Thursday, December 31, 2009
The New York Times asked its readers around the world to submit their photos documenting the decade - everything from 9/11 to Katrina to Obama. The result are these excellent 667 photos selected out of over 2300 submitted.
The Journal always has good pieces on Jazz, it seems, and this list compiled by Larry Blumenfeld is no different.
Another fascinating list from The L.A. Times!
The lists keep a' comin'! And this is a fun and interesting one, to be sure!
As New Creation rambles along through the mounains of "best-of" lists, this one seems like it's worth taking a look at: Nicole Lamy's (Editor of The Boston Globe's Book Review) Top 10 Books of the Decade.
Chancing by any mag stand over the last month or so and you were bound to bump into a music magazine selecting the "best XYZ" of the decade. Rolling Stone got into the game as well - but with a twist. Instead of limiting the list to their staff, they dolled out ballots to over 100 top musicians, critics and industry insiders and let them each vote for the best albums/songs of the decade. The result is a cross-section of a wide-ranging musical landscape that appeared in flux and fluid motion throughout the decade.
The editors, Jann S. Wenner and others, at Rolling Stone magazine have selected their Top 25 albums of 2009. U2 takes top honors for No Line On The Horizon, but Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, Green Day, Animal Collective, Phoenix, Wilco, Neko Case, Springsteen and others rate high also!
After quite a long nice nap, New Creation is up and raring to go, ready to blast off into 2010! However, before we get there we've got some business to tend to in 2009 posts - namely the year-end/decade-end plethora of "best-of" lists of books, music, films, fruitcakes (well, maybe not fruitcakes, but you get the drift...).
Not that drawing up the list — or rather, whittling it down — was a wholly painful exercise. One of the pleasures it afforded was the chance to resample the sometimes surprising chemistry of reviewers and authors, particularly when it came to fiction. Jonathan Lethem, whose “Chronic City” made our list, reviewed Lorrie Moore’s novel “A Gate at the Stairs,” which made it too, while Curtis Sittenfeld, whose novel “Prep” was one of the 10 Best in 2005, reviewed Maile Meloy’s story collection “Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It,” a winner this year. Any book review editor will attest that persuading fiction writers to assess other people’s fiction can be a struggle. These were heartening exceptions to the rule. May more novelists review for us in 2010!
Monday, December 7, 2009
One last article to post before New Creation is put on ice for a few days during finals week: A fascinating piece from February 2007, "In Search of Flannery O'Connor" which follows Lawrence Downes' journey to visit O'Connor's homeland in rural Georgia, a literary pilgrimage that treads lightly between the fictional and the real.
They arrive by foot, car, scooter and battered black-and-yellow taxi, dolled up in their Saturday best for the imminent wee-hours concert by Mr. N’Dour, Africa’s biggest music star. “It’s a city that really comes alive at night.”
Though he has recently returned to Dakar, the Senegalese capital, from a gala in New York City for the international Keep a Child Alive charity — where he sang with Alicia Keys and was honored alongside Bill Clinton and Richard Branson — Mr. N’Dour sounds more like a wistful local kid than a 50-year-old global icon who has won a Grammy Award and was once named one ofTime magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.” “I’m still very attached to Dakar,” he goes on, adding that he was born in a working-class neighborhood a few miles from the club. “And the people of Dakar are very attached to my music.”
And how. When he takes the stage, an ecstatic roar explodes, and soon several hundred bodies are dancing madly. With its fast-driving, interweaving traditional sabar drummers — rounded out by guitar, bass, keyboards and a rock drum kit — the opening number, “Less Wakhoul,” is pure mbalax, the propulsive, percussive, melodic pop music that Mr. N’Dour popularized starting in the 1970s and that remains the dominant sound emitted from Senegalese radios.
When the sun dips behind the Atlantic, this gritty concrete metropolis — exhilarating, inventive, emotive — flares into a living jukebox of sounds with few African rivals. And with the imminent arrival of the annual Africa Fête — a music festival from Dec. 12 to 19 featuring the mbalax master Omar Pène and many other top local acts — the city’s tuneful bounty is about to go on even larger and more ebullient display.
“Dakar is one of the most musically vibrant cities in Africa,” says Simon Broughton, editor in chief of the Britain-based Songlines magazine, which last year began operating tours of the city and this month features Youssou N’Dour on its cover.
“There’s a large number of clubs,” Mr. Broughton says, “and lots of music as part of the fabric of everyday life.”
“It’s all these kids that are really ramping up their vinyl collections,” Ms. Friedman said. “New customers are discovering the quality of the sound. They’re discovering liner notes and graphics.” In many instances, the vinyl album of today is thicker and sounds better than those during vinyl’s heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.
Sales of vinyl albums have been climbing steadily for several years, tromping on the notion that the rebound was just a fad. Through late November, more than 2.1 million vinyl records had been sold in 2009, an increase of more than 35 percent in a year, according toNielsen Soundscan. That total, though it represents less than 1 percent of all album sales, including CDs and digital downloads, is the highest for vinyl records in any year since Nielsen began tracking them in 1991.
