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Elza van den Heever in ‘Maria Stuarda’ at the Met

Written By Unknown on Senin, 31 Desember 2012 | 16.43

The title character in "The Bald Soprano," the absurdist Ionesco play, never shows up, but watch for her at the Metropolitan Opera.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Elza van den Heever shaved her head for a role at the Met.

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Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Elza van den Heever as Queen Elizabeth I in the Met's production of "Maria Stuarda."

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Jimmy Cortés, a makeup artist, fitting a wig on Elza van den Heever.

Elza van den Heever, 33, a promising South African soprano, has had her head shaved for the role of Queen Elizabeth I, the wig-bearing monarch whose portraits often depicted her with an unusually high forehead, in the Met's new production of "Maria Stuarda" by Donizetti. It opens Monday, and also stars Joyce DiDonato as Mary Stuart and Matthew Polenzani as Leicester. David McVicar is the director; Maurizio Benini, the conductor.

It is not exactly as radical as Robert De Niro adding dozens of pounds of fat to play the boxer Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull." But it still is not an easy step for a diva to sheer off her locks.

"Usually hair is part of the look," she said, emphasizing that she does not particularly consider herself a diva. Instead, "as an actress, it was an opportunity to delve as deep as I could" into the role, Ms. van den Heever said, taking the view that the queen was bald, a subject of some debate. (Smallpox is often blamed.)

A regular at the Frankfurt Opera who has also sung in San Francisco, Chicago, Munich and Paris, Ms. van den Heever is making her Met debut. She said she was moved to shave her head as a way of contributing to the professionalism she saw around her at the Met, taking note of the highly detailed and rich costumes.

"I did my part," she said during an interview, while a makeup artist, Jimmy Cortés, worked on her face before a rehearsal last week. Ms. van den Heever met with a reporter despite expressing reservations about discussing her shaved head, fearful it would be perceived as a publicity stunt.

Practical reasons also came into play. The bald cap that would have been necessary took a long time to apply and caused glue to get stuck in her hair. And Ms. van den Heever will appear in the movie theater simulcast of the opera, when high-definition cameras pick up the tiniest of details — including the edges of a bald cap. "People will be looking for it," she said.

She said she decided spontaneously to expose her scalp about 10 days before opening night. She made pigtails, cut them off with a scissors and then had Mr. Cortés shave her head with an electric trimmer.

Was it tough to do? Not so much, she said, adding that she has held a secret desire to shave her head since seeing a bald Demi Moore in the movie "G.I. Jane" and was used to changing her hair length. Still, she shed a tear when the deed was done. "I look in the mirror and hardly recognize myself," she said.

One of triplets, Ms. van den Heever displayed her new look to her parents in Johannesburg during a Skype session. "My father fell out of his chair, laughing so hard," she said.

Ms. van den Heever said she planned to braid the shorn pigtails and give them as gifts. As she put it, "Here's a piece of me."


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Books of The Times: ‘A Man of Misconceptions’ by John Glassie

In 2002 the New York Institute for the Humanities organized a symposium under the title "Was Athanasius Kircher the Coolest Guy Ever, or What?" The highlights of this 17th-century German Jesuit polymath's sprawling résumé, summed up in John Glassie's brisk new biography, suggest the question wasn't completely absurd.

Kircher's dozens of books — totaling some seven million words in Latin — covered optics, magnetism, geology, volcanology, medicine, archaeology, acoustics, Sinology and much, much more. He invented machines for generating mathematical music, did research on a universal language and collaborated with Bernini on the spectacular Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome, where Kircher spent much of his adult life. He claimed to have deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics and was one of the first to use a microscope to study disease. Visitors flocked to his Museum Kircherianum to see mermaids' tails, talking statues and other wonders, not least the great genius himself.

True, few of Kircher's big ideas, elaborated in gargantuan books like "The Great Art of Knowing," hold up today, if they even held up then. Descartes, after flipping through Kircher's 1641 treatise on magnetism, pronounced him "more of a charlatan than a scholar." But then did Descartes ever build a vomiting machine or a clock powered by a sunflower seed, let alone design a "cat piano" played by pricking the tails of seven cats with differently pitched cries? Enough said.

In "A Man of Misconceptions," the first general-interest biography of Kircher, Mr. Glassie draws on three decades of renewed scholarly interest in his work to deliver a stirring if sometimes backhanded defense. So what if his works, "in number, bulk and uselessness are not surpassed in the whole field of learning," as one early-20th-century scholar put it? There's something to be said, Mr. Glassie writes, merely "for having been a source of so many ideas — right, wrong, half right, half-baked, ridiculous, beautiful and all-encompassing."

And Mr. Glassie says it, with impressive verve and un-Kircherian concision, though the sheer sprawl of the man's mostly untranslated output (which Mr. Glassie navigated with help from the principal of his Jesuit high school, among others) thwarts any hope of a clean narrative arc. The geography, at least, is relatively simple. Kircher was born around 1601 in the town of Fulda, a Catholic in a part of Germany dominated by Protestants. He entered Jesuit training in 1618 and shuttled among various posts until religious hostilities drove him to Rome, where he was eventually installed in 1638 as a professor of mathematics at the Jesuit Collegio Romano.

Mr. Glassie, a former contributing editor at The New York Times Magazine whose first book was a photo essay called "Bicycles Locked to Poles," tries hard to find some nonintellectual action in his story. There are jaunty accounts of the religious strife that drove Kircher out of Germany (Prince Christian of Brunswick, we're told, had "an early modern mullet"), as well as an energetic account of Kircher's accident-prone youth, when he seemed always to be getting stranded on ice floes or stuck in water wheels.

But once Kircher settles in Rome, Mr. Glassie devotes most of his energy to whacking through the thickets of his scholarly writings, situating them against the high intellectual politics of the day while pausing to admire their frequent outcroppings of self-delusion and utter bogosity. Where Kircher lacked hard facts, as with his highly fanciful "translations" of hieroglyphics, he simply made them up. Sometimes he invented whole sources: The mysterious manuscript of Barachias Nephi, a supposed ancient Babylonian rabbi Kircher drew on for his mammoth occult compendium, "Egyptian Oedipus," was full of statements that "support his own arguments so perfectly," Mr. Glassie writes, "that it's believed Kircher wrote many of them himself."

For Kircher, Mr. Glassie writes, "larger truths took precedence over smaller ones." And that philosophy made him one of the biggest intellectuals of his moment, read (if not always admired) by luminaries like Huygens, Locke, Spinoza, and Leibniz. But by the 1670s, Kircher's reputation was in decline. The "Latium," Kicher's lushly illustrated account of the archaeology and natural history of the region around Rome, was harshly denounced for its inaccuracies. He feuded with a British scientist over which one of them had invented the megaphone. After the Florentine physician Francesco Redi published repeated debunkings of his work, Kircher enlisted a younger Jesuit to compose an "Apologetic Forerunner to Kircherian Studies" defending him against "the pestiferous breath of poisoned invectives." It initially sold just two copies.

After 250 pages of determined intellectual rollick, Mr. Glassie turns serious in his conclusion, depicting Kircher as a noble seeker stranded on the wrong side of the scientific revolution. Isaac Newton may be hailed a founder of modern science, while Kircher is now "something of a joke." But the gravitational force Newton described in the "Principia Mathematica", Mr. Glassie notes rather wanly, was the kind of unseen, immaterial force "that Kircher would have said he'd already described, long before."

Kircher would no doubt be dissatisfied by the more modest scientific achievements contemporary scholars have granted him, like the assessment that his mammoth study "Underground World" (which, among other things, identified the location of Atlantis) showed that he "understood erosion" and the practical uses of sand, as one writer quoted by Mr. Glassie puts it. Kircher might be even more dismayed with his enshrinement at the tongue-in-cheek Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, where an exhibit on his life sits near displays devoted to dogs of the Soviet space program and relics from trailer parks.

As for his own museum, it was dispersed in the decades after his death in 1680, and its most fantastic holdings — like the hydraulic machine topped by "a figure vomiting up various liquids for guests to drink" (as one account put it) — disappeared forever.

And that cat piano? Mr. Glassie notes that, contrary to common belief (and Wikipedia), it was not among the many bizarre instruments described in the 1,200-page Kircher treatise "Universal Music-Making." Which in the light of this quirky biography, may make the piano the most Kircherian relic of them all.


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Music Review: Sandra Bernhard at Joe’s Pub

To describe Sandra Bernhard nowadays as a mellower version of the comic sniper she used to be is not to say that she has lost her edge. In her monologues on Friday evening at Joe's Pub, where she is performing a series of end-of-the-year shows, this comedian and singer, now 57 (but looking two decades younger), seemed on top of current trends in music and fashion as ever. And she flung out some choice but unprintable words for the year we are leaving behind.

Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

Sandra Bernhard with some choice, unprintable and sometimes kind words and music for 2012, at Joe's Pub.

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

But Ms. Bernhard's meanness has largely evaporated, and the tone of strident sarcasm that curdled compliments into insults has muted. With a longtime female "partner" (a word she detests because, she said, it sounds like a law firm) and a 14-year-old daughter, she appears grounded and maybe even happy. Her kind words for Michelle Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton were uninflected with irony. Her description of attending Jane Fonda's star-studded 75th birthday party passed without a single celebrity barb.

