeaway: Be mindful of how everything you do is an act of creating something, most of all your life.
Creativity is Limitless
Sister Augustine proved that the creative process is infinite, expansive, radiating in all directions. As a self-taught artist, she could transition from style to style faster than you could make the Sign of the Cross.
Her Gussie's Specials best conveyed this point. A quick glance at these bowls and vases call to mind the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock's work. But then there's the bowl that evokes a southwestern desert -- denim sky and cocoa sand with rivers of turquoise and fire that would be at home in a Georgia O'Keeffe landscape. A more minimalist bowl, stark white with apple-red chips suspended quietly like an Alexander Calder mobile across the rippled surface. And, two curvaceous bud vases that look as though they were rolled across a wet Cy Twombly canvas.
Even her primitive forget-me-nots on plates, vases, teacups, and tiny crosses crafted from leftover clay are like ones Grandma Moses may have scattered across a sunny pasture.
Inspired Takeaway: No matter who you are or where you are, your unique gift for creating is limited only by your desire to get moving and do something.
Creativity is a Gift Inside Everyone
One of Sister Augustine's legacies has been her ability to continue touching and inspiring people years after her passing.
I recently partnered with a high school art teacher and his students who studied Five Years in Heaven and Sister's Gussie's Specials. The students were then challenged to create their own limited edition bowls inspired by her work. Some of the students are interested in art, but others are planning for careers in engineering, pharmacy, teaching, or simply navigating the day-to-day rollercoaster of being teenagers. Still, they all embraced the assignment, which benefitted the local Arts council.
At "The Gussie Tribute Collection" gallery opening, 150 student bowls sold out in less than two hours. The best part was watching how the students marveled at the success and interest in something they had created with their own hands.
Inspired Takeaway: You (yes, YOU!) are creative! Now don't ever forget it.
When I was a child everybody in my family sang. My mother sang lullabies and hymns. Her father, my maternal grandfather, would burst out in old nonsense songs and popular tunes from the twenties and thirties. My dad would sing Tom Lehrer songs like Pollution and The Vatican Rag. In first grade, I taught the kids in school a song my father taught me called Granny's In The Cellar that was an instant hit with my schoolmates because the lyrics included a prolonged gross-out snort.
Granny's in the cellar
Gee can't you smell her
cooking flapjacks on the dirty stove?
In her eye there is some matter
that's dripping in the batter
and she whistles while the (insert long snort here)
runs down her nose!
My first-grade teacher was a nun who seemed to loathe the way I kept strolling into class singing songs that she thought were revolting. When she found out that I was teaching my classmates Granny's in the Cellar I got slapped around a bit and then was forced to stand up in front of my class all through lunch period singing Granny's In The Cellar - which to me did not seem like punishment at all. I had a wonderful time because every time the song came to the snort one of the kids eating lunch would blow milk out of his or her nose.
When I got home that day and told my parents about the trouble I got into with Granny's In the Cellar they thought it was hilarious. My father taught me some even crazier songs like Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts and I'm Going to Go Eat Worms. Grandpop got into the game with some of his own songs. My father's best friend, my Uncle Tom, taught me how to do a trick with my middle fingers while singing a little song about how all the girls in France do a hoochie coochie dance.
I guess I don't need to tell you that Uncle Tom's routine did not go down well with the good sister.
Even if it got me into trouble sometimes, growing up around people who sang was a wonderful thing, and it proved useful when my mother gave me my first harmonica. Even though I knew nothing about music I was able to feel out the major scale and that allowed me to quickly play the silly songs of my family. When my grandfather heard me playing my harmonica he would take me to visit his friends in their homes and sometimes in nursing homes. Grandpop would sing songs like That Long Long Trail, The Old Oaken Bucket, Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet while I accompanied him on my harmonica and his friends sang along. Then we would climb into his Dodge Dart loaded down with electrical tools and roll through the streets of Philadelphia singing and laughing.
This week I have prepared introductory lessons for harmonica, five-string banjo and folk guitar. I even went so far as to split the guitar lesson into two different approaches giving you the choice between starting out in standard tuning or open G tuning. Open G tuning is a little easier for people who might have trouble forming chords.
For the harmonica, we start out getting comfortable holding the harp as well as finding a small major scale fragment by breathing into and out of the instrument.
For five-string banjo we explore the basics of frailing, a down-picking approach to making music.
For standard-tuned guitar we learn how to form a G major chord and play a simple rhythm pattern.
For open G guitar we learn a simple rhythm pattern as well as using a slide to play the G, C and D chords.
It may seem like these instruments and approaches are wildly different, but as we will learn they all work under the same set of rules. I am hoping that this will help clarify how the language of music works the same no matter what instrument you pick up.
In addition to the material provided in this week's video workshops you can find even more instruction on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Dobro33H.
I have also written several books on making music with the five-string banjo and guitar. You can find those on Amazon or order directly from us at http://frailingbanjo.com.
You are not required to pay for access to my books. I have made all my work available under Creative Commons licenses.
I will be back next week with more workshops focusing on playing and singing. It won't be long before we can begin exploring the songs I mentioned in this post - even uncle Tom's hoochie coohie tune.
If you have any questions or if you want to share songs your family loves to sing please post them in the comments.
Until then, be brave enough to sing for and with the people you love. My parents, grandparents and Uncle Tom were not trying to turn me into anyone or anything by singing to me and with me. They were simply having fun. The unintended consequence was that I grew up viewing music as something wonderful. Music became an expression of my joy in good times and music provided me solace through the bad. Music is my comfort food. Some of my happiest moments in recent years has been dancing with my wife anywhere the mood strikes us while I sing old love songs. It's not about being a great singer. It's all about joy.
Chie Hitotsuyama spent much of her childhood surrounded by the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of her grandfather's traditional paper-strip factory in Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Much of the machinery was quite old and wooden, and the infusion of traditional practices helped to shape Ms. Hitotsuyama's view of her life and her art.
She began her artistic career as an illustrator, working on two-dimensional surfaces and when she turned to making sculpture, her sense of line, depth and proportion carried over, permitting her to make sculptures of great intensity and depth of meaning.
She chose to make life-sized sculptures of animals of the land and sea using an uncommon medium.
Her sculptures are created using discarded newsprint rolled into strings, a technique that draws on her childhood, her family legacy and her sincere desire to understand her own place in the living world.
"Old thrown out newspapers attracted me as a medium, not only because they are easily obtained, but also, they are an accumulation of history and contain stories of human behavior. I see the correlation in how humans repeat their own histories as well as experience the cycles of life and death."
"When I create, I carefully form contours and curves with each single string I make from discarded newspaper. These single strings, collected together, become the surface of an object, and eventually, they become a shape or a form, and an animal appears."
She reflects on this connection between her art and her life...
"Since the first sculptural piece I made, a rhinoceros, I have continued to sculpt forms of animals and while doing so I have become acutely aware of the life force in all beings. I admire the animals I study. I am in awe of their strength and survival in unforgiving nature."
"I also became strongly aware of what life is all about and what it means to live. Each animal and human being, including myself, has its own life and will be gone someday. I felt that similarity, that we are all equal. I also admire animals."
