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Dance Review: ‘The River Project,’ by the Memphis Ballet

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 31 Oktober 2012 | 16.43

MEMPHIS — The Mississippi River, famous in song and literature, has also inspired choreography. At the end of Kansas City Ballet's "Tom Sawyer," new last year, the dancers embodied it. Now Ballet Memphis has taken up the theme with "The River Project," a triple bill of new ballets honoring the Mississippi's cultural importance.

On paper Ballet Memphis often looks like one of the country's most enterprising companies. I wish, for example, that I had been able to see its 2011 spring program of works, all by female choreographers; and the company is among the few directed and founded by a woman, Dorothy Gunther Pugh. Its current season is called "Taking Flight" and Ms. Pugh plans to follow the "River Project" with other works about the connections between American culture and the American environment.

An introductory film suggests that the plan for these three new ballets was to reflect three zones through which the river passes: one ballet (Steven McMahon's "Confluence") on the central area around Memphis, one on the Delta and New Orleans (Julia Adam's "Second Line"), and another on — what? This third ballet (Matthew Neenan's "Party of the Year") proved the least obviously river-connected: its setting was a party in Los Angeles. This didn't make it a disappointment, however. Instead, it was both the evening's biggest hit and one of the most beguiling new American ballets of our day.

All three works are set to musical collages, reflecting diverse heritages and histories. The score for Mr. McMahon's "Confluence" ranges from part of Dvorak's "New World" Symphony to Mahalia Jackson's recording of "In the Upper Room" to Mavis Staples's "Don't Knock." The stage action is introduced by a lone woman (Virginia Pilgrim), whose role is ambiguous: she may be the river, or the subsequent dances may be her memory. "Confluence" has lyricism and complexity; it suggests the passage of time and the growth of a local culture. It's a little nebulous over all, but there's real dance-making skill here.

Ms. Adam's "Second Line" tries to catch the Delta's overlap of historical periods and its changes of civilization. Characters in baroque attire do some un-baroque things. (Women kneel so that men can swing their legs over the women's heads.) Later we have some bare-chested men and more overtly modern behavior. The music includes Rameau's "Fêtes d'Hébé," a Louisiana folk song and a traditional Haitian song, and ends with "When the Saints Go Marching In." At all points, the result is too diffuse.

Mr. Neenan's "Party of the Year," subtitled "Victoria Avenue, CA,

12/25/70," is a success despite apparent odds. It has seemingly nothing to do with the Mississippi River; a program note says it's about a birthday bash on Christmas 1970 for a person in Isabel Wilkerson's book "The Warmth of Other Suns." This context promises characters and experiences that the ballet doesn't give us. But there is a piercing image, first shown in the introductory film, that becomes a core motif.

The party is on the skids, and the pivotal character, danced by Rachel Shumake, has had more than a few too many from the start. The repeated sequence that makes such an impression is when Ms. Shumake slowly, heavily walks forward on flat feet, her head lifting and her throat visibly tense; then, with a contraction, her torso lurches right forward.

By the time you've seen it twice, it clearly depicts a woman who knows with alarm that she's about to throw up. This could so nearly be gross — but its slightly stylized quality and its choreographic exactness makes it haunting, like a moment you've known yourself. Then, when it returns, at later stages of the party, it's shown from other angles. The fourth and final time it's given a change of inflection.

This is a party that's merrily crumbling into near-chaos. The situation is explored through many different aspects — comedy, shame, poignancy, anxiety, energy — and a wealth of different characters. The final twist is that the most drunk character is transformed to a new exaltation of spirit. This is not at all the ballet suggested by Mr. Neenan's program note or Ms. Pugh's advance announcement — but so what? I loved it.

Straightaway Ms. Shumake seemed detached from the party; she's present but alien. The music's progression is from jazz (Nat King Cole), blues (Albert King, perhaps the most specifically Memphian music of the evening) and soul (Ray Charles) to (folk) Joni Mitchell. And, though the party seems to occur in one place with one set of people, this change of score takes us on a migration through America. When we reach Ms. Mitchell's "California," Ms. Shumake has survived more than one ordeal: she looks released and to have found her home.

The party is all dancing and all delicious. Couples and threesomes succeeding one another, exuberant and socializing and intimate. The mixture of ballet, social dance and individual tics of behavior is irresistible, the footwork has point and detail, and the rich tiltings of torsos are juicy in the extreme. Some women spend some of the time supporting their men; this is a society in which men and women keep discovering new things about each other.

The beauty of Ms. Mitchell's singing brings the ballet to an extraordinary climax; and Mr. Neenan's choreography matches it, as Ms. Shumake becomes expansive. (The other characters, though, grow increasingly floorbound.) This is the second exciting new work by Mr. Neenan I've seen in three months. ("Switch Phrase," for Ballet X, was seen in August at the Vail Festival.) He does not present himself as a pure-academic ballet classicist, but he is emerging as one of today's foremost dance poets of American behavior and society.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 30, 2012

An earlier version of this article, in one instance, misspelled the surname of a choreographer. He is Matthew Neenan, not Neeman.


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Vietnam: Musicians Singled Out by Officials

Two musicians in Vietnam were sentenced to prison on Tuesday, prompting criticism from the United States and rights groups. Vo Minh Tri and Tran Vu Anh Binh were sentenced to four and six years in prison, respectively, on charges of spreading propaganda against the state, said one of their lawyers. A court accused the musicians of posting songs on a Web site operated by an overseas Vietnamese opposition group, according to the lawyer. Communist Vietnam does not tolerate challenges to its one-party rule.


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Terry Callier, Singer and Songwriter, Dies at 67

Terry Callier, a Chicago singer and songwriter who in the 1970s developed an incantatory style that mingled soul, folk and jazz sounds around his meditative baritone, then decades later was rescued from obscurity when his work found new fans in Britain, died on Saturday in Chicago. He was 67.

The cause was cancer, his family said.

Mr. Callier's return in the 1990s was one of the great recalled-to-life stories in modern pop. At his peak, in songs from the '70s like "Dancing Girl" and "Occasional Rain," Mr. Callier sang spiritual rhapsodies that began with gentle guitar and built to orchestrated, uplifting climaxes. But commercial success eluded him, and by the time British fans began to seek him out, he had retired from music and was working as a computer programmer.

Before long, though, he was being invited to perform in London, and on his vacation time he flew there to play for clubs full of reverent fans. Beginning with "TimePeace" (Verve) in 1998, he released a stream of new albums — he finally left the day job in 1999 — and collaborated with Paul Weller, Beth Orton, the group Massive Attack and other artists.

"It was like a dream," Mr. Callier said of his comeback performances in an interview with The New York Times in 1998. "A couple of times I had to stop the show because it was just too over the top emotionally for me to continue. People knew all the words to my songs."

Terrence Orlando Callier (pronounced CAL-yur) was born in Chicago on May 24, 1945. Among his friends when he was growing up were Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler of the Impressions. While still in high school he recorded for Chess Records, the Chicago blues and R&B label, but his mother persuaded him to stay in school before starting a music career.

He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and became influenced by both the folk movement and John Coltrane. His debut album, "The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier," recorded in 1964 by the folklorist Samuel Charters, established that Mr. Callier was difficult to categorize. He sang traditional songs like "Cotton Eyed Joe" and "900 Miles" with a calm, low voice that evoked Josh White and Fred Neil, but the album's instrumentation — acoustic guitar and two basses, played sparingly — gave the recordings an atmosphere that was both intimate and otherworldly.

In 1970 he joined Mr. Butler's Chicago Songwriters Workshop, where he worked with Charles Stepney, a producer and arranger who also worked with Earth, Wind and Fire. Mr. Callier was a co-writer of the Dells' 1971 hit "The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind)" and in 1972 released his own album, "Occasional Rain," on the Cadet label, a Chess imprint. He released four more albums through 1978 on Cadet and Elektra, but by the end of the decade his career had slowed down.

Soon after recording a single, "I Don't Want to See Myself (Without You)," which he paid for himself, in 1982, he quit music and went to work as a programmer at the National Opinion Resource Center, an affiliate of the University of Chicago. Meanwhile his music was attracting a cult following among British soul-music collectors and D.J.'s, and around 1990 he got a call from Eddie Piller of the Acid Jazz label, who wanted to reissue "I Don't Want to See Myself."

Mr. Callier is survived by his daughter, Sundiata Callier-Dullum; his son, Dhoruba Somlyo; his companion, Shirley Austin; his brother, Michael Callier; and a grandson.

In 1998, Mr. Callier said he had no ill feelings about the course of his career.

"I feel very blessed for my success," he said. "Everything happens in its own time, and it happened when I could handle it. I didn't have to bend myself out of shape to make a living, I got a position in computer programming, and I put my daughter through college. It couldn't have been any better."


