April 1 Classical Reviews Roundup

Fillip Cornershop
Satiediously, vol. 2
(Unheard Universe)
Following up on last year's initial Satie volume, Cornershop now delivers a unique reading of Satie's notorious "Vexations," the one-page piece which Satie said should be performed with repeats until it totaled 840 times through the printed text (or perhaps not; debate has raged since its 1949 publication). Cornershop brings the piece in at a monumental 48 hours (more traditional performances of the 840-times length range from 18 to 28 hours). 

The Riot Club: When Being Posh Is Not Enough

Those of us who lead hapless lives know how frightening getting up in the morning can be. Instead of rising and embracing the daylight with an ardent cuddle and a zealous "Yahoo!" we see grey clouds overhead and wonder aloud, "What now?" Another egg carton with broken shells? A second bedbug infestation within twelve months? Still no replies to our Christian Mingles ad even though we've noted we can recite the Book of Revelation by heart in Latin? Read more »

Climbing T0W3RS @SXSW

I've seen so much music over the years it's often difficult for me to find much that is authentic. I have to get off the beaten track and lurk around the fringes of the music scene. Find those pockets of music where the authentic bubbles and boils. Where artists are making authentic art, for themselves, for their small stake in the world; hoping to get some response back from an audience or a scene, hoping to be noticed, hoping to share their art. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Johann Sebastian Bach Born 330 Years Ago on March 21, 1685

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) never left Germany but became internationally respected by his peers during his lifetime and a symbol of pure musicianship for future generations. A virtuoso organist, harpsichordist, and violinist/violist who may have also played lute, as a composer his mastery of counterpoint and fugal writing remain unmatched, yet he was also open to the influences of contemporary Italian and French composers.

Born into a highly musical family in Eisenach, Germany, Bach became organist at the Neukirche in Arnstadt in 1703 at the age of 18. His first major appointment was as court organist to Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, in 1708; six years later the Duke made him Concertmaster. In 1717 Bach became Kapellmeister and music director to the music-loving Prince Leopold of Anhalt in Cöthen, where Bach wrote much of his greatest secular music. Bach's duties switched to writing choral and organ music for use in church services and training the choirs of several churches when he took the position of Cantor of Leipzig in 1723, where he spent the rest of his life. Suffering from failing vision due to cataracts in his later years, he went blind in 1749 after a crude operation and died the following year, having left an unparalleled legacy. Read more »

Insurgent or There's a Bomb in the Theatre

Insurgent is a relentlessly exasperating sci-fi film made, miraculously, with a half-baked imagination, a slaughtered wit, and insufferable direction by Robert Schwentke, the man who supplied 2013 with one its biggest flops, R.I.P.D. Read more »

Quote of the Week: Socrates

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

Socrates (born circa 470 BC, died 399 BC), a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy.

Tracers: Taylor Lautner Runs, Bikes, and Jumps

I'm one of those "glass half-full "critics when it comes to Taylor Lautner. Film after film I hope he'll pull a Sally Field, who went from The Flying Nun and Gidget to Sybil and Norma Rae. Would Abduction or Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 reveal the young man's inner Laurence Olivier? No, sadly. The lumbering hunk remains just a lumbering hunk in those two. Prize-winning pecs and abs plus a cute smile were what the glamor boy's fans had to settle for. Read more »

Music and Sex #4: West End Follies

Music and Sex: Scenes from a life - A novel in progress by Roman AkLeff (first installment can be read heresecond here; third here).

The bar across Broadway between 113th and 114th Streets, the West End, was supposedly famous. Or at least the orientation materials had seemed to consider it an important part of Columbia history because it had been a hangout for literary figures, some of them Columbia men, though he had not yet read anything by any of them. Of more interest to Walter, there was jazz there. In passing by one Saturday afternoon on the way to Citibank, he'd seen a sign boasting that the Louis Armstrong All Stars were playing. Read more »

Quote of the Week: Johnny Depp

"People say I make strange choices, but they're not strange for me. My sickness is that I'm fascinated by human behavior, by what's underneath the surface, by the worlds inside people."

John Christopher "Johnny" Depp II (born 9 June 1963), an award-winning American actor, producer, and musician.

The Wild Feathers One-Take - "Wine & Vinegar"

From Nashville, the American rock quintet The Wild Feathers' unplugged rendition of "Wine & Vinegar". One-Takes are live performances by artists you know, should know, or will know soon enough.

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Extreme Happiness Is Right Here!