Her subject matter spans the great diversity of life on earth, and at the same time, strikes common and universal themes...
"The strength of animals trying earnestly to live in unforgiving nature impresses me, their strength is much like the way pieces of newspapers rolled one by one, together, increase in strength as I work with them."
Ms. Hitotsuyama has a deep connection with her art, and views her work as instructive to herself...
"I am in awe of the strength and ability of animals to survive. They have led me to my way of life and the theme of my life. By creating animal sculptures that convey their respective lives, I'm trying to find out how I should live."
Jai & Jai Gallery in Los Angeles recently featured the first exhibition of her work in the US.
Ms. Jomjai Srisomburananont, Jai & Jai Gallery Director :
"Chie Hitotsuyama - My Thoughts...
"Before having met Chie and her team we were in communication for almost a year via email. I had seen photos of her works dozens of times and each time always in awe of the intricate details of her sculptures. As a gallery owner, it's in my nature to analyze and critique the pieces of works that come through. For example, the Mother and Child Manatee that was part of the 'Paper Trails' exhibition at Jai & Jai Gallery; these are massive paper sculptures that hung from the ceiling of the gallery space that made spectators feel tiny in comparison.
"The gallery space, only being 350 square feet created the perfect environment for Chie's sea animal pieces to literally speak for itself in such a minimalistic way that transcends the boundaries of critiquing the work. Her works are literal and every texture and nuance is intentional. It was almost as if we were intruding on these pieces of works - as if we were invading their space and in a sense with Chie's works and her appreciation for animals and their habitats, it translated as such. The entirety of the 'Paper Trails' exhibition was curated with such precision and intent that the course and flow of exhibition itself felt as if you were swimming with the animals.
"That evening after Chie's opening when everybody had left, I had the opportunity to stand alone in the space with her works. Each piece has a life of its own. What struck me most are the eyes of the sculptures. She is able give life and expressiveness to these animal sculptures that I have never seen before with any other works. She can create these muscle textures with the hand-rolled twines and intricately bends and folds them in such a way that makes them seem like the animal is caught in mid-action of swimming by. Each roll, turn, fold, color, design and braid is planned and intentional. Her control and structure is evident in all her works and is a true reflection of her work ethic and it stands out in every piece she creates.
"It was a true privilege and honor to work with Chie. Her attention to detail and the discipline and rigor she must have to sculpt each piece is mind blowing. The gentle way she hand-rolls each twine and sculpts the piece as she feels her way through the animal piece is art in-itself. The final output of her hours upon hours of sculpting and molding is her gift to us. Stunning and breath-taking are understatements of her talent. One must stand in the room where her sculptures reside. It is then, that you can truly appreciate her passion and true love for what she does. Until that moment, when you can be in the same room with her pieces, will you only understand what I am talking about."
Ms. Paola Guzman, Director, Jeffrey Breslow Gallery :
"Jeffrey Breslow Gallery premiered "Rock Paper Show," on September 23, 2016 - "Rock Paper Show" is a gallery exhibition featuring the paper sculptures of renowned Japanese paper artist Chie Hitotsuyama, and the abstract stone and steel sculptures of Chicago-based sculptor Jeffrey Breslow.
"Visitors find it hard to believe Hitotsuyamas sculptures are created using recycled newspaper, shaped into remarkable life-size animals with a soulful presence, stemming from their magical realism and large scale. Hitotsuyamas sculptures have become the talk of the moment here at the Jeffrey Breslow Gallery. The reaction people give her work is fascinating. Through Hitotsuyamas work, you can see her appreciation and devotion for the animal kingdom. There have been a handful of visitors in our Gallery, due to the incredible success Chie has had. Everyone is excited to see the pieces he or she saw on television, or newspapers right in front of their eyes."
The exhibition at the MOAH:CEDAR Art Gallery in Lancaster, California, runs through Jan. 7, 2017. Ms. Hitotsuyama will be artist in residence during her exhibition.
Ms. Andi Campognone, Curator & Museum Manager, MOAH:CEDAR :
"I became interested in Ms. Hitotsuyama's work because of her direct connection with reuse/recycle concepts. As MOAH is a municipal museum, it is part of our mission to support City directives as the City of Lancaster is actively working to reduce its carbon footprint and introduce education to the community through the arts - so you see how we would be thrilled to share Hitotsuyama's art and engagement to the Antelope Valley as part of the Green MOAH Initiative.
"As far as how the exhibition resonates with the mission of MOAH:CEDAR that is best described by MOAH:CEDAR's liaison Robert Benitez as 'the three core elements of MOAH:CEDAR's Mission include engagement through captivating exhibitions, innovative artists and dynamic programming all which describe Chie Hitotsuyama: To Hear Your Footsteps'"
Dmitry Prut, founder and owner of Miami's internationally renowned Avant Gallery :
"The life-like vibrancy and expressions are quite remarkable considering Chie works with newspaper as her medium of choice. One of the things I take away from this is the recyclable, ecological factor and how it instills a certain ethereal feeling of evolution. She is extraordinary and that is one of the aims at Avant in terms of what we bring to the market."
• Kokusai Pulp and Paper Factory magazine article featuring Ms. Hitotsuyama and her work
• These Wildlife Sculptures Are Yesterday's News (Literally) - an article on Colossal
• Japanese Artist Transforms Old Newspapers Into Expressive Creatures - an article on The Creators Project
• Japanese Artist Tightly Rolls Newspaper To Create Incredibly Realistic Animal Sculptures - an article on Bored Panda
Sponsors of Ms. Hitotsuyama's US tour include: The LOS ANGELES TIMES (which donated 1,000 lbs of newspaper), KUBOTA, HITACHI TRANSPORT SYSTEM GROUP, and VANTEC HTS FORWARDING, Ltd., (photo credits: Ayako Hoshino)
On November 5th, two-time Tony nominee for Excellence in Theater Education, Corinna Sowers-Adler debuted her show "Something Beautiful" in the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
The show, which incorporated both well-known and lesser known songs spanning genres from country to pop to Broadway, was crafted to uplift and remind and encourage us all to bring and to be "something beautiful" in this world. And it succeeded.
Sprinkled with humor, and accompanied by Broadway musical veteran Lawrence Yurman on piano, Christian Fabian on bass, and Colleen Clark on drums, Sowers-Adler delivered a musical journey that took the audience from laughter to tears and back again seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly.
Also joining Sowers-Adler on stage during parts of the show, were award-winning Broadway star T. Oliver Reid, dancer Lisa Grimes, and many of Sowers-Adler's New Jersey theater and voice students, who clearly displayed exactly why she has been a Tony nominee for education. They not only showed poise and talent well beyond their years, but they and she exuded a boundless joy and love for the work itself that was both palpable and contagious.
Song selection was key in establishing Corinna Sowers-Adler as a force to be reckoned with both as a vocalist and overall entertainer. She mesmerized with Frank Wildhorn's "When Autumn Comes" and packed an emotional punch with Sondheim's "Children Will Listen." She delighted the audience with Elton John and Tim Rice's "Strongest Suit" from Aida. But perhaps the largest production and one of the show's highlights was "In Color" by best-selling songwriters Ilene Angel and Tanya Leah. The gorgeous heartfelt song which also has a rousing melody, came accompanied with full chorus and dancer and garnered its own standing ovation.