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Danny Sims, Producer of Bob Marley, Dies at 75

Few people outside of the Caribbean knew who Bob Marley was when Danny Sims heard him perform in 1968. But Mr. Sims knew Marley was something special right away.

"What I heard," he recalled years later, "was the next Bob Dylan."

Mr. Sims, a music producer, publisher and promoter, promptly signed Marley to his first international publishing and recording contracts, setting him on the road to becoming the first reggae superstar.

Mr. Sims died of colon cancer on Oct. 3 in Los Angeles, his daughter, Anansa Sims-Patterson, said. He was 75.

His death was not widely reported at the time. "He was always a very private person," said the filmmaker Rudy Langlais, who had recently been working on a documentary film about Mr. Sims.

Danny Drew Sims was born on Nov. 9, 1936, in Hattiesburg, Miss., and moved with his family to Memphis and later Chicago. After service in the Army, where he played football on a team that traveled throughout Europe, he moved to New York and opened a supper club, Sapphire's, near Times Square, which he liked to claim was "the first black-owned club south of 110th Street."

It was there that he met a teenage singer named Johnny Nash. Mr. Sims went on to become Mr. Nash's manager, and the two of them founded a record label, JoDa, later renamed JAD, whose roster would include Gloria Gaynor, Betty Wright and Lloyd Price. (Mr. Nash had a No. 1 hit in 1972 with "I Can See Clearly Now.")

In 1967 Mr. Sims and Mr. Nash traveled to Jamaica, where Mr. Nash recorded a number of hit records at Federal Studios. The next year Mr. Nash attended a Rastafarian ceremony and was impressed by a young singer named Bob Marley. After hearing Marley sing, Mr. Sims signed him to a publishing deal and also signed his vocal trio, the Wailers, to JAD Records.

"He is one of the people most responsible for Bob Marley's success who has gotten the least amount of notice for it," said the reggae historian Roger Steffens, who worked with Mr. Sims to compile "The Complete Bob Marley and the Wailers 1967-1972," a 15-CD reissue series.

Mr. Sims hired Marley and his band mate Peter Tosh to write songs for Mr. Nash, but was unsuccessful in establishing them as performers in the United States. "Reggae was not accepted as a commercial form at the time," said David Simmons, Mr. Sims's longtime business partner. "The world wasn't ready for it."

In 1972, Mr. Sims sold Marley's contract to Chris Blackwell of Island Records, who made him an international star. Mr. Sims retained an interest in Marley's publishing, and near the end of his life worked as his manager.

In September 1980 Marley opened for the Commodores at Madison Square Garden, a booking Mr. Sims had helped arrange. The day after the concert, Marley collapsed while jogging in Central Park. Mr. Sims and another friend carried him to the hospital, where he was found to have terminal cancer. He died less than a year later.

Mr. Simmons said that had Marley lived, his stardom might have grown even bigger than it did. "There was a big record deal in discussion, with a $10 million advance," he said, "but Bob couldn't take it up because he was too ill."

Although Marley respected Mr. Sims, their relationship was at times contentious. "I discouraged Bob from doing the revolutionary stuff," Mr. Sims once told The Village Voice. "I'm a commercial guy. I want to sell songs to 13-year-old girls, not to guys throwing spears." In 1987 Mr. Sims unsuccessfully sued the Marley estate for $6 million, claiming that Marley had tried to avoid paying him royalties by publishing songs pseudonymously.

Mr. Sims's marriage to the model and actress Beverly Johnson ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter he is survived by his sons, Jelani and Stacey; his brother, Eddie; and a granddaughter.


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Music Review: American Symphony Orchestra at 50 at Carnegie Hall

Written By Unknown on Selasa, 30 Oktober 2012 | 16.43

A dollar fifty doesn't even cover the cost of intermission chocolates at Carnegie Hall these days, but it was enough to attend the American Symphony Orchestra's 50th-anniversary concert there on Friday evening.

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All tickets were sold at the original 1962 prices, in line with the ensemble's longstanding commitment to attracting a wide audience with affordable events. The orchestra's founder, Leopold Stokowski, was also committed to recruiting young American musicians at a time when many American orchestras consisted predominantly of Europeans.

The ensemble has performed at other halls in recent years, but its return to Carnegie in 2010 was significant, given that the orchestra filled the gap left there when the New York Philharmonic moved to Lincoln Center in 1962.

Stokowski had an adventurous appetite for new and American works. Leon Botstein, the ensemble's music director for the last 20 years, has expanded on that aesthetic with wide-ranging programs of rarely performed repertory.

But the orchestra's performances have sometimes been inconsistent, as they were here. Mr. Botstein conducted a ragged interpretation of Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 8 ("Symphony of a Thousand"), whose American premiere Stokowski led in 1916 with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Mr. Botstein didn't manage to marshal the huge forces — which included eight vocal soloists stationed behind the orchestra, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and the Collegiate Chorale — into a polished or cohesive performance, let alone an uplifting one. Some singers performed from the upper balconies. After a false start at the beginning of Part 2, Mr. Botstein turned to the audience and said that the transition had been too quick, then rebooted the orchestra.

The violinists stood during the curtain raiser: an arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that Stokowski made for the orchestra in 1969.

The pianist Blair McMillen and the Collegiate Chorale joined the orchestra for Ives's alluring, mysterious and quirky Symphony No. 4, also given a tentative performance here. Composed from 1910 to 1925, it makes reference to hymns, popular songs, the European classical tradition and some of Ives's earlier works in a complex tapestry of overlapping thematic materials, layering effects and elaborate percussion.

It is a difficult piece to conduct; before Stokowski led the orchestra in the premiere of the complete work in 1965, some had deemed it unplayable.

American Symphony Orchestra performs on Friday at George Mason University's Center for the Arts in Fairfax, Va.; (703) 993-8888, cfa.gmu.edu.


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Music Review: American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall

Two symphonies by Charles Ives were being played simultaneously at Carnegie Hall on Friday night. The American Composers Orchestra performed his Third Symphony in Zankel Hall, while the American Symphony Orchestra played the Fourth upstairs in the Stern Auditorium.

Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

American Composers Orchestra, with José Serebrier conducting, played Charles Ives's Third Symphony on Friday at Zankel Hall. In addition to Ives, three premieres made up the orchestra's program.

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"I think Ives would have liked that," said the Composers Orchestra's executive director, Michael Geller, in his introduction to the Orchestra Underground series concert downstairs. "Especially if we'd left the doors open."

During the event they were shut, so the only superimposed harmonies were those written into the score by Ives himself. Conducted by José Serebrier, the American Composers Orchestra gave a polite performance of the Third that only belatedly, in the final movement, did justice to the work's inherent elegance. Much of the material was taken from services at the Central Presbyterian Church when it was on 57th Street, which Ives helped direct as organist and choirmaster at the turn of the 20th century. When those hymns are given over to the strings, the sound should be either luscious or folksy: this was an unconvincing medium.

Three premieres made up the rest of the American Composers Orchestra's program. The most successful was "The Migration of Lost Souls," by Narong Prangcharoen, an atmospheric work that weaves some of the spiritual and vernacular sounds of Mr. Prangcharoen's native Thailand into a skillfully orchestrated tapestry. Although the work, 15 minutes long, inhabits a Western tonal universe, its principal pitches are determined by those of a set of bells at the Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai. There are moments of ethereal beauty, in which Mr. Prangcharoen evokes the spirits of the dead with airy flute solos, sliding string harmonics and the eerie sound of a bowed cymbal.

Milica Paranosic's "Tiger's Wife: Prologue," for orchestra, voice, electronics and video projection, also evoked folk traditions in its adaptation of Téa Obreht's best-selling 2011 novel, and it featured the composer playing the gusle, a Balkan bowed string instrument.

But there was nothing enchanting in its attempt to translate the novel's magic realism into sound. A selection of its more lurid texts — "Wash the bones/Bring the body/Leave the heart behind" — were given over to a "digital chorus" and to Lori Cotler, a vocalist known for her use of vocal percussion techniques. Ms. Cotler sounded ill at ease with the cabaretlike lines Ms. Paranosic gave her over a monotonous and muddy orchestral score.

A dearth of musical ideas also hobbled Mr. Serebrier's "Flute Concerto With Tango," despite the flutist Sharon Bezaly's spirited advocacy. Conventional in both its harmonies and its writing for flute, it is a congenial piece with none of the passion and few of the rhythms of tango music. Ms. Bezaly, a communicative performer with a warm, round tone, played it with humor and grace. 

 The American Composers Orchestra performs "Time Travels," part of the Orchestra Underground series, on Jan. 18 at Zankel Hall; (212) 247-7800, carnegiehall.org.


