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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Who Hearts Tashlin? The BAM blog Giveaway

Here at the BAM blog, we love a polymath, so we’re excited about tonight’s Frank Tashlin double feature. Tashlin worked as an animator in the 30s, was a gag writer before becoming a screenwriter, and then became a major Hollywood director with films that helped usher in another movie genius, Jerry Lewis. Before all that, Tashlin had a comic strip called Van Boring, which has us wondering: Why aren’t there more directors who come from that world? What better analog is there for cinematic language than the gag strip? Just check out these panels from Tashlin’s strip to see what we mean:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Einstein on the Blog: Christopher Knowles’ Typings

Christopher Knowles in The $ Value of Man at BAM, 1975. Photo: Domonique Ponzo
The versatile artist, performer, and poet Christopher Knowles caught the attention of the New York art world through his collaborations with Robert Wilson in the 1970s. While still a teenager, Knowles appeared in Wilson’s 1973 production of The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin at BAM. He then went on to contribute to—and to highly influence—many of Wilson’s key early productions, such as A Letter for Queen Victoria and Einstein on the Beach, for which Knowles was the main librettist. In the second half of the 70s, Knowles and Wilson performed everywhere from St. Mark’s Church to Shiraz in their antic DiaLog series, which Knowles co-designed, co-wrote, and co-directed with Wilson.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where's Glasso?

From David Bowie to Robert Wilson, Philip Glass has collaborated with a multifarious assortment of artists over the years. If you consider all the historical figures and the artists of past eras who are positioned prominently in his work—as well as Glass’ famously diverse set of friends—then you can appreciate the labyrinth of personalities who have populated Glass’ world over the years. So, in the spirit of the Where’s Waldo illustrations, Nathan Gelgud has drawn a condensed version of Glass’ social universe. Can you spot “Glasso” among his friends and collaborators? (If not, Nathan has generously provided a key for those of us whose eyes are stumped.)

—Joseph Bradshaw

Monday, August 20, 2012

Einstein on the Blog: Scores at the Morgan Library

Title page from autograph manuscript, Einstein on the Beach. Collection of Paul Walter,
on deposit at the Morgan Library & Museum. Used with permission. Photography: Anthony Troncale

“I still use pencil and paper,” Philip Glass said about composing. “In fact, it’s become a problem. There are no copyists who work with ink anymore. They don’t exist.”

Glass’s problem, our prize.

Currently spread out on a single wall at the Morgan Library is a rather masterfully inked testament to doing things the old fashioned way: the entire handwritten manuscript for Glass’s Einstein on the Beach. A printed score generated by notation software wouldn’t have played as well near Robert Wilson’s murkily sketched storyboards for the opera, installed across the room, nor with the grainy video of the 1976 premiere playing on a loop in the same space. It wouldn't have been any fun at all—no smudges, no mysteries to solve involving ambiguously placed note heads, no record of the hand in the canvas, as they say. What we have instead is both a sublime visual representation of the music as well as a priceless record of a work's squiggly first step out into the light of day. Note for note, it's also a reminder that these things don't spring from the head of Zeus fully formed. They require painstaking labor, and lots of it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Accelerated Ruin

Photos by Timothy Hull (left) and Nicholas McDermott (right)
Those of us who frequent the BAM Cultural District may have noticed a strange addition to the alleyway neighboring the Harvey Theater at 651 Fulton. At first glance, it appears to be an alien hybrid of sculpture both ancient and contemporary, but throughout the next year, keep tabs on this particular edifice, since each visit will yield an eroded and transformed object. The Accelerated Ruin: a BAMart: Public installation is a far cry from a conventional sculpture.

When we think of sculpture, we often think of static, immutable objects, impervious to time. For many great sculptures, that is the boldness of their statement: the intention is a kind of permanence or immortality. This notion was a point of departure for Timothy Hull and Future Expansion Architects, designers and engineers of The Accelerated Ruin. This sculpture—dynamic and responsive—yields to the passing of time; it is ephemeral and impermanent, like us.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eiko & Koma, Iconic Artists

Tree (1988)
We at the BAMblog recently tried a simple experiment: we described the action in Eiko & Koma’s seminal Land (presented at 1991’s Next Wave Festival). Why did we do this, you ask? Because we wanted to see if the largely speech-less and famously slow-moving work of this pair of performance artists could translate to the language of description. Here’s a sample of what we came up with:
Koma pushes taxidermied bison across stage with his head.

