28 October 2007

music, modern, jazz

Joshua Bell played Barber's Violin Concerto with the Orchestra of St Luke's this afternoon at Carnegie Hall. It was sublime. I am quite familiar with the concerto. It was preceded on the program by "In memory" by Joan Tower, started not long before 9/11 in memory of a friend who had died. As they were playing "In memory," a man and a young girl exited silently and respectfully. Their exit put me in mind of my mother and her love of music. We did have music in our lives as I was growing up but it was largely sacred or rock. I'm not sure how I became mostly a listener of classical music. All over the classical board. Certainly, Alex Wisniewski, Bill Connor, and Bob Scrimale increased my knowledge and appreciation of classical music, along with others. At the moment, Dawn Upshaw's "Voices of light" is in the CD player on my computer.

Before I went to Carnegie Hall, I spent a half hour or so at MoMA. The Martin Puryear works were being installed in the high hall at the center of the museum and, wow, they looked great. It had only been a few hours since I'd been with the Kelleys (Sherry and Woody) at the Bar Room of the Modern (restaurant), for supper last night. The food was very good and the Modern martini with cilantro-infused gin (strong yet subtle) was special. We talked about all sorts of things, including the trip Sherry'd gone on to the Grand Canyon with her daughter Jennifer and her partner Steph. Jennifer, Sherry, Bob and I went, very memorably, to an amusement park in the late 1980s. Repeated rides on the roller coaster, Flip-A-Chick.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to see "Control" even though I was feeling very out of control. The movie is about Ian Curtis of Joy Division who committed suicide in the midst of great torment trying to be both a good husband and father and rock musician and lover of the rock journalist. It sounds trite or at least stereotypical, but the story is told grippingly, acted amazingly. One of the blurbs in the ad is a quote along the lines of "you don't see the movie, you live it." It really is worth seeing. The film is based on a book by Deborah Curtis, Ian's widow.

My out-of-control feelings were brought on largely by a visit from my nemesis on Saturday morning. He says he is due a settlement for the injured tendon. I believe the story, I don't. And I'm caught in the dilemma of near bankruptcy and his asking me to "watch" part of his money. Is it money laundering? What if I'm only watching part of it? Can morality be relative?

Being Gemini, it's always up and down. And this weekend has been more up/down than sometimes. Friday night had started musically too. I have season tickets to the "Composer Portraits" series at Miller Theatre at Columbia. Friday was David Sanford. I don't think of myself as much of a jazz buff but this was an incredible concert. A cello solo with Matt Haimovitz and he also played in the "Scherzo grosso." I particularly liked "Link chapel" with the building instrumentation.

16 October 2007

the analogy of the urban park

The Metropolitan New York Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians co-sponsored a lecture by Lynden Miller this evening with the Department of Art History at NYU. Lynden Miller is a painter and gardener who has worked on a number of the good places in NYC. She started out at the Conservatory Garden at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street. It had become overgrown and graffiti-marred (marked). They said the people would trash it if they fixed it up. With a lot of pluck and work, she and her colleagues recreated a place where people wanted to be and bring their family and friends. The last time I was there, in mid-late summer this year, a colorful West African wedding party was gathering, chatting, taking pictures at the gates which come from some Vanderbilt House. She also worked on Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Battery Park City, Union Square, the Red Hook waterfront, the SUNY Stony Brook campus, the 68th Street subway station entrance, and a small park on East 97th Street near her home in Spanish Harlem. As she talked, I got a growing sense of how a civil and civic place can engender life among its community, immediate and further afield. I drew an analogy with my office. We are doing the things that makes a park no fun to be in: too crowded, defacing the public face, no views, no interaction of people in a manner that is conducive to getting its business done. Now an office is not a park but it can be similar in its life or deadliness. One of her primary points is that reconstruction isn't enough, you have to maintain the new face. Yesterday's New York times had an article about the man who is retiring as chief of the New York City subway system. He is the one that determined that the subway cars and environment needed to be maintained. Now of course the analogy is getting overdrawn as I imagine the card catalog that is not maintained. Ms Miller's talk was very encouraging about the effect of aesthetics, personal and physical, on behavior.

15 October 2007

today's bumpersticker

After reading yesterday's New York Times, I decided my bumpersticker should probably read: Living under Bush is an act of torture.

Caravaggio & Dewey

Sunday was a splendid theater day: "Caravaggio chiaroscuro" at La MaMa Theater and "Dewey's Nightmare" at Gene Frankel.