Joining these gems was the soul-stirring performance of the show title "Something Beautiful" by Ahrens and Flaherty, a stunning trio arrangement of Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Why Walk When You Can Fly," and a bluesy arrangement of Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind," which perfectly accompanied the backdrop of the nighttime Manhattan skyline in the Appel Room.
By the time the magnificent Corinna Sowers-Adler reached her grand finale of "Defying Gravity," by Stephen Schwartz, the audience was once again on its feet.
Sowers-Adler, frequently performs in cabaret venues throughout New York City, and is the founding artistic director of NiCori Studios and Productions, which she runs alongside husband Nicholas Adler. She will be hosting a Winter Gala at Westminster Arts Center in Bloomfield, New Jersey on December 16th, in which she will also perform. Look for future performance dates by her to be announced, and if those dates include "Something Beautiful," run, don't walk to see it. It will touch your heart, uplift your soul and make you want to dance.
Photo by Maryann Lopinto
Corinna Sowers-Adler with "In Color" songwriters Tanya Leah and Ilene Angel
All photos used with permission.
Judy Levinson lived in an upstairs apartment next door to where I stayed on Elm Street in Kalamazoo. Although barely into her 20's, Judy was a welcoming friend and Jewish mother to several of us getting college degrees but also on a quest for joy and meaning.
I want to say that listening day after day to Leonard Cohen's Suzanne at Judy's in 1968 changed my life but perhaps that's too strong. What is true is that the repetitive guitar strumming and the depth of Cohen's poetry on that first album was profoundly impactful. In the haunting beauty of Suzanne, The Sisters of Mercy or The Stranger Song Leonard Cohen's words came from deep inside but in ways that connected to listeners. Such raw emotion, openly expressed, was rare, even courageous.
Here was I in 1969 a graduate student of economics searching bookstores for Cohen's volume of poetry. Finding it, his words flowed easily from the page to the brain but there was mystery. Set to music, as in his second album, the poetry became accessible.
There have been several moving tributes to Cohen, particularly on the BBC where presenters who grew up in Iran, Russia and Colombia reflected on how Cohen's songs impacted them even when English was not their first language. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-37946654 But the finest tribute is David Remnick's 30-minute podcast on the New Yorker website that includes Cohen's own words, his last interview this summer in Los Angeles.
Like others in the 1970s and 80s I had largely forgotten Leonard Cohen and I thank Keith Crawford, my north of England friend and squash partner in Prague, for pulling me back into his orbit in the 1990s. Keith shares much with the Montreal wordsmith--depth, mild intensity and being a lady's man. Like Cohen Keith possesses the vulnerability that like nectar to a humming bird attracts intelligent women. Despite being disheveled and like Cohen having a face few would call handsome, Crawford always had an attractive female on his arm. Never threatening but mildly dangerous, Crawford is a Bohemian analogue to Leonard Cohen.
When Cohen was compelled in 2008 to undertake a global tour to recoup the life's savings that had been stolen by an associate, the concerts drew immense crowds and left unforgettable impressions. On multiple continents venues were sold out and there were intimate connections between artist and audience. When my wife and I saw the Cohen concert at Detroit's Fox Theatre there were three encores. We sat next to devotees who had driven from northern Ontario because no tickets were available for the Canadian shows.
In 2010 on a road trip to Montreal I was delighted and not surprised that there were tours of the Leonard Cohen sights--Our Lady of the Harbor and the café where Suzanne brought Leonard for "tea and oranges that come all the way from China."
When in 2014 I cycled across southern California I passed near Mt. Baldy, where Cohen spent years in solitary pursuit of Zen enlightenment. Gazing at the snow-capped mountain not far from L.A., I smiled remembering Cohen's observation that he spent endless hours there shoveling snow.
The Stranger Song is the Cohen poem that most resonates with me. I imagine it as the story of a drifter somewhere in the Canadian west:
"And then leaning on your window sill
He'll say one day you caused his will
To weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
An old schedule of trains, he'll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger."
Farewell Leonard Cohen, Canada's gift to the world.
I've had the good fortune of being inspired by and having an opportunity to learn from great performers and artists in the arts and entertainment.One such artist is the Legendary Lily Tomlin, who has become my role model as a performer, and also as a socially-conscious entertainer. Ms. Tomlin is an Ambassador for my international Cinema Series "Kat Kramer's Films That Change The World" and we've worked together on presenting films and documentaries featuring current social issues. My father Stanley Kramer, a maverick filmmaker only made films about controversial subjects or with a "message" and my Godmother was Feminist screen icon Katharine Hepburn, so it's no wonder I strive to work with those artists in our business who are social-justice minded. During the past several years of working closely with Ms. Tomlin on these issues, I was also lucky to perform a special musical Tribute for her that I had created that encompassed her career and social activism.
Having the ability to share ideas with Lily Tomlin has greatly added to my educational growth as an artist. A few years ago, I proposed an idea to her about a way to celebrate the masterpiece play "The Search For Signs Of An Intelligent Life In The Universe" written for Lily by her life partner, longtime collaborator and wife, Jane Wagner. It debut on Broadway in September 1985 to rave reviews. Lily portrayed twelve characters, (including herself) and won her every possible theatrical award including the Tony Award for Best Actress. My idea was to present a one-night-only staged reading of "The Search" featuring multiple actors in the roles originally portrayed by Lily. This was in early 2012,and the play was about to be re-published and celebrate twenty-five years in print. and Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner were receiving a joint STAR( the 345th Golden Palm STAR on the Palm Springs Walk-of-Stars.) I attended the historical ceremony and felt it was time to re-invent "The Search."
It's true that "The Search" has been performed across the country at various theatres and colleges as a solo piece the way it was originally intended. Nobody could ever stamp it as their own , or make such an indelible impression the way that Lily Tomlin has.
I admit, I never had a chance to witness Lily's performance in "The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe" in the original Broadway production or any of the revivals. I am an admirer of the film version, and Lily's astonishing transformations are evident as she plays every role in the film version,too.
Perhaps my idea of having multiple actors inhabit the roles was too ambitious or ahead of it's time.
But now the time is just right to launch another idea even more ambitious.
A new production called "The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe: Revisited" has recently opened at the Los Angeles LGBT Center's intimate Davidson/Valentini Theatre. There is no venue that exists that is more ideal for this "re-imagined" show. It's a full blown production featuring twelve actors in the roles created by Tomlin, an inventive set, new original music and costumes. It's the brainchild of acclaimed producer Jon Imparato, who happens to be the Cultural Director of the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, the campus of the Davidson/Valentini Cultural Arts Center.It's directed and staged by the brilliant Ken Sawyer, who has collaborated with Imparato before at the Center, most recently with the smash hit and award winning original play with music called "Hit The Wall."
This current production has been re-worked by Wagner, even though it's still set in the 1980's it proves just how timely and contemporary her piece is. Timeless in fact.
