Culture Corner : music roundup

By Bernie Lang

In the past couple of months, I’ve been to live concert performances in the major music genres of jazz, rock, and classical music. I found myself reflecting after each show on how these differing types of music are standing up within my own personal test of time.

My brother graced me with a ticket to see jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano play at the Village Vanguard. I hadn’t been to the fabulous Vanguard in many years, but remembered it as a small and intimate space for a performance. After I insisted that we sit in the back of the club, my brother immediately guided us to seats just one table away from the small stage. And I’m glad he did. Mr. Lovano played with a fantastic group, consisting of a piano player, a bassist and two drummers/percussionists. His saxophone playing was on a virtuoso level as he hovered above us, and the songs were exciting and exuded an extremely positive vibe. Mr. Lovano also showed off great and complex chops on the flute and clarinet, literally wowing the audience, who at the end gave a very warm ovation, which was gracefully and gratefully received by the band members. Mr. Lovano’s unique, complex, somewhat traditional sax melody lines, and his unwavering power and emotion on the ballads, will remain with me. I had written jazz off as a past interest, but this wonderful show rekindled my curiosity in this difficult form of music.

Continue reading

Midday Melodies

By Derek Simon

A friend of mine, who despises classical music, once sniped to me that “the background of movies” is the only fit place for “that kind of music.” Ironically, she hit upon a truth about music, but not in the way that she initially intended. It is true that you often hear classical-esque music during movies but why is that? Perhaps instrumental music is a natural partner to visual storytelling? Classical music takes this interpretation to an abstract level: a story without words or pictures, a story entirely comprised of sounds.

No composer in history ever set about writing a piece of music “at random.” Beethoven didn’t just start scribbling notes to the Ninth Symphony (after all, there are thousands of them). He had ideas in his head that he wanted to express through music, or, in other words, he wanted to tell a story. And just like any other story, virtually every piece of classical music has a beginning, middle, and end. And there are also main characters and minor characters: primary themes and secondary themes. There’s depth and complexity to the characters, as depicted by harmonies and various types of melodic modulations. The plot itself is how the melodies transform, interweave, and reform throughout the piece, usually leading to some kind of climax and ending in some sort of resolution. Part of the fun is trying to decipher how these disparate elements combine to create the whole piece, the complete tale.

Or one can simply listen to and enjoy the music. Classical music, like every other genre of music, is simply sound that makes us feel after all. A universal theme of every culture is the creation and love of music. Classical music is the Western world’s historic contribution to this anthology. So sit back and analyze away or close your eyes and let the music tell its own story.

As of this writing, the Tri-I Concerts for December and January have not been finalized, but I present here what has been confirmed.

Continue reading

Culture Corner – Interview with Michelle Tolini Finamore

Interview with a Curator: Michelle Tolini Finamore of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

By Bernie Langs

Michelle Tolini Finamore

Michelle Tolini Finamore is Curator of Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and she has written a fascinating and wonderful new book, “Hollywood Before Glamour: Fashion in American Silent Film,” that I started to read recently. The writing style and tone of the book are scholarly yet very approachable and lead the reader through a world of fashion as art that is rarely explored. Through a friend, I was able to track down the enthusiastic Ms. Finamore for an email interview on the challenges of being a curator and on her new book. As I was preparing this article, Ms. Finamore was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal for the fine work she did on preparing the Museum’s new fashion exhibition, “Think Pink.”

Continue reading

Posted in Art

For Your Consideration — Ones to Watch Vol. 3 Edition

By Jim Keller

With the fall film festivals behind us, we’re staring down the barrel of the Oscars’ gun and in a few short months, we’ll have our nominees. Still, it’s a long time until then on the campaign trail. So while the would-be contenders are out hustling and bustling, shaking the right hands and making the right appearances, let’s examine the Best Supporting Actor and Actresses races in the third installment of this three-part series.

Continue reading

Looking War in the Eye

by May Dobosiewicz

Called “Little Tiger,” rumored to have killed two “Vietcong women cadre”—his mother and teacher. Vietnam, 1968. Photograph by Philip Jones Griffiths © Philip Jones Griffiths / Magnum Photos

Called “Little Tiger,” rumored to have killed two “Vietcong women cadre”—his mother and teacher. Vietnam, 1968. Photograph by Philip Jones Griffiths © Philip Jones Griffiths / Magnum Photos

Quick—name how many wars are being fought in the world right now. At the time of writing, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program reported 32 ongoing armed conflicts. Is this fighting noble and just, or chaotic and deplorable? Are there good guys and bad guys?

Unless we live in the midst of such fighting and struggle ourselves, our notion of war is directly tied to what we see in newspapers, magazines, and online. Our perception of war can be shaped by a single image, whether it is propaganda used to manipulate the public, or a snapshot of torture that shifts public opinion against war. So easily can our minds be swayed on matters of conflict; it seems we do not understand war at all. Perhaps it is impossible to grasp every dimension of conflict, but this lack of understanding is why an exhibit like WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath at the Brooklyn Museum is so important.

Continue reading

Midday Melodies

By Derek Simon

To say that New York is a musically rich city is the equivalent of saying it is a very large city: technically true but completely missing the point. Conveniently, Rockefeller happens to be located in this cultural hub, and as such we all have the opportunity to go listen to this impressive array of world-renowned musicians. But as is so often the case, with great talent comes great ticket prices. One of the rare exceptions to this rule happens to be located in our very own Caspary Auditorium every Friday at 12pm. Continue reading

A Joan Mitchell Painting in The Rockefeller University Collection

By Bernie Langs

IMG_0225

© Estate of Joan Mitchell

I hold the opinion that Abstract Expressionism was the last great movement in the history of painting. This school, or style, emerged in America (and centered in New York) after World War II, and its many master artists would include the likes of Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Helen Frankenthaler. Abstract Expressionism features a bold technique and centers around emotions, sometimes those buried in the unconscious of the artist.

Continue reading

Memorable Music at the Cloisters

By Susan Russo

Cloisters on the Hudson

In Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River in uptown Manhattan, through December 8th, an extraordinary sound installation is being presented at the Cloisters, a branch of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses rare and beautiful medieval treasures. Recorded by the Canadian-born artist Janet Cardiff, The Salisbury Cathedral Choir in England performs Thomas Tallis’s motet Spem in alium. Tallis, born in England around 1505, was an organist and composer for churches and royalty from Henry VIII through Elizabeth I.  What makes this event unique is that Ms. Cardiff used individual microphones to record each of the singers. At the Cloisters, in the Fuentidueña Chapel, on permanent loan from the Spanish government, individual parts and voices are played through 40 speakers. This allows the visitor to move around the chapel to hear different parts distinctly while walking past each speaker, or visitors can sit on wooden benches in the middle of the chapel to experience the sound as a whole. The 11-minute work is played continuously throughout the day. On the day a friend and I visited, we were both moved in a way that is difficult to put into words. The New York Times called the presentation “achingly beautiful.”

Continue reading

Culture Corner A Visit to the Musée national du Moyen Âge (Paris)

By Bernie Langs

465px-The_Lady_and_the_unicorn_HearingBy roundabout way of introducing this museum review, there is a funny scene in Woody Allen’s film comedy Midnight in Paris when, after having visited the Rodin Museum accompanied by a know-it-all art history buff, Owen Wilson returns there alone and asks the docent (Carla Bruni) if she remembers him from the other day. She replies, oh yes, “You were with the pedantic gentleman.” The point is, I hope in my columns I don’t come off that way, since what I’m trying to do is express the idea that the further you go into art and art history (or music or literature), the greater the benefits are to one’s being. I can’t teach anyone how to experience a museum, but hope only to translate my own excitement to others with the idea that the more you put in, the more you get out of it.

Continue reading

For Your Consideration– Best Picture Check-In Edition

By Jim Keller

I dare not take a stab at the ever-changing supporting actor categories when several of the films that could very well give us our nominees haven’t been seen, so stay-tuned to fyc next month when I’ll offer my thoughts on the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories and conclude the four part Ones to Watch series. With that said, there has been quite a bit of movement in the Best Picture race of late, so let’s dive right in. Here I give my analysis of where things stand right now—Oscar is a moving target, but there are always indicators along the road that can help us sniff out our nominees and eventual winner.