Archive for July, 2011

Katherine Jenkins: More Idle Thoughts

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

I have never met the woman nor, I suppose, am I ever likely to. I do not know how musically competent she is in practice. She may well be, in person, a very pleasant individual. She is nice enough to look at if you like that kind of thing. However, it is the public persona that does not gel with me, in that she has been manufactured and sold as some sort of classical pop star. With her, or possibly more correctly her backers, it seems to be more a case of product and money ahead of any underlying talent or artistic direction.

She seems to have a nice enough voice. However, there’s a big difference between someone who does one or two excerpts from operas reasonably well, and someone who actually performs in them for years, and makes several recordings of the best of them. She may not have acting ability either – though that might not matter on recordings.

Actually, even if she were not able to cope with large scale opera, there are other routes to a career in classical music – recitals, etc., but they’re not routes to money and I fear that money means a lot to her.

I remember hearing an interview with Julie Andrews who was honest enough to say that she knew she didn’t have the right abilities to be a classical singer.

I think it’d be really interesting if La Jenkins were to tackle something large scale or serious, but if she knows that’s not for her, then perhaps we should let her be the judge of that.

She has been successful at what she’s done, so good luck to her, although I’ll raise my hand and say that she’s not my cup of Earl Grey. If she inspires people who’ve heard her sing a couple of arias from Carmen to hear the full opera, and then maybe something else by Bizet, and then maybe another opera, then that’s great, but does this actually happen?

I’m sure people would have much more respect for Katherine Jenkins if she really did cross over and performed a full opera or gave a recital of Schubert lieder.

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Katherine Jenkins: Idle Thoughts

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Posted in Blog Stats, Culture, Food, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

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Baked breakfast tomatoes with duck eggs

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

I had this dish near Tarragona in Spain years ago as a starter for a monumental dinner that went on from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., but I thought it would make a great breakfast dish. You can use fresh, over-ripe tomatoes or a can of chopped tomatoes for this.

2 tbsp olive oil plus a little more for drizzling
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 x 400g cans of good-quality chopped tomatoes, or 1kg skinned ripe tomatoes
a couple of sprigs of thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 English muffins, halved
4 duck eggs

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes and thyme, season and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring every so often.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly toast the muffins on both sides and lay in an oven-proof dish. Pour over the tomatoes, then crack an egg on to each muffin. Bake in the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until the eggs are just cooked.

Serve immediately, drizzled with some olive oil.

Laura Levine: Musicians in pictures

Posted in Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Afrika Bambaataa, NYC, 1983 by Laura Levine

(Source: Observer)

A revealing archive of unseen photographs of music stars taken more than 20 years ago is to go on display in a New York gallery on Thursday. The images, which were all taken by Laura Levine while working for a succession of music magazines in Manhattan, show performers such as Chrissie Hynde and Michael Stipe in an unpretentious setting or a pose that often challenges their public image.

“It was definitely my intention to get away from the studio look,” Levine told the Observer this weekend. “I started out as more of a photojournalist anyway and I wanted to get past all the artifice. I wanted to show a side to the public that was really something that they weren’t aware of. To show them something you don’t normally see.”

The photographic show, titled Musicians, is being mounted by the Steven Kasher Gallery and came about almost by accident after Kasher worked with Levine on another show chronicling the same era. Levene’s show is being billed as an insider’s look at the artists at the forefront of rock, punk, indie rock, post-punk hip-hop, new wave and no wave – and it is already causing a stir in the Big Apple.

“We were setting up a punk and post-punk poster show and talking to Laura then,” said Christiona Owen of the gallery. “Steven has known Laura for many years and enjoyed her photography and so we invited her to do a second show with us. We didn’t realise how many vintage prints she had for show that hadn’t been seen in public before.”

The show will be the first solo gallery exhibition for Levine and will feature more than 35 vintage and modern prints, including the photographer’s vintage gelatin silver prints, many of which are one of a kind.

“There’s been a strong interest in seeing the photos so we think the show is going to be very popular,” said Owen.

Levine has not taken photographs since 1994 and has worked instead in painting, video and animation, but in the 1980s she showed frequently in downtown galleries after working as chief photographer and photo editor of underground newspaper New York Rocker. She also published in the Village Voice, Sounds and Rolling Stone.

“My photo sessions would be very relaxed,” said Levine. “Most of the subjects I didn’t know beforehand, although some became friends. The REM photo I took in Athens, Georgia, at a point where they were very good friends. It was one of many times I photographed them. By the time I did that picture in the diner I knew them really well. I flew down to see them and we spent two whole days just going around Athens and we stopped there for lunch. Then I thought this would be a great picture, so I got behind the counter and told them all to look up.”

Among the other images in the show is a striking early photograph of Madonna. “I took it before she was famous in 1982, I think she had her first single coming out, and she was really game,” said Levine. “I knew nothing about her at the time. She came over to my apartment in Chinatown and climbed up all the steps to the top. I think some of the other pictures from that shoot are well known, but not the one in show. She was a pleasure to work with and had a real sense of self even then. I set that picture up by asking her to scream.”

The show also includes an evocative picture of Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and hip-hop artist and DJ Grandmaster Flash. Marking the birth of hip-hop as a popular genre, it was taken in New York in 1981 in front of a wall of graffiti. “I love that shot. It was for the cover of Andy Warhol’s magazine Interview. They look great with those boomboxes,” said Levine.

“I think the most important thing with anyone you photograph is to establish a real sense of trust.”