I have been "searching for signs" myself for the past few years as to when would be the right time to re-introduce this play to new audiences. The many themes Wagner touches on are just as current today as when "Search" debut in the mid-1980's.Homelessness, suicide, women's equality, and LGBT issues are all still a part of the national conversation.
Since this new version opened in October it has received stellar reviews and been extended until December 11th. It's also Ovation recommended, and each actor breathes new life into the characters.
The time for "The Search" to be introduced to new generations is definitely now. Earlier this month, Southern State Community College's Central Campus in Hillsboro presented of "The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe" featuring an all female cast of ten. The character of "Lily" (an actress currently performing a one woman show) is actually a part of this SSCC production.
I doubt any production could be as innovative as the current production at the Davidson/Valentini.
After seeing "The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe: Revisited" I am personally motivated to explore yet another idea to move the audience's journey of "The Search" into 2017..... And Beyond.
"I don't really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort." Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the Internet in this rare interview.
"These days, beauty is not in fashion," says Richter, who has explored painting and its role in image culture for decades on his quest for a form of painting that corresponds to contemporary challenges. Quoting German author Thomas Mann, who predicted a change in art, Richter says: "Art will shed all of its gravity and transform into something merry and democratic." But art has, in Richter's view, surpassed even that. "It's now more than merry. There has never been so much art ... We don't need it. We need entertainment. Sensations." Beauty, however, is not lost for the artist: "Beauty is an ideal of mine as much as it ever was ... But beauty is being discredited when fashion and models are called beautiful."
Boasting a diverse catalogue of paintings, Richter has always been suspicious of staying with the same motive and painterly strategy: "It's more interesting to be insecure. You should have a measure of uncertainty and perplexity." The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art recently acquired one of Richter's 10 metre stripe-paintings, supplementing it's collection of works by, and long standing relationship with, a painter who is considered the most important of the post-war era. As an incessant voice in contemporary German painting for more than half a century, he has witnessed the development of his country since World War II and in this light his resume of the state of affairs of his native country seems uplifting: "Actually we have the same or similar problems as all other countries nowadays... we're looking ahead."
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) was a professor at the Düsseldorf Art Academy from 1971-1994 and is the recipient of numerous prizes, among other the Golden Lion at the 47th Venice Biennale in 1997 and the 1998 Premium Imperial Prize. His paintings have been shown extensively, e.g. at the Tate Galleries, London, UK and at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, USA and his work is held in major collections around the world.
Gerhardt Richter was interviewed by Anders Kold at his studio in Cologne, Germany, in September 2016.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016
Supported by Nordea-fonden
Surreal and saturated with themes of isolation and anxiety, Franz Kafka's work has a nightmare-like quality. It comes as little surprise that he suffered from insomnia, wrote mostly at night, and was obsessed with sleep and sleeplessness. In a study published in The Lancet Neurology, Italian doctor Antonio Perciaccante and his coauthor Alessia Coralli take a look at Kafka's life and work through the lens of the literary icon's sleep symptoms.
ResearchGate: What's your professional background?
Antonio Perciaccante: I'm a doctor working in internal medicine at Gorizia Hospital in Italy. Together with my coauthor and wife, Alessia Coralli, I have been interested in the history of medicine and analyzing art through the lens of illness for about two years now.
RG: What caused Franz Kafka's inability to sleep?
Perciaccante: It's difficult to classify Kafka's insomnia. To identify possible causes, we have to look at his lifestyle and mental disorders. Kafka deliberately did most of his intellectual work at night. In his diaries, Kafka himself tries to analyze the causes of his insomnia and speculates: "My insomnia only conceals a great fear of death. Perhaps I am afraid that the soul, which in sleep leaves me, will not be able to return." This hyper-arousal, tendency to worry excessively about sleep, and anxiety suggest that Kafka could have suffered from a psychophysiological insomnia.
RG: How did Kafka's insomnia affect him? Is his experience typical for sufferers of insomnia?
Perciaccante: Insomnia affected both Kafka's life and his literary work. He had a complex, obsessive, and conflicting relationship with sleep. He referred to the night as "my old enemy" to sleep as "the most innocent creature there is and sleepless man the most guilty." Kafka considered insomnia to be a rejection of the natural, and even a sin. But at the same time, he is afraid of sleep, because it represents an area where the consciousness is lost and the contours of his identity are dissolved. Insomnia allows Kafka to write and seek refuge in literature on one hand, but it is not sufficient to placate his demons. In a letter to Milena Jesenská, he tries to explain the relationship between sleep and writing: "Whenever I write to you, sleep is out of the question, both before and after; when I don't write, I at least get a few hours of shallow sleep. When I don't write, I am merely tired, sad, heavy; when I do write, I am torn by fear and anxiety."
How insomnia affects the life of a person is variable and subjective. Some people, such as Franz Kafka, "use" the insomnia for their creative processes.
RG: How did Kafka use his insomnia for his creative process?
Perciaccante: Kafka himself affirmed that writing in a sleep-deprived state provides access to otherwise inaccessible thoughts. He said of the experience, "... how easily everything can be said as if a great fire had been prepared for all these things in which the strangest thoughts emerge and again disappear." Of his own role in the process he remarked, "all I possess are certain powers which, at a depth almost inaccessible at normal conditions, shape themselves into literature."
But, what are these strange thoughts? And what is Kafka's "power" that permits him to access almost inaccessible thoughts? We hypothesize that Kafka referred to hypnagogic hallucinations from which he suffered. In his diaries, he wrote: " ... again it was the power of my dreams, shining forth into wakefulness even before I fall asleep, which did not let me sleep." This seems to be a clear description of a hypnagogic hallucination, a vivid visual hallucination experienced just before the sleep onset.
RG: What evidence of Kafka's insomnia do you see in his literary work?
Perciaccante: Sleep, quality of sleep, and insomnia are central themes in "Metamorphosis." Sleep appears to be both the cause of and solution to Gregor's transformation and alienation. The character's irregular sleep marks the beginning of his dehumanization. Indeed, Gregor finds himself transformed into a vermin after a night of irregular sleep. Insomnia perpetuates this dehumanization, and makes a solution to Gregor's new condition impossible. "Metamorphosis" is a metaphor for social alienation, but we offer an alternative interpretative hypothesis: it may also represent a metaphor for the negative effects that poor quality sleep, short sleep duration, and insomnia may have on mental and physical health.
RG: What sources did you use for this research?
Perciaccante: We used biographical texts about Kafka and literary interpretations of his works. Moreover, Kafka's "Diaries," published posthumously by his friend Max Brod, and correspondence, such as "Letters to Milena" and "Letters to Felice Bauer," were particularly invaluable.
RG: Do you know of other instances of insomnia-inspired art? Would you recommend it as an artistic technique?
Perciaccante: There are of course many examples of insomnia-inspired art, including that of Marcel Proust, Vladimir Nabokov, Emily Bronte, Walt Whitman, and others. I cannot say whether insomnia could be considered an artistic technique, but it is certain that it fed the creative work of some writers.
RG: What value does understanding Kafka's insomnia have for science today?
Perciaccante: It is further confirmation of the association between insomnia and creative work, and should provide further stimulus to study the mechanisms underlying this association.