Just below the surface, however, you sensed the same roving critical eye that misses nothing and the same sensibility compelled to puncture fantasies: hers as much as ours. She has learned to hold back.

Ms. Bernhard's ear is as perfectly attuned as ever to music that you're embarrassed to admit you might like. And her renditions of the Cutting Crew hit, "(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight" and Haddaway's "What Is Love (Baby Don't Hurt Me)" rode the fine line between passionate sincerity and ridicule. Her scrappy backup trio included Mitch Kaplan on piano, Zac Taylor on guitar and Bruno Esrubilsky on drums.

In one of my favorite bits Ms. Bernhard imagined Twitter posts exchanged by Jane Eyre with Nicki Minaj, and Joan of Arc with Snooki. The satire spoke for itself and didn't need the kind of scornful editorial elaboration she might have added in earlier times.

Gone are the days when Ms. Bernhard, prowling the stage with a flashlight, had patrons ducking in their seats to avoid being objects of her withering scrutiny. Instead of fear she elicited waves of affectionate laughter.

It's hard to be a bratty teenager when you have one of your own.

Sandra Bernhard continues through Monday at Joe's Pub, at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, at Astor Place, East Village, (212) 967-7555; joespub.com.


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Theater Review: Mummenschanz, at the Skirball Center

While my inner grump tried to scoff at "Mummenschanz," my inner kid seldom stopped grinning. Sure, this Swiss mime troupe, which goes by the same name as its production, has been producing similar shows for 40 years. But its longevity is well earned, and in an age of ceaseless special effects, its low-tech feel is unexpectedly energizing.

In the 95-minute "Mummenschanz," playing at the Skirball Center, Slinky-like tubes, sluggish blobs and lots of other peculiar characters populate dozens of unconnected skits. Some scenes last barely a minute — plotless, whimsical sketches open to all sorts of interpretations. Others tell a pithy tale to set up a laugh or two. Quite a few more are melancholic or forlorn. And all are delivered without a word.

In the show's cleverest piece, two clay-faced beings mold their masks into countless kinds of animals, then take on the appropriate characteristics. It's an act the company first performed decades ago, and it's still crowd pleasing.

The same goes for a pair of creatures with rolls of toilet paper hanging from their heads, who strip off sections while enacting a droll story. Lighting and shadows are also used to fine effect on a mostly bare stage.

Some theatergoers may protest that "Mummenschanz" hasn't changed much over the years. There's truth in that criticism. A New York Times review of the ensemble's 1977 production, which went on to a three-year Broadway run, often reads as if it were written for the 2012 staging.

Yet if the troupe hasn't changed, the world has; now the show is particularly vital to young audiences who've been raised on beeping gadgets and headphones, and rarely experience the extraordinary power of silence.

One of those is my iPad-addicted 9-year-old daughter. She smiled, eyes wide, throughout "Mummenschanz." Her first words upon leaving the theater? "I have to text Mom to tell her about this!"


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ECM Album Covers by Manfred Eicher

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 30 Desember 2012 | 16.43

MOST of us think we know where fine art roosts: museums, galleries, studios, maybe the stray subway car. But one of the more unexpected places to find striking, thought-provoking art, year in and year out, is on the album covers of ECM Records.

The covers of the more than 40 albums ECM released just this year, for example, make for an absorbing gallery of art photography, graphic design and abstract painting. ECM radiates a unified field theory of what an album can still be. As music more and more becomes just another cultural entree on the e-hive's digital tasting menu, ECM, of Munich, is still fixed on making its albums a complete aesthetic experience.

On (those increasingly rare) store shelves they manifest intelligence, stillness — musical cheetahs stalking customers of jazz and classical discs. And in scrutinizing an ECM album it's clear that a singular curatorial mind is at work, one that understands that art and music, like the best poetry, are (ideally) lyrical re-enactments of our lives.

That sensibility belongs to Manfred Eicher, who founded ECM in 1969 and has run it since. Besides producing the music, Mr. Eicher is also ECM's de facto art director. As with the sound, his word is final when it comes to the visual. And when he talked covers in a telephone interview from Munich, the word "marketing" never fell from his lips.

"The cover is a metaphoric translation," said Mr. Eicher, who refuses to be a mule to the literal. "Whatever it might mean, it's a sign. It's an envelope, the envelope of the given." He added that he's after "silence, poses, thoughtfulness, contemplativeness" — apt descriptions of the covers, all from 2012, cited here.

The process couldn't be more human. Mr. Eicher marinates in the music, then (most often) shuttles between the album and his archive of images until he lights on the right one. It's intuitive and improvisational (like much of what he has recorded), he says of his search for images that have the intonation and playfulness of the music, that aren't obvious, but contrapuntal.

"It's a very personal decision," he said of settling on an album's visual score. "I'm going for aesthetic connotation. And it doesn't take more than a week. It's like a recording mix. I want to get it done."

The cover for "Year of the Snake" by the jazz trio Fly is a good example, as the artist Lourdes Delgado tells it, of Mr. Eicher as the alchemist who finds images that speak to the music — and vice versa. The four photographs that make up the cover come from her "Chants to Nature" series, and she admires how they were used.

"My photographs were made with one of the first photography techniques — the wet plate collodion — from the middle of the 19th century," Ms. Delgado wrote in an e-mail. "Since one has to use silver nitrate to prepare the emulsion, the images become very physical, almost tactile, a feature that I needed to be able to express the materiality of nature. I can see this physicality mirrored in the sound" of Fly.

Mr. Eicher, who started as a musician and who is also a filmmaker, is more than ECM's founder, producer and chief — he is its auteur. That realization is reinforced by a current exhibition, "ECM — A Cultural Archaeology," at the Haus der Kunst museum in Munich. The exhibition includes cover art, a concert series, film screenings and photographs of musicians. In the exhibition catalog the show's curator, Okwui Enwezor, wrote, "Eicher's work with ECM touches on the fundamental connection between artistic disciplines in music, film, theater, graphic design, photography and contemporary art."

It's not unusual for ECM to get art-world attention. There have been gallery shows of ECM covers in Western Europe, and there are two thick books devoted to the label's visual language, "Sleeves of Desire" and "Windfall Light," both edited by Lars Müller.

Though rarely, the musician is sometimes directly involved in the visual mix. On Keith Jarrett's "Sleeper," a live recording made in Tokyo in 1979 but released this year, the red title type pops creepily from a black background, suggesting a poster, perhaps, for some long-forgotten horror movie. "The first impulse came from Keith," Mr. Eicher said, referring to the red lettering, "and then we developed it."


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Jeffrey Potter, Biographer of Jackson Pollock, Dies at 94

Jeffrey Potter was an aspiring writer working as a building contractor in the Hamptons in 1949 when he developed a friendship with a gruff, taciturn neighbor who shared his passion for oversized machines like backhoes, bulldozers, dredgers and jacks big enough to lift a house from its foundations.

The neighbor was Jackson Pollock, the avatar of Abstract Expressionist painting who was sometimes described by art critics as a painter of the unconscious, or the subterranean. Pollock and his wife, the artist Lee Krasner, lived in the tiny Long Island village of Springs, near Mr. Potter's home in Amagansett, until Pollock died in a car crash in 1956.

Mr. Potter, who was 94 when he died of pneumonia on Dec. 15 in a Southampton hospital, told friends he had spent years trying to write a novel based on the life of his brilliant and mysteriously inconsolable friend, but never felt able to capture the multitudes Pollock contained.

So the book he published instead in 1985, "To a Violent Grave: An Oral Biography of Jackson Pollock," was a collection of many narratives about Pollock: selections from hundreds of taped interviews Mr. Potter conducted with family members, friends, former friends and fellow artists, all of them trying in some way to describe the charismatic formlessness that defined him.

Mr. Potter's was one of several biographies of Pollock published in the 1980s that served to revive interest in Pollock's work — and helped set off a scramble in Hollywood to make a movie about this colorful and sometimes violent master of modern art.

In the decades before his Pollock biography, Mr. Potter made a success of his construction business in a booming East End economy of summer-home building. He also published two children's books and two nonfiction works: "Disaster by Oil" (1973), about the environmental danger of oil spills, and "Men, Money and Magic" (1976), a biography of Dorothy Schiff, the society doyenne and longtime publisher of The New York Post.

But "To a Violent Grave," which was his last book, entangled him in an emotional and legal contest that lasted a decade.

Soon after its release, a production company representing Barbra Streisand and Robert De Niro bought the film rights. When the authors of another biography, "Jackson Pollock: An American Saga," which won a Pulitzer Prize, signed a competing deal in 1990 with another film company, Mr. Potter accused them of having plagiarized his work. The authors, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, sued Mr. Potter over the accusation.

The dispute dragged on for years. The movie that was finally released in 2000, "Pollock," starring and directed by Ed Harris, was made by the company aligned with the Naifeh-Smith book.

Even so, during filming of the movie, Mr. Potter met frequently with Mr. Harris to share his memories of Pollock as well as some of the notes he took for his novel, said Helen Harrison, director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in Springs, in the home the artists shared, where some scenes were shot. "Even though he lost in the contention, Jeffrey wanted to help with the film in any way he could," she said in an interview.