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Music Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter at Alice Tully Hall

"Life shows you who you've become when there's no more mystery in the fading light." The more you consider that somber observation from Mary Chapin Carpenter's song "Chasing What's Already Gone," the more deeply it resonates. That reflection, from Ms. Carpenter's recent album "Ashes and Roses," was the opening number of her memorable Friday evening concert at Alice Tully Hall, part of the White Light Festival.

Ruby Washington/The New York Times.

Mary Chapin Carpenter performed at Alice Tully Hall on Friday as part of the White Light Festival. She played older songs along with newer ones from "Ashes and Roses."

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The 13 cuts of "Ashes and Roses" (Zoe/Rounder), most of which she performed, make up an autobiographical song cycle that describes her state of mind after a period of personal travail. On the song "New Years Day," near the end of the album, her despair begins to lift.

The chase she describes is a futile attempt to recapture an idyllic moment of her youth. But it is also an equally futile pursuit of "the line that spells the far horizon/moving with you as fast as you can run."

One of the most acute songs, "Don't Need Much to Be Happy," distills her chastened outlook after divorce, illness and her father's death. Beyond food, shelter, books, friendships and work, she has discovered "days that shine with light."

Ms. Carpenter was supported by an excellent band that included Jon Carroll on keyboards, John Jennings and Jim Henry on guitars, Don Dixon on bass and Vinnie Santoro on drums. She has the ideal voice for conveying such intimate reflections: a steady pop-country contralto with which she confides her deepest feelings with an unfailing honesty. You often feel as if she were sitting beside you in a bar, exchanging life stories into the wee small hours.

Devoid of self-pity and self-dramatization, her singing conveys the mixture of resilience, fatalism, appreciation and sorrow felt by a solitary 54-year-old woman who has abandoned her quest for romantic love but retains aching memories of unrecoverable passion. Melodically, the album's songs are the sparest she has written. Sprinkled among the newer material were past hits like "Stones in the Road," her scalding critique of her generation's embrace of materialism, and "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" (written with Don Schlitz), her contemptuous retort to a notoriously sexist '70s television commercial for Geritol.

Even when Ms. Carpenter is indignant, she remains emotionally grounded and stalwart in her quest to pin down the essence of the moment. Of how many other songwriters can it be said, this is a voice you can trust?

The White Light Festival continues through Nov. 18 at Lincoln Center; (212) 721-6500, whitelightfestival.org.


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MARLIS PETERSEN

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Weill Recital Hall

Two years after she stepped in to a new production of Ambroise Thomas's "Hamlet" at the Metropolitan Opera on just a few days' notice, the German soprano Marlis Petersen made a belated, beautiful New York recital debut on Friday evening.

Planned with careful balance and exquisite taste, with an excellent collaborator in the pianist Jendrik Springer, the program, "Goethe and the Eternal Feminine," included a range of settings of Goethe's poetry. Some of the songs are better known than others, but many are rarities here, and Ms. Petersen was a vivid advocate for selections by underappreciated composers like Hans Sommer and Nikolai Medtner.

Though Ms. Petersen is best known for high-flying operatic roles like Berg's Lulu and Zerbinetta in Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos," on Friday she was most glowing in lower, slower selections like Medtner's radiant version of the "Wanderer's Night Song II." She had earlier sung Sommer's calm yet ominous take on that great poem, and the only improvement to the program might have been more such opportunities to compare different composers' settings of the same text.

Her voice is lively, a bit flinty and thin as it rises but never unattractive and always expressive. A detail as tiny as her rich pronunciation of "Goldorangen" — "golden oranges" — in Alphons Diepenbrock's "Do You Know the Land" captured an entire world of lushness and longing. And in Tchaikovsky's "None but the Lonely Heart," through precise diction and subtle phrasing, she sang with intense emotion without ever distorting the musical line.

 


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Books of The Times: Neil Young’s Memoir, ‘Waging Heavy Peace’

Written By Unknown on Senin, 29 Oktober 2012 | 16.43

Not many authors explain their reasons for writing books as bluntly as Neil Young does in "Waging Heavy Peace." First of all there's the thing now known as the Keith Richards phenomenon: there turns out to be a large and lucrative market for memoirs from rock stars. In a two-page chapter called "Why This Book Exists" Mr. Young explains that his book will be a goose that lays a golden egg. He's writing it because it will earn him enough money to stay off the stage for a while, which he badly needs to do for mental and physical reasons. "It all started when I broke my toe at the pool," he explains.

There may be a large part of the reading populace that has no interest in Mr. Young's broken toe, collection of funky old cars, obsession with toy trains, plans for an earthshaking new type of sound technology, plaid shirts, favorite planks of wood or anything else. That's fine with him. "I read up on this sort of thing, and the worst thing you can have is a book that is too long," he says, not remotely troubled that "Waging Heavy Peace" rambles on for 497 pages. "So if you are having trouble reading this, give it to someone else," he suggests. "End of chapter."But this isn't a book to part with. It is as charismatically off the wall as Mr. Young's records, and the recent concert films so imaginatively directed by Jonathan Demme. And however privately calculating it may be, it seems completely free of guile.

Like Stephen King, whose writing is recalled by Mr. Young's frankness, small-town backbone and comfortable familiarity with ghosts, he enjoys plugging musical faves to accompany his written words. In "Under the Dome" Mr. King made James McMurtry's "Talkin' at the Texaco" a subliminal part of the experience. For "Waging Heavy Peace" there is, in addition to the whole honkin' Neil Young catalog, one of his recent favorites: "Hell on Heels" by the Pistol Annies, that slinky trio of country girls who love old cars almost as much as he does.

"I have been with some of you for a real long time, and others of you don't have the foggiest notion what I am or what I stand for," Mr. Young writes. "I am possibly joining those legions myself." The fear of oncoming dementia, prompted by his father's medical history and mysterious cloudy matter on his own brain M.R.I. exam, has forced Mr. Young, 66, into an altered state: sobriety. "I am feeling very fashionable, even trendy, for having stopped smoking and drinking," he writes. But the change in him is serious. It seems to have interfered with his ability to make music while heightening a desire to get his story told right.

Among other books about Mr. Young are "Neil and Me," written by his father, Scott Young, and Jimmy McDonough's authorized biography "Shakey," which receives a nasty potshot from its subject. In doling out advice to "any old rocker who is out of cash and doesn't know what to do next," he suggests either doing it yourself or hiring a collaborator. "Just don't hire some sweaty hack who asks you questions for years and twists them into his own version of what is right or wrong," he says. "Try to avoid doing that."

But "Waging Heavy Peace" — with a title that echoes "Waging Peace," a White House memoir by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, although Mr. Young seems neither to know or care about that — presents a much more playful, capricious portrait of the same tough, controlling person Mr. McDonough described. Mr. Young lives on his Broken Arrow ranch, a virtual fief full of friends and employees who help him with the pet projects that occupy much of his attention.

He loves to invent, build and tinker with things, to the point where "Waging Heavy Peace" is part infomercial: for the PureTone sound system, now called Pono, that he hopes can restore magic to recorded music, and for the Lincvolt, a hybrid with the body of a 1959 Continental that he hopes will someday be mass-manufactured and run on clean technology. Because Mr. Young is unstoppably protean (again, Mr. King comes to mind), he promises more books, documentary films and innovation in pursuit of these big-ticket dreams. As he is proud of having said about a bus he named Pocahontas, "Give a hippie too much money and anything can happen."

The personal stories about Mr. Young's children and their mothers, about friends and band mates lost to ill health and drugs, can be as eerie as any of Mr. King's daydreams. But "Waging Heavy Peace" has an affirmative spirit that is one of its most poignant qualities. The particular challenges that have faced Mr. Young and his wife, Pegi, in raising the son they call Ben Young, "our spastic, quadriplegic, nonverbal spiritual leader," are discussed openly but without pathos. For example, the fact that Ben can now take nutrition only through a feeding tube is mentioned as a reason he will have to cut back on paddleboarding.

Mr. Young has faced so many serious health crises of his own — polio, epilepsy, surgery for a brain aneurysm that prompted him to quickly record one of his most haunting albums, "Prairie Wind," knowing that it might be his last — that he has learned not to accentuate the negative. But as for mistakes he has made, he treats "Waging Heavy Peace" as a chance to acknowledge them. The book expresses great love for Zeke, the oldest of this three children, while acknowledging that Mr. Young fell in love with Zeke's mother, the actress Carrie Snodgress, when he saw her picture in a magazine. In hindsight he sees that romance — even though it had a lot to do with the beautiful "Harvest" — as a short-lived and sad chapter.