Gallery: Laura Levine Musicians

1911 No. 4: Mervyn Peake

Posted in 1911, Books with tags , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Mervyn Peake was born in China in 1911, and educated at Tientsin Grammar School, Eltham College, Kent and the Royal Academy Schools. His first book of poems, Shapes and Sounds, was published in 1941. He also wrote Rhymes Without Reason (1944), Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor (1945), The Craft of the Lead Pencil (1946), Letters from a Lost Uncle (1948), Mr Pye (1953), The Wit to Woo, a play (1957) and The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb (1962). He also illustrated several classics, notably The Ancient Mariner, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island and The Hunting of the Snark. The Titus novels – Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950) and Titus Alone (1959) – are considered to be one of the 20th century’s most remarkable feats of imaginative writing. For Gormenghast and his poem The Glassblowers Peake was awarded the W.H. Heinemann Foundation Prize by the Royal Society of Literature in 1950. He died in 1968.

The book ends with its titular hero not yet two years old, but there is plenty of time for him: we have finished a mere third of the tripartite epic. And it is as we near the end of Titus Groan that we realize the propriety of applying the term ‘epic’ in an exact sense. The book is closer to ancient pagan romance than to traditional British fiction. The doomed ritual lord, the emergent hero, the castle, the hall of retainers, the mountains, the lake, the twisted trees, the strange creatures, the violent knives, the dark and the foreboding belong (however qualified by tea, muffins, tobacco and sherry wine) to a prehistoric England. And the magnificence of the language denotes an epic concept.

(Anthony Burgess, Introduction to Titus Groan)

Lord Sepulchrave, the seventy-sixth Earl of Groan, arrives for breakfast:

Arriving, as was his consistent habit, at exactly nine o’clock every morning, he would enter the long hall and move with a most melancholy air between rows of long tables, where servants of every grade would be awaiting him, standing at their places, their heads bowed.

Mounting the dais he would move around to the far side of the table where hung a heavy brass bell. He would strike it. The servants sitting down at once, would begin their meal of bread, rice wine and cake.

Lord Groan’s menu was otherwise. As he sat, this morning, in his high-backed chair he saw before him – through a haze of melancholia that filmed his brain and sickened his heart, robbing it of power and his limbs of health – he saw before him a snow-white tablecloth. It was set for two. The silver shone and the napkins were folded into the shapes of peacocks and were perched decoratively on the two plates. There was a delicious scent of bread, sweet and wholesome. There were eggs painted in gay colours, toast piled up pagoda-wise, tier upon tier and each as frail as a dead leaf; and fish with their tails in their mouths lay coiled in sea-blue saucers. There was coffee in an urn shaped like a lion, the spout protruding from that animal’s silver jaws. There were all varieties of coloured fruits that looked strangely tropical in that dark hall. There were honies and jams, jellies, nuts and spices and the ancestral breakfast plate was spread out to the greatest advantage amid the golden cutlery of the Groans. In the centre of the table was a small tin bowl of dandelions and nettles.

The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , on July 9, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

(Source: Manchester Evening News)

Legendary performance artist Marina Abramovic has put herself through a lot of things in the name of art, but few have exhausted her quite like working at The Lowry on her latest project for Manchester International Festival. “We have been almost a month here and we didn’t see daylight,” laughs Marina, her strong Serbian accent not lost to decades living in Europe and America. “You are entering into something like a parallel world where nothing else exists – we have no other reality. We love the piece, but we need to see how an audience will love it now!”

Dear Mr. Stravinsky

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

In May 1953 Boston University proposed to commission Igor Stravinsky, by then living in Hollywood, to write an opera with Dylan Thomas, who was staying in New York, and had a few months to live. They met in Boston, and Stravinsky recalled the occasion in Robert Craft’s book Conversations with Igor Stravinsky:

His face and skin had the colour and swelling of too much drinking. He was a shorter man than I expected, not more than five feet five or six, with a large protuberant behind and belly. His nose was a red bulb and his eyes were glazed. He drank a glass of whisky with me which made him more at ease, though he kept worrying about his wife, saying he had to hurry home to Wales ‘or it would be too late’. I don’t know how much he knew about music, but he talked about the operas he knew and liked, and about what he wanted to do. ‘His’ opera was to be about the rediscovery of our planet following an atomic misadventure. There would be a re-creation of language, only the new one would have no abstractions; there would be only people, objects, and words. He promised to avoid poetic indulgences: ‘No conceits, I’ll knock them all on the head.’ He agreed to come to me in Hollywood as soon as he could. Returning there I had a room built for him, an extension from our dining room, as we have no guest room. I received two letters from him. I wrote him October 25th in New York and asked him for word of his arrival plans in Hollywood. I expected a telegram from him announcing the hour of his aeroplane. On November 9th the telegram came. It said he was dead. All I could do was cry.

Here’s the letter Thomas sent Stravinsky after that meeting:

The Boat House, Laugharne
Carmarthenshire, Wales
16th June 1953

Dear Mr. Stravinsky,

I was so very glad to meet you for a little time, in Boston; and you and Mrs. Stravinsky couldn’t have been kinder to me. I hope you get well very soon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the opera and have a number of ideas – good, bad, and chaotic. As soon as I can get something down on paper, I should, if I may, love to send it to you. I broke my arm just before leaving New York the week before last, and can’t write properly yet. It was only a little break, they tell me, but it cracked like a gun.

I should very much like – if you think you would still like me to work with you; and I’d be enormously honoured and excited to do that – to come to California in late September or early October. Would that be convenient? I hope so. And by that time, I hope too, to have some clearer ideas about a libretto.

Thank you again. And please give my regards to your wife and to Mr. Craft.

Yours sincerely

Dylan Thomas

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