World Music

A Celebration Indeed: Review of Los Angeles Ballet’s Latest

coverI attended LA Ballet’s second weekend of their new ballet Celebration in Redondo Beach last Saturday. This is my sixth LAB performance, though half of them have been The Nutcracker, so it’s extra exciting to see something brand new. I read it would be a combination of George Balanchine and Sonya Tayeh choreography, but that is the extent of my knowledge of what the evening would bring. The program was divided into three pieces, Balanchine bookending Tayeh’s world premiere of My Greatest Fear.

The first piece was entitled Raymonda Variations. Raymonda is a ballet originally staged in Russia at the turn of the century. Balanchine revived the full length ballet in the 1940′s, and extracts of the ballet in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s. LAB’s extracts consisted of nine of Balanchine’s staged variations. First, an opening piece with corps de ballet (but some are singled out for solos later) in medium flowing tutus, and introduction to the lead ballerina (Monica Pelfrey) in a blue pancake tutu. LAB has very talented dancers. But what I always notice, if my seats are good enough, is how young they are. It’s wonderful to see such fresh faces on the stage, but it comes at a price. The main weakness that I notice at every show is when there are two or three dancers doing a combination across the stage, it is rarely ever completely synchronized. One dancer is a beat behind, one has her arm too high, or one is noticeably better (which reminds me of recitals with standouts, not professional ballet). That being said, the piece was beautifully staged and many of the dances were wonderfully danced.

Pelfrey performed a pas de deux with Christopher Revels that was beautiful. Balanchine’s choreography is so interesting because you could easily mistake the piece for a classical one staged one hundred years earlier. But the lifts and the holds are unique and modern. Instead of Revels’s hands on Pelfrey’s hips to dip her in an arabesque, he does it one-armed, with his right arm across her waist to reach her right side—and the result is stunning. When dancing a pas de deux, most of the thankless work falls on the male dancer. He is there to make his ballerina look good. So he must be solid in all his holds and catches when she balances, or does turns, so she looks clean and controlled. This couple did look a bit shaky, and when Pelfrey performed solos, she was solid and spot on. So again, I think that Revels is a very young dancer, still learning his footing.

Variation V, danced by Julia Cinquemani, was the standout for me. She was perfect. Also wonderful were Grace McLoughlnin and Isabel Vondermuhll—the first with a hop arabesque finale across the stage that I have never seen before, and the second with an extremely difficult turn combination she pulled off brilliantly. If nothing else, Balanchine challenged his dancers and staged many of these variations to stay on pointe during the turns and combinations, which is harder than it looks. LAB took on the challenge quite well, and while the other two pieces looked very impressive, I would wager that this classical piece was the hardest to dance.

The second piece was a world premiere by So You Think You Can Dance choreographer favorite, Sonya Tayeh. Entitled My Greatest Fear, the piece is plainly about death, which was reveled to us before the curtain was drawn. The men wore only tight black pants, and the women wore black leotards so revealing that only a dancer could pull one off. Maybe it’s my own particular taste, but I really do love modern dance in pointe shoes. Modern dance on its own has a tendency to teeter too closely to performance art at times. But when the choreography is modern dance and the dancers are ballet trained and on pointe, it can be so beautiful and emotional. Such was Tayeh’s piece. It begins with the entire cast frozen on stage before going into frantic movements. Throughout, one can feel the heaviness that seems to be carried around on all of their shoulders, which contrasted with the pairings’ lifts, which looked as light as a feather.

Even with the knowledge that the dances were about fearing death, it was hard not to see them as already dead, in a personal state of purgatory. I was blown away with how beautiful the extensions and lines were, especially with the juxtaposition on how pain and ugliness were emanating beneath the surface. The men especially stood out in this number. Tyler Burkett’s solo was exquisite and the partnering was so solid, it really spotlit just how powerful these dancers can be. Tayeh’s piece closed to Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, which was beautifully fitting to the visual of all the dancers joining to slowly wave to the audience, perhaps letting their limb speak for their body as a surrender flag.

