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25 May 2019

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    Time and Space and Philip Glass: The Iconic Artist Talks at BAM

    In 1976, the New York premiere of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s “Einstein on the Beach” captivated audiences, polarized critics and put both artists on the map of contemporary performance art. In four-and-a half hours, its famously reductive score, enigmatic text and limpid, tensile choreography (by Lucinda Childs) teases out the meaning of the time/space continuum.

    The work’s first New York revival in twenty years opens Friday evening as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. On Wednesday, Philip Glass talked about the work—and a range of other pieces that have been performed at BAM over the years—with a former protégé, the composer Nico Muhly.

    Affectionately coaxed by Muhly, speaking composer-to-composer, Glass reflected on his major operas, his work in collaboration with artists from other cultural traditions, and the evolution of his own musical style, which Muhly pointed out has become more lush, and (clearly jokingly) “decadent.” 

    For a man who is indeed an icon, Glass is somewhat bashful about his own place in the musical pantheon, and clearly bemused to be in a position to look back on a work that is entering its 37th year.   “As composers, we don’t really write for posterity,” he says wryly.  “You’re writing for this year’s repertoire, you’re writing for what you’re doing right now. I think it never occurred to Bob and I that thirty-seven years later we’d still be doing this piece.”

    Glass also commented on the ease and confidence with which younger musicians approach his works, because they have grown up on them. “I was the lunatic who was always there,” he notes.

    And “Einstein?” This is the first time the piece has received a major revival without any of the original creators performing, so Glass has actually had a chance to watch it, and reflect on intentions of his younger self. “It seems like someone I used to know once.” 

    With three new operas and a film in development, this is clearly as elegiac as Glass, at 75, is prepared to get.

    Bon Mots

    On new music: "There’s a performance practice that goes with a piece of music…for a piece of music to be truly new, there has to be a new way to play it."

    On collaborations: "The reason I was doing it to begin with was to understand my own language better; and I found that when I had to embrace somebody else’s language, I had to find a common place where we could work together."

    On the change in his own musical style: "It just comes from having written music for a long time.  My brain got re-wired; I don’t have to sound like Philip Glass any more."

  • Posted on 14 Sep 2012

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    Unhappy Family: Geoffrey Rush and Fred Schepisi Discuss "The Eye of the Storm" at the 92nd Street Y

    Geoffrey Rush is one of Australia’s most celebrated exports, a protean character actor whose roles have ranged from the mentally frail pianist David Helfgott (his Oscar-winning performance in “Shine”) to George VI’s speech therapist Lionel Logue (“The King’s Speech”) to the Marquis de Sade (“Quills”).   

    Courtesy of the 92nd Street Y

    He most recent film, in which he is pictured above, is “The Eye of the Storm,” directed by Fred Schepisi, and also starring Judy Davis. The film is based on a novel by the Nobel Prize-winning writer Patrick White, about a domineering matriarch and her alienated adult children. Last Wednesday, Rush paid homage to this less well-known Australian genius as part of the 92Y’s long-running film screening and discussion series, “Reel Pieces.”  Rush, director Schepisi, and Schepisi’s daughter Alexandra, who has a featured role in the film, were interviewed before a live audience by Dr. Annette Insdorf, the head of undergraduate film studies at Columbia University.


    Bon Mots

    Geoffrey Rush on Patrick White:  "Here was somebody writing about the Australian landscape and the Australian psyche with big, bold, fat novels."

    Fred Schepisi on White’s characters:  "Patrick White believes that everyone is an actor, that you’re one way with your family, another way with your friends, another way with your work colleagues.  You present all those different faces to the world."

    Geoffrey Rush on Australian films of the 1970s:  "There were a lot of pioneering films.  Guys used to have to be on horseback with their shirts off, with picks."

    Fred Schepisi on his cast:  "It was a great collaboration, and by the end I really did love them all."

    To listen to an excerpt from the “Reel Pieces” talk, click on the player above.

  • Posted on 13 Sep 2012

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    Wanting What You Can't Have: Happy Ending at Joe's Pub

    Host and curator Amanda Stern concluded this season’s Happy Ending Music & Reading series at Joe’s Pub on July 11 with an evening themed around “communication.” 

    Stern’s themes are almost always designed to resonate ironically and this program was no exception, as the authors Rajesh Parameswaran, Alex Shakar and Nell Freudenberger delivered variations on the idea of wanting what you can’t have, and don't know how to ask for.

    Parameswaran read from his collection “I am an Executioner” — a story in which a captive tiger falls in love with his zookeeper and things do not go well. Shakar offered an excerpt from his novel “Luminarium.”  His protagonist Fred is beset by a Job-like pile of woes, and spends an afternoon with a Hollywood wannabe who claims to have achieved enlightenment.  Nell Freudenberger’s novel “The Newlyweds” features a 21st-century version of the mail-order bride; in the excerpt heard here, she finds her arranged (by her) wedding more light-hearted than she anticipated.

