Short Stories

STORIES YOU DIDN’T EXPECT TO READ

  • Beyoncé announces a scholarship program for female college students to mark Lemonade’s one-year anniversary
  • Streaming – good or bad for the arts?
  • London: 21 grassroots music venues could close due to business rates increases
  • Why the Los Angeles Philharmonic is the most important orchestra in America
  • London’s orchestral scene is ‘dead’
  • BBC launches Culture UK commissioning drive
  • An opera by a woman wins the Pulitzer Prize for Music
  • The hard facts about women in classical music
  • Rock’s the new jazz and vinyl’s so-called revival: what I’ve learned as Guardian music editor
  • Why authoritarians attack the arts
  • Cultural organizations improve quality of life in NYC’s low-income neighborhoods, report finds
  • Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours
  • Elon Musk on the dangers of A.I.

Is this a first? Lemonade funds a scholarship program

Beyoncé

Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album Lemonade has brought the star no shortage of accolades, including two Grammys and a Peabody, and now the queen is ready to give back. Beyoncé has announced via her website a new program to celebrate the album’s anniversary that will grant scholarships to female students studying creative arts, music, literature, or African-American studies for the 2017-2018 school year.

The aim of the “Formation Scholars” awards is to “encourage and support young women who are unafraid to think outside the box and are bold, conscious and confident.” The scholarships will be awarded to one student from each of four universities—Berklee College of Music in Boston, Howard University in Washington D.C., Parsons School of Design in New York, and Spelman college in Atlanta. Notably, two of these are historically black universities, while the others specialize in the arts.

Album cover

Streaming – good or bad for the arts?

More and more arts organizations are live-streaming their events. But how does it impact the arts? Build awareness to increase ticket sales? Or turn the ticket-buyer into a non-buying online lurker? A report compiled by Frédéric Julien of CAPACOA and research consultant Inga Petri, argues that “non-profit groups will need to consider their own versions of vertical integration, with presenters making strategic alliances with producers or co-operating with private industry to build networks large enough to draw the audiences they will need. As a model it points to Radioplayer Canada, a single app implemented by 400 public, private, community and campus radio stations. For the performing arts, the details are still hazy, but the message is clear: Go digital or go home.”

London: 21 grassroots music venues could close due to business rates increases

Georgia Snow

  • At least 14,000 performance opportunities by emerging artists could be cut
  • Hundreds of jobs under threat
  • London’s cinemas are also being hit with increased charges
  • 100 Club among venues facing crippling rate rises

Twenty-one of London’s much-loved grassroots music venues are at risk of closure due to business rates increases according to shocking new research commissioned by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

A further 18 of London’s 94 grassroots music venues are expected to experience significant financial challenges. In total, these 39 venues account for up to 530 jobs and generate up to £21.5m for the capital’s economy.

On top of this, an additional 23 venues are at risk of having to cut the number of new artists they book, instead opting to put on safer, more-established artists that generate higher sales.

Overall, this reduction could eliminate at least 14,000 emerging-artist performances annually and have a knock-on effect for the music industry, reducing the opportunities for new and emerging talent in London.  More at https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/business-rates-increases-impact-on-venues

Why the Los Angeles Philharmonic is the most important orchestra in America

Zachary Woolfe

…As it prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2019, the Philharmonic puts more energy into new work than any other orchestra. It presents a greater sense of the diversity of today’s music and its creators than any other orchestra. It ties its mission to education and social justice in its city more than any other orchestra. And, yes, more than any other orchestra, it combines a commitment to the future with a fresh eye on the past.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the LA Philharmonic

The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Credit Michal Czerwonka for The New York Times

Why is all this worth mentioning just now? Because the Philharmonic is facing an unexpected and not altogether welcome transition. Deborah Borda, the leader who guided an already daring institution to new heights over the past 17 years, announced last month that she was leaving to try and work some magic on the struggling New York Philharmonic.