Sales of CDs, meanwhile, have been falling fast, displaced by the downloading of digital files of songs from services like iTunes. Sales of albums on CD, which generally cost half as much as their vinyl counterparts, have dropped almost 20 percent this year, according to Nielsen.
With overall sales down, numerous big music-store chains like Tower Records, Virgin Megastore and HMV have pulled out of Manhattan, leaving music sales largely to online merchants and the few small, die-hard record shops scattered about Greenwich Village and Brooklyn.
One exception has been Best Buy, a national electronics chain that recently opened its sixth store in Manhattan. A year ago, the chain started stocking vinyl albums in about 50 of its stores, including one on the Upper East Side. Their presence, with their alluring cover art, still has the power to stun.
“Some individuals come into our store and they stop in their tracks,” said Andre Sam, a sales representative at Best Buy’s store on East 86th Street. “They don’t expect to see this.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Back on November 15, New Creation posted the first of our "Readings Lists In Theology And/Through The Arts". Today we unveil the second part of this on-going series by offering up an impressive list from Michael Paul Gallagher. Among other things, it's a great place to look for last-minute Christmas presents!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
For College Football's Best Wide-Receiver, The Time Between Saturdays Is Spent With A Six-String And In Prayer
But Jordan Shipley, 23, did not become a complete player and person at Texas until leg injuries kept him off the team in 2004 and 2005, nearly ending his playing days. Facing football mortality, Shipley found himself. “There just came a defining moment in his life where he made the decision that his commitment to football was not going to define him as a person,” Bob Shipley, Jordan’s father, who coached Jordan in high school, said in a telephone interview. “And that’s really when he really started being successful.”
Texas Coach Mack Brown said he considered telling Shipley to give up football.
But Shipley took his time away from the game to develop in other ways. He discovered a passion for music as a guitar player, a singer and a songwriter. When football was taken away, “I had to kind of figure out who I was as a person and what I stood for,” he said in a telephone interview.
“He’s awesome,” Colorado Coach Dan Hawkins said of Shipley in a telephone interview. “He’s obviously very talented, but he’s got that divine spark.”
Shipley’s rhythm on the field is in sync with his life off it. Shipley describes his music as a mix of country and Americana, styled after musicians like John Mayer and Jack Johnson. He has stopped watching television because he prefers to play his Alvarez acoustic guitar while singing and writing songs at his house.
“It really just soothes me,” Shipley said.
Shipley recently started playing in a band at Fellowship of Christian Athletes worship meetings at Texas, and has written nearly a dozen songs and recorded a few of them. In July, it only took him a few hours to write his first song, “Moving On,” about being stuck in the city and longing to get away.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Gonna be in New York anytime soon? The reviews coming in say there's never been anything like "Fela!" on Broadway before... Check out the rapturous New York Times review, below:
The hot (and seriously cool) energy that comes from the musical gospel preached by the title character of “Fela!,” which opened on Monday night, feels as if it could stretch easily to the borders of Manhattan and then across a river or two. Anyone who worried that Bill T. Jones’s singular, sensational show might lose its mojo in transferring to Broadway can relax.
True, this kinetic portrait of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a Nigerian revolutionary of song, has taken on some starry producers — including Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — and shed 15 or 20 minutessince it was staged Off Broadway last year. But it has also acquired greater focus, clarity and intensity. In a season dominated by musical retreads and revivals, “Fela!,” which stars the excellent Sahr Ngaujah and Kevin Mambo (alternating in the title role), throbs with a stirring newness that is not to be confused with novelty.
For there has never been anything on Broadway like this production, which traces the life of Fela Kuti (1938-97) through the prism of the Shrine, the Lagos nightclub where Fela (pronounced FAY-lah) reigned not only as a performer of his incendiary songs (which make up most of the score) but also as the self-proclaimed president of his own autonomous republic.
Yet Verve has just released “Twelve Nights in Hollywood,” a four-CD boxed set of Ella Fitzgerald singing 76 songs at the Crescendo, a small jazz club in Los Angeles, in 1961 and ’62 — and none of it has ever been released until now.
These aren’t bootlegs; the CDs were mastered from the original tapes, which were produced by Norman Granz, Verve’s founder and Fitzgerald’s longtime manager.
They capture the singer in her peak years, and at top form: more relaxed, swinging and adventurous, across a wider span of rhythms and moods, than on the dozens of other albums that hit the bins in her lifetime.
Examining music in a museum space is no simple task; exhibitions about musicians tend to downplay the music itself. But “We Want Miles,” an ambitious show about the life and music of the jazz great Miles Davis, at Cité de la Musique through Jan. 17, is a remarkable exception. In this exhibition, the music is central.
The flow and form of the exhibition at Cité de la Musique (221, Avenue Jean-Jaurès; 33-1-44-84-44-84; www.citedelamusique.fr; Métro: Porte de Pantin), in the Parc de La Villette, is infused with the spontaneous and elegant nature of the man and his music: cool and understated in all the right places. Broken into a chronological series of eras, the constant evolutions and revolutions that characterized Davis’s work are central themes.