In interviews at the time of the movie's release, Mr. Harris said his enduring interest in portraying Pollock was first inspired by reading Mr. Potter's book.

Jeffrey Brackett Potter was born into an affluent and patrician New York family in Manhattan on April 12, 1918, to Mary Barton Atterbury and Joseph Wiltsie Fuller Potter. His father, a classmate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the Groton School, was a Wall Street stockbroker. Jeffrey broke with family traditions by dropping out of Groton and working as a newspaper reporter, factory machinist and seaman. Rejected by the Army during World War II because of poor eyesight, he served with the American Field Service, attached to the Royal Indian Army, as an ambulance driver and medic in the Burmese campaign against Japan.

In addition to his wife, Priscilla Bowden, his survivors include four children from two previous marriages, Job Potter, Manon Potter, Gayle Basso and Horatio Potter, and five grandchildren.

The Jackson Pollock whom Mr. Potter met in 1949 had already received rave notices in the art world and was beginning to draw attention from magazines like Time and Life. But he was short of money. One day, hearing that Mr. Potter planned to demolish an old barn, he offered himself for hire. "He said that heavy work was for him, that he knew his way around demolition," Mr. Potter wrote in his book. Mr. Potter said he planned to do the work himself.

The reply from Pollock, a former farm boy, offered a glimpse of the boyish machismo inside the tragic hero of Action Art, as Abstract Expressionism was sometimes called.

"O.K., O.K.," Pollock said, walking away, "but after you've hurt yourself — wrenched your back, stepped on a rusty nail — don't forget you know somebody who knows what he's doing and can take it."

Mr. Potter later lent Pollock a lawn mower that he used to earn money by cutting his neighbors' grass.


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The Year in Pop: Viral Stardom and Martial Dance Music

FOR pop 2012 was a year of rewired consensus. A year in which Taylor Swift finally accepted her pop-star birthright, waved casually at country and then bravely entered dubstep. A year in which the critic-consensus R&B star was Frank Ocean, who spent most of the year spilling out feelings and then averting his eyes. A year in which Carly Rae Jepsen suffocated the mainstream and then evaporated. A year in which Psy, a B-list Korean pop star, unleashed a video (and song) that became the first to surpass one billion views on YouTube, redefining virality in pop along the way.

The most reliable movement in pop this year was the basic mistrust of the old model. Radio has ceded much of its advantage to the Internet, and new stars like the rapper Kendrick Lamar established themselves by ignoring the usual playbook and let the old generation of tastemakers play catch up. In this conversation excerpted from the year-end edition of the Popcast of The New York Times, the critics Jon Pareles, Ben Ratliff and Jon Caramanica discuss the year's biggest pop trends and those that will be reshaping the genre for years to come.

BEN RATLIFF We were talking about Tumblrs last year — sort of little online boutiques that don't sell you things but shape your taste. Now this year something's been proven: Pop performers can become truly famous by building their careers themselves online, maybe more efficiently and faster than a major company can help them to do.

JON CARAMANICA Especially if a major company is secretly helping them to do it: 2012 was probably the year when you started to see people who were birthed of the Internet, in about as true a sense as you can, become equally successful in a hard-dollars sense as people who have been birthed from of a major label.

RATLIFF Give us an example.

CARAMANICA A couple of things jump out at me this year. One, you look at the first-week sales numbers of someone like Kendrick Lamar, who had an independent album that was digital only and is now on [the major-label] Interscope, but basically has no major radio hits, even if he is well-liked by mainstream hip-hop. He comes out and sells about 240,000 in his first week. A couple weeks later Rihanna comes out — not her first album and at the height of her pop fame — and sells a few thousand less than Kendrick did.

RATLIFF It's incredible.

CARAMANICA If I worked at Def Jam [Rihanna's label], and I'm looking at those numbers, and I had just flown a bunch of journalists around the world to make sure that my pop star had a tremendous amount of presence, and she can't even sell as many records as a guy who basically can't crack the Top 20 in the Billboard R&B/hip-hop song chart, I'm really stressed. I think another good example is Lana Del Rey. This starts in 2011 with Lana Del Rey as an Internet thing, and then there's an Internet backlash, and then there's an Internet backlash to the backlash. And yet when she comes out [with "Born to Die," her major-label debut], she not only does respectable numbers, she is someone whom people, for better or worse, took as seriously as any number of pop stars who were born inside the major-label system this year.

JON PARELES Well, what is the mechanism? I think what's going on is that audiences like to find music on their own. You're having so much stuff thrown at you, like you have Rihanna just blasted at you from all directions, and you think: "Wait a minute, I want something that's mine. I want something that I'm curious about, where my curiosity hasn't been smothered by the barrage of marketing."

RATLIFF That's the new authenticity. You found it by yourself or with a few of your friends online.

CARAMANICA Right, but when it turns out that a few of your friends are actually as many people as enjoy Rihanna, that says a lot of things about trends that maybe were there all along, but there wasn't a frictionless way to serve that kind of interest. And now with the speed with which Internet things are turning into real-life things, it's not going to make a lot of sense for a label to spend $1 million in development upfront on a pop star who may or may not succeed when you can find someone with a tremendous following online, put a little bit of cash in at that end, and then get the cream off the top.

RATLIFF How about the new ways that audiences are grown around so-called roots music? How is that different now?


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The Week Ahead: Dec. 30 — Jan. 5

BEFORE his death on Aug. 6 Marvin Hamlisch had been scheduled to conduct the New York Philharmonic in its annual New Year's Eve gala. Now the orchestra will toast this composer and conductor in "ONE SINGULAR SENSATION: CELEBRATING MARVIN HAMLISCH," on PBS stations on Monday at 8 p.m. (Ccheck local listings.)

Directed by Lonny Price and conducted by Paul Gemignani, the concert will feature music spanning Mr. Hamlisch's career — from his signature works "A Chorus Line" and "The Way We Were," as well as "The Sweet Smell of Success" and "The Sting." Audra McDonald, in her new role as the official host of "Live From Lincoln Center," which is presenting the concert, will perform with Joshua Bell, Raúl Esparza, Michael Feinstein, Maria Friedman, Josh Groban, Megan Hilty, Kelli O'Hara and Frederica von Stade.

Accepted into the Juilliard School as a prodigious 6-year-old, Hamlisch went on to win big: three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony, two Golden Globes and a Pulitzer Prize for work that spanned film, television, theater and recorded music. He had appeared four times with the New York Philharmonic, his hometown orchestra, conducting 40 of his own songs.

THE NEW JERSEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA has been playing well under the baton of Jacques Lacombe, who has programmed inventive concerts during his tenure with the ensemble. One highlight of his third season is the annual Winter Festival, which explores how natural elements have inspired composers. On Friday and next Saturday and Sunday he will conduct Holst's "Planets" with the American Boychoir instead of a women's choir, as the score indicates. The program also includes Michael Tippett's Symphony No. 4, which the composer called a "birth-to-death" piece and which features the sound of human breathing. 8 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. next Sunday, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Center Street, Newark; 8 p.m. next Saturday, State Theater, 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick; (973) 624-3713, njsymphony.org; $20 to $88.

On Thursday, Friday and next Saturday at the NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC, Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, conducts Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and the elegant French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Grieg's lyrical Piano Concerto. Balancing out these two often-performed pieces will be a lesser-known work: Walter Braunfels's Suite from "Fantastic Apparitions of a Theme" by Hector Berlioz. 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday and next Saturday, Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center; (212) 875-5656, nyphil.org; $41 to $123.

LOTS of silly stereotypes about dance somehow manage to persist. Here's one: The artists in this field are nonverbal creatures, best able to communicate through the body. One half of this is true. Dance can say an awful lot without words. But many performers and choreographers are also terrific wordsmiths, paying the same attention to texture, rhythm and pacing on the page as they do on the stage. Several books published this year prove just this, including "A Choreographic Mind: Autobiographical Writings," by SUSAN RETHORST (Contact Editions), and "Dancer Out of Sight," the collected writings of DOUGLAS DUNN (Ink Inc.).

 This month in his SoHo loft Mr. Dunn held a book party. The evening featured several excerpts from his urbane, finely wrought dances. It was so clear to see the connection between his movement language and the various essays, interviews, poems and other writings in "Dancer Out of Sight." "A Choreographic Mind" also richly illustrates these parallels, reminding that sentences live in time and space just as steps do. "It acts on you," Ms. Rethorst writes. "You act on it." She is talking about dance, but she is also offering music to a reader's ears.

STEVE McQUEEN is rare: a creator of films and videos for art-gallery presentation who has made the leap to directing prizewinning, critically admired feature-length movies for theatrical release. His first was "Hunger," his 2008 dramatization of events culminating in the hunger strike and death of the Irish Republican Army leader Bobby Sands. In "Shame" (2011) Mr. McQueen explored a very different condition: sex addiction.