This interview originally appeared on ResearchGate News.
Tuesday night last week, sometime past 9PM, the absurdly skeuomorphically designed dials on the New York Times election page started shaking, vibrating, and nearly spinning. As the probability of a Trump victory skipped and jumped into the high 80's, it was an indication that we were moving from what felt like a frightening simulation into an even more frightening reality. Without any understandable sense of the connection of what was driving those stuttering dials, seemingly designed to resemble the tacky dashboard on an 80's Cadillac, we were tugged along into this frightening present. This event heralded the ascendancy of those who want to "see the progress in the world slow down a bit just so they can catch up", as described by the aptly named Robert Lee in a day after op-ed in the Guardian.
Much of the story of how we got here can be found in the realm of how we as a culture have digested emerging technologies, from AI to social networks, and the closing off of education as to how these machines guide our lives. As Siri drives people literally into the lake, we've not come up with a means of functionally relating to our machines, instead letting them create silos of a commonality of convenience. We're all riding in a post-factual clown car of contrived differences: how could Trump not be in the driver's seat?
The usage of art as a means of navigating technology, and thus the world, is at the core of Eyebeam. We support works that use the act of artistic creation to directly challenge the inherent ideology in many forms of technology. We launch projects that point to things that were once at the fringe, now central to civic conversation, showing how artists are the ones to "see around corners" and help identify topics we will be exploring for years down the road.
If there were ever a time to support Eyebeam in creating a more humane approach to technology, now is it. We need acts of creation, acts of beauty, to find our way. And at the end of the day, technology is a tool -- as has always been the case. Artists are the ones to show what should be done with them: help us make that happen, consider a donation today.
That's what it was like -- and perhaps still is: a delicious, venomous trashing of a serious and magnificent achievement that was not perfect by any means but was also profoundly memorable -- so much so that just hearing an archival recording of that opening fanfare 50 years later brings it all back to me. (Leontyne Price attended the revised version of the score at Juilliard ten years after the premiere, and famously said when she heard those first notes, "Honey, I broke out in a cold sweat.")
The audience, in retrospect, really enjoyed the opera. The critics, however, hated it. Everyone and everything was sent into the trash in a collective expression of mid-century revulsion and umbrage. How dare anyone write music that extended tradition, rather than something completely new and avant-garde? Poor Aaron Copland had tried the "completely new" route a few years earlier at the opening of Philharmonic Hall with his Connotations for Orchestra, which the audience positively hated, even if the critics were equally loath to give him points for his musical volte face into serialism. (First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was famously heard greeting him afterward and at a loss for words, saying only, "Oh Mr. Copland! Oh Mr. Copland!") Aaron had tried to be "with the boys" by writing a 12-tone piece, whereas Sam had more or less stuck to his artistic guns and wrote a grand opera for the 20th century. Both works have been unceremoniously dumped. Barber became so depressed that his output shriveled, as did Copland's. Antony and Cleopatra was deemed to be a "giant fiasco," in the words of The New York Times' Peter G. Davis, "one of the great operatic disasters of all time." It should also be pointed out that other operatic disasters include the world premieres of Carmen, La Traviata, and Madama Butterfly.
Sam Barber was so profoundly hurt that it inspired his former domestic partner, Gian Carlo Menotti, to come to his rescue. Sam and Gian Carlo never stopped loving each other even as they stopped being each other's lovers. When I first met Barber, Menotti introduced us at Spoleto in 1974 where I was conducting the European premiere of Menotti's one-act anti-war opera, Tamu-Tamu, and their mutual warmth and comfort were palpable and radiant. Schippers was conducting Luchino Visconti's magnificent production of Manon Lescaut, and Roman Polanski was directing an ill-conceived production of Alban Berg's Lulu in Italian. Jerome Robbins was there too, as was a young designer-writer whom Gian Carlo had discovered called "Bawbweelsohn" (Robert Wilson!). Sam was visiting Spoleto and we spent a bit of time together. Gian Carlo was always trawling for some bit of juicy gossip. "How are you getting on with the other conductors?" he asked me with a raised eyebrow.
It made a certain sense that Menotti, the composer of sixteen operas (as of that date), and the librettist for Sam's other Metropolitan Opera commission, Vanessa, would take over the score of Antony and Cleopatra and reshape it with his beloved Sam for performances in New York at the Juilliard School in 1976, and subsequently at the American Spoleto in Charleston. This time, Gian Carlo would also direct the proceedings.
Menotti hated the dance music ("Very camp") and removed it. He also felt that the score needed a love duet, even though Shakespeare did not provide anything like that in his play. Thus, in Scene 4 of Act Two, just before the Battle of Actium, there is a short duet of approximately fifty bars of music that makes use of words by the English dramatists Beaumont and Fletcher ("Oh take! Take those lips away"). The chorus is omnipresent in the revised version, but remains unstaged and upstage, focusing the drama down front -- and eliminating a lot of rehearsal time. Melodramatic bursts occasionally replaced Barber's more controlled drama, as when Cleopatra screams at the sight of Antony's body being hoisted into the monument where she will soon join him in death, and "kisses him wildly" in seven new bars of orchestral passion. Caesar's part has been diminished, and with the removal of the part of the court eunuch, Mardian, Menotti also scratched one of the clearly-perceived phrases from the 1966 opening night that made us laugh inappropriately: hearing Miss Price's Cleopatra ask character tenor Andrea Velis, in perfectly enunciated Mississippi-English, "Dost thou have desires?"
The cuts and emendations of the revised 1976 edition are interesting and authentic, of course, but also remove much of the grandeur and internal balance of what was clearly a grand opera. It is the only version that is currently available for performance, and Menotti, who died in 2007 at the age of 95, steadfastly defended it in terms that made it clear that he was protecting Sam. It was Sam Barber, after all, who had protected him in 1928 when, as a frightened teenager enrolling at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, he could not speak a word of English. "I heard a kind voice behind me say, 'Vous êtes Italien?' and it was Sam," Gian Carlo had told me. "He took care of me."
The last time Sam and Gian Carlo visited the Met -- shortly before Barber's death in 1981 -- the two tried to go backstage after the performance, but did not have a pass, nor did they have their names on any official list. They were not granted entry, even though Gian Carlo tried to explain to the guard that his companion had composed the opera that opened the house. Menotti recounted this story with great bitterness when we last saw each other in 1999.
Antony and Cleopatra is Shakespeare's celebration history's most famous love affair. Historically, it marked the end of an era. Cleopatra was the last pharaoh after all, and with the death of Antony in 31 B.C., Octavius Caesar became Rome's first emperor. Sam Barber's original opera was meant to represent, as The New York Times critic Peter G. Davis said, "the sunset tragedy of two mature lovers trapped and destroyed by international politics." It may also have signaled the end of another era: America's classical foothold in world music. The World War II School from Europe, led by Pierre Boulez, had told us we Americans had no real composers ("not even a Henze") and our leaders accepted that judgment. The American sound that Copland, Barber, Blitzstein, Bernstein, Hanson, and others had created was passé and only a few composers continued to write operas in that hugely successful American voice (Floyd, Ward, Beeson, Argento) -- but we have turned our backs on all of them. Its post-mortem is the 1976 revised Antony and Cleopatra, which is also something of a final love letter from one man to another, Sam and Gian Carlo, both of whom had seen their reputations all but disappear during their lifetimes.