To close the evening was Western Symphony, another Balanchine choreographed ballet. Although I knew it was ballet, I definitely felt like I was watching an extremely well danced version of Oklahoma! and the dancers might break into song with The Farmer and the Cowboy Should be Friends at any moment. A cheesy backdrop of an Old West town was the perfect setting for the saloon girls and cowboys to dance in front of, as they sported all the colors of the rainbow. All but one dancer had black tights and dyed black pointe shoes, giving their costumes the absolute musical theater look. Extremely upbeat numbers were fun to watch and you could not help but to smile at the theatricality of it all. It could be because we live in Los Angeles, where everyone is “also an actor,” but I was delightfully impressed with how much character and sass each dancer put into the numbers. Without it, the dances would have fell flat, even if danced perfectly. Which, for the most part, they were. The company seemed confident, as if they were having just as much fun as we were. That is, after you give in to the extreme goofiness of it all, while still realizing you are at the ballet and not watching the barn raising from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I found it to be the parts of a musical I enjoy the most, the dancing. It was a happy way to end the evening, but did not stay with me the next day, like Tayeh’s piece.

- By Deidre Moore

For more information on the Los Angeles Ballet, please visit www.losangelesballet.org. Next in their Season 5 lineup will be Giselle in May.

 

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Artistic Capital of North America???

la-arts-monthIs Los Angeles really the “arts capital of North America?” How about “the world?” According to Steve Rountree (President of The Music Center), Antonio R. Villaraigosa (Mayor of Los Angeles), Olga Garay (Executive Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs for the city of Los Angeles), and many others in attendance at Wednesday’s kick-off for the 3rd Annual LA Arts Month—which took place outside, between the Music Center and the Ahmanson Theatre—it is. Which brings to mind another question: if you repeat something enough times, and you really believe it in your heart of hearts, does it start to become true?

Los Angeles Arts Month—or January, as most people know it—was put together three years ago in an effort to promote tourism and encourage artistic community engagement. And from what I gather—although it was difficult to ascertain during the afternoon’s strange launch party, which included a Glee-like performance from the Hollywood High School Choir and a body-bending tidbit from this coming summer’s Cirque du Soleil show at the Kodak—it’s essentially a couple ticket give-aways, free museum entries, and of course, lots of media coverage.

Of course, any Angeleno—no matter how prideful—who’s ever been to New York will tell you Los Angeles is not the artistic capital of North America. And anyone who’s ever been to most any major city in Western Europe will scoff at the notion that Los Angeles is the artistic capital of the world. Don’t get me wrong: I spend a lot of time supporting and enjoying LA’s enormous, eclectic, and vibrant arts scene, but I would never claim it to be any more than it is—which, at least on the government-supported side of things, is struggling.

25 full-time positions, between last year and this year, were eliminated in the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA); grants and donations to the DCA decreased significantly from 2009 to 2010; the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), responsible for a quarter of the Department’s entire budget, was decreased by approximately $1.6 million; and the expenses for the coming year are projected to be about $0.7 million more than last year.

And these numbers are not just numbers. They actually do affect our city in a major way. The DCA, through grants, is responsible for producing over 400 free or low-cost exhibitions, classes, performances, film screenings, and festivals each year. So all those times you go out to a cool, free event at LACE or LA Theatre Works or the Echo Park Film Center or even make the trip downtown to MOCA or the LA Philharmonic, you can thank the DCA. Not only that, but they provide grants to over 25 individual artists each year, they uphold historic sites like the Watts Towers, and they make sure those many murals all over town stay in tact.

So, if the DCA is in trouble, why all the bravado? Well, on one hand, there is a significant amount of money coming in through grant awards. These include the Arts and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. stimulus), Pacific Standard Time (an award to fund a massive collaboration of over 50 exhibitions throughout the city designed to show off Los Angeles’s contribution to modern art), and the Mayors’ Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative (a plan to install affordable artist housing in Downtown LA). On the other hand, it may have more to do with what I mentioned before—that the illusion of a thriving artistic capital (much like the illusion of easy weightlessness created by the Cirque du Soleil dancer as she balanced her entire body on top of her chin) is less challenging than the reality of a city that’s come a long way, but must still use every practiced muscle in its body to pull off the act.

- By Joshua Morrison

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Reverse Discovery

44303_429030174317_267386114317_4742142_5663448_nA friend of mine and sometime contributor to this site Helen Kearns recently introduced me to the site, www.whosampled.com, a pretty amazing operation whereby you can look up an artist or title of a song, and the search engine supplies you with a catalog of other recordings that artist/song sampled and vice versa. The site is clearly still growing, and definitely doesn’t have every musician or track you can think of. But it is symbolic of an interesting trend I’m seeing more and more in contemporary music: reverse discovery.

