Category Arts

Thalberg: Making the piano sensitive

Sigismund Thalberg’s piano performance tour of the United States prior to the Civil War came at a key point in the nation’s cultural emergence on the world scene.  By the 1830’s the United States’ cultural and social elite knew the musical works of Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach, but the acquired tastes of the refined […]

The importance of watching

I’m not quite finished with it yet, but Paul Woodruff’s recent The Necessity of Theatre: The Art of Watching and Being Watched (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2008) makes a compelling case for treating theatre as central to the human experience.  Woodruff’s point is not to reiterate the now-familiar claim that theatrical drama importantly mirrors human […]

Remembering Harold Pinter

Several of the obituaries for Harold Pinter, the Nobel prize winning playwright who died on Christmas Eve, see the puzzle of his life as centered on the question of how so happy a person could remain so consistently angry.  The sense of anger, or perhaps sullenness is the better word, arises mainly from the diffidence […]

The lessons derived from aging backward

I enjoyed seeing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but not because the film finally coheres into a memorable totality but rather since the sum of the parts end up actually greater than the whole, where vivid moments linger after the grand narrative arc fades. The premise on which the story is based, the idea […]

The death of the literary critic

I’ve just finished Rónán McDonald’s little book, The Death of the Critic (London: Continuum, 2007), the broad point of which is to decry the diminution of the literary critical role in society that was formerly occupied by well trained readers like Calvin Trilling, Matthew Arnold, F.R. Leavis, and writers who also produced criticism, like T.S. […]

Harvard’s Arts Task Force

This past Wednesday a Harvard task force appointed by president Drew Gilpin Faust released a report advocating an expanded role for the arts there.  The report is interesting in large part because it calls attention to a circumstance common on many campuses, where the arts are ubiquitous – theatrical productions and exhibitions running all the […]

Ranking the world’s best orchestras

Thinking I would become better informed about the world’s classical music scene, I’ve recently subscribed to the magazine Gramophone, and the very first issue I received is the December 2008 one whose cover announces a ranking of “the world’s greatest orchestras.”  The list has been deeply controversial, especially in Philadelphia, whose orchestra was omitted from […]

On guilty pleasures

In Atlanta they have started to play wall-to-wall Christmas music on some of the radio stations, which in general catches me too early since thirty days of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” can yank the Christmas spirit out of just about anyone.  But some of the songs I’ve heard clearly fall into the […]

How global warming imperils our history

C. Brian Rose, president of the Archeological Institute of America, introduced the November/December 2008 issue of Archeology with an editorial that begins as follows: Global warming is real and it is one of the gravest threats facing our shared cultural heritage.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ten warmest years have all […]

William Eggleston invented color

The Whitney in New York has just opened a major retrospective of William Eggleston’s long career as an innovator in photography (William Eggleston:  Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008), which perhaps brings full circle a journey that has been mainly centered in the American south and the Mississippi Delta (Memphis most of all) but that […]

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