    Musical guest Ana Egge helped set the mood with a set of dark rock/folk songs about — well, wanting what you can’t have.

    This show was the last at Joe’s Pub.  The series will continue in the autumn. For further information check Stern’s website at

    To hear excerpts from the readings, and Egge’s performance, click on the player above.

    Bons Mots

    A tiger in love.  “Where was my hunger?  Where was all the gloom and trouble of the day?  It was all gone.  Kitch was here.” -- Rajesh Parameswaran, “The Infamous Bengal Ming.”

    Unlikely prophet at a Universal theme park.  “’So I heard you attained Nirvana or something,’ Fred mumbled…’what’s that mean?’…’beyond the slum of human reality. It means free, Freddie, just free.’”—Alex Shakar, “Luminarium.”

    Wanting it the way she wants it.  “In ‘Desh you make your plans and they usually do not succeed.  But in America you make your plans and then they happen.”— Nell Freudenberger, “The Newlyweds.” 

  • Posted on 05 Sep 2012

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    Fighting Words: Churchill's Granddaughter Offers a Model for Leadership

    “If you are going to go through hell, keep going.” This is just one of the many robust adages coined by Sir Winston Churchill during World War II.

    A new exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum called “Churchill:  The Power of Words,” which showcased his long, celebrated career as a statesman, writer, and orator, opened on Friday.

    Churchill's inspirational speeches and radio broadcasts helped to guide England from its darkest to its finest hour during the long years of fighting and the constant threat of attack and invasion by the Nazi forces.

    As noted by the journalist Edward R. Murrow in an introduction to Churchill's collected speeches: "Now the hour had come for him to mobilize the English language, and send it into battle, a spearhead of hope for Britain and the world.”

    The exhibition at the Morgan kicked off with a lecture by Churchill’s granddaughter, The Hon. Celia Sandys, who has written extensively about him.

    During the talk, Sandys asserted that Churchill’s combination of clarity, command, courage and charisma make him a much-needed model for leadership in our own dark times. Indeed, she pointed out that a renewed interest in Churchill began at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as world leaders looked for ways to console and inspire their citizens.

    The Sandys talk also included a video of iconic Churchillian moments in war and peace, accompanied by examples of some of his most vivid utterances, and the purposeful, magnetic voice that bound a nation together.

    The lecture is part of the Winston Churchill Literary Series, a program of The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, and The Writing Center at Hunter College. Sandys was introduced at the Morgan by the series patron, Tina Santi Flaherty.

    Click on the link above to hear the talk. "Churchill: The Power of Words" runs at the Morgan through September 23.

    Bons Mots from Sandys

    On Churchill’s integrity: “Even today ... you can listen to my grandfather’s words without ever wondering, ‘What on earth did he mean by that?’”

    On the fact that Churchill employed no speech writers: “Modern leaders’ speeches often betray their origins in committee.”

    On Churchill as inspiration: “It’s been said that Hitler could persuade you that he could do anything, but Churchill could convince you that you could do anything."

    Bons Mots from Churchill

    On assessing historical events (in light of a military failure): “Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”

    On the need for good intelligence: “Facts are better than dreams.”

    On his own reputation as a bon vivant: “I am a man of simple tastes, easily satisfied by the best.”

  • Posted on 12 Jun 2012

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    A Reporter's Perspective on War at PEN World Voices

    The PEN America Center’s organizational focus is the effect of world events on the safety and freedom of expression of writers, so the topic of war naturally looms large in its cultural consciousness. As part of the recent PEN World Voices Festival, Polish journalist and author Wojciech Jagielski was interviewed by Joel Whitney, a founding editor of Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics

    Jagielski began his career on assignment in the former Soviet Union and then spent a decade in Afghanistan. He became particularly interested in how countries with trenchant ethnic divisions seem so often to wind up in the midst of seemingly irresolvable conflicts. His most recent book, The Night Wanderers, is on Uganda and the problematic resistance leader Joseph Rao Kony, a now recognizable name thanks to a wildly circulated viral video.

    The PEN World Voices event took place at the Brooklyn Public Library on May 2 and was introduced by Meredith Walters, the director of exhibitions at the library. Listen to the talk between Jagielski and Whitney by clicking on the link above.

    Bons Mots:

    Jagielski on becoming a foreign correspondent: "It was easy choice because in the '80s, when we [Poland] were the colonist country, writing about Poland and politics in Poland, it was not the job for the journalist, it was the job for the politician, the activist."

    Jagielski on child soldiers: "The scenario was always the same. At night the guerillas were attacking a village … and they were taking hostages, the children. It was planned action because it was easier for children to be made a soldier. I was even told the best age to be kidnapped … to be made a future guerilla, was eight to 10 years."

    Jagielski on Idi Amin: "The stereotype was created in Western media. The real Idi Amin was not the same person that we have from the movies, from the books."

  • Posted on 29 May 2012


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