It’s different than nostalgia in that often one reverse-discovers music they’ve never heard before, and instead of the present reminding them of the past, it’s the past reminding them of the present. What I believe this is leading to in the music industry (and entertainment industry) at large is the reissue of old recordings, not ones that were once popular Billboard hits, but ones that may have may have silently slipped through the cliched cracks of mainstream culture.

In fact, this is already happening on a small scale. One of my newest favorite albums, for instance, Air Over Water by Wall Matthews and Rusty Clark was released this year, but all the tracks featured were originally recorded from 1974 to 1986, the year Clark passed away. Chances are you probably haven’t heard of this album or these musicians, unless you reverse-discovered them through the popular British DJ, Four Tet, who illegally sampled their song “Neptune Rising” in his “She Moves She” (a fact not found on whosampled.com).

Matthew’s and Clark’s music is hardly irrelevant or untimely, however. They just happened to be performing and recording a few decades before vocal-less acoustic and “Imagistic”—to use a word from the subtitle of the album, “Imagistic Music for Guitar and Violin”—were readily available outside of coffee shops and experimental dance troupes.

To be fair, the name of the album does sound like an Enya-esque meditation soundtrack (though Enya is vastly underrated in my opinion, and has most likely enjoyed some reverse-discovery herself). But the actual music has no electronics, no singing, and with the exception of a few tracks, sticks to just two instruments. It could be dubbed minimalist if it were not for the full and entrenching landscapes these two instruments create.

The first song of the album, “The Two Snails Who Went to the Funeral of a Dead Leaf” is a brash, Indian-inflected violin solo from Rusty Clark, a call to the wild that dances between Philip Glass-like repetitions and something more raw and untamed. The level of musicianship is clearly marked high from the very beginning, and maintains the kind of virtuosic intensity you simply don’t hear that much these days outside of a symphony.

The second track, “Gypsies,” inaugurates the guitar-and-violin duets, which make up most of the album. And they are truly duets. The two instruments trade off positions of melody and landscape many times within a single song, and almost imperceptibly.  Matthews finger-picks his guitar in fast, clear, ringing tones, reminiscent of Nick Drake, but with more complexity and variety. Meanwhile, Clark leads his violin through a veritable wonderland of genres, from medieval-court-like fare to free jazz to pop to what, in “Alabama Sketches” and “The Clowns,” I can only describe as pastoral dread.

It’s tempting to call the songs on Air Over Water cinematic, because they are so visual, but then again, the music is what dominates here, and I’m not sure if would work taken into the soundtrack of a movie. What Wall and Rusty did, instead, and what feels more natural, was use it for dancers—a far more interpretive arena of expression that, like the instrumentation itself, works with (rather than on top of or below) the sounds.

“The Clowns” is a quick favorite for any new listener to Matthews and Clark. It’s ostensibly simple, with a clear, defined structure, and brings to mind a comforting type of rustic domesticity. But there’s also a creeping suspicion in it, and the repetition becomes and integral part of what ultimately makes the piece so haunting.

“The Blue Heart” introduces the first bits of piano into the mix, a welcome addition, especially with its combination of music-box simplicity and dissonant jazz. It a beautiful imbalance dancing with with innocent, would-be major key melody. It borders on the noir—a dangerous and flirtatious seduction between two ballroom waltzers.

Whereas the album began with a triumphant violin solo from Clark, the album ends with an unassuming “Little Piece” by Matthews, just him on guitar, gently leading the listener out of his world, at least for now. I began to realize, then, how the idea of reverse-discovery might be inherent in some music, how even when Wall and Rusty were recording these works back in the 70’s and 80’s, they weren’t just doing it for that specific time. They were inviting an entire future, real or imagined, to experience and discover their unique vibrations.

- By Joshua Morrison

If you wish to reverse-discover more, you should definitely check out Matthews’s Riding Horses, Heart of Winter, Zen Gardens, Color of Dusk, and Gathering the World, as well as the work of the Entourage Music and Theatre Ensemble.

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Is Johannesburg the New Hollywood?

GangstersParadise4-1023x767On June 11th, 2010, there will be two big premieres coming out of South Africa. One is the much anticipated 19th FIFA World Cup, the first time the continent of Africa will play  host to the world’s most popular sports tournament. The other is the U.S. premiere of the film Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema.