In Los Angeles, Ms. Borda completed the soaring Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall, which had been languishing before her arrival; gave new vigor to the Hollywood Bowl, operated by the orchestra and now a reliable cash cow; quintupled the endowment; and hired Gustavo Dudamel as music director when he was a fledgling and made him a star. With orchestra subscription bases faltering, Ms. Borda’s Los Angeles Philharmonic rethought its season as a series of events and festivals, each night needing to stand on its own, to sell itself.

Going through the calendar for next season and marking the events I don’t just want to see but feel I really need to see — the ones I would fly across the country for in a heartbeat — I ended up with more than 10… As Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker, when it comes to creativity and diversity, the orchestra is mainly competing with itself.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/arts/music/los-angeles-has-americas-most-important-orchestra-period.html?mc_cid=dfd00149e6&mc_eid=d99355acd1&_r=0

London’s orchestral scene is ‘dead’

According to that merchant of gloom, Norman Lebrecht, London’s orchestral scene has slipped to its knees after that city’s long period as the world’s orchestral capital. Its five major orchestras were led by the world’s great conductors, living in London, and were in flat out competition. ‘And then it died.’ First came the fade-out of the record industry, then emigration of film recording, shrinking newspapers, arts centres losing their imagination, BBC dumbing down, shrinking of audiences, and above all, says Lebrecht, declining and disengaged public subsidies. But he points to instances of energetic and exciting innovation in the orchestras of other UK cities. Time for some new brooms.  Broom-sharpening here: Spectator#

BBC launches Culture UK commissioning drive

Called Culture UK, it will feature strategic projects – including a AU$6.7 million commissioning fund for artists – that aim to make the UK the most culturally engaged country in the world.

Among the first organisations announced as taking part are the National Theatre, London’s Young Vic and Boy Blue Entertainment.

The National Theatre’s My Country: A Work in Progress will be adapted for BBC2 as part of Culture UK. Photo: Tristram Kenton

The five-year project is being led by the BBC with the Arts Councils of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Creative Scotland. BBC director general Tony Hall said the scale of the partnership was larger than had been seen before,  but that working together within the arts was ‘more necessary and more urgent than ever’.

Culture UK’s plans include the Artists First $6.7m commissioning fund, which will prioritise artists and arts organisations making new works for broadcast or online at the BBC. Hall said the plans would change how the BBC commissions, and give voice to new stories ‘on an unprecedented scale’.

Projects that have already been confirmed include a TV adaptation of the National Theatre’s Brexit play, My Country: A Work in Progress – for BBC2 – and a dance film from Boy Blue Entertainment, directed by Danny Boyle. https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2017/bbc-launches-4m-culture-uk-commissioning-drive/

An opera wins the Pulitzer Prize for Music

Angel’s Bone, by Du Yun

Premiered on January 6, 2016, at the Prototype Festival, 3LD Arts and Technology Center, New York City, a bold operatic work that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world. Libretto by Royce Vavrek.

Angel’s Bone

The hard facts about women in classical music

Half or more of the members of American professional orchestras are now women. Half a century ago, orchestras were almost entirely male. Peter Alexander reports that the change was caused especially by the institution of “blind auditions” that began around 1970. Auditioning musicians play behind a screen so that the selection committee does not know gender (or race) of the candidates. The effectiveness of the strategy is confirmed not only by the evidence on stage at orchestral performances but also by formal research going back to the year 2000.

Women composers do not have the advantage of the screen and the selection processes are mostly not public. Only 1.8% of works performed by major US orchestras in 2014-15 were by women – although women accounted for 14.8% of the much smaller number of works by living composers.

Susanna Malkki conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in 2016

There has been a continuing push for programming of works by female composers which hopefully is having an effect, if slowly. The same is true for women conductors. Conductors might be auditioned behind a screen but issues of personality and appearance probably are relevant too. League of American Orchestras data show that 14.6% of conductors employed by its members are women, although among the high level orchestras the number is only 9.2% and in the top 24 orchestras by budget there is only one female music director – Marin Alsop. The board may select the music director so conservative businessmen may bring the prejudices of the business world into play. According to the article, by now it is not usually the orchestral members who have a problem with women conductors. They are just looking for competence. There is much more at sharps and flatirons 1

Rock’s the new jazz and vinyl’s so-called revival: what I’ve learned as Guardian music editor

Michael Hann

Today is my last day at the Guardian, after 16 years, the last 11 of which have been spent covering music, and most of them running the Guardian’s music coverage…  if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to offer some brief thoughts on what I’ve picked up.