Before those films, though, Mr. McQueen was well-known to contemporary art followers. Born in London in 1969, he won the Turner Prize in 1999 and represented Britain in the 2009 Venice Biennale. The 15 works in the retrospective — simply called STEVE McQUEEN — about to close at the Art Institute of Chicago include "Deadpan" (1997), which recreates a scary scene from a Buster Keaton movie; "Static" (2009), a seven-minute portrait of the Statue of Liberty shot from a helicopter; and "End Credits" (2012), which uses the convention of a movie's final credits to explore the life of the singer and social activist Paul Robeson. Through next Sunday, 111 South Michigan Avenue; (312) 443-3600, artic.edu.

IN 2012 major-label rock was still in free fall, and Fun. seemed like the only American band capable of halting that. It had the drums, the late-1970s-arena-rock references and some oddball quirk left over from its first album, from 2009. That album shared some screwball post-hippie-meets-theatrical-punk DNA with STEEL TRAIN, which was fronted by Jack Antonoff, who plays guitar in Fun. Mr. Antonoff is a far calmer and less grating singer than Fun.'s Nate Ruess. His ideas are smaller too, and faster, which made Steel Train different album to album. It was savviest on its most recent incarnation, its 2010 self-titled album. Steel Train has been fallow during Fun.'s rise, but it is returning for a pair of reunion shows. Mr. Antonoff is reportedly dating Lena Dunham, the boss of the HBO hit "Girls." Given that Steel Train once released an album of women covering its songs, maybe Ms. Dunham will take a turn onstage. And filming it. And using it on her show. 9 p.m. Friday, Maxwell's, 1039 Washington Street, Hoboken, N.J.; (201) 653-1703, maxwellsnj.com; $20. 9 p.m. next Saturday, Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, near the Bowery, Lower East Side; (800) 745-3000, boweryballroom.com; $20.

IN 1927 the silent-movie star Buster Keaton was in a tailspin: his marriage was failing, his independent studio was slipping away from under his feet, his previous two films had been box-office disappointments, and the advent of talkies loomed around the corner. But that wan-faced comedian, a master of pratfalls, was no stranger to recovering from stumbles. He rebounded artistically with "STEAMBOAT BILL, JR." (1928), the finale to his peak period, coming to the Film Center Theater Amphitheater as part of Lincoln Center's Family Films series.

Keaton plays the dandy son of a grizzled riverboat captain (Ernest Torrence), who has returned to his father only to find his dad's business threatened by J. J. King (Tom McGuire), a tycoon with a floating palace. Of course Keaton's character courts King's daughter (Marion Byron), but happiness must wait until he has survived raging river waters, a spectacular cyclone and a building facade toppling on him. In Keaton's physical grace we see glints of influences on Groucho Marx and "Sleeper"-era Woody Allen. In his dazzling acrobatics, however, we see Jackie Chan derring-do. Keaton was a comic genius, but also — in his way — an action hero. 2 p.m next Saturday and Sunday; (212) 875-5601, filmlinc.org.

JANUARY has unofficially become the big month for big-idea theater in New York. Under the Radar, the festival of experimental theater hosted by the Public Theater, begins performances on Jan. 9. But if your holiday revels have left you absolutely panting for some palate-invigorating, mind-challenging theater, the COIL FESTIVAL can give you a head start. Under the aegis of the East Village experimental-theater mainstay Performance Space 122, this assemblage of dance and theater works begins performances on Thursday.

The theater highlights include "Inflatable Frankenstein," a new production from the highly prized New York performance troupe Radiohole that employs sources ranging from the original Mary Shelley novel to the James Whale movie for a sort of madcap monster mash-up; "Seagull (thinking of you)," from Tina Satter and the Half Saddle company, another literary takeoff, in this case from the Chekhov play; "Ruff," a solo show in which Peggy Shaw, the venerated avant-garde performer who recently had a stroke, pays tribute to her many influences, guided by her longtime collaborator Lois Weaver; and "The Curators Piece (A trial against art)," by the team of Tea Tupajic and Petra Zanki. Starting Thursday at various spaces; (212) 352-3101, ps122.org/coil.


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The Oscars Issue: How Michael Haneke and David O. Russell Told Love Stories

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 29 Desember 2012 | 16.43

Sony Pictures Classics

Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour."

GOOD and great directing can appear self-evident. You know it when you see it even if it can be hard to explain what exactly you're seeing. As Andrew Sarris wrote in "The American Cinema," his magnificent, sublimely eccentric taxonomy of good, bad and fringe directors, "direction is a relatively mysterious, not to say mystical, concept of creation." He dedicated the next few hundred pages of his landmark book to help unravel that mystery.

I don't know how Sarris, who died in June, would have ranked Michael Haneke and David O. Russell. Mr. Haneke's "Amour" makes the strong case that he belongs among those Sarris called Pantheon Directors, enshrined with giants like Fritz Lang. Mr. Haneke's bludgeoning tendencies in other films, though, suggest he is better filed in Sarris's Strained Seriousness drawer alongside brilliant didacts like Stanley Kubrick. When Mr. Russell, in turn, makes a movie like "Silver Linings Playbook," he seems a model of Expressive Esoterica, those directors whose "deeper virtues," as Sarris wrote, "are often obscured by irritating idiosyncrasies on the surface." At other times Mr. Russell seems a better fit with the Lightly Likable: "talented but uneven directors with the saving grace of unpretentiousness."

Mr. Haneke's "Amour" and Mr. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" are as different from each other in mood, look, feeling, cinematic technique and visual style as is possible to find in theaters. "Amour" stars the octogenarian French legends Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as an elderly couple, former music teachers, who confront their mortality after she falls gravely ill. "Silver Linings Playbook" stars Bradley Cooper as a schoolteacher who, when the movie opens, is released from a mental institution into the care of his mother. He moves back home with his parents and soon starts dancing with and around a tough and tender and nearly as unstable widow played by Jennifer Lawrence.

Both movies are, in other words, love stories. One shows love and a shared life at their inception; the other shows life, and the love that it sustained, ending. In each, a home plays a critical role, as do the characters' movements in these personal spaces. Home is where the heart is — as well as heartbreak, other people, memories, mementos and symbolic talismans, like the landscape paintings in "Amour." How Mr. Haneke and Mr. Russell convey the central relationships in their movies opens a window onto how each director expresses meaning through the dialogue and the performances; through human gestures and camera moves; through what is inside the frame and how everything in it is arranged (carefully or with feigned informality); through editing and its rhythms; through music or its absence.

"Amour" and "Silver Linings Playbook" share something else: a critical scene in which each couple sit at a table during a meal and talk, and an ordinary scene becomes something else. The meal in "Silver Linings Playbook" takes place about 40 minutes in. By that time Pat (Mr. Cooper) has met the widow, Tiffany (Ms. Lawrence), and asked if she would like to go out. The scene opens as he walks to her house on Halloween night, the clapping of Dave Brubeck's 1961 tune "Unsquare Dance" flooding the movie. Pat stops, the camera circling him, and you see him as he watches Tiffany emerge from the dark, coming toward him. They walk and enter a diner to the crooning, sweet sounds of Les Paul and Mary Ford's "Moon of Manakoora."

The music fades as they sit across from each other in a windowside booth. (The rest of the songs in the scene are barely audible but serve as quiet commentary: "Monster Mash"; "Goodnight Moon"; and "Now I'm a Fool.") Pat orders Raisin Bran and Tiffany, after shooting him a look, asks for tea. Mr. Russell mainly uses close-ups during the scene, using classic over-the-shoulder shots to show one character's face as he or she talks to the other. The conversation turns to Pat's estranged wife, with whom he's obsessed. Tiffany talks about her recent sexual escapades, which result in him moving his face closer to hers.

The characters are sharing intimacies in a scene that, it becomes ever clearer, is one of mutual seduction. At one point during their back and forth the camera begins to move laterally from one to the other, so that they're no longer in the same shot but literally separated. Pat abruptly jumps up, breaking the intimacy further, but sits down again. He then insults Tiffany by suggesting that she's crazier than he is, and she responds by yelling, sweeping everything off the table and storming out, as people in the diner applaud as if at a performance.

The entire meal has, in its familiarity and volcanic emotionalism, mirrored the arc of their relationship. For Pat and Tiffany this is the beginning of being a couple.

Anne and Georges share two meals in "Amour," the first about eight minutes in. The scene begins with the sound of a bell that has actually started ringing in the previous scene and serves as an aural bridge. In the earlier one the couple are lying in their darkened bedroom, barely visible. "What's wrong?" he asks, having suddenly become aware that she is awake. "Nothing," she answers. The bell rings, and a breakfast scene begins.

We're now in the kitchen, and the bell is a cooking timer, its sound bringing to mind those theater chimes that warn that a performance is about to begin. Anne rises from the table with an egg cup — she's cooking for him, suggesting longtime nurturance — while Georges remains seated talking on a cellphone. The camera remains on her as she retrieves his egg and then sags back down into her chair.

She continues to sit, unmoving, as he talks and rises to get some salt, with the camera only moving enough to keep him in frame. It's only as he sits down that he notices that something is amiss. He looks at her, speaks her name, takes her shoulders — the image shifting from his face in close-up to hers — and then he frames her face with his hands. Her eyes stare ahead, seemingly unseeing. He rises unsteadily and wets a kitchen towel, leaving the water running as he dabs her face and neck. As the water keeps running, he hurries to their bedroom, his stiff movements accompanied by the creaking of the wooden floor, and begins to dress.