Barber did not make his text easy to sing. His musical evocation of Roman and Egyptian music, however, is great and persuasive. Unlike Alex North's masterpiece for the 1961 epic film Cleopatra that tells the same story in its second part, Barber makes a different case for how we can imagine a past whose music we do not and cannot actually recreate.
Verdi made up Egyptian music for Aïda by using exotic scales, flutes and harps (as seen in ancient Egyptian painting), and historically inaccurate brass instruments to represent the repressive power of the Egyptian Empire. North, who, in addition to being thoroughly trained at Curtis Institute, Juilliard, and the Moscow Conservatory, was also a jazz musician and a student of what we used to call "ethnomusicology." Thus, his Egyptian music (like Verdi's a century before) uses flutes and harp-like instruments, but expands the palette to include bass flutes, tuned gongs and the clattering harpsichord, frequently built over jazz grooves and riffs to indicate the African nature of Egypt. Barber finds his own way by remaining true to the complex idiom of mid-century counterpoint, complex and dense harmonies and declamations, and the occasional big tune -- the very thing that turned the serious music critics of the time into serious haters of his music -- even as they accepted the phantasmagorical Hochkitsch of Messiaen, Boulez's teacher. Ironically, much of today's "modern music" owes far more to Samuel Barber than to Anton Webern (1883-1945) who in 1966 was the godfather of all contemporary music -- both American and European.
Music is invisible and there is no way to reassess it without performing it. We are constantly coming to new conclusions about art whenever a museum collects and presents that art, but we cannot hang an opera on a wall. We have to perform it for you to hear it. Those of us fortunate enough to have been at the opening of the Met and the premiere of Antony and Cleopatra have lived to tell of it and would encourage the rest of the world who still care about opera to share in that reassessment. There were eight performances of it at the new Met in 1966. Thirty thousand people attended Antony and Cleopatra -- and it was as successful as any new opera ever presented in the second half of the twentieth century. Its critical drubbing in mid-twentieth century America did what could not be done in the 19th century to Carmen and La Traviata: it stopped it and its composer. Much the same thing happened to Menotti, who went from Pulitzers to pulverized, and retreated to Scotland "where I did not have to read The New York Times every morning" -- though he continued to write operas.
But really, Antony and Cleopatra is a good opera -- maybe a great one. If we cannot find room for a major work by a major, internationally celebrated composer, how can we expect opera to survive? Feeding the repertory is the only way forward and surely it is not merely a question of commissioning new works. There must be room for Barber and Menotti on our stages because we owe it to our composers and to ourselves. Fifty years is the crucial point for a musical work. It has already gone from new to old and now awaits reassessment. Will it be rediscovered? Will it be a classic? Will we simply ignore it and await some champion who might use another anniversary, divisible by ten, to justify dusting it off and presenting it "for your consideration" as the Motion Picture Academy likes to put it at Oscar time?
Classical music continues to present its core opera repertory -- presenting it in new and frequently controversial productions -- and then suddenly jump over fifty years or more to commission and present new works, skipping the mid-century. Broadway, Hollywood, pop music -- and of course art and design -- have room for this complex and diverse period and are a lot healthier for it.
On September 16, 2016, I sat in the darkened Metropolitan Opera House. I watched an army of brilliant technicians, stage managers and stagehands, custodial staff and carpenters hard at work during an all-day stage-and-orchestra rehearsal of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Sir Simon Rattle was (understandably) totally unaware that he was leading this rehearsal on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the house. Nothing was said to the orchestra or the artists. It was just another rehearsal.
I listened as Simon coaxed the first two notes of the prelude to Act One out of the cello section. Perhaps he repeated this passage ten times. I felt the multiple geniuses on display that day: Wagner, of course, and Wallace Harrison and his fellow architects and designers who had created the magic proportions of an auditorium that lets music and singing envelope us; Simon, who knew just what he wanted and demanded it with charm and insistence; the orchestra and the cast -- who were moving about and singing as the set was being adjusted and the lighting was still being tried.
An assistant conductor sat behind Rattle in the first row. It reminded me of when I sat behind Leonard Bernstein, taking notes and following along as he rehearsed Carmen with Marilyn Horne in 1972, and I thought about the eleven Fidelio performances I had conducted there in 1976. Harrison made the relationship between the conductor and the stage so completely natural that one never has any idea just how gigantic the space behind us is. (Covent Garden and Scala are both a thousand seats smaller.) It is just the conductor, the orchestra, and a stage that seems close and intimate. In other words, the Met is a miracle of design.
As I sat in the darkened theater, a familiar face came up to me. It was Ken Howard, a photographer I have known since Santa Fe in 1973 when he photographed, and I conducted, a new production of Così fan tutte there. He is now the principal photographer for the Met. When the lights came up during a break he offered to take a photo of me, fifty years after Aunt Rose and I sat upstairs to experience Antony and Cleopatra and the new Met for the first time.
The new house is no longer the new house. It is the Metropolitan Opera House and the old house is simply a glorious memory of my youth. And while we can rejoice in the achievement of the fifty-year-old house -- because it is there to be experienced -- we can also wonder at what music awaits rediscovery. On May 7, 2017, the Met will hold a gala with arias and ensembles from many operas and, for the first time in fifty years, it will perform "excerpts from Antony and Cleopatra." Maybe you will be there and, having heard those excerpts in the hall that first brought it to life, you will want more of it. Perhaps, as Gustav Mahler once said of his own music, its time has come.
Here is my candid interview with world renowned Spaniard painter Pepa Poch at her recent Dragonflies New York gathering. What was on the menu ? Don't worry about it. She said "The ultimate luxury will be to one day only nurture ourselves from the taste of flowers."
Why do you paint?
Because I can't do anything else. I was born an artist, I learnt how to paint before I could read or write. Everyone was born for a reason. Just like you Bisila, you came into this world to bring people together. I was born to paint. It's what I love, my way of bringing to life everything inside of me.
How would you describe yourself, what makes Pepa Poch special ?
I am a genius, a real genius at that because I don't copy anyone. My inspiration does not come from other people or artists. What I have is my cultural foundation since I was born. I am committed not to fail my audience with repetition with my work.
Your paintings are quite elegant...
Elegance is the basis of everything. It ranges from your bathroom or kitchen to your most intimate self. It is a way of life, a rule.
What does the Pepa Poch world look like, any planet you move to outside of it ?
If I could, I'd explore the whole universe, and go from one planet to the next. I wouldn't leave any behind. My world is full of beauty, color and flavor connected to the soul!
These adjectives actually bring us to New York...
I introduced my work here through The Incubator of Art with a show at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center. This is my third act, but this time is more unyielding. People prepare for years, and since I have been getting ready for it, this act feels the most appropriate.
I did not come to stay, I came to share and also bring together America and the Mediterranean. I would consider myself like Columbus and the statue of liberty. In my case I would be Lady Liberty, one who shares her light with New York City and to the American world.
