Category Archives: Reviews and Criticism

Music without words is poop. Discuss…

(Reviewed in this post: eighth blackbird, red fish blue fish, Newspeak, Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, Stefan Weisman, David T Little, Matt Marks, Louis Andriessen) Does music have the power to express anything? Igor Stravinsky says no. Chinua Achebe says if it doesn’t, it’s poop. Stravinsky says your MOM is poop. Achebe says is that theContinue ReadingContinue Reading

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Jake Heggie explains it all for you

Jake Heggie is kind of a big deal. If his own story were made into an opera, it would be laughed off as contrived and unbelievable (even more so than most opera plots). A working stiff writing copy in the PR department of a national opera gets noticed by the right people and is launchedContinue ReadingContinue Reading

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A Tale Of Two Spaces (em and Z) Review: Companion Piece and A Hand in Desire

I’ve been heard to complain about the lack of experimental theater in the Bay Area, but this week has paid off quite nicely with two pieces that make me feel quite a bit more optimistic about San Francisco’s willingness to take chances with non-narrative theater. On Tuesday I saw a very early preview of ZContinue ReadingContinue Reading

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Review: Our Basic Nature (aka Bedtime For Bonzo – The Opera?)

Ah the seventies. Vietnam, Watergate, key parties, and brown corduroy as far as the eye could see. Not a great time for ethics (or fashion) in the United States. So it should hardly be a surprise to hear about a series of experiments where infant chimpanzees were introduced into homes and raised as children, inContinue ReadingContinue Reading

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What Technology Wants: Better Musics

Molly Sheridan’s Mind The Gap blog has gotten particularly geektastic this past week as she hosted a virtual book club. The book in question, Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants. This certainly tickled the computer scientist in me, Kelly’s Out Of Control changed the way I thought about computing in the mid 90s. Kelly has longContinue ReadingContinue Reading

2 Responses to What Technology Wants: Better Musics

  1. We actually know what art wants and how it evolves. It wants to be culturally isomorphic with the society that consumes it. It wants to conform to the major social forces that contextualize it, like religion, economic and political systems, educational systems, technology, methods of delivery, social values, etc.

    For example, the symphony orchestra arose to reflect the cultural nationalism and post-revolutionary authoritarianism of the second half of 19th century Europe. A great deal of medieval visual art was written to conform to the belief systems and mythologies of the Catholic church. Most European art up to the Napoleonic wars was written, composed, or built to reflect the status, power, and glory of the aristocracy.

    If a society believes in the harmony of the spheres it produces the clockwork music of Bach. If it believes in the rational nature of the enlightened man it produces Haydn and Mozart. If it turns toward Darwinism it produces the Rite of Spring. If it believes in scientism it produces Milton Babbitt. If it decenters authority through postmodern philsophy it prodcues John Zorn and Pixar.

    There are very few known artists who expressed ideas completely outside the cultural norms of their societies. Can you name any? Artists might contribute to the forward movement, but those who are remembered are those who remain in step with the leading edge. Avante-guardists are merely those who sense where society is headed and who express ideas near the cutting edge of the intelligentsia, but not beyond it.

    Even works that caused dismay in their time, like The Rite of Spring or Wozzeck, or transgressive authors like Joyce, Artuad, de Sade, and Genet actually conformed very strongly to the cultural currents of their periods.

    It is almost always philosophers who lead these developments, but they too can only move in step with the forward progress of the society as a whole. Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Marx, and Foucault are a few examples. Societies move forward as a collective. Inspired geniuses only contribute to that movement. They cannot create it alone.

    If an artist defies these principles, his or her work will be neglected and forgotten, regardless of how good it is.

  2. Brian Rosen says:

    Great comment! The zeitgeist as cultural arbiter is a strong notion.

    But is the culture an indicator or instigator? Is the artist driving the culture or is culture driving the artist?

    More likely it’s an interplay, and exchange of ideas between individual speakers. What resonates is a function of the makeup of society at the time, a sort of echo chamber of individuals.

    We need an acoustic theory of memes and ideas…

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Review: Jerry Springer – The Opera

Jerry Springer The Opera is the best piece of theater I’ve seen in San Francisco this year. Irreverent, blasphemous, profane, sure. That’s a given. What’s surprising is how effective this immensely challenging work is, how well suited this subject is to a full operatic treatment. And there should be no doubt about it, this isContinue ReadingContinue Reading

2 Responses to Review: Jerry Springer – The Opera

  1. Drove past the venue, sadly, and didn’t have time to see it last week. Now, I’m extra disappointed. Great review, Brian!

  2. David Rodwin says:

    Glad to hear it was good, but I’ll never forgive JS: The Opera from stealing my thunder at Edinburgh in 2002. I was premiering my opera “Monks & Sluts (and Statesmen, oh my!) and on title alone most of my potential crowd was siphoned away. So I never saw the damn thing. Simultaneously, A Bombity of Errors had it’s UK premiere at that fringe. A friend of mine was in it (Joe Kolski) and it was the best hip hop theatrical venture I’ve ever seen. They even transferred to the West end for a 6 month run.

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DC Shorts Redux

Phew. Three weeks since my last post, but definitely three busy, busy weeks. Most of that time was spent in the high desert of Nevada being deeply involved with the Burning Man arts festival. It was equal parts exhausting and exhilarating, as always, and the full details of what transpired out there is largely outsideContinue Reading

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Review: Eighth Blackbird and Jennifer Higdon at the Cabrillo Festival

Just got back from the opening weekend of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, a two week celebration of orchestral music written by folks who are actually alive and (with the exception of 87 year old George Walker) present. You couldn’t cross the street in downtown Santa Cruz without falling under Music Director Marin Alsop’sContinue Reading

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The Little Death Vol. 1 (aka Who Would Jesus Do?)

As reported a few months ago, Richard Foreman has left the building. To be precise, he’s left the performance space on the second floor of the St Marks Church in the Bowery. In his wake remains the Incubator Project, the spin off of his Ontological Hysteric theater, dedicated to fostering works from emerging experimental theaterContinue Reading

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Review: Lovesong of the Electric Bear

Lovesong of the Electric Bear by Snoo Wilson dir Cheryl Faraone July 13-August 1 Atlantic Stage 2, 330 W 16th St Performance reviewed 7/11/2010 (preview) Regular readers of this blog know that I have a taste for the surreal and irrational in theater.  What they may not know is that I happen to haveContinue ReadingContinue Reading

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