Suddenly the water stops. He returns to the kitchen to find her seated. He wants to call for a doctor, but she resists. She remembers nothing. And then she pours her tea and misses her cup. For Georges and Anne this is the beginning of their end.


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The Oscars Issue: ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ Shares Something With ‘Lincoln’

Jess Pinkham/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

MY two favorite American movies of 2012 were "Lincoln" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a big shiny Hollywood apple and a sweet little Sundance orange, with, at least at first glance, nothing much in common. If you were so inclined, you could plot these two films at opposite ends of the spectrum that currently defines American cinema, where the very big movies cluster at one end, the very small at another, with less and less in the middle.

"Lincoln," released by Disney's Touchstone Pictures, is a long, lavish, talky historical pageant, featuring some of the finest and best-known actors in movies, written by an eminent playwright (Tony Kushner) and directed by a man (Steven Spielberg) whose name is virtually synonymous with large-scale, blockbuster entertainment. "Beasts of the Southern Wild," from Fox Searchlight, is a seat-of-the-pants production, shot in 16 millimeter with nonprofessional actors, using more voice-over than dialogue, written and directed by young people whose names (Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin) are not, at the moment, synonymous with anything beyond their own pluck and aspiration.

And yet if you were looking for an adjective to describe "Beasts" — a word that might convey its sense of spectacle, its blend of strategic naïveté and sly sophistication, its embrace of outsize emotions and grand, almost cosmic themes — you could do worse than "Spielbergian." The movie, while hardly a blockbuster, has certainly found appreciation beyond the art houses. Oprah Winfrey embraced it on the recommendation of President Obama (who has also recently gone on record as a "Lincoln" fan), and it seems to strike a chord of populist sentiment usually missing from the earnest-indie repertory.

One of the most striking aspects of "Beasts," given its pedigree, is the way it blends realism and fantasy, allegory and observation. "Once there was a Hushpuppy," the narrator (herself the Hushpuppy in question, played by the remarkable Quvenzhané Wallis) informs us, and this 6-year-old girl, living in tough circumstances in a stretch of Louisiana bayou called the Bathtub, very much resembles the heroine of a fairy tale. Her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), is a dying king in difficult times, bequeathing his realm — mainly squalid trailers and old oil drums, but also an ethos, a tribe and a way of life — to his resourceful and rebellious daughter. And if the girl is vulnerable, she is also powerful, her temperament a tough alloy of innocence, stubbornness and guile.

She is, in other words, a lot like Elliott in "E.T.," Jim Graham in "Empire of the Sun," David in "A.I." and the archetypal Peter Pan evoked not only in "Hook" but also in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Catch Me if You Can" and (why not?) "Tintin." The heroic child (always a boy, unlike Hushpuppy) is a staple of Mr. Spielberg's universe, and so is the kind of elemental battle that Hushpuppy must fight. This struggle is in part a girl's attempt to grapple with loss and danger using the tools she finds in her emotional and cognitive arsenal: courage, empathy and imagination. Hushpuppy is searching for her mother, and also trying to save a world threatened by natural disaster, mythic beasts and well-meaning but soulless government authority.

The magic of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is that it does not worry too much about distinguishing among the elements of this quest, or inviting the viewer to sort them into different levels of meaning. It may be possible to surmise, in retrospect, that the aurochs (as the mythic beasts here are called) are symbolic, that Hushpuppy's bittersweet meeting with her mother is a dream (or a case of mistaken identity) and that the actual world this child inhabits is more full of weeping than she can understand.

But in the movie's own terms, all of it — the monsters, the storm, the maternal embrace and the possibility of triumph in the face of adversity — is equally real. As real as E.T. or Captain Hook or the spaceship that arrives, against all odds, at the end of "Close Encounters."

The means by which Mr. Zeitlin conjures this reality are comparatively modest. The auroch budget in "Beasts" would probably not buy a talon on a "Jurassic Park" dinosaur's foot. But special effects for their own sake have always been less important to Mr. Spielberg than the camera's capacity to create and communicate states of feeling, in particular the feeling of wonder.

His signature visual technique — the subject of a brilliant video essay by Kevin B. Lee — is what the film writer Matt Patches has called "the Spielberg face." Mr. Lee describes it this way: "Eyes open, staring in wordless wonder in a moment where time stands still. But above all, a childlike surrender in the act of watching, both" the character's face "and ours."

At several crucial moments in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Hushpuppy has the Spielberg face. In pointing this out I don't mean to suggest that Mr. Zeitlin is simply imitating a senior director, nor that his film is in any simple way derivative of Mr. Spielberg's work. Like most other artists, filmmakers are reluctant to identify influences, which in any case are not always conscious. And it is important to note that the absorption of influence, far from diminishing originality, is the true condition of originality.

Mr. Zeitlin is not necessarily a follower of Mr. Spielberg's. But I would suggest that they are both part of a tradition in American cinema — a line that stretches back through John Ford to D. W. Griffith — devoted to plotting the intersection of intimate stories and mythical narratives, and to discovering moments when the ordinary crosses paths with the sublime.

Movies that attempt this kind of democratic enchantment have broad appeal, but they are not universally popular. "Spielbergian" isn't always understood as a compliment; Mr. Spielberg is often accused (not always unjustly) of grandiosity, sentimentality and the wanton manipulation of his audience's feelings. And among some critics "Beast of the Southern Wild" has been greeted with similar skepticism, faulted for its sincerity and called out for its supposed political lapses.

It is worth noting that "Lincoln" (superficially among the least Spielbergian of his movies) has provoked similar criticisms. Both films have been accused of painting some of the calamities of American life, past and present — poverty, slavery, racism, environmental disaster — in unduly optimistic colors.

It is true that each one looks at stark social divisions and deep-rooted misery and dares to imagine the possibility of happy endings that real-life circumstances may not warrant. It is also true that "Lincoln" and "Beasts" are radically, fundamentally and in complementary ways, about freedom. They are also examples of what, for an American filmmaker, freedom looks like.


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Art in Review: Al Loving : ‘Torn Canvas’

Written By Unknown on Jumat, 28 Desember 2012 | 16.43

Estate of Al Loving/Gary Snyder Gallery, New York

An untitled work from "Torn Canvas," an Al Loving showcase at the Gary Snyder Gallery.

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

529 West 20th Street,

Chelsea

Through Saturday

In the early 1970s the African-American artist Al Loving (1935-2005) dismayed some of his admirers (and his dealer) when he abandoned his crisp geometric style of painting in an attempt, as he later told an interviewer, to find out "whether there is black art and what it looks like." He turned to more relaxed, loquacious works made from torn strips of canvas stained with paint, pieced together using a sewing machine and hung on the wall like raggedy, rich-hued banners. Five examples, dating from 1973 to 1975, form the heart of this beautiful show.  

Incorporating diagonal or crisscrossing or even curlicue pieces of canvas, these efforts may well demonstrate what one kind of black art could look like. They suggest free-form quilts at which African-American women often excelled, handmade raiment of the type a village leader in Africa might wear on ceremonial occasions, and tents or shelters made in resource-conscious cultures in which (unlike our own) nothing goes to waste. These radiant pictorial objects speak several languages, conversing with all kinds of textile arts and crafts, for example. And in some ways they go deeper into orthodox abstraction than Loving's hard-edge works did, both partaking of it and satirizing it.

They borrow from Color Field painting and join the debate about shaped canvases with works that are built from the inside out. They parry with Frank Stella's "Polish Village" reliefs, and find common cause in the unstretched canvases of Alan Shields, Sam Gilliam and Joe Overstreet. Their effulgent surfaces evoke different times, places and art forms, expressing a multivalent consciousness that could be called postmodern.


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Art in Review: Chris McCaw: ‘Marking Time’

Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

A 24-hour exposure in Alaska during the midnight sun is part of the Chris McCaw show "Marking Time" at Yossi Milo Gallery.

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

245 10th Avenue,

near 24th Street,

Chelsea

Through Jan. 19

In Chris McCaw's haunting yet matter-of-fact photographs the moving sun has burned crispy-edged lines across the skies of spectral land- and seascapes. To make them Mr. McCaw constructs his own large-format cameras and uses military surveillance lenses. Instead of conventional film he uses sheets of photo paper ordinarily used for printing positive images from negatives. In exposures of 15 minutes to 24 hours the lens concentrates the heat of the sun into a small, inflammatory dot. As the sun travels across the sky, the hot spot moves across the photo paper burning brown lines and cutting through the surface like a welder's torch slicing through steel. The prints have an antique look as if they were experiments by an early inventor of photography.

Mr. McCaw has pursued his enterprise with persuasive dedication, traveling to remote locations like the Arctic, the Galápagos and the Mojave Desert to document eclipses, equinoxes and other solar phenomena. For one of the most impressive works, presented as a framed, 13-sheet polyptych, he conducted a 24-hour exposure in northern Alaska during the time of the midnight sun. Across the pages, which Mr. McCaw put into the camera sequentially every hour and a half, the sun's journey from near the horizon to its noon peak and back down again registers as a long, undulant curve. It inscribes in the viewer's mind an arc from the mundane fact of burnt paper to imagined reaches of the earth and the cosmos.


