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Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

Jon Robin Baitz was already a successful playwright when he went to Hollywood to create ABC’s Brother’s and Sisters. The show was a hit for Baitz, but turns out, the city was anything but: “It was a nightmare.  Just the fact that I came from New York and wrote sort of serious-ish plays, before I opened my mouth, there was a kind of trope going around the network already: ‘We can’t have any of the Baitzian angst.'”

After a lot of angst, Baitz got a one-way ticket back to New York where he wrote his new play “Other Desert Cities” (now playing at New York City’s Lincoln Center to great praise). It’s the story of Brooke, a writer who comes home for Christmas and reveals to her family that she’s publishing a tell-all memoir — about them.

But Baitz admitted to Kurt that breaking up with TV was messy:

You can hear more of Kurt’s conversation with Jon Robin Baitz on this weekend’s show.

– Dory Carr-Harris

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On Thursday, January 27, Shara Worden will bring her synergetic mix of classical music, cabaret, and punk to Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series — and we’re thrilled that she’s given us  an exclusive sneak preview of a song she wrote for the event.

Worden is probably best known for her classical/rock project My Brightest Diamond and her collaborations with The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, and David Byrne.

Last Friday, she and the yMusic ensemble stopped by Studio 360 and premiered “We Added It Up”:

It’s a performance that showcases Worden’s syncretic style.  She told Kurt the song was inspired by President Obama’s recent “shellacking” speech, in which he conceded midterm election losses, saying we need to “learn to disagree without being disagreeable.”  The song draws that premise wide, picking up on its productive friction and extending it from politics to include lovers, atoms, and the idea that the world, itself, is held together by opposites.

Listen to Studio 360 this weekend to hear Kurt’s full interview with Worden and another live performance.

-Michael Guerriero

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Nikolai Khalezin in his semi-autobiographical play “Generation Jeans.”

Belarus is called the last dictatorship in Europe.  The government censors the arts, so performance troupe Free Theatre Belarus performs secretly, in converted houses, to avoid arrest.  Back in 2008, New York-based playwright and performer Aaron Landsman visited the group in Minsk.  He was astonished by how the group remained prolific under such difficult circumstances – artistic director Natalia Kolyada told him that even though they enjoyed performing at festivals abroad, they would not defect. Listen to the story here:

Today The New York Times is reporting that Kolyada and her husband Nikolai Khalezin have been forced into hiding following an incident at a protest rally.

Free Theatre Belarus is due to start performances of “Being Harold Pinter” in New York City early next month.  The work, which already played in London to praise, is based on transcripts from Belarussian political prisoners and incorporates writings by Harold Pinter.  Meanwhile, Tom Stoppard, Ian McKellan and others protested the Belarussian Embassy in London.

– Jenny Lawton



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Earlier this week, one-of-a-kind comedian/musician Reggie Watts rocked WNYC’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space for a special “Studio 360” all about Theoretical Physics. That’s right…Theoretical Physics.  Here at 360, we like a little science sprinkled in with our arts and culture.

It turns out that Reggie Watts – an improviser who seeds audiences with disinformation (some of it in musical form), confusing them into fits of sublime, disoriented laughter – is also a well-versed physics enthusiast.  Watch him raise the curtain on our show, and tune the crowd to his unique frequency:

Over the course of the evening, Reggie talked physics with Kurt and astrophysicist Janna Levin – they even had a sort of informal science smack down (you can watch the full show here).  Reggie closed the evening with another song – a hip-hop ballad dedicated to perhaps the most ambitious topic, ever: the universe.

– Michael Guerriero

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Final preparations are underway for tonight’s live show in WNYC’s Greene Space: the science magician loads in his equipment in a couple hours, then Reggie Watts will soundcheck, and doors will open at 7pm.  And then… black holes will play drums!  We’ll bend space and time!  And we may just come up with the Theory of Everything. (At the very least, we’ll come up with a Theory of A Lot of Things.)