Susan Acevedo, the first of his two wives, sewed fashion-forward hippie patches onto the pair of his jeans seen on the back cover of "After the Gold Rush," using her hair as thread. One day he came home to find that Ms. Snodgress had taken the patchwork apart.

There are angry things that might be said about this episode. But Mr. Young keeps it Delphic, as he always has: "That was pretty numbing. I am not sure I am over that. Clothes make the man."


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Hans Werner Henze, Romantic Composer, Dies at 86

Erich Auerbach/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images

Hans Werner Henze.

Hans Werner Henze, a prolific German composer who came of age in the Nazi era and grew estranged from his country while gaining renown for richly imaginative operas and orchestral works, died on Saturday in Dresden, Germany, where he was due to attend the premiere that evening of a ballet set to one of his scores. He was 86.

His longtime publisher, Schott Music, announced his death in a statement. No cause was specified, and no further details were provided.

Born into a European generation that wanted to make a fresh start at the end of World War II, Mr. Henze (pronounced HEN-tzuh) did so without wholly negating the past. He wanted a new music that would carry with it the emotion, the opulence and the lyricism of the Romantic era, even if those elements now had to be fought for. Separating himself from the avant-garde, he devoted himself to genres many of his colleagues regarded as outmoded: opera, song, the symphony.

By the early 1960s Mr. Henze was an international figure with enthusiastic admirers in the United States. His Fifth Symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, which gave the work's premiere in 1963, with Leonard Bernstein conducting. More than 40 years later, the orchestra took part in commissioning one of Mr. Henze's last orchestral works, the tone poem "Sebastian Dreaming."

He maintained relationships with other American institutions as well, including the Boston Symphony, which commissioned his Eighth Symphony (1992-93), and the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he was composer-in-residence in 1988.

His music expressed passionate but mixed feelings about his German heritage. His Nazi-era childhood alone would have produced, at the least, ambivalence about that heritage, but his homosexuality only further estranged him, particularly from the bourgeois West German society of the immediate postwar years. And he found little sympathy at home for his embrace of the Romantic past.

He had to escape, and in 1953 he abruptly left for Italy. But he went on writing operas for theaters in Germany, where he was far more popular than any other composer of his time. That success brought him material comfort, and he came to give a fair physical impression of the kind of well-to-do burgher he might well have feared and despised in his youth: tight-suited, bald, energetic even when still. What failed to fit this image of stiff propriety was his unfailing charm, his sardonic sense of humor and his fondness for his many friends.

As he grew older, the matter of Germany became increasingly important to his music. Having written his Cuban-inflected Sixth Symphony (1969) — produced during a period when he spent a great deal of time in Cuba — he composed his Seventh (1983-84) for the Berlin Philharmonic, taking Beethoven as his model. Again with Beethoven in mind and again writing for the Berlin Philharmonic, he made his Ninth a choral symphony — and a drama — telling a story of desperation and hope set during the Nazi epoch.

Hans Werner Henze was born on July 1, 1926, in Gütersloh, Westphalia, in northwest Germany. After army service in 1944 and 1945 he studied with Wolfgang Fortner at the Heidelberg Institute for Church Music and with the French composer René Leibowitz. He soon became acquainted with the modern music that had been banned by the Nazis — notably Stravinsky and Berg, as well as jazz — and gained the means to create a sprightly style that carried him through an abundant youthful output. By the time he was 25 he had written three symphonies, several ballets and his first full-length opera, "Boulevard Solitude" (1951).

In his Second String Quartet (1952) he drew close to his more avant-garde contemporaries, but the moment quickly passed. The next year he left his post as music director of the Wiesbaden State Theater to settle on the Bay of Naples, and his music at once became luxurious and frankly emotional, as exemplified by his fairy-tale opera "King Stag," first performed in Berlin in 1956.

It was an exultant period, which also brought forth his Fourth Symphony (1955); the full-length ballet "Ondine" (1956-57), produced with choreography by Frederick Ashton at Covent Garden; "Nocturnes and Arias," for soprano and orchestra (1957); and "Chamber Music," for tenor, guitar and octet (1958).

In his next opera, "The Prince of Homburg," first produced in Hamburg in 1960, he caricatured German militarism within a style fashioned after the bel canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti. After this came "Elegy for Young Lovers," to a libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, about a poet's use of his family and acquaintances in his art. The story's alpine setting offered Mr. Henze the opportunity for glistening, radiant music, scored for a chamber orchestra. The work had its first performance in Schwetzingen, Germany, in 1961, and has been more widely seen than any of the composer's other operas. It was presented by City Opera in 1973 — though that production remains the only professional staging of an opera by Mr. Henze in New York.


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Hollywood Seeks to Slow Cultural Shift to TV

LOS ANGELES — On Feb. 24 Hollywood will turn out for the Oscars.

But it's starting to feel as if it might be "The Last Picture Show."

Next year's Academy Awards ceremony — the 85th since 1929 — will be landing in a pool of angst about movies and what appears to be their fraying connection to the pop culture.

After the shock of last year's decline in domestic movie ticket sales, to $1.28 billion, the lowest since 1995 (and attendance is only a little better this year) film business insiders have been quietly scrambling to fix what few will publicly acknowledge to be broken.

That is, Hollywood's grip on the popular imagination, particularly when it comes to the more sophisticated films around which the awards season turns.

Several industry groups, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, and the nonprofit American Film Institute, which supports cinema, are privately brainstorming about starting public campaigns to convince people that movies still matter.

That seemed self-evident only a few years ago. But the mood has turned wistful as people in the industry watch the momentum shift toward television. Even the movies' biggest night will feed that trend: the Academy has lined up Seth MacFarlane, a powerful television writer-producer, as the host of the Oscars.

"Shakespeare wrote his sonnets long after the sonnet form fell out of fashion," James Schamus, a screenwriter and producer who is also the chief executive of Focus Features, noted in an e-mail last week.

George Stevens Jr., the founder of the American Film Institute, said he would not descend "like Cassandra," with a lecture for members of the movie Academy, when he accepts his honorary Oscar at their Governors Awards banquet on Dec. 1.

"I think they will find their way, but it's a time of enormous change," Mr. Stevens said. He spoke by telephone last week of his concern that a steady push toward viewing on phones and tablets is shrinking the spirit of films. In the past, he said — citing "A Man for All Seasons," "8 ½," and "The Searchers" — there was a grandeur to films that delivered long-form storytelling on very large screens.

But the prospect that a film will embed itself into the cultural and historical consciousness of the American public in the way of "Gone With the Wind" or the "Godfather" series seems greatly diminished in an era when content is consumed in thinner slices, and the films that play broadly often lack depth.

As the awards season unfolds, the movies are still getting smaller. After six weeks in theaters "The Master," a 70-millimeter character study much praised by critics, has been seen by about 1.9 million viewers. That is significantly smaller than the audience for a single hit episode of a cable show like "Mad Men" or "The Walking Dead."

"Argo," another Oscar contender, had about 7.6 million viewers through the weekend. If interest holds up, it may eventually match the one-night audience for an episode of "Glee."

The weakness in movies has multiple roots.

Films, while in theaters, live behind a pay wall; television is free, once the monthly subscription is paid. And at least since "The Sopranos" sophisticated TV series have learned to hook viewers on long-term character development; movies do that mostly in fantasy franchises like the "Twilight" series.

And a collapse in home video revenue, caused partly by piracy, drove film salaries down. Television, meanwhile, raised its pay, and attracted movie stars like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Laura Linney, Claire Danes and Sigourney Weaver.

Ticket sales for genre films like "Taken 2" or Mr. MacFarlane's broad comedy, "Ted," remain strong. And a growing international audience, particularly in China, has brightened the outlook for action-hero blockbusters like Marvel's "Avengers" or "Dark Knight Rises."

But the number of films released by specialty divisions of the major studios, which have backed Oscar winners like "Slumdog Millionaire," from Fox Searchlight, fell to just 37 pictures last year, down 55 percent from 82 in 2002, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

The drop-off leaves many viewers feeling pained.

"They feel puzzled," said the critic David Denby. "They're a little baffled." He was referring to those who have applauded his argument — made both in a New Republic essay "Has Hollywood Murdered the Movies?" and in a new book, "Do the Movies Have a Future?" — that the enduring strength of film will depend on whether studios return to modestly budgeted but culturally powerful movies.

"If they don't build their own future, they're digging their own graves," Mr. Denby said.

Mr. MacFarlane; the Oscar producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron; and the president of the Academy, Hawk Koch, declined through an Academy spokeswoman to discuss the challenges of celebrating film.

Privately some Academy members have said they were jolted by the choice of Mr. MacFarlane as host, in what appears to be a bid for viewers who have flocked to his television hits, notably "The Family Guy."