Tell us about your Dragonflies dinners...
The Dragonflies Dinners consist of moving my Spain-based studio, atelier and custom made tableware around the globe. I invite my guests in a very intimate setting to eat from my plates and be surrounded by my art.
What historical character would you invite to one of your dinners ?
I would love to invite Coco Chanel.
What food would be essential for you?
A carrot straight from the ground.
What is your favorite flower ?
What is love for you ?
The basis. Without love, there is nothing. Without love, there is no vase on the table, there are no smiles.
How do you perceive your parents ?
I see my father as my teacher, mother as a grand dame.
What makes an elegant man for you ?
A man who knows how to love, a giver. He doesn't have to wear the fanciest clothes,but be of great company.
What is an essential piece of clothing for you?
A nice piece of fabric like a scarf.
A jewel ?
A black stone from Lanzarote Island in the Canary Islands.
A color ?
White. White is light and I can create any colors from it. Anything from light green to red or turquoise...
What about a book?
All of them! Libraries for me are everything. I'm all about the aesthetics. For me reading start with wonderful magazines such as Harper's Bazaar.
Places you love ?
Africa, a lot. I am also passionate about Italy. New York of course, it's the center of the world and my beloved Barcelona and Catalonia, the center of MY world.
Share a dream of yours...
To love and to be loved!
What do you want your legacy to be ?
Light and another way to look at things. We tend to always focus on the same things, our self-interest.
All pictures courtesy of Pepa Poch
Note: plot spoilers contained herein.
As I try to redirect or just manage to do something else with my angst over what may happen on Election Day other than to obsessively check the red, blue, and yellow prediction maps, it occurs to me that it is worth revisiting two films released last year in the U.S. that could not speak more appropriately to the current state of affairs: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015) and 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016). These are two dystopian science-fiction films that either emerge from or predict the current political climate. Indeed, one wishes that the lamentable state of affairs in this election might have just been a science-fiction plot, or just a bad, postmodern melodrama, replete with villains with no virtuous character to rescue. But, instead, its sordid reality has a vast majority of Americans, myself included, agonizing over an all-too-real possibility that dystopia will no longer be the stuff of science-fiction. Might we all just be able to turn into lobsters, indeed.
My apocalyptic imagination is fueled by the possibility of a Donald Trump victory, but I understand that for other of my fellow citizens such an end-of-the-world scenario is conjured by the possibility of a Hillary Clinton win. I honestly cannot comprehend how anyone could vote for the monstrosity that is Trump, but I take it the sentiment is shared by those who see Clinton in a similar light. November 9th, we all know, will offer us only a partial and much compromised deliverance - no matter where we are on the political spectrum. This impasse brings me to revisit these two films because The Lobster and 10 Cloverfield Lane tell us that the truth is that there is no longer an outside to each of our perceived, horrific post-election landscapes, there is no place to which to comfortably escape.
10 Cloverfield Lane speaks to the bunker-like mentality into which we have increasingly plunged -- it doesn't matter whether the fear is spawned by the specter of foreign others or by our feeling aghast at our fellow citizens. During the elliptical and brief opening scenes, we learn that Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is leaving her fiancé. Then, while driving away in the dark of the night, just as she hears reports of an inexplicable power-surge, she is involved in a car crash. When she awakens, she is injured and chained to a pole on a wall in what looks like a barren cell. For the remainder of the film, a man who claims to have saved her from an apocalypse that we have not witnessed holds Michelle (and her audience) captive underground. Now wedded to Michelle's limited point-of-view, we are left sifting for clues that might reveal whether the creepy overlord of the bunker, Howard (John Goodman), is just paranoid or a man of great foresight? Is he the best paternal figure the claustrophobic limits of the bunker can provide or a psychopathic, homicidal maniac? It's an either/or scenario because, in this world, urgency has destroyed nuance. That's the danger of living in danger.
Howard may seem crazy but, as he himself puts it, "crazy is building your arc after the flood has already come!" It brings me to think that Michelle's predicament is only an amplified and fictionalized rendition of the reality that envelops those who will be voting for the first time this election, born only a few years before 9/11, after which the world outside the U.S. became (once again) an unknown, formless universe of enemy combatants ready to wipe us from the face of the Earth. In keeping with the genre's conventions, Michelle finally escapes the bunker, but we are surprised to find that the world is indeed in the midst of a devastating alien attack. At film's end, the suspense thriller is thus replaced by a horror film, a genre-shift that may become all too real a part of the daily lives of roughly forty-nine or so percent of Americans (if we believe the current polls).
Sci-fi films like this one announce that the days when it might have been possible to return to life before the conflict, and to a functional social-landscape, are long gone. As it turns out, Howard was both: a visionary and a psychopath. The ambivalence of the film is perfect: it does confirm Howard's doomsday imagination, but, since the film also ends with our heroine's Molotov-cocktail throwing determination (which brings down the scary alien ship), the film signals that the fight to re-establish workable social and political structures is only just beginning.
The Lobster's darkly comedic dystopia is a world where, again, the choices are polarized. Either you live in the normative world, ensconced in happy coupledom or you have one of two options: if you fail to find a partner in forty-five days you can be turned into an animal of your choice or you escape into the woods to live a life as a rebel outcast in perpetual fear of being hunted down by the very same singletons whose deed of capture is rewarded with a delay in their transformation. The catch: the community of rebels is sworn to eternal singlehood, couple-up and you are dead. Needless to say, we are back to a claustrophobic either/or scenario where all that reigns -- inside and outside of each social group -- is an oppressive, militant ideology. But despite their differences both worlds partake of a fundamental view of human connection: we can only relate to those who share our most trivial traits (they also share a propensity for sadism, a condition that in no small way arises from such trivializing, an observation from which we should take heed).
In this, The Lobster provides a biting critique of the banality to which dating sites like Tinder have plunged us into, a logic best expressed by the manager of the halfway house (a hotel) where the "loners" are provided a last chance at so-called normalcy: "you must choose a companion that is a similar type of animal to you. A wolf and a penguin could never live together nor could a camel and a hippopotamus. That would be absurd. Think about it." And thus, people are left to pair up with those who either have a limp, like them, or whose nose is prone to nosebleeds, like theirs -- or they can fake it 'till they make it. Yet, to get back to my present, election-doomsday theme, it's only a short step from there to think of how our two-party system keeps us in such straitjackets.
Alas, the hope that something could upturn this sad state of affairs is left to the possibility of true love and thus in the hands of two of our rebel protagonists, David (Colin Farrell) and a shortsighted woman (Rachel Weisz) who fall in love. She is punished for this act of transgression with blindness and so now, together, the lovers escape the rebel camp and return to the world of couples. As the story's logic requires, David must now gouge his eyes out. With knife and fork in hand, he retreats into a diner's bathroom where we linger for a few seconds of suspense as we brace ourselves to witness the awe-inspiring moment of watching the great power of love triumph. Here, the camera cuts away to where the short-sighted woman, now blind, sits alone in one of the diner's booths waiting for her beloved to return. We have seemingly been spared watching the gorey consequences of his committed act. But instead we linger as she sits motionless, and we linger just a little longer while she continues to wait, abandoned.