The exhibition itself takes a hands-on approach: plug into various listening stations to experience Davis’s tunes. Or sit and lose yourself in a series of “mutes” — acoustically designed rooms, shaped like the trumpet device that Davis used to great effect, with music piped in. There’s also film of “live” concerts, some projected onto big screens.
With “Pops,” his eloquent and important new biography of Armstrong, the critic and cultural historian Terry Teachout restores this jazzman to his deserved place in the pantheon of American artists, building upon Gary Giddins’s excellent 1988 study, “Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong,” and offering a stern rebuttal of James Lincoln Collier’s patronizing 1983 book, “Louis Armstrong: An American Genius.”
Mr. Teachout, the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the chief culture critic of Commentary magazine, writes with a deep appreciation of Armstrong’s artistic achievements, while situating his work and his life in a larger historical context. He draws on Armstrong’s wonderfully vivid writings and hours of tapes in which the musician recorded his thoughts and conversations with friends, and in doing so, creates an emotionally detailed portrait of Satchmo as a quick, funny, generous, observant and sometimes surprisingly acerbic man: a charismatic musician who, like a Method actor, channeled his vast life experience into his work, displaying a stunning, almost Shakespearean range that encompassed the jubilant and the melancholy, the playful and the sorrowful.
Monday, November 23, 2009
FOR WHOM IS THIS RETREAT: for anyone who senses a call to shepherd artists. In the church. In the marketplace. In educational settings. In coffeeshops. In official and un-official capacities. This retreat is for anybody who feels a yearning to love artists and to help them grow strong and whole and holy.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Solomon R. Guggenheim, the museum's founder, was a major collector of Kandinsky's art, amassing no fewer than 150 canvases in his lifetime. (He died in 1949, five years after the artist.) The work was perhaps the most profound influence on the collector's thinking about nonobjective painting, which shed direct relationships to the visible world. Kandinsky instead explored the emotive possibilities of color and form, study central to avant-garde art for the next half a century.
In 1939, a scant decade after the collector bought his first Kandinsky, he opened the Museum of Nonobjective Painting -- the precursor to today's Guggenheim. And 20 years after that, Frank Lloyd Wright's radically designed Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue opened, showing just how much nonobjective art had informed a variety of advanced ideas. A powerfully expressive, light-filled void pierces the building's core.
Wright's building recently underwent a much-needed, beautifully achieved restoration. As a celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Kandinsky retrospective (running until Jan. 13) not surprisingly elicits a major "Wow."
Julian Goins, the 15-year-old leader of the Ranger$, a five-member jerking crew, hops onto the tips of his sneakers — the Tippy Toe — and then swivels his body ground-ward, legs crossed at the ankle. He pops up like a jack-in-the-box, spins and bounces, gliding backward in the Reject, a move that resembles nothing so much as the Running Man, an ’80s dance-floor step but in reverse.
The other kids in the schoolyard pay scant attention to the star in their midst. Until his Ranger$ schedule exploded and his mother decided to home-school him, Julian was just another student.
Goofy, gentle, nimbly amateurish, jerking was little known outside certain precincts of this sprawling city until a year ago. But in the last nine months or so, jerking began an unexpected run as an Internet phenomenon.
When the New Boyz — two teenagers who had been playing high school auditoriums — released “You’re a Jerk,” the song raced up the Billboard ladder, sold 750,000 copies on iTunes and another 400,000 ring tones, provided the duo with a base for a national tour and, of course, gave rise to untold copycats.
“Jerking started off in L.A. as just a little inner-city dance,” said one of the New Boyz, Earl Benjamin, 18, known as Ben J. “We used to search for it on YouTube and we noticed it had potential to be bigger than it was. It was like when you first saw break dancing: it has so many different parts, and when you get the dance down pat, you wanted to do it all the time. It reminded you of how fun hip-hop used to be.”
The painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco, almost certainly heard it growing up far to the south on the island of Crete. You can hear it today when you visit “The Origins of El Greco: Icon Painting in Venetian Crete,” a lustrous exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center in Midtown Manhattan.
With its extraordinary ensemble of almost 50 religious images, most of them painted on Crete — seven by El Greco and some of the rest by artists whose names are not known — the show is essentially a dual-purpose visual essay. On the one hand it roughs out the texture of a specific, cosmopolitan, East-meets-West island culture. On the other it tells the story of a great artist who emerged from that culture, lived outside it and lastingly belonged to it.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Aiming to revive the age-old ties between the Catholic Church and artists — and perhaps to put a more positive face on a contentious papacy — the Vatican pulled out all the stops for more than 250 artists, architects, musicians, directors, writers and composers from around the world, but largely from Italy.
Benedict made “a cordial, friendly and impassioned appeal” to the artists, calling on them to be “fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty.” He urged them, “Do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history.”
In an interview, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the director of the Pontifical Council for Culture who organized the event, said the aim was “to re-establish a dialogue” between the church and artists “that’s necessary and fertile for both.”