But Henry Schafer, an executive vice-president at the Q Scores Company, which measures the statistical appeal of celebrities, said that "if the idea is to attract the younger audience, I think they got the right choice."

Still, Daniel Tosh, who hosts "Tosh. O," a hit Comedy Central series that highlights silly Web videos and skewers their participants, has given the doubters a voice. After playing a clip of two Russian men dropping a live grenade over the side of their boat and blowing it up, Mr. Tosh deadpanned: "It's still a better idea than having Seth MacFarlane host the Oscars."

The turn toward Mr. MacFarlane, who directed and voiced a foul-mouthed Teddy bear in "Ted," his main contribution to feature film, has left the Academy scratching for ways to get the public reinvested in the sort of pictures it typically honors. Its staff, for instance, has been looking at the possibility of getting filmmakers who have made Best Picture winners to join a promotional campaign in theaters. In Los Angeles the Academy is also building a movie museum, meant to showcase the medium.

Separately the National Association of Theater Owners recently asked public relations and advertising consultants to submit proposals for a similar push.

Board members of the Film Institute also have been looking ways to strike a new interest in feature film, said Bob Gazzale, its president. Mr. Gazzale said it was too early to discuss details, but another person briefed on the initiative said the group had considered things as far afield as reaching out to prominent politicians — say, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton — as supervisors of film awards programs. The goal would be to re-establish a connection with viewers who were turning elsewhere for cultural direction.

In a discussion at Colorado State University this month, Allison Sylte, a student journalist, suggested that the Academy helped break the connection between her generation and high-end movies in 2011 when it chose as Best Picture "The King's Speech," which looked backward, rather than "The Social Network," which pushed ahead.

"So, what does that mean for us as a culture?" Ms. Sylte asked of a vacuum that might occur if the better films went away.

The hole, Mr. Gazzale said, to whom the question was relayed, would be a large one.

"Movies remind us of our common heartbeat," he said.

Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.


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Robert Zemeckis Returns to Live Action Movies With ‘Flight’

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 28 Oktober 2012 | 16.43

Paramount Pictures

Denzel Washington as an airline pilot with a dark secret in Robert Zemeckis's new film, "Flight."

"EVERYONE keeps thinking I haven't made a movie in 12 years," the director Robert Zemeckis said, nursing a Coca-Cola in a remote corner of the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, a few hours before his new film, "Flight," received its world premiere as the closing-night feature at this year's New York Film Festival. "It's like I've gone off and done opera or something."

"Flight," which stars Denzel Washington as an airline pilot whose assured, unflappable demeanor masks a major substance abuse problem, is Mr. Zemeckis's first live-action film since "Cast Away" in 2000. But this filmmaker — who won an Oscar for "Forrest Gump" (1994) and is responsible for enduring favorites like "Back to the Future" (1985) and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988) — has not been off riding with the Valkyries.

Instead Mr. Zemeckis has spent the last decade conducting some very public experiments with new digital technologies. Over the course of three animated features — "The Polar Express" (2004), "Beowulf" (2007) and "A Christmas Carol" (2009) — he has set out to explore the new century's alliance of computing and filmmaking, and in the process has done a great deal to push that relationship along.

His reluctance to advertise himself as an auteur may account for the sense of surprise that has greeted his new film. Few members, if any, of the Internet's legions of Oscarologists had "Flight" on their radar for the coming award season, but the film's strong reception at its festival screening is most likely to force some recalibration.

At 61 Mr. Zemeckis is a soft-spoken, solidly built man whose hard consonants contain faint traces of his upbringing in a working-class neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. In conversation he often seems hesitant to discuss his work in terms of themes and structure, but he dives into the details of craft and technique with enthusiasm.

His determination to bring the softly naturalistic, fully dimensional look of Chris Van Allsburg's illustrations for the beloved children's book "The Polar Express" to the screen led him to investigate the emerging field of motion-capture technology. The process, known as mo-cap, uses scanners rather than cameras to track the movements of performers and convert them into three-dimensional models, bypassing traditional forms of animation. In effect the technology transforms a human actor into a data field that the filmmaker can manipulate to his heart's content. In the completed film Tom Hanks was able to portray six characters, from a train conductor to a rather sinister Santa Claus.

Mr. Zemeckis also discovered that the resulting digital imagery could be rendered as a 3-D film by converting the data into left-eye and right-eye perspectives, a process that made "The Polar Express" the first feature-length hit for Imax 3-D.

In its early days the mo-cap process wasn't perfect. Some reviewers complained about the "dead eyes" of the characters in "The Polar Express," or of a vague sense of coldness and creepiness. As Mr. Zemeckis acknowledges today he may have been pushing the envelope a little too hard. "The computers weren't fast enough," he said, during a public "Directors Dialogue" session at the New York Film Festival.

And while all three motion-capture films made money, the mere fact that they were animated meant, to many reviewers, that Mr. Zemeckis had abandoned his prestigious position in Hollywood to spend "12 years mucking about in the motion-capture playpen," as Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter recently wrote.

And yet Mr. Zemeckis changed the game. It is difficult to imagine the mo-cap-dominated 3-D blockbusters of the last several years — films like James Cameron's "Avatar" or Joss Whedon's "Avengers" — without the innovations that Mr. Zemeckis and his collaborators nursed along through those three movies.

With "Flight," Mr. McCarthy wrote, "Robert Zemeckis parachutes back to where he belongs, in big-time, big-star, live-action filmmaking."

Mr. Zemeckis, though, sees no break with his standard practice, which is to use state-of-the-art technology in the service of classic cinematic storytelling.

"It's the same," he said of "Flight," which opens nationally Friday. Short of 3-D, the movie makes use of the full spectrum of digital techniques that have emerged in the last decade, from three-dimensional, digital storyboarding in the preproduction phase to the touching up of details in postproduction. The computers are still there, though this time they are churning away in the service of naturalism rather than fantasy.

There's only one spectacular special-effects sequence — an early scene in which Mr. Washington's character, Whip Whitaker, manages to land a malfunctioning plane despite a raging storm and the three mini-bottles of vodka he's consumed to take the edge off his drug-induced hangover. And yet the film contains more than 300 shots in which the image has been digitally manipulated.


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Schoenberg’s Version of Mahler’s ‘Song of the Earth’

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The pianist Emanuel Ax will join in Matthias Pintscher's presentation of a version of "Das Lied von der Erde" begun by Schoenberg.

"NO critics allowed" read the sign Schoenberg put up on his front door when the Society for Private Musical Performances was in session. Inside applause was banned, as were any vocal expressions of dislike or approval. The society, which Schoenberg founded in 1918 and ran, with a group of students and friends, until money ran out in 1922, functioned more like a modern-day book club than a 19th-century salon. Performances were dedicated to the earnest, in-depth study of contemporary works by composers like Bartok, Debussy and Stravinsky. To promote understanding of the music, each work was performed twice in the same evening.

It was for one of these gatherings that Schoenberg began work, in 1920, on a chamber version of "Das Lied von der Erde" ("The Song of the Earth," 1908-9), Mahler's symphonic song cycle about the vanity of man's life on earth, based on a collection of Chinese poems. Infused with grief and anxiety in the wake of a daughter's death and the diagnosis of a life-threatening heart lesion for Mahler himself, the work became, in his words, "the most personal composition I have created thus far."

Schoenberg never finished the arrangement, but his detailed notes enabled the German composer Rainer Riehn to create a performing edition in 1983. Since then this pared-down version of "Das Lied" has taken on a life of its own, with a steadily growing number of performances attesting to its uncanny ability to make the work seem even more personal.

Next Sunday the composer and conductor Matthias Pintscher will present it in the Rose Theater, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, as part of the White Light Festival. The mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford and the tenor Russell Thomas will join the pianist Emanuel Ax and members of the New York Philharmonic. The Orchestra of St Luke's, meanwhile, just released a recording of a performance last year conducted by George Manahan, with the vocal soloists Jennifer Johnson Cano and Paul Grove, on its own label.

In "Das Lied" Mahler blends symphony and song cycle into a cohesive whole. The texts, which alternately celebrate the pleasures of earthly life and brood on their transience, are given to a solo tenor and mezzo-soprano (sometimes replaced by a baritone). The final movement is built around a long, dirgelike orchestral interlude.

The arrangement's success comes in great part from the inherent chamber feel of Mahler's score. Alongside his characteristic luscious textures and foaming climaxes there are passages in which Mahler shines the spotlight on a solo flute, oboe or horn. Dabs of exotic color are provided by an extensive percussion section as well as celesta, two harps and a mandolin.