Love has either absconded the world, or we've been deemed too faint-of-heart to be able to sustain its power. This vision is the film's ultimate moment of gore. Indeed, at this point in history, rather than appear paranoid, The Lobster and 10 Clover Field Lane seem visionary.
How shall we come to find common ground across our differences in our coming, polarized, post-apocalyptic landscape? Or has this possibility absconded us? If so, then what kind of world lies ahead? One truly wishes our current reality could be just a brilliant, if bone-chilling, movie plot. It's not.
Many critics and skeptics have made the bold claim that classical music is dead.
It's true that classical music isn't what it used to be -- but neither is music in general. It isn't consumed in the same way and its dedicated fan-base is primarily white and old in a country whose population is increasingly neither.
It is also no secret that financial troubles have plagued the genre. The Philadelphia Orchestra, for example, declared for bankruptcy in 2011; New York City Opera filed in 2014, ultimately shutting down, and Boston Classical Orchestra canceled the remainder of its 2015-16 concert season after bankruptcy. Additionally, Chicago, San Francisco and Minnesota symphonic orchestra musicians have all gone on strike in recent years after failing to resolve contract disputes.
Yet, despite the economic woes of these and other orchestras and far too many classical music institutions across the country, the genre is actually thriving. And it is doing so by not remaining static, but by evolving.
Take the newly launched Groupmuse, an online social network that brings young classical musicians to local audiences through concert house parties. Also referred to as "Uber, But for Millennials Who Want Orchestras in Their Living Rooms," it is part of a larger trend to not only transform how music is consumed, but make it relevant to new and younger audiences. Somewhat ironically, it is challenging the current concert hall format by playing homage to former centuries when almost all concerts took place in private homes and venues were smaller. Only now, classical music can be ordered in the same fashion as a car service or your Friday night Pad Thai on Seamless -- on demand, delivered to your door, and with expectations of quality. This is just one example that shows that the musical landscape is changing.
This indicates that it's not the genre that is dying, rather it is aged-out forms and methods of delivery and consumption. Large concert venues are incredibly expensive to stage and often become a causality of increased costs and decreased demand. This is a shame. The antidote, however, is innovation. Online ticketing and apps have made purchasing easier and less expensive for both customers and venues. And now, business models like that of Groupmuse's is just one new way that millennials have embraced Bach and Beethoven, rather than rejecting classical music all together.
New generations are also experimenting with the genre itself. We have seen new iterations of classical music firsthand through Kaufman Music Center's Face the Music, the country's only youth ensemble dedicated to studying and performing music by living composers.
Through collective music-making, young and committed musicians use the music of today as a vehicle to explore collaborative decision-making and develop leadership skills. With two orchestras, a jazz big band, an experimental-improvisation collective, string quartets, a composer program, and many chamber music ensembles, Face the Music encourages young musicians to contribute to the vibrant texture of today's contemporary music scene.
Collaboration is also the hallmark of our Ecstatic Music Festival. Launching its seventh season in January, it has achieved significant recognition and praise for its innovative exploration of music with more than 80 artists performing across the sonic spectrum for nine collaborative, unique shows.
We also see the benefits of classical music and its many forms at our Special Music School. Here, at the only New York K-12 public school with music as a core curriculum subject, music education and private instrumental lessons are integrated into the regular school day, and the impact on learning is very significant.
Students are empowered to compose their own music -- and even perform it alongside acclaimed musicians such as Kronos Quartet. They also have the opportunity to take classes such as "Music Entrepreneurship" to learn how to market themselves using rapidly changing technology and mediums of communication. These skills are applicable not only for a musical career, but also teach students how to be a leader in any and all endeavors no matter their chosen profession or path.
Programs like these focus on classical music, but embrace many genres. Because of this, I am frequently asked if classical music is getting phased out by the popularity of hip-hop, pop, electronic, and even jazz. My answer is always no. Indie music is not diminishing the demand for classical; instead they are all intertwined and informing each other, while broadening access to new audiences.
We can see this perhaps best through famous artists across the popular spectrum who not only credit classical music as early inspiration, but also appropriate works in their own singles. For example, Beyonce's "Ave Maria" references Schubert; The Beatles "Because" was influenced by Beethoven, and Radiohead's "Idioteque" is considered to be inspired by Wagner.
So to paraphrase Mark Twain, "the reports of classical music's death have been greatly exaggerated." Rather, it has been reincarnated. It is growing, expanding and innovating with today's best and brightest students and music aficionados, navigating new iterations, ways to listen, and venues to hear it.
As the saying goes, "all good things must come to an end". So last Sunday, I went to the Getty Museum to say my goodbyes to its exceptional exhibition London Calling, which presented the works of six major artists -- Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, and R.B. Kitaj.
I've seen this exhibition several times, and each time it was crowded with visitors, which pleasantly surprised me. After all, none of these artists has been known for a desire to please the crowd with "nice and easy" works. On the contrary, a number of the paintings at the exhibition have a palpable sense of uneasiness, challenge, and tension. Every time I saw this exhibition, I couldn't help thinking of the phenomenon of struggle, drama, and pain as the frequent and surprising source of great art.
Now that the exhibition is closed and the artworks are on their way back home to London, it's difficult to not perceive it as a sort of Los Angeles art Brexit. But let's not cry for too long. Look what I found at the Getty, tucked away in the galleries displaying its collection of 17th century Dutch paintings.
I'm talking about Juno, a late painting by Rembrandt, which belongs to the Hammer Museum, but now -- due to the Hammer's current remodeling -- Juno is making a special appearance here at the Getty. I have a long history with this painting, going back to the early 1970s, when it was exhibited at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg as a part of Armand Hammer's private collection. I liked it then, and I always say hello to it when I'm at the Hammer, but here at the Getty, the painting has an extra sense of immediacy, as if Juno is actually stepping out of the frame to greet you.
The Hammer Museum definitely deserves high praise for its smart collaborations with various Los Angeles museums. Brace yourself for a surprise while visiting The Huntington, where, in the grand hall with its collection of 18th century British portraits, you will see the late 19th century painting by an American artist, John Singer Sargent. This full-length portrait of the Parisian gynecologist Dr. Pozzi in his intense crimson dressing gown is another gem belonging to the Hammer Museum, but is now temporarily displayed at the Huntington. I never thought that this American portrait could hold its own next to all of these glamorous British paintings -- but I was wrong. In spite of the nearby presence of Gainsborough's world-famous Blue Boy, your eyes, upon entering the hall, go straight to Dr. Pozzi.
And finally, here's the last and most fleeting of the exhibitions I've seen recently. It was a one-day pop up exhibition of Cold War-era art and artifacts from the Soviet Bloc countries. Organized by the Wende Museum, this exhibition was held at the former German Democratic Republic embassy in Beverly Hills. I have to admit that it was a little bit surreal to park my car in this luxurious neighborhood, and upon entering the mansion, be confronted by the Soviet-era East German flag and portraits of Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev crowding the walls and tables of this former GDR embassy.
To learn about Edward's Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website. You can also read The New York Times article about his classes here, or an Artillery Magazine article about Edward and his classes here.
Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.