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Weekend Miser: In Weekend Miser, Lefferts Historic House; Phish After-Party

The excitement of the youngest members of the Miser's household, in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, is a joy to behold. What's not quite so wonderful, once the gifts have been unwrapped and assimilated, the food consumed and the tree disposed of, is the task of keeping those little minds and bodies occupied until school starts up again.

The first and most obvious priority is to get out of the house. For anyone within striking distance, or willing to make the commute, Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park in Brooklyn is a great reminder of what counted as amusements before the advent of DVDs, video games and social media.

For the 21st consecutive year, Lefferts House is hosting an exhibition of quilts. "Cool Quilts" is the title of this year's show, which is on view Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Works on display blend classic themes and techniques with a decidedly Brooklyn spin as they address and comment on the concept of "cool."

Also on offer, from 1 to 3 p.m. on both days, is a needlecraft clinic. Pay close enough attention and, who knows, maybe your own future creations will someday make the quilt show.

Holiday hours at Lefferts House are somewhat irregular, so be sure to call ahead or check the Web site to confirm your plans.

(Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., Flatbush Avenue at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Empire Boulevard; 718-789-2822, prospectpark.org/lefferts. Suggested admission of $3 for adults; free for children 16 and under.)

SOMETHING DELICIOUS FOR PHISH FANS

The Miser was always too much the punk to take any interest in the nerdy if virtuosic jam-band Phish. As its coming sold-out, four-night "New Year's Run" at Madison Square Garden attests, however, the band is wholly unthreatened by that indifference.

The Miser does apparently share with Phish fans a taste for adventurous and eclectic traditional music, judging from the lineup at a concert after-party at Le Poisson Rouge on Saturday night. The Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista headlines with his ensemble Beat the Donkey, which will be augmented by the Moroccan musician Hassan Hakmoun and members of the Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio's solo ensemble (presumably without their leader). Sharing the bill are the bands Edom and A Love Electric.

Admission is $20, which feels a little steep, but Mr. Baptista and Mr. Hakmoun often command higher prices when playing alone, so the chance to catch them together should be well worth it.

(At 11 p.m., 158 Bleecker Street, near Thompson Street, Greenwich Village; (212) 505-3474, lprnyc.com.)


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Urban Athlete: Stiletto Workout, Invented by Nicole Damaris

"YOU'RE going to a stiletto class?" my husband balked. "That sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen."

I had to agree. With so many experts, from chiropractors to podiatrists, saying that high heels are bad for the body, why was I giving an exercise class any credence when its prop of choice was the spikiest shoe of all?

Nicole Damaris, a stiletto aficionado behind the idea, comes from the school of realism. "Women are going to wear high heels, regardless of the warnings," she said. "So if they're going to do it, they need to have a really good understanding of how to stand, walk and balance in their shoes."

This is what the Stiletto Workout, the flagship class of Ms. Damaris's female-empowerment fitness company, NDG Fit, seeks to impart to its teetering, tottering participants.

I was game to try it, but first I had to buy some stilettos, for, er, the first time in my life. Truth be told, I didn't really know what constituted a stiletto. Weren't they those spindly things worn by fancy women who disappear rapidly into taxis?

"You need a three-inch heel, at least, no wedges, no chunky heels, and no stripper shoes," Ms. Damaris instructed by phone.

"What's a strip ——"

"A platform heel," she said. "You will need your toes as close to the floor as possible to help with balance."

Appropriately shod, I took my first and only Stiletto Workout class with the instructor Zerrin Bagir at Simple Studios, a rehearsal space in Chelsea. Ms. Bagir, 27, said she liked "working out in a sexy way."

Easy for her to say. In her hot pants and four-inchers, she looked like a Rihanna backup dancer as she led us through a regimen of kicks, leg lifts, squats and all manner of pliés and demi-pliés while lifting weights (all performed in heels). There was sweat. There was wall holding. There was fear of foot sprain.

But so far, Ms. Bagir said, no one has been hurt.

"This is why I'm constantly reminding students to engage their core and stay tight," she said.

To address possible injuries, Ms. Damaris has students sign waivers. But she also assured me that as long as participants were focused on engaging their cores, they should be fine. As someone who survived the 45-minute class, I can attest that I spent most of it with my gut sucked in, my buttocks clenched and my torso lifted — a combination that reminded me of ballet class from around 1985.

"Stiletto reminds me a lot of ballet," said A. E. Bedrock, a 26-year-old project manager who also took ballet growing up and "goes out every weekend in heels." She appreciates the class — with its focus on lower-body strengthening — because it reassures her that she won't sprain an ankle.

That was the goal of Ms. Damaris, who thought of the concept several years ago as she sat in a Starbucks in Harlem, watching women endanger themselves while navigating the city in stilettos. "From the tallest, skinniest girls to the curvy slow ones, young and old, these women were just all over the place," she said. "I thought, 'Why can't they do this?' "

Point taken. The next time I wear high heels, the core will be engaged and the torso lifted. This class is for women who want to feel more at home in their highest of heels — those preparing to be married, perhaps, or to meet Kelly Ripa on live television ... or to go on a series of fancy dates.

As for me, the stilettos are most likely to become a piece of conceptual art atop my closet, right beside the 1989 toe shoes, which seems about right.

The Stiletto Workout takes place at various studios and times around New York City; ndgfit.com.


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Albert Wolsky’s Return to Broadway

Written By Unknown on Kamis, 27 Desember 2012 | 16.43

Emily Berl for The New York Times

RETURN TO ROOTS Albert Wolsky known as the dean of Hollywood costume designers, at his Hollywood home.

ON a rare morning when rain threatens in Los Angeles, the mist swirls down into the canyon where Albert Wolsky, the veteran costume designer, opens his door for a visitor. Just a few days after his 82nd birthday, he is back at home after finishing up his work on the revival of "The Heiress," currently playing on Broadway.

With 76 films and two Oscars — "All That Jazz" (1980) and "Bugsy" (1992) — to his credit, Mr. Wolsky says he was "thrilled, absolutely thrilled" to make one of his occasional forays back to the theater (the last being "The Country Girl" revival four years ago). "I needed something for my soul at this point," he said. "And to do a period piece and a play that I loved. Great cast. What else can one ask for?"

It was a flashback of sorts to the early 1960s, when the Paris-born Mr. Wolsky, then 30, realized that his émigré family's travel business was not for him. So he took a job with one of Broadway's most storied shows.

"I knew nothing," he said. "I had decided to become a designer, and the next thing I knew I was picking up pins at the shop for 'Camelot.' "

That show provided a quick education. The Hollywood legend Adrian had designed the show but died during preproduction in 1959. His widow, Janet Gaynor, owned the sketches and insisted that a good friend of hers, the artist Tony Duquette, take over. The director Alan Jay Lerner and the producers felt that Mr. Duquette needed a theatrically experienced assistant, and hired the costumer Stanley Simmons, who eventually became Mr. Wolsky's mentor. "I had thought of going to school, but I never got to school," Mr. Wolsky said. "I just kept working."

And work Mr. Wolsky did, first assisting on "The Odd Couple" and "Fiddler on the Roof," then getting his own shows. Eventually, Hollywood came calling. "Movies became like a fluke, and then it became the main career," he said.

That "fluke" turned into a legendary run with the directors Bob Fosse ("Lenny" and "Star 80," in addition to "All That Jazz"), Paul Mazursky ("An Unmarried Woman" and 10 more), Woody Allen ("Manhattan") and Herbert Ross ("The Turning Point").

"The Turning Point" was the only time that Mr. Wolsky was able to work with his companion of 39 years, the actor James Mitchell. They had moved to Hollywood in 1976 after Mr. Mitchell, who had also been a dancing mainstay for Agnes De Mille, had his Broadway career end when "Mack and Mabel" tanked. After a thudding two-year dry spell, there was a call to audition for the soap opera "All My Children" and his subsequent 32-year run as the bad guy and fan favorite Palmer Cortlandt. With Mr. Mitchell living at their place in New York for the filming, the couple spent long stretches apart, which Mr. Wolsky said actually strengthened their relationship.

"Of course, we talked three times a day," he said of Mitchell, who died in 2010 at age 89. "Even if I was here and he was there, he was there. You're not alone when you're with somebody, even if you're not together."

But in a town where age typically derails the career of many an actor and writer, Mr. Wolsky continued to rack up the credits (and another five Oscar nominations), from "Sophie's Choice," "Toys" and "Revolutionary Road" to, somewhat surprisingly, the gritty war movie "Jarhead." As he explained: "I'm always fascinated by something I haven't done before. And 'Jarhead' had things I could learn."

Largely, his body of work has been set in everyday times — his last film job, for instance, was designing costumes for the pilot of "The Newsroom" on HBO. All the more reason he relished "The Heiress" and its rich period dress.

"Telling a story with modern clothes today is — ugh! — so difficult, because today there's no limits," he said. "You can wear anything." When he visited the CNN newsroom with the series star Emily Mortimer for research, he said, he walked in and thought, "These people could be doing anything."