Stripped of its plush carpet of strings, the work's underlying architecture is revealed, and melodic lines stand out more clearly. But emotions too are magnified, with desolate moments appearing more bleak and hopeful passages more poignant.

Riehn, in describing the arrangement, compared the effect to a painting rendered as a woodcut. The simile is doubly apt because that medium was so central to the German Expressionist movement with which Schoenberg associated himself.

That Schoenberg admired Mahler is well known, although scholars disagree on the reasons. But it is rare to see the affinity so clearly demonstrated as in the jagged opening movement of the chamber "Lied," with its lurid image of a monkey howling on top of a grave bathed in garish bright light.

Within the scaled-down ensemble the explosive power of Mahler's climaxes seems more dangerous; the dissonances are more rattling. To a listener familiar with Mahler's full score there is also an expressionist sense of alienation as the relationships among different instrumental sections are dislodged.

The difference is most starkly felt in the strings; a quartet of two violins, a viola and a cello stand in for the full sections. Sometimes they come up short. In the second movement, "Der Einsame im Herbst" ("Autumn Loneliness"), Mahler has the soprano invoke the "sun of love" over a glowing crescendo in the strings. In the chamber arrangement the temperature rises merely a tepid few degrees.

But elsewhere the violins become additional characters that people "Das Lied" with visions of earlier solo violin parts: the folklike voice in the Third Symphony, for instance, and Freund Hein, the fiddle-wielding skeleton in the Fourth.

For the singers the pared-down version of "Das Lied" must offer a reprieve of sorts: the tenor, in particular, no longer has to battle the assembled forces of a full symphony orchestra to make himself heard in the first movement's "Drinking Song." The soloists seem to sing alongside the instruments rather than above them.

In the brooding middle section of the final "Farewell" the full score weaves meandering lines into a gauzy texture. In the chamber version those lines remain separate, like strangers warily circling one another.

There is ultimately less earth in the chamber version of Mahler's "Song of the Earth," as organic textures are pried apart and examined under a microscope. Yet it serves the work well in its heightened mood and sharpened psychological acuity. And in doing so it also celebrates the expressive power of each instrument, a power that would not have been lost on Schoenberg as he sought new vehicles for conveying expression beyond conventional harmony. If the tremolo in the double basses of the original "Das Lied" evokes the trembling of the earth as it is about to renew itself, the same note, played on a solo bass, becomes the existential shiver of one man.


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Two Exhibitions Re-examine the 1913 Armory Show

Bettmann/Corbis

Recent scholarship has led to re-examination of the 1913 show of modern art that was held at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York. More Photos »

In 1913 — a few months short of a century ago — you are in New York City, not yet the world cultural capital. It's a seething, manic place, with a powerful but provincial population. Wall Street is challenging London's dominance of the international stock market, and finishing touches are being put on the highest high-rise on the planet, the Woolworth Building, in Lower Manhattan.

But beneath the cheers and the whir of machines, there is another sound: shouting, as 10,000 women demanding the vote march down Fifth Avenue, and a mass protest by striking mill workers fills Madison Square Garden to the explosion point.

At one time, a New Yorker rattled by noise and change could seek solace in art, in the visual smoothness and moral sureties of, say, Gilded Age painting, with its lush landscapes, classical tableaus and teatime interiors. Now, suddenly, that option was being all but closed.

On Feb. 17, 1913, an act of cultural sabotage called the International Exhibition of Modern Art, or the Armory Show, hit the 69th Regiment Armory on East 26th Street, lodging there for nearly a month. Installed in a sequence of temporary rooms, the show revealed horror after grating horror in the form of up-to-the-minute European paintings and sculptures by the likes of Constantin Brancusi, Marcel Duchamp and Henri Matisse.

New York had never seen anything like it. The American artists in the exhibition, all milquetoast traditionalists, were stunned into silence. No one even noticed they were there. The critics and the paying public, shocked and appalled, had eyes only for the European art and looked daggers at it.

That, at least, is the account of the Armory Show that has come down to us, repeated endlessly in the history books. But in the show's coming centennial year, at least two exhibitions will propose alternative readings that attempt to dispel, or at least modify, an accumulation of myths and misperceptions, and in the process suggest that shock can be just another form of entertainment.

"The Armory Show at 100," scheduled to open at the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library a year from now, in October 2013, is conceived as a kind of reconstitution in miniature of the event, using 90 works from the original exhibition, along with archival materials — period photographs, newspaper clips, restaurant menus, postcards, popular prints — to evoke a social and intellectual context. The show will offer nuance to the standard shock-and-awe Armory story.

The second exhibition, "The New Spirit: American Art in the Armory Show, 1913," which opens at the Montclair Art Museum on Feb. 17, a hundred years to the day from the original, will try to readjust another misperception: that the American art that made up fully two-thirds of the show was so conservative as to be beneath notice.

In reality, in the first decade of the 20th century many New York artists, eager to move beyond academic styles, closely followed modernist advances in Europe and adjusted their work accordingly. It was artists like these who selected the art for the Armory Show, including its most inflammatory European entries. They knew exactly what they were doing and expected the uproar that followed.

What they may not have foreseen was the scope of the task they had set for themselves. The Armory Show, as it turned out, was a kind of organizational miracle, a classic example of the American can-do ethic in action, and under serious handicaps: an impossible schedule, a background of professional rivalries and the practical difficulties of transportation and communication in a pre-air-travel, pre-Internet age.

At the same time, their project had New York precedents. Alfred Stieglitz had been creating exhibitions, albeit small ones, of American and European modernism since 1902. In 1910, the painter Robert Henri, who commanded a small army of student-acolytes, produced the salon-style "Exhibition of Independent Artists." With more than 100 participants, it was the largest survey of progressive new American art up to that time. That it proved to be a popular hit could be attributed to an aggressive advertising campaign but also to a genuine appetite for diverse and experimental art in the city.


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No More Kid Stuff for Taylor Swift

Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Christopher Polk/Getty Images, for Clear Channel

Taylor Swift in 2007, left, and last month, right.

AWE and amazement have been Taylor Swift's grammar for years now. Whether singing about love or heartbreak — there has been no third subject — Ms. Swift has excelled at capturing the fresh sting, as if arriving at a feeling for the first time.

Breaking news about the arts, coverage of live events, critical reviews, multimedia and more.

A sortable calendar of noteworthy cultural events in the New York region, selected by Times critics.

Brian Doben

Taylor Swift has always been a pop star in a country context more than a country star.

But Ms. Swift is 22 now, and certainly she has seen some things. For most of "Red," her fourth album, that's not necessarily clear. Her growth is largely musical, not experiential.

There is a moment, though, on "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" — the album's lead single and, as it happens, her first No. 1 pop hit — where the cracks begin to show. At the bridge the song gives way to a conversation between Ms. Swift and friends in which she's recalling how she shut down a persistent ex who wouldn't stop calling.

"This is exhausting," she tells him, emphasizing the middle syllable of the last word, like a car that's just run out of gas. There is something different in Ms. Swift's voice here: it's serious and deep, and also shrewd. She has been through this before. She sounds like an adult.

It's about time. Ms. Swift, now eight years removed from her debut single, has become one of the most important pop artists of the last decade. But her evolution has been purposefully slow, making sure not to leave behind any of the young women who hold her up as a paragon of beauty, talent and civility. That she did this as a country singer was both savvy — the genre demands morals in a way pop doesn't — and also, ultimately, limiting.

It was never a question of whether Ms. Swift would become a pure pop star; the only question was what sort. She's without precedent: not as a country star looking for something bigger, but as a pop singer trying hard to maintain an air of innocence. Any young woman who's tried to own similar space has done it by making choices — of subject matter, of outfits, of public melodrama — that Ms. Swift has gone out of her way to avoid. (You could make a case that Adele has skipped these steps too, but her music was never young and therefore never had to find a way to grow up.)

Instead, Ms. Swift has had to find other ways of growing up. "Red" (Big Machine) is by any measure a transitional album, showing Ms. Swift grasping for what her next stage is going to be, and trying to become a sort of pop superstar that currently doesn't exist. Released on Monday, "Red" is expected to sell over a million copies in its first week. Though often great, it is her least steady album, with some of her most sheer songwriting. She is showing maturity less as an adult — though there is some of that — than as a strategist.

The most blatant stroke of pop engineering here is Ms. Swift's work with the pop-production technicians Max Martin and Shellback, which would be the clear choice for any singer looking for a loud pop splash. But for Ms. Swift, who has generally kept her circle of collaborators tight and done just fine with that, it was almost as unlikely as her working with Vybz Kartel or Gucci Mane.