Eiko crawls on belly in front of the bison.

Eiko tries to get up, falls.

Eiko tries to get up again, falls.

Koma continues pushing bison, now with shoulders.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Spike Lee: The Bard of Brooklyn

Brooklyn has been so integral to the public persona of Spike Lee that it’s surprising to realize how long it has actually been since he ventured back to the borough of his childhood to shoot a feature film. Born in Atlanta, Lee moved to Cobble Hill when he was young, and his continued devotion to Brooklyn is evident not just in the fact that his production company, 40 Acres and a Mule, is still located a few blocks away from BAM, but also in the major local community events he has organized here, such as the Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson celebration that draws tens of thousands of fans to Prospect Park every summer. In a recent interview Lee even spoke about commuting daily to his Fort Greene office from his current home on the Upper East Side. (As the press has delighted in noting, though, he has stopped short of switching his allegiance to the New York Knicks over to the Brooklyn Nets.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ranking Sounds: A Tour Through the Best Reggae DJs with Programmer Gabriele Caroti

Trinity and Dillinger
"No matter what the people say/These sounds lead the way/It's the order of the day/From your boss deejay I King Stitt! Haul it from the top/To the very last drop!"

Rap was invented in Jamaica. A bold statement, perhaps? Not really. The practice of rhyming or talking over records at “sound systems” (outdoor mobile discotheques) began on the small Caribbean island in the 50s. Influenced by American rhythm & blues radio DJs talking jive over records, reggae DJs took it one step further and “toasted” (rapped) over pre-existing instrumental tracks of the hits of the day. The public’s reaction was ecstatic, so subsequently, records of these DJs “riding the riddims” were released. Partly due to the incessant experimentation of the producers, and partly due to the economic necessity of reusing pre-existing music, DJ “versions” were created.

This mix below gives a nice “lickle” primer of the DJ in Jamaica – from foundation DJ King Stitt’s kinetic “Fire Corner” (over Clancy Eccles’ “Shoo Be Doo”) and U-Roy’s major leap in vocal styling, his version of The Paragons’ “Wear You to the Ball,” to the 80s with superstar DJ Yellowman’s “Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt” and DJ duo Clint Eastwood and British-born General Saint’s “Hey Mr. DJ.” Between these are fantastic performances of superstar rasta Big Youth (who, at his height, rivaled Bob Marley in popularity), the erudite cinephile I-Roy with “Buck and the Preacher” about the eponymous Sidney Poitier film, Trinity’s monster “Three Piece Suit,” a desert island disc if there ever was one, and Tappa Zukie’s militant/back to Africa anthem “MPLA” (named after Angola’s ruling political party) with lines such as “So Natty fling away your sorrow/Natty leaving on the Black Star Liner tomorrow” (the Black Star Line was Marcus Garvey’s all African-American owned ship line in the 1910s/20s).

Some non-DJ cuts are included, with their respective DJ versions (Gregory Isaacs’ “My Religion” and Dr. Alimantado’s “Unitone Skank”), but one without, because it’s one of my favorite reggae tunes ever: Linval Thompson’s “Don’t Cut Off Your Dreadlocks.” And finally, Ranking Joe, who will be performing at BAM tonight with Deadly Dragon after Rockers, has a reggae trinity of three tunes, including a dub instrumental that he produced. Take a listen, and you’ll get a sense of the unstoppable creativity of these dreads on the mic. “So right now you can feel my vibration/as you read the design for the young and the old generation/Musical sound that was created from creation as you can hear original soundtrack...”

Do the Reggae mixxxxxxx by BAM on Grooveshark

Do the Reggae, a 14-film series celebrating 50 years of Jamaican independence, runs August 2 to 6. Find the full line-up here.