Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

All Hail the King

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Last Thursday evening, I hit Prospect Park with friends for the Femi Kuti concert. The rain held off, we packed a huge picnic and danced for hours to contagious, Nigerian Afrobeat. Looking around at one point, I stopped to appreciate the best part of any Brooklyn event – the people. Brooklyn’s characters are eclectic to be sure – a grab bag of characters young and old, white and black, fat and thin, stoned, drunk and sober – all routinely united by what all of NY does best – music, food, art, festivals, etc.

Being a Brooklyn local for years (and a huge fan of Celebrate Brooklyn), this was not the first time I’d appreciated the local cast – and the fact that their strength as a group may be a direct result of their eclecticism. That night, however, the same day that Michael Jackson‘s death was announced, the cast created a particularly memorable moment.

After the show, just as we were packing up to leave, I recognized The Jackson 5‘s “I’ll Be There” on the loudspeaker. So did the rest of the crowd. I looked around, and the whole ragtag group of remaining concert-goers was dancing and singing along to the one of Jackson’s most famous tunes. It was FANTASTIC.

And I thought, the reason people have been so moved by Jackson’s death is that, despite the drama and, let’s face it, bizarreness of the last decade or two, the music was unmatched. Everyone I spoke to had a Jackson story – be it a concert memory, or what a song meant to them at a certain point, etc. So I’m hopeful that as time goes by, he’ll be remembered not for the gossip, but for the gifts he gave us…the same ones that can bring a random crowd of strangers together, even if just for a few moments.

Daniel Arsham: Master of (Creative) Manipulation

Thursday, June 25th, 2009
"Knot" by Daniel Arsham

"Corner Knot" by Daniel Arsham, 2008. EPS, plaster, paint, joint compound. 18 x 64 x 20 inches

Set design for Merce Cunningham, Va de Marne, by Daniel Arsham. France, 2009.

Set design for Merce Cunningham, Val de Marne, by Daniel Arsham. France, 2009.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of a studio visit with sculptor Daniel Arsham. Arsham describes his work as “architectural interventions,” often playing upon existing structures to create unexpected yet organic sculptures – a knot at the corner of two walls, or a chair emerging from within a wall, and so on.

I first came across Arsham last December in Miami, and his light installation at the Beacon/Miami for Art Basel. Most recently, he was in the press for his second collaboration with legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham.  Cunningham is known for creating full evenings of dance in spaces other than traditional theater, with the understanding that the space itself becomes the performance’s décor.In the formative years of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, artist Robert Rauschenberg created scenic designs and costumes in situ, utilizing what was available either within the city or theater where the performance occurred.

For the latest Cunningham-Arsham collaboration, Arsham created site-specific set designs for Au Tour De Paris (coinciding with Cunningham’s 90th birthday). As the performers dance and the music plays, Arsham cuts into heavy black foam cubes, lit white from within, manipulating the scenery as the show progresses. The performances were a surprise for all, as Arsham and Cunningham had little creative communication prior, and all the design elements (choreography, music, décor, costumes, and lighting) changed throughout the tour.

This July, Arsham’s newest work will be on public display, courtesy of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. A collaborative performance called “Untitled Corner” by Arsham, choreographer and media artist Jonah Bokaer and choreographer and dancer Judith Sanchez Ruiz will examine “pattern recognition and perceptual faculties as they apply to the human body, creating the illusion of expanded space.” Part dance, part music, part architectural manipulation (and part of Sitelines ’09), they’ll be performing for free at One Chase Manhattan Plaza at Nassau Street July 6, 10, 13 and 17th at 12:30 pm and July 8th and 15th at 7pm. It’s sure to be a good show, so come by!

For more information on Daniel Arsham, visit

Paste not Waste

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Paste Magazine‘s recent entreaty for reader donations is the first I’ve seen of its kind. As a writer and editor, I’m well aware of the economic climate’s effects specific to the publishing industry. As the number of unemployment recipients grows, full time employees receive dramatic pay cuts and formerly reliable freelance-friendly outlets cut their entire freelancer budgets, publishers and contributors alike wonder, “What’s next?”

It’s a daunting and tricky time, to be sure, and several questions have been repeated. Is print dead? What differences will the future hold for books vs. magazines? Will niche publications be the only to survive? Where is the balance between print’s tactile satisfaction and web’s immediate conveniences and opportunities? And so on.

Paste (a 6-year old, musically-focused print publication that includes a sampler cd of new music with every issue and has a solid, complementary online presence) has chosen to appeal to readers in an honest, simple tone on their website. The Save Paste FAQ sub-page even rhetorically asks questions like “Will my donation line someone’s pocket?,” “Is this just a temporary fix?,” “Why weren’t you prepared for this?” and “Isn’t print dying? What makes you think you will survive?” In addition to tone, though, and quite interestingly, Paste also offers paying supporters an exclusive, musically sweet offering: access to a growing list of songs donated by musicians also supporting the cause – from Arrested Development and Neko Case to Josh Ritter, She and Him, Matthew Sweet, Cowboy Junkies and The Decemberists.

While the publishing industry wonders what next, and so many cower and wait for the storm to blow over, it strikes me as the ideal time for innovators to rise. I’m personally quite ready to see the new leaders emerge. And while I don’t think Paste‘s latest move is necessarily the wave of the future – more so, it’s a sign of the times – it is interesting to watch. Obviously, publishers have to change now – Paste‘s moving and shaking provides a soundtrack.

As a friend of mine pointed out, it’s all about determining a value for your product in the open market. These freebies are not, in true terms, free, and really deserve to be renamed – “taste-testers” or “feelers” anyone? In a time when a band like Radiohead offers a “pay-what-you-wish” album or an independent music magazine offers 75+ songs for as little as a dollar donation, it’s not only time for the industry to change; it’s also time for the language we use to evolve.