But in "The Heiress," character clearly comes through in the alchemy of Mr. Wolsky's sleight of hand and the actor's impulse, most notably in Jessica Chastain's first entrance in the startling cherry-red gown called for in the text. Typically, the tendency is "to goop it up" he said, because "it's the hardest costume in the play, it sets up her character."

In fitting the initial muslin version of the costume, the neckline was not yet stitched down, and Ms. Chastain and Mr. Wolsky saw that leaving it loose and unsecured would hint at a sense of awkwardness she wanted to convey. "Then, in dress rehearsals they began using it ... as they started, another character would help straighten it out," he said. "This idea isn't period, if you will, but it's what you do to help the actor get where they are going."

"You always have to start with the research," he added, "but the theater isn't a documentary either. You have to design shapes and colors — things that will carry to the balcony."


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Careers of Former Stars Renewed by Social Media

IN the 1990s, Sally Jessy Raphael was the doyenne of daytime television, a bespectacled redhead whose mild, auntish mien belied the sensational tabloid fodder that her syndicated talk show was built upon.

These days, Ms. Raphael, 77, is exposing her edgier side on social-media sites. Words like "homies" and "haters" are a part of her everyday lexicon. She enjoys absinthe. She's a fashion fanatic who's as comfortable donning Forever 21 as she is Chanel. She listens to cool-kid music like Girl Talk and supports the Russian punk rock troupe Pussy Riot, some of whose members have been imprisoned. She expertly spoofs "Jersey Shore" and the Kim Kardashian sex tape on YouTube.

This new, sassy and sardonic Sally is the one who has become familiar over the past couple of years to the thousands of people who follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

"Sally Jessy Raphael is the best on Twitter," one of them wrote recently on Tumblr, another platform where Ms. Raphael appears to be enjoying a modest comeback. BuzzFeed, the popular arbiter of all things viral, dubbed her "The Queen of Social Media."

Without social-networking platforms such as these, "I think I'd be in, 'Is she still alive?' heaven," Ms. Raphael said in a phone interview from the 55-acre farm in Dutchess County, N.Y., that she shares with her husband, Karl Soderlund, and their four affenpinschers.

If the social web is what made Internet phenoms like Ms. Kardashian and Justin Bieber famous in the first place, it's also giving Ms. Raphael and others who have veered into the Hollywood hinterlands a much-welcomed second wind — or, at the very least, a medium by which to rebrand and reintroduce themselves.

No longer must celebrities of yore resort to appearing on campy reality shows to remind the public they exist. Over the past two years George Takei, best known as Hikaru Sulu of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the original "Star Trek" series, has cultivated more than 3.7 million followers combined on Facebook and Twitter. (He did appear, however, on "The Apprentice" earlier this year, and on a British reality show in 2008.)

In November, Mr. Takei, 75, joined Tumblr; The Los Angeles Times described his blog there, "Are you talking to meme?" as "goofy, surreal, and nerdy with just a touch of political activism," and noticed that most of his posts were receiving more than 600 comments apiece.

After thyroid cancer destroyed Roger Ebert's ability to speak, the film critic and former television personality found a voice of sorts on Twitter, where he pronounces on movies, politics and just about everything else to nearly 800,000 followers.

A tweet from Mr. Ebert "is worth as much traffic as a small Digg or Y Combinator hit," Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic noted earlier this year. "Crazy. That's some distribution power."

Mr. Ebert's 2.0 persona has also earned him a large following for a new film Web site and helped raise the profile of an annual film festival in his native Illinois.

A fellow avid tweeter and a former child star, Soleil Moon Frye, otherwise known as Punky Brewster, is having a lucrative new career as a mommy blogger with her own Web series and an e-commerce shop for children's clothing. Ms. Frye, 36, has parlayed her Internet stardom — 1.5 million Twitter followers and 112,000 Facebook likes — into a job as a contributor on NBC's "Today." In September, she took over the show's Twitter feed for an hour. "Watch out, world!"  an NBC blog post proclaimed.

Justine Bateman (Mallory from the popular 1980s sitcom "Family Ties"), 46, has attracted more than 88,000 Twitter followers while developing a digital consultancy. She has also enrolled in the computer science program at the University of California, Los Angeles; she blogs about it on "College Life," one of her two Tumblr pages. (She also used Tumblr to promote "Wake Up and Get Real," an Internet talk show she hosted with Kelly Cutrone, a fashion publicist.)

Jennifer Grey (Baby from "Dirty Dancing" and Ferris Bueller's uptight sister), a self-described "novice blogger" at 52, has been Tumbling up a storm about health and wellness. (You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.)

"When you look at these faded personalities, imagine what the pitch would be if you were a publicist trying to get press on one of these people," said Janice Min, editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter. "You absolutely could not."

But the metrics for success are shifting.

"Now you can measure it in Twitter followers or Facebook likes," Ms. Min said. "It's a new way of establishing legitimacy."

Howard Bragman, a veteran celebrity publicist and vice chairman of the online image-management firm reputation.com, said, "If you're someone who hasn't had a project in a few years, it's a great way to keep your voice out there."

He cited Rosie O'Donnell as a good example of someone who uses social media to stay on the radar in-between jobs.

"You used to have to just sit on your hands and wait for a new pilot to get on the air," he said. "It's not like that anymore."

The celebrity social-media comeback is a byproduct of two larger cultural trends, said Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed's editorial director (and the 18th "most viral" person on the Internet, according to the Web site Gizmodo). One is the cultural nostalgia for which the Web, with its video clips and searchability, is such an ideal medium. The other, he said, is a softening of the "nasty and gotcha-based" tone that has long pervaded celebrity journalism.

"It's obviously really difficult for someone who's considered B-list or washed up to break back into the popular consciousness" through television or magazines, Mr. Lamb said. "But with social media, if you're talented and good at it, it's more of a meritocracy. There are no gatekeepers."

Though that ease of communication has made some publicists guarding A-list talent nervous, for a client like Mr. Takei there is no apparent drawback.

"The easy accessibility to enormous firepower is ridiculous," he said over the phone en route to the vacation home in Show Low, Ariz., that he shares with his husband, Brad Takei. "I've been able to reach a whole new group of people."

Mr. Takei's latter-day career had long consisted of "Star Trek" conventions, voice-overs, television guest appearances and a regular slot on "The Howard Stern Show." His foray into social media began in early 2011 as he began promoting "Allegiance," a musical inspired by his experience living in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

Mr. Takei now credits a surge in professional opportunities to his unexpected Internet stardom. He recently finished filming a guest appearance on "Hawaii Five-0." The San Diego premiere of "Allegiance" in the fall broke box office records, he said. And "Oh Myyy!" the e-book he published several weeks ago about his social media success — named for his signature catchphrase — was No. 10 on the New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction e-books on Dec. 23.

"There's been a pecuniary aspect to this as well," he said with some satisfaction.

As for Ms. Raphael, she has a way to go before she reaches George Takei proportions. (She's holding steady at nearly 5,000 Twitter followers and 2,600 likes on Facebook.) She hasn't had any bites yet for a television comedy series she's been pitching, but her social-media presence has led to her acquiring a new voice-over agent, she said.

Mostly though, Ms. Raphael is just happy that people know she's still got a bit of the old fire.

"Sometimes you begin to think that nobody cares, but then you get on in the morning and you're thrilled," she said, referring to the Internet. "I just want to continue doing it. I think it's a part of being alive."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 27, 2012

An earlier version of this article, quoting a tweet from Alexis Madrigal, contained an incorrect Twitter username for Roger Ebert. His account is @ebertchicago, not @rogerebert.


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‘The Whole Nine Yards’: Seeking a Phrase’s Origin

When people talk about "the whole nine yards," just what are they talking about?

For decades the answer to that question has been the Bigfoot of word origins, chased around wild speculative corners by amateur word freaks, with exasperated lexicographers and debunkers of folk etymologies in hot pursuit.

Does the phrase derive from the length of ammunition belts in World War II aircraft? The contents of a standard concrete mixer? The amount of beer a British naval recruit was obligated to drink? Yardage in football? The length of fabric in a Scottish kilt (or sari, or kimono, or burial shroud)?

Type the phrase into Google and you're likely to get any of these answers, usually backed by nothing more than vaguely remembered conversations with someone's Great-Uncle Ed. But now two researchers using high-powered database search tools have delivered a confident "none of the above," supported by a surprise twist:

Before we were going the whole nine yards, it turns out, we were only going six.

The recent discovery of several instances of "the whole six yards" in newspapers from the 1910s — four decades before the earliest known references to "the whole nine yards" — opens a new window onto "the most prominent etymological riddle of our time," said Fred Shapiro, a librarian at Yale Law School who announced the findings in next month's issue of The Yale Alumni Magazine.

Other language experts agree about the import of the discovery. "The phrase is interesting because it's so mysterious," said Ben Zimmer, the executive producer of Visual Thesaurus.com and Vocabulary.com, who has written previously on the search for its origin. "It's been a kind of Holy Grail."