Each of the three songs written with Mr. Martin and Shellback feel like inside jokes about the squeaky-clean pop of eras past. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" has a Disney-esque literalness, and "22" feels like cheeky '80s pop. "I Knew You Were Trouble," one of the year's great pop songs, begins like a sock-hop anthem, with jaunty guitars. A dubstep wobble arrives about halfway through like a wrecking ball, changing the course not just of the song but also of Ms. Swift's career. (She also worked with the pop producer Jeff Bhasker on a pair of songs, "Holy Ground" and "The Lucky One," that don't take her out of her genre comfort zone but do amp up the intensity.)


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Theater Review: Jefferson Mays in ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,’ in Hartford

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 27 Oktober 2012 | 16.43

Joan Marcus

From left, Heather Ayers, Ken Barnett and Jefferson Mays in the premiere of the musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" at Hartford Stage.

HARTFORD — Jefferson Mays dies not once, not twice, not thrice, but a staggering eight times in the delectable musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder," having its premiere at the Hartford Stage here. And as each passing away passes by, this gifted actor discovers ingenious ways of making the final throes of his ill-starred characters inspire full-throttled laughter.

Whether he's plummeting into a frozen river while ice skating, being stung by a swarm of bees, swanning offstage as a Hedda Gabler who finds her prop gun carries real bullets, or merely succumbing to a spot of poison, Mr. Mays makes the most of the last moments of the phalanx of British aristocrats he so nimbly portrays. Death by foul play certainly becomes this marvelous actor, best known for his Tony-winning turn (also portraying multiple characters) in Doug Wright's solo play "I Am My Own Wife."

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder," with a book by Robert L. Freedman, music by Steven Lutvak and lyrics — ah, what lyrics! — by Mr. Freedman and Mr. Lutvak, ranks among the most inspired and entertaining new musical comedies I've seen in years. Set in Edwardian England, this effervescent show, dexterously directed by Darko Tresnjak, is pure catnip for Anglophiles. Devoted lovers of doorstop Victorian novels, obsessive watchers of BBC soaps about the trials of the gentry, fans of the peppery patter of Noël Coward: Here is a new musical to leave you feeling giddy and sated, as after a rich afternoon tea, with plenty of jam and clotted cream.

I confess to ardent affection for all of the above, and I was pretty much smiling from ear to ear throughout the musical, which is adapted from a 1907 novel by Roy Horniman. The same book inspired a classic Ealing Studios comedy, "Kind Heart and Coronets," which featured Alec Guinness memorably portraying a similar array of doomed British gentlefolk.

If you know the movie, you know the fundamentals of the savory, sanguinary plot. Here the sweetly lethal hero is Monty Navarro (Ken Barnett), the lone son of a recently deceased mother. Unbeknownst to him, she was a distant relative of a well-to-do British family who disowned her when she married his father, a Castilian. ("And worse ... a musician," as Monty ruefully admits.) Apprised by her old friend Miss Shingle (Rachel Izen) of his mother's cruel treatment at the hands of her family, Monty broods over his years of poverty and neglect.

But not for long. "Only eight other relations stand between you and the current head of the family," Miss Shingle casually lets drop. "I speak, of course, of Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith himself, the Eighth Earl of Highhurst."

Despite Monty's gentle demeanor, this nugget of news naturally inspires in him an irresistible hunger for vengeance. Since his beloved, Sibella Hallward (Lisa O'Hare), has made it clear that her hand will be won only by a man of means, Monty has an added incentive to brush up on methods of dispatching unwanted relations. Soon he has dashed off to begin offing the D'Ysquiths (pronounced DIE-skwith, aptly enough), and the musical is off and running, its gleefully murderous plot generously adorned by a stylish pastiche score inspired by Coward and Gilbert & Sullivan, with a little Chopin, a little Stephen Sondheim and a bit of the Lerner & Loewe of "My Fair Lady" thrown in for good measure.

Mr. Freedman's music, elegantly orchestrated for a pit band of six by the Sondheim specialist Jonathan Tunick, earns worthy comparison with his inspirations. The melodies are bright and jaunty, the tempos mostly brisk, save for the lilting, romantic ballads for Monty and Sibella that spread the sweet perfume of Victorian music-hall airs. But the lyrics, with their witty wordplay, are what truly enchant.

A particular delight is the comic number "I Don't Understand the Poor," performed with adorably pompous zest by Mr. Mays as the snooty Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith, aghast that his country house must be opened to the depredations of tourists. Supporting him is a chorus of ancestral portraits chiming in from within their dusty gold frames, in one of the many inspired touches of the set designer, Alexander Dodge. A sample:

I don't understand the poor.

And they're constantly turning out more.

Every festering slum

In Christendom

Is disgorging its young by the score.

Equally funny is the song performed by Lady Hyacinth D'Ysquith (Mr. Mays as well), a doughty, relentless do-gooder bent on finding a population sufficiently needy to astound her fellow philanthropists. Apprised by Monty, who has wormed his way into the bosom of the family, that the lepers in India are simply the latest in desperation, she breaks into a jolly dance of celebration:

When we arrive they'll hobble out to greet us!

Their toothless grins would melt a heart of stone!

And every dilettante

Will envy me and want

A colony of lepers of her own!


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Arturo Toscanini Possessions to Be Sold at Sotheby’s

Adrian Siegel via Sotheby's

A photograph of Arturo Toscanini taken by the Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Adrian Siegel sometime in the 1940s. More Photos »

Descendants of the conductor Arturo Toscanini are auctioning off a trove of his possessions, including the maestro's Steinway piano; letters from Verdi, Wagner, Strauss and other composers; rare sketches of Verdi's "Falstaff"; a handwritten score of a Mendelssohn overture; and a self-caricature by Enrico Caruso.

Much of the material has not come to light before, according to Sotheby's, the house that will hold the auction on Nov. 28 in London, and the auctioneers estimated the cache to be worth at least $1.6 million. Some items will be on display at Sotheby's in New York from Nov. 12 to 16.

The items were consigned by the family of the conductor's grandson, Walfredo Toscanini, an architect who died on Dec. 31, and had mostly been in his house in New Rochelle, N.Y. His father was Walter Toscanini, the conductor's son.

The matter consists of 88 lots and hundreds of items, but represents only a small portion of the material legacy of the conductor, who died in 1957 in New York at 89. The family donated the bulk of his personal archive to the music division of the New York Public Library in 1987.

"This is the last substantial property that's ever likely to come directly from Toscanini," said Stephen Roe, the head of books and manuscripts worldwide for the auction house, which will earn revenues from the sale. "I think of him less as a collector, and more as someone who accumulated these things as trophies to mark various events in his life."

Toscanini, he said, was a public person who was given a lot of gifts. "He treasured them," Mr. Roe said.

The official who oversees the New York Public Library's Toscanini archive said he was disappointed the items were going to auction.

"Most of this kind of stuff should always be given to a research library," said Robert Kosovsky, the curator of rare books and manuscripts for the music division, who acknowledged the family has a right to raise money. "It's a constant battle between monetary worth and scholarly worth."

The value to researchers, he said, was so far unknown: "You can't put an estimate, because no one's studied the stuff."

A list of the items coming up for auction shows something about Toscanini: his deep engagement with composers of his day, the affection — even veneration — other musicians felt toward him and the influence he held over the musical world for nearly seven decades.

One of the rarest items is the Mendelssohn autograph score, for the overture to "Die Schöne Melusine," Op. 32, which Sotheby's said had never been closely examined by scholars. It was a birthday present from the pianist Rudolf Serkin and his wife, Irene, late in Toscanini's life. The sale of the Verdi sketches is important because most of Verdi's working materials have stayed in the hands of his descendants in Italy or are in the archive of his publisher, Ricordi, in Milan, Mr. Roe said. The "Falstaff" autograph contains three sketches for the first 30 bars of the opera. It was given to Toscanini by a niece of Verdi.

Other Verdi material includes letters about "Stiffelio" and "Falstaff"; a letter excoriating a librettist, Francesco Maria Piave; an autograph manuscript of the "Ave Maria" chorus from his "Four Sacred Pieces," along with notes and performance diagrams for the work; four visiting cards inscribed to Toscanini; and a congratulatory telegram dated March 19, 1899, for a Scala performance by Toscanini of "Falstaff." "Grazie grazie grazie," it reads.

A letter from Richard Strauss evokes Toscanini's rejection of Fascism, including his refusal to conduct at Bayreuth or Salzburg when those cities came under Nazi control, and his opposition to Mussolini. Strauss, while awaiting de-Nazification after World War II, wrote to say he was touched by an upcoming performance of his "Death and Transfiguration" by Toscanini and the Orchestra of La Scala in Switzerland.

One lot contains 70 letters and visiting cards to Toscanini from leading musicians, including Barber, Puccini, Prokofiev, Kodaly and Klemperer. On the literary front, there are letters written by Giacomo Leopardi and six books by Gabriele d'Annunzio, which are signed by the author.