Clearly, the World Cup is a tad more significant than a movie opening, but both are representative of a larger global shift: the emergence of South Africa as an international cultural force—especially when it comes to cinema. From the success of a great film like District 9, to the obligatory Hollywood initiation of a Clint Eastwood-helmed drama (Invictus), it’s clear that the South Africa is tossing its hat in with the Western-dominated entertainment industry.

Is it any wonder, then, that their films are reflective of this cultural transcendence? District 9, for example, is not a provincial movie; it’s in direct conversation with the great alien invasions of Hollywood, from Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds to Independence Day. It pays its homage to tradition, while using the alien genre for its own purposes at the same time. And this is not simply a Tarantino-esque play of mash-ups; it’s a way to communicate.

Ralph Ziman’s Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema, which I got a chance to see this Friday at the USC Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre, is no different (except maybe in budget and heaviness of hand, which I’ll get to later). Based loosely on a true story, it’s about the rise of slumlord Lucky Kunene, who starts off stealing cars in the small South African village of Soweto, but eventually moves to Johannesburg, where he enacts a brilliant plan to take over a series of high-rise buildings in the ghetto of the city, providing a deadly though lucrative buffer between the properties’ white landlords and black tenants. Along the way, he develops a relationship with a white woman from the suburbs, picks a fight with a drug kingpin, and becomes a kind-of slumlord Robin Hood.

The film’s South-meets-West dialectic is evident even in the title. When it was released in South Africa two years ago, it was just called Jerusalema, a reference to a well-known regional hymnal. The producers of the movie, however, felt the title needed an extra kick to be able to sell in America. So they added the preamble of “Gangster’s Paradise,” an obvious allusion to the 1995 Coolio song (though in actuality, may refer to the change in the Johannesburg motor license plate prefix post-Apartheid to “GP,” which stands for Gaunteng Province). Director Ralph Ziman, in a Q&A session after the screening, said he was okay with the change in title if it meant more people would see the film. And to my eye, this same cultural compromise was central to his entire cinematic creation.

Narrative-wise, for instance, the movie was yet another re-telling of the all-to-familiar gangster story—the rise and fall of a sympathetic crime boss. But the details of this particular tale are entirely fresh. The character of Kunene is someone you want to get to know better and better (especially in the hands of the actors Jafta Mamabolo and Rapulana Seiphemo, who respectively play the young and old versions of him), and the politics of how he takes over the high-rises are fascinating. Visually, too, it was photogrpahed in the overused documentary style made popular with films like City of God, and even District 9. Yet the gritty realism of the setting (they shot in one of the world’s most dangerous slums) was undeniable. And musically, the composer (who was present at the screening) certainly borrowed from the rhythm-heavy soundtracks of modern-day thrillers, while still seamlessly inserting never-before-heard, African chants and beats into the background of the mix.

According to actor Jafta Mamabolo—also present at the screening and Q&A— these cultural interweavings in Jerusalema have helped it to become a genuine, South African cult hit. Whether or not this proves to be true for American audiences, however, is another issue. Because while such narrative and aethetic borrowings may help to bridge gap between worlds, there is such a thing as overdoing it. Cheesy voice-over dialogue like “In the beginning…,” unnecessary chase scenes, predictable book-ends, and romantic sub-plots within the movie often cross the border into cliché. And I found myself, after the highly informative Q&A, wishing Ziman had let go of some of these Hollywood trappings, and stuck more closely to the real events that inspired him in the first place.

Regardless, the film is most definitely worth seeing, if for no other reason than to witness yet another step in the maturation process of a fast-growing industry. If you see it on opening night though, just make sure to not to miss the first game of the World Cup: South Africa vs. Mexico. My bet’s on the underdog.

Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema opens in select theaters on June 11th. For more information, please visit www.gangstersparadisejerusalema.com.

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deFineArtsLA Exclusive: So You Think You Can Dance With Elephants?

When I heard about choreographer Lionel Popkin’s There’s an Elephant in This Dance happening at the REDCAT this past weekend, complete with interpretive dance and elephant costumes, my imagination went wild. Dancing elephants! Sign me up! Being the enthusiastic fan of the extravagantly bizarre that I am, I was of course expecting something outrageous—chorus lines of elephants adorned in gold and green, roller-skating through arbitrarily-floating sheer fabrics of rose and yellow, a bazaar-like carnival of gleaming lights and clamorous music and pinwheels and ice sculptures and bubbles, lots of bubbles!—but of course, as I should’ve learned by now, anything that I attend at the REDCAT is nothing like what I expect. Usually, it’s better.

The dance opened