Like the Holy Grail "the whole nine yards" has inspired both armchair mythologizing and years of hard and often fruitless searching through random books and miles of newspaper microfilm. Not that the expression is necessarily all that old. The first scholarly dating, in a 1986 supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, traced it to 1970. The Historical Dictionary of American Slang then pushed it back to 1967, with a citation from "The Doom Pussy," Elaine Shepard's novel about Air Force pilots in the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile popular obsession with the phrase was growing. Mr. Shapiro, editor of "The Yale Book of Quotations," attributes the interest to William Safire, who was a political and language columnist for The New York Times, who died in 2009. In 1982 he made a public appeal for information about its origins on Larry King's radio program. Mr. Safire went on to write no fewer than nine columns related to the phrase, including one chiding the White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan for referring to "the whole seven yards."

"There goes his credibility with me," Mr. Safire wrote, before confidently declaring that the expression referred to a fully loaded concrete truck, whose contents are typically measured in cubic yards.

But Mr. Safire was writing before searchable digital databases, which over the past decade have largely supplanted the painstaking work of poring over microfilm and given rise to a culture of ferociously competitive "antedaters," often amateurs, eager to disprove various theories.

The first new break on "the whole nine yards" came in 2007, when Sam Clements, a coin dealer and avid word sleuth from Akron, Ohio, discovered it in a 1964 article in The Tucson Daily Citizen about space program slang. By 2009 two other researchers had pushed it back to 1962, when it appeared in a short story about a brush salesman and an article in a car magazine.

Some lexicographers thought the evidence was creeping closer to a World War II-era origin, and possibly some connection to the military, though there was still no hard evidence for the popular ammunition-belt theory. Then, in August, Bonnie Taylor-Blake, a neuroscience researcher in North Carolina who had been searching for variants of the phrase via Google News Archive and Google Books for five years, posted a message on the e-mail list of the American Dialect Society noting a 1956 occurrence in an outdoors magazine called Kentucky Happy Hunting Ground, followed in September by a more startling twist: a 1921 headline from The Spartanburg Herald-Journal in South Carolina reading "The Whole Six Yards of It."

The somewhat cryptic headline, atop a detailed account of a baseball game that did not use the phrase, initially caused some head scratching among the society's members. One person asked whether the headline referred to the ball fields, or "yards," of the six teams in the league discussed in the article.

But then Mr. Shapiro, searching in Chronicling America, a Library of Congress database of pre-1923 newspapers, found two 1912 articles in The Mount Vernon Signal in Kentucky promising to "give" or "tell" the "whole six yards" of a story. Ms. Taylor-Blake also found another instance from 1916, in the same paper.

The dating clearly refutes the popular ammunition-belt and concrete-mixer theories, Mr. Shapiro said, while the Kentucky focus suggests a probable "backwoods provenance." As for the meaning of the phrase, he added, the slippage from six yards to nine — part of the same "numerical phrase inflation," as he puts it, that turned "Cloud 7" to "Cloud 9" — suggests it doesn't refer to anything in particular any more than, say, "the whole shebang" does.

Jesse Sheidlower, the editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary, agrees. "The existence of a six-yard variant shows pretty clearly that this is not about yards of anything," he said. "It's just a random number."

Mr. Shapiro concedes that he and Ms. Taylor-Blake have found only "negative evidence," and a firm origin story may yet emerge. But neither he nor Mr. Sheidlower is confident that scholarly research will dispel the urban legends that cling to expressions like "the whole nine yards."

Mr. Sheidlower points to the persistent belief that Chicago's reputation as "the Windy City" springs from its blowhard politicians boasting about the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and not, as occurrences in newspaper articles dating to the 1860s suggest, its weather.

"People are drawn to colorful etymologies," Mr. Shapiro said. "But they are almost always wrong."


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The Best Concerts of 2012, as Seen by Times Critics

A concert is always more than just a rendering of songs. It's a musical revamp, a real-time test, a spectacle, a pop-up community, perhaps a dance party or an incipient riot — and, even in the YouTube era, an ephemeral, site-specific experience. Here the pop and jazz critics of The New York Times recall some of their favorite live events of 2012, in order of importance. JON PARELES

Jon Caramanica

JAY-Z Carnegie Hall, Feb. 6. In September, Jay-Z played the opening night of a new arena in Brooklyn in which he is a minority owner that is the home for a basketball team in which he is also a minority owner. And yet that show felt small compared to this one, on one of New York's hallowed stages, in which Jay-Z collapsed his rise from corner boy to king of the city into two ambitious, cocksure and slightly awe-struck hours.

2NE1 Aug. 17, and BIGBANG Nov. 8, both at Prudential Center, Newark. This was the year K-pop arrived — not in the form of "Gangnam Style," which was everywhere and yet completely evanescent — but in these arena shows, which were full of thousands of young, paying fans eager to see the girls of 2NE1 and the boys of BigBang, groups with zero American hits between them, but rabid American followings all the same.

DISCLOSURE Glasslands Gallery, Oct. 24. No night out was more buoyant than this one. Disclosure, the British brother duo, updated the electronic dance music known as 2-step garage on their terrific records, and onstage rebuilt it from scratch, adding sweetness and churn and flash.

ODD FUTURE Hammerstein Ballroom, March 20. "Free Earl" was a signature chant of the 1.0 version of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, which was rowdy and unpredictable and missing its best rapper, Earl Sweatshirt, who's been exiled to a Samoan boarding school by his mother. But here, at a show with several crowd fights and the usual mayhem, came a pause in the chaos to reveal, for the first time onstage, Earl, free.

DMX S.O.B.'s, Feb. 23. DMX is greatly diminished from his decade-plus-ago peak, no longer a star or even much of a gravitational force. But even at the top he was desperate, and vicious, and sweaty, which means the DMX at this tiny show really hadn't changed much at all.

MIGUEL Bowery Ballroom, Oct. 1. Everything about Miguel's presentation here was slick — the outfit, the lighting, the dance moves. But his music was something else altogether, throbbing and growling, to be unleashed.

2 CHAINZ, S.O.B.'s, Jan. 30. At the end of 2 Chainz's first solo performance in New York the local elder Raekwon (of the Wu-Tang Clan) came onstage and delivered some undermining praise, and it was hilarious, because the rapper he was trying to anoint had just owned the stage, anointed by his own hand.

ERIC CHURCH Hammerstein Ballroom, March 14. A mean show, as these things go. Mr. Church has clawed his way into the country mainstream with a series of post-outlaw anthems, and he delivered them with verve and tension, as if he might not be allowed to for much longer.

NICKI MINAJ Chicago Theater, Chicago, July 16. A few weeks earlier Ms. Minaj had pulled out of the annual Summer Jam concert given by the New York radio station Hot 97 after one of its D.J.'s disparaged her pop tendencies. At this show, which kicked off her summer tour, she showed how wrong a move that was: pop is just one part of her dangerous arsenal.

DRAKE PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, N.J., June 12. Intimate confessional, openhearted embrace, mercenary catalog of hip- hop's future: Drake's concerts are many things at once. Come for the songs, and stay for the feelings. All he wants to do is cuddle.

Jon Pareles

RADIOHEAD Bonnaroo, Manchester, Tenn., June 8. Radiohead was in unimpeachable form — ominous, frenetic, mathematical, enraged, edgy, meticulous, desolate, funky — on Bonnaroo's giant main stage, through a sound system with the clarity and punch of good headphones. Playing in front of a video display that was strobing and flickering with geometric arrays, the band was the advance guard through an information storm. Environmental bonus: Each dot of video was the round bottom of a recycled water bottle.

THE ROLLING STONES, Barclays Center, Dec. 8. It wasn't just that, at 69, Mick Jagger the showman was doing something that can't be faked: strutting and jiving and jittering virtually nonstop around a giant stage and catwalk. It was that he was also singing, full-voiced and melodic, inhabiting the lyrics, while the band kicked up its sure backbeat and let the guitars tangle, especially after Mary J. Blige's arrival on "Gimme Shelter" raised the ante.

CALLE 13, Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn, July 13. Bruce Springsteen's redoubtable Wrecking Ball tour was one way to merge the politics of class warfare with musical uplift. Another was Calle 13's overflowing show during the Latin Alternative Music Conference. A hip-hop duo of the rapper Residente and the producer Visitante, Calle 13 was backed by a large band for grooves that fused Latin American rhythms, hip-hop and even some hard rock. As Residente taunted the powerful and praised the downtrodden, the music jumped. "Here we dance like the poor people," he boasted.

BETH ORTON, Town Hall, Oct. 4. Alone onstage with her acoustic guitar for much of her set, Ms. Orton set up steady, mantralike picking patterns, a backdrop of serene constancy for the turmoil of ache and determination in her vocals. The songs were hypnotic, the audience silently rapt.

FIONA APPLE, Stubb's, Austin, Tex., March 14, and Randalls Island, June 24. Ms. Apple emerged from a long public silence at this year's South by Southwest festival showing both her nerves and her nerve, acknowledging the crowd and trying to pretend it wasn't there while she plunged headlong into the raw but crafty confessionals of her songs. By the time she got to the Governors Ball on Randalls Island three months later, she was more road seasoned but no less riveting, crooning and yowling above her precise piano playing, seizing each emotional twist.


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