A lighthearted, self-deprecating letter from Beethoven to the writer Johann Baptist Rupprecht about setting one of his poems to music is also up for auction.

The Steinway, a Model D dating to 1910, was shipped from the factory in New York to Toscanini in Milan aboard the steamer Cincinnati Ohio the following year, according to Sotheby's. It is in good condition and still playable, the auction house said.

Some of the maestro's batons are also for sale, along with his desk set, leather music case and more than 30 autograph scores of his own compositions. "It's light music, on the whole," Mr. Roe said. Many of the pieces are unpublished.


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Critic’s Notebook: For Titus Andronicus, Self-Loathing Is ‘Local Business’

Julie Glassberg for The New York Times

Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus performing last year at the South Street Seaport.

Talk, talk, talk — all Patrick Stickles does is talk. On "Ecce Homo," the first song from the new album by his band Titus Andronicus, he's talking about himself, and it's not pretty.

"I've spread my vile seed from the Atlantic to the Pacific," he sings in the effective, whiny rasp that's become his trademark. "Now I'm begging you on my knees, please don't make me get down and sniff it."

"Ecce Homo" is one part of the bigger story on "Local Business" (XL), the third album from this Brooklyn via New Jersey band, which has quickly become one of the most exciting and brainiest young punk acts in the country. It's also a far more distilled album than its predecessor, "The Monitor," from 2010, which was a daring and complex concept album about war among other things, an impressive leap in scale and ambition for a band that had first made a mark with far terser songs.

But in many ways "Local Business" is an album about hating what you've become. On "Ecce Homo," Mr. Stickles — an ardent anti-consumerist, at least in verse — continues, "Yes, it's 'us against them' again, smashing the system into the dirt/ Now we gobble brown M&M's and put the whole thing onto a T-shirt."

"Local Business" boils down to erudite bar rock, though with Mr. Stickles behind the wheel — he is the band's constant while members come and go around him — genre is a distant second to words. On recordings, at least, it can seem as if every other part of this band is in service to Mr. Stickles. (That's less true during live shows, in which the band makes a broad, convincing racket.)

On "The Monitor," all of those parts were working in intricate tandem. A different version of growth for this band might have meant disappearing farther down that wormhole, but the often great "Local Business" is closer in spirit to this band's debut, "The Airing of Grievances," from 2008, and perhaps a reclamation of balance.

And just because the songs are more linear, that doesn't mean that at times they don't have to be gnawed at.

"My Eating Disorder" is a harrowing story of hiding behind addiction: "Now they pass me from hand to hand/Pharmacist to Marlboro Man/Back to pharmacist again, too late." And "Upon Viewing Oregon's Landscape With the Floor of Detritus" is about confronting death head on, and crumpling.

Seemingly no one loathes the scene he finds himself immersed in more than Mr. Stickles. On "In a Big City," he sneers:

"I grew up on one side of the river, I was a disturbed, dangerous drifter/Moved over to the other side of the river, now I'm a drop in a deluge of hipsters."

On "In a Small Body," he sounds like someone who wants only to escape, or to annul his fame: "What you know about being no sort of slave?/I know some kids who'd kill for this kind of cage."

The last indie rock singer to have created such a cult of personality based on his words was probably Conor Oberst, of Bright Eyes, whose confessional prose poems were one of the signature sounds of the 2000s. At times, Mr. Stickles sounds like Mr. Oberst when he was singing in his punkish side project Desaparecidos.

And when Mr. Stickles backs away from the narrative somewhat, there are moments in which Titus Andronicus sounds more in line with, say, the Gaslight Anthem, another New Jersey somewhat-punk band, though one with a more-focused sense of songcraft and storytelling, and one less apt to ramble than Titus Andronicus has been.

Occasionally, listening to Titus Andronicus can feel like a war between parsing Mr. Stickles and giving oneself over to the band, which is steady and decisive even when he isn't. But Mr. Stickles comes up for air on two shorter tracks here.

One, "Food Fight!" is a comedic 71- second interlude that feels like an overly self-aware puncture in this band's balloon of seriousness (or perhaps its craven attempt at selling a song to be used in a fast-food commercial).

The other, though, feels more meaningful. It's called "Titus Andronicus vs. the Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)," and it sits dead center on the album. For just over two minutes, Mr. Stickles works over the phrase "I'm going insane" a few dozen different ways.

The music is looser, somewhere between literalist Ramones punk and blowzy 1970s arena rock, as if the band, finally untethered from the stresses of narrative, is enjoying itself. And while Mr. Stickles may not be saying much from a word-count perspective, he's certainly still talking, and he certainly has a lot to say.


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Billboard’s Chart Changes Draw Fire

Lee Jae-Won/Reuters

Billboard's revisions made "Gangnam Style," by Psy, above, No. 1 on the new Rap Songs chart.

Three weeks ago, the editors at Billboard, who for decades have defined what makes an American hit, shook up the song charts for various genres.

The magazine started counting digital sales and online streams along with radio airplay in its tallies for most major formats. It also created two new charts using the same criteria, breaking out rap songs in one and R&B songs in a second.

The results have given stars with a pop-oriented sound and broad crossover appeal an advantage over other artists, upsetting and puzzling some music fans. Take Psy, the pudgy South Korean pop star with the infectious dance moves whose video "Gangnam Style" went viral on the Internet. Since the new rules took effect, "Gangnam Style" has been the No. 1 song on the new Rap Songs chart for the last three weeks, even though Psy does not rap on the track and most American hip-hop radio stations have yet to embrace him as a bona fide rapper.

On the Hot Country Songs chart, Taylor Swift's pop single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" has held the No. 1 position for three weeks, even as many country stations have rejected it, and Rihanna's pop hit "Diamonds" has remained atop the Hot R&B-Hip Hop Songs chart, causing dismay among R&B purists.

Bill Werde, Billboard's editorial director, said the shake-up was necessary to reflect changes in the way people consume music these days. There was a time when radio programmers — and the record labels who lobbied them — largely defined the charts, using surveys of their listeners and their gut instincts to select hits. Now the Internet gives fans a greater say, as people buy music from online stores, stream it through services like Spotify or listen to it on video sites like YouTube and Vevo.

"Three weeks ago, the main genre charts only reflected FM radio play," Mr. Werde said. "Every fan out there in the world knows and everyone in the music business knows that is not the business we are in anymore, that a stream on Rhapsody or Spotify, or a download at iTunes or Amazon — all these different things — are a meaningful part of the fan experience. And to have genre charts that don't reflect that? I can't believe anyone would be arguing for that."

Still, some people did. The changes caused a backlash on Twitter and other online forums from some purists among hip-hop, country and R&B fans. A headline on one commentator's blog was "Billboard Chart Changes — R.I.P. R&B Music." The Web site Saving Country Music lamented that "these new rules could cause the largest wholesale power shift to superstars that music has ever seen."

Psy's climb up the rap chart was also criticized. "Trust me when I tell you hip-hop does not consider Psy rap," said Ebro Darden, the program director at Hot 97 (WQHT, 97.1 FM) the leading hip-hop station in New York. "Billboard has pull, but they cannot make people who live hip-hop believe Psy is rap."

Most of the criticism, however, has come from fan groups with narrow interests. Carrie Underwood fans were furious that her song "Blown Away" was blocked from No. 1 by Ms. Swift's pop tune, even though Ms. Underwood's track is being played far more on country radio stations.

Some R&B and hip-hop fans were dismayed that Rihanna's song jumped abruptly to No. 1 from No. 66, and that it has remained at the top of the chart ever since. Fans of R&B singer Brandy were particularly incensed, because her song "Put It Down," featuring Chris Brown, which had been in the Top 10, dropped like a stone after the rule change, even though it remains a favorite on urban radio stations.

An online petition was started to persuade Billboard to undo the changes and has gathered 625 signatures, a small number for an Internet-based campaign.

Mr. Werde characterizes the detractors as a "vocal minority" and has stood firm in the face of the criticism, arguing in columns and online discussions that the definition of a hit has changed and Billboard must keep up with the times.

Similar changes were made a few months ago to the Hot 100 song chart, the main chart that measures popularity across genres, and they have been widely accepted by the industry. Some critics have said there is a subtle price to pay for the new rules. For starters, it becomes harder for artists of a traditional bent, or whose work lacks crossover appeal, to attain a No. 1 hit in their genre.

Billboard made one other change to its methodology that rewards crossover hits. Previously, the magazine only counted airplay on country stations for the country chart, and spins on R&B stations for the R&B chart, and so on. Now it is counting all the plays a song receives on 1,200 stations across genres.


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