  1. Music writing still has a place, but it needs to change

It’s a myth that critics could make someone popular…[The main purpose of reviews, so far as I can tell, is to provide star ratings for press advertisements and to enable artist managers to feel content their client is getting coverage. But … music journalism will survive, because people will never tire of hearing the stories behind the songs that make them feel alive….

  1. Rock music is in its jazz phase

…I mean it’s like Ryan Gosling’s version of jazz in La La Land: something fetishised by an older audience, but which has ceded its place at the centre of the pop-cultural conversation to other forms of music, ones less tied to a sense of history. Ones, dare I say it, more forward looking…

  1. Don’t believe everything you read about how music can make money

… Below the top end, everyone – venues, promoters, artists – struggles… Take a chance on an artist you don’t know much about. The future of music depends on people putting in, not just taking out.

  1. People are too cynical about the musical industry

… pretty much everyone I’ve met who works in music does so because they love it, and they don’t make fortunes from it. Music is a remarkably uncorrupt world: there’s an awful lot of trust and good faith involved. And it ignites the passions, still.

  1. But some cynicism is justified

…we get complaints about endless stories about Adele and Beyoncé and Kanye West. Why do we run them? Because people read them. Whereas very few people read stories about the latest underground band we want to rave about. And in music, that knowledge has resulted in commercial music, more than ever before, being made to a formula. five-things-i-learned-s

Why authoritarians attack the arts

Ai Weiwei and remnants of an installation for the Venice Biennale in 2013.

University of Chicago sociologist Eve L. Ewing: “Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding and solidarity among coalition builders. Art teaches us that lives other than our own have value. … Authoritarian leaders throughout history have intuited this fact and have acted accordingly.”

Read the story at New York Times

Cultural organizations improve quality of life in NYC’s low-income neighborhoods, report finds

Seph Rodney

The Queens Museum’s Panorama of the City of New York seen during the recent Mierle Laderman Ukeles retrospective (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

A new report outlining how the arts and culture contribute to a sense of wellbeing for residents of New York details some surprising insights about the distribution, use, and significance of cultural assets throughout the city.

The Queens Museum’s Panorama of the City of New York

The study found more than 4,700 cultural providers in the nonprofit sector and more that 17,000 for-profit cultural entities. Not only is much of this cultural work “off the books,” but the presence of these organizations in lower-income districts has a measurable, beneficial effect on residents’ social wellbeing — including health, school effectiveness, and personal security. In fact, the study found that cultural organizations’ strongest impact on social wellbeing is not in areas with the largest number of resources, but rather in lower-income districts where the social connections they facilitate operate as a form of capital, substituting for the financial capital available in other places. “Culture makes a difference in these communities by enhancing social connection, amplifying community voice, and animating the public environment.”

This report shows in statistical terms that the presence of cultural resources is associated with a decrease in cases of child abuse and neglect, in obesity, in the rate of serious crimes, and an increase in students scoring in the top stratum on English and math exams. The cultural resource might be as informal and local as a storyteller making time to give the gift of memorable tales to children who might not otherwise know that there are realities beyond their own that are attainable and worth knowing.

Read the full “The Social Wellbeing of New York City’s Neighborhoods: The Contribution of Culture and the Arts” report here.

Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Darwin had it right. Work way less. Accomplish way more.

“Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus. Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking. Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil. Their towering creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours.”

According to a famous study, the best violin students were not the ones who practised the most, but the ones who knew when to stop.

Read the story at Nautilus

Elon Musk on the dangers of A.I.

Elon Musk

Musk’s alarming views on the dangers of A.I. first went viral after he spoke at M.I.T. in 2014—speculating (pre-Trump) that A.I. was probably humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” He added that he was increasingly inclined to think there should be some national or international regulatory oversight—anathema to Silicon Valley—“to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.” He went on: “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. You know all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he’s like, yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.

Read the story at Vanity Fair