The World of Extreme Happiness
Directed by Eric Ting Written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig
Manhattan Theatre Club - NYC Center Stage
February 3-March 29, 2015

A boy is a child. A girl is a thing. These words greet the birth of Sunny Li in The World of Extreme Happiness, the new play from award-winning Playwright-in-Residence at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig. Sunny’s arrival into the world in 1992 rural China puts her place in her father’s heart somewhere below the female racing pigeon about whom he rhapsodizes and dreams. Accordingly, it is not even clear at first that he is talking about a pigeon and not a woman, while the newborn girl is quickly, albeit temporarily, consigned to a slop bucket to die. When we next meet Sunny (Jennifer Lim), she is 18 and part of the janitorial staff in an urban factory with a PR problem due to employee suicides. In response, Artemis Chang, vice-president of Price-Smart, the Walmart-esque corporation supplied by the factory, suggests a documentary touting the struggles and successes of their employees, to be introduced publicly by an appropriately appealing female peasant employee. While Sunny’s coworker Ming-Ming leads her into the world of self-help guru Mr. Destiny, the documentary leads her into competition with Ming-Ming, all of which ultimately forces her to make a fraught decision about whether or not she will speak truth to power. Read more »

Talking Back to The Dean

Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic 
By Robert Christgau (Dey Street Books)

After a considerable dry spell, my reading life has significantly picked up (possibly due to a sorely unsolicited amount of "free time"). I’ve hungrily paged through some great books in the past few weeks like NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990 by Tony Rettman, A Drinking Life by Pete Hammill, Wake Me When It’s Over, the memoir of former Luna Lounge owner Rob Sacher, Diaries 86-89 by Miles Hunt (he of The Wonder Stuff) and, of course, Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. Given my particular predilections, I’m obviously still a sucker for oral histories, tomes about NYC lore and good ol’ rock bios. What can I say? That’s just the type of crap I like.

So you can imagine, then, my enthusiasm upon learning about Going Into The City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man by Robert Christgau, the so-called “Dean of American Rock Critics.” As it’s a memoir purportedly detailing the fabled journalist’s days in the rock trenches as a nascent music scribe in the still-endearingly-gritty New York City of the 1970s, one might be hard pressed to imagine a book better suited to my tastes. Hell, it even boasts a fetching, vintage shot of the Bowery on the cover. Clearly, I was going to devour this book whole. Read more »

Eastern Boys: Hustling for Love

At the finale of Robin Campillo's masterful Eastern Boys, bourgeois, middle-aged Frenchman Daniel (Oliver Rabourdin) has overhauled his relationship with the Ukrainian hustler Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) into something totally unexpected. The journey to that climax is a rollercoaster of flirtation, betrayal, larceny, lust, love, dauntless deeds, comeuppance, and finally a benevolent acceptance of the pair's interconnectedness in a manner that neither of these devoted halves could foretell. Read more »

Silenced

 

John Kiriakou is not well known to every American, but he should be. I regret that I had only a vague idea of who he was until I saw James Spione's extraordinary documentary Silenced, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014 -- at which point Kiriakou was in jail. He was released last month, having served almost two years in a Federal prison. After seeing the film, I'll never forget him or his story. Read more »

Baby, It's Cold Outside - Frigid New York Festival 2015

Erik: A Play About a Puppet
Directed by Jerrod Bogard and Written by John Patrick Bray 
Rising Sun Performance Company 
Kraine Theater 85 E 4th St., New York, NY 10003
 
Bi, Hung, Fit...and Married: An Erotic Journey
Directed by Seán Cummings Written and Performed by Mark Bentley Cohen
Kraine Theater 85 E 4th St., New York, NY 10003
 
300 to 1
Written by Matt Panesh and Directed by Gareth Armstrong Monkey Poet
Kraine Theater 85 E 4th St., New York, NY 10003

This is the second of two dispatches from the theater festival whose name continues to reflect conditions in our fair city: Frigid New York. Frigid is in its ninth year, and all of its revenue goes directly to the artists involved. This year, there are 30 shows running for a combined total of 150 performances in two theaters. We have previously discussed Frigid's Dog Show, The Can Opener, and the excellent Richard the Third and Goal; here, we talk about Bi, Hung, Fit...and Married, which maps an “erotic journey” to escape heteronormativity; Erik, a comic reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera; and 300 to 1, a fantastic one-man show that brings Sparta and Flanders to Manchester.

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