Not in NYC?  Or in NYC but holed up against the bad weather?  No worries: we’ll be streaming the show live online – check back here at 7:30 for the live webcast.

TITLE: Our Universe Goes to 11

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Final preparations are underway for tonight’s live show in WNYC’s Greene Space: the science magician loads in his equipment in a couple hours, then Reggie Watts will soundcheck, and doors will open at 7pm.  And then… black holes will play drums!  We’ll bend space and time!  And who knows, we just may come up with the Theory of Everything.

Not in NYC?  Or in NYC and holed up against the bad weather?  No worries: we’ll be streaming the show live online – check back here at 7:30 for the live webcast.

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There’s a new art installation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that’s creating quite a stir.  It opened just last weekend, but already, it’s commanding attention for its dramatic, novel use of light and sound.  You may have heard of the artist: Leonardo da Vinci.

Sort of.

The artwork in question is a kind of collaboration across the centuries, between da Vinci and British film director Peter Greenaway.  Greenaway — best known for 1989’s controversial “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” — applies his expertise with film techniques and technology to a 45-minute treatment of da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

The Original: Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” 1495 – 1498.

Greenaway wants viewers to “retrain their gaze,” so they can experience classical paintings with the same immediacy as the original Quattrocento audiences.  Writing about 50 years after da Vinci completed the painting, artist Giorgio Vasari described it as “wondrous” in its depiction of confused, suspicious, and sorrowful Apostles trying to figure out who would betray Jesus.  Da Vinci was a master of realism; he reproduced lifelike images in paintings that took years to create.  It’s a skill that doesn’t have quite the same effect on today’s viewers, many of whom can experience, reproduce, and alter just about anything at which they can point a camera phone.

The resulting loss is doubly-felt. Modern viewers, no longer awed by the technical brilliance of da Vinci’s work, also miss its deeper meanings.  If the gaze isn’t held by a painting’s forms, the mind won’t linger long enough to engage them.  It’s an abandoned state of mind that Greenaway seeks to recreate.  The director wants to rediscover The Last Supper’s “multiple layers of meaning, the techniques used and the metaphors intended.”  He wants to “investigate and educate but also to fascinate and celebrate these extraordinary complex images.”

So how do you overcome 500 years of distance between viewer and painting?  Greenaway adopts the language to which modern audiences are accustomed — and with which he is most comfortable.  He inserts the busy, rapid, loud, and sometimes bombastic visual language of film into the painting.  Through a succession of projected images and music he forces viewers to reread the painting’s details and composition.

The Wade Thompson Drill Hall in New York’s Park Avenue Armory (photo by James Ewing)

Greenaway takes over the expansive 55,000-square-foot drill hall in New York City’s Park Avenue Armory, dividing it into two spaces.  Viewers enter the first space and are flooded with images and music from the past five centuries of Western culture.  The projection of a male ballet dancer leaps around them, evoking, then giving way to da Vinci’s Vetruvian Man.  Verdi meets Bach.  Present-day Rome mingles with Masaccio.  It’s a modern “mash-up” of five centuries of art, music, and architecture.  The effect is at once disorienting and somewhat cliché, evoking a giant, overwrought introduction to some generic PBS special on Italian art.

Director Peter Greenaway’s installation fills the Armory’s drill hall (photo by James Ewing)

After the commotion of the first room, the audience is invited to enter the calm of a second viewing room, housing an exact reproduction — the company that produced it calls it a “clone” — of The Last Supper. It is here that Greenaway really draws from his bag of cinematic tricks.  He “animates” the painting, manipulating light and projecting digital images onto it.  The Apostles’ hands appear by themselves, accentuating the expressiveness of their gestures.  Then the knife in Peter’s hand is spotlighted.  Birds — a fascination of da Vinci’s — flutter through the painting.  Bright colors fade to grey, and then surge back to their former brilliance.  These constant shifts in lighting invest Jesus and the Apostles with density and weight, drawing them out of the painting and into the Armory.  At times they seem almost real — if not alive, then present in a tangible, sculpted form.

Greenaway's effects illuminate the reproduced painting.

The installation is part of the director’s ongoing series Ten Classical Paintings Revisited — and it’s a series with a purpose.  The Wall Street Journal calls it “an appeal to youth who are lacking an education in the art of the past,” those who in Greenaway’s words “think there is no painting before Pollack and no film before Tarantino.”  The appeal to youth and to modern audiences is clear.  With all the bells and whistles of a 21st century motion picture, Greenaway isn’t trying to reproduce the same relationship a renaissance viewer would have had with The Last Supper…but he does provide an entertaining way to understand it.

-Michael Guerriero

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Recordings of choral music can be discouraging: soft and diffuse, like the music is coming through cotton balls, evaporating like fog.  Even live performances can prove disappointing when lyrics are lost to the acoustics of a venue, and you experience a wash (rather than a wall) of sound.  I think the best place to hear a choral performance is inside of one — but then you have to work for your pleasure.

That’s what so fantastic about Janet Cardiff’s sound installation “The Forty-Part Motet,” now on view at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.  The Canadian artist presents the wickedly complex work of 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis with brilliance and clarity.

Tallis wrote “Spem in Alium” (“I have hope in none other than Thee, O Lord”) for eight choirs of five singers, each singing a unique part – that’s 40 distinct vocal lines.  Cardiff recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the piece, putting each voice on a separate channel.  For the installation, each voice gets its own speaker – arranged in a circle, you can wander between the voices, checking in with various singers, catching the interplay of melodies.  Stand in the center and the voices combine into something truly transcendent.

Atsushi Nakamichi/Nacása & Partners Inc. Courtesy of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès, 2009, Janet Cardiff, Luhring Augustine, New York and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

"The Forty-Part Motet" in Tokyo (Photo by Atsushi Nakamichi/Nacasa & Partners Inc. | Courtesy of the Fondation d'enterprise Hermes, 2009, Janet Cardiff, Luhring Augustine, New York and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin)

You can really feel the changing shapes, colors, and textures of the music – qualities so rich and real you almost see them: “It reveals the piece of music as a changing construct,” Cardiff explains. “I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.”

You can get a taste of “Spem in Alium” (performed the traditional way) in this episode of BBC Radio 3’s “Discovering Music.”

“The Forty-Part Motet” is on view (for free) in the Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center through Saturday, November 13 as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.

– Jenny Lawton

recordings OF CHORAL MUSIC CAN BE discouraging: soft and diffuse, like the music is coming through cotton balls, evaporating like fog.  Even live performances can prove disappointing when lyrics are lost to the acoustics of a venue, and you experience a wash (rather than a wall) of sound.  THE BEST PLACE TO HEAR A CHORAL PERFORMANCE IS INSIDE OF ONE, . . .  BUT THEN YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR YOUR PLEASREU But I’m biased – I love choral music because I sing in a choir and I get to experience it, literally, from the inside.

That’s what so fantastic about Janet Cardiff’s sound installation, “The Forty Part Motet.”  Cardiff presents the wickedly complex work of 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis with brilliance and clarity.

Tallis wrote “Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui” for eight choirs of five singers, each singing a unique part – that’s 40 distinct vocal lines.  Cardiff recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the piece, putting each voice on a separate channel.  For the installation, each voice gets its own speaker – arranged in a circle, you can wander between the voices, checking in with various singers, catching the interplay of melodies.  Stand in the center and the voices combine into something truly transcendent.

[IMAGE]

You can really feel the changing shapes, colors, and textures of the music – qualities so rich and real you almost see them… but, of course, you can’t. And that’s the point: “It reveals the piece of music as a changing construct,” Cardiff explains. “I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.”

“The Forty Part Motet” is on view (for free) at Jazz at Lincoln Center through Saturday, November 13 as part of the White Light Festival.

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