"Caravaggio" was an opera based on the life of Caravaggio with a handsome, compelling actor as the painter and a lovely young man with curly hair as Mario. Rannuccio was not hard to look at either and the rest of the cast was solid. The singing was good. They used plain white canvases and when the first painting is being shown, the passion of the description of the painting was heartbreaking. Beautifully described. Occasionally, the director used a tableau vivante but lightly. For someone familiar with Caravaggio's paintings, the tableaux were delightful and added to the enjoyment, my favorite was probably the bit of Narcissus on the part of Mario as he sat on the upper level of the set. The opera, mostly in English with lovely bits in Italian, was written and conceived by Gian Marco Lo Forte, the music was composed by Duane Boutte, and it was directed by George Drance. You can find out more by seaching the archives of performances at http://www.lamama.org.

"Dewey's Nightmare" was a library play challenge with seven playwrights, seven random library books, seven days to write a 10-minute play, a director and two actors with an hour's rehearsal. It could have been stupid or banal or ... well, it was wonderful. None of the plays was horrible. The acting was overall really strong. The evening ended with a song by Sameer Tolani, based on yet another book. The playwrights picked a book, blindfolded, from the shelves of the Reanimation Library, a project by Andrew Beccone with a collection development policy that picks the books for their pictorial qualities, pictorial in the broadest sense. http://reanimationlibrary.org/ "Dewey's Nightmare" was probably that the books had been reclassified to LCC.

I didn't get to the galleries this weekend because I was putting together the Queer Caucus for Art Newsletters and taking them to the 24/7 post office (I love it!). Last weekend, I did get to some shows between stops for Open House New York. I went to the Modulightor store and owner's apartment on East 58th Street, designed by Paul Rudolph. Wow!! Judith Newman (of Spaced Gallery for Architecture) told me I shouldn't miss it. It was incredible. If you go to the "about us" button at http://www.modulightor.com/, you can get a bit of feel of the building. After a lecture a couple weeks ago about Albert Ledner, I finally joined Docomomo which I've been thinking of doing for years. I need another membership like a hole in the head. Oh, I did hit my head on the ceiling of the stairwell at the Paul Rudolph apartment and got to "wear" a Rudolph blemish for a few days. Be proud, support architecture. After seeing the Modulightor building, I walked across Midtown and stopped at a few galleries in 724 Fifth Avenue. Davidson Contemporary had a show of works by Darren Lago entitled "Inappropriations." Great stuff: felt Frank Stellas, tin-can Judds, pipe-cleaner LeWitts, Lego Mondrians.

On Sunday, Daniel met me for breakfast at Silver Spurs and then we went to Governors Island (also part of Open House New York). It was a lovely day to be out on the island in New York Harbor. We also went to see the Prince George Ballroom and World Monuments Fund Gallery on East 27th Street, ran into Sara Roemer and her mother. Sara works at both the Met and NYU so it was fun to be with Daniel when we ran into Sara. The ballroom is a splendid Beaux-arts interior designed by Howard Greenley, 1904-1911, and recently restored by Beyer Blinder Belle. The gallery had photos of monuments from Croatia and brochures from the Croatian national tourist office. Lots of wonderful Mediterranean architecture with some mountains thrown in ... which brings us back to Italy and Caravaggio. I actually know three (American) people who are currently in Italy. Sigh. I wouldn't mind being there myself but I've got Aleph training to do tomorrow and Wednesday.

(from the OHNY site)

01 October 2007

magritte and uncle dighton

Now that the online New York Times is "free" to all, I thought I'd pass on a couple recent readings you might enjoy:

* "The replacement" by Sanford J. Ungar, in the magazine on September 2nd
It's about the younger son who was born after the first son died in World War II. It sounds like my Uncle Dighton who was (is) missing in action in the South Pacific. My childhood was full of stories about Uncle Dighton who stirred the stiff cookie dough for my mother and her sisters, who sang with a fine bass voice, who was the star of his high school football team, etc etc, you get the picture. Here I was, the nerdy sissy who almost got named Dighton, embarrassing my folks in the eyes of my mother's family. It all turned out alright, I guess, but at times it was tough.

* "Belgians, adrift and split, sense their nation fading" by Elaine Sciolino, Sept. 21, 2007, p. A4 (I've got the clipping in front of me and darned if I can get the online version to find this article)
The article ends with a quote from Baudouin Bruggeman (wonderful French and Flemish name): "Belgium has survived on compromise since 1830. Everyone puffs himself up in this banana republic. You have to remember that this is Magritte country, the country of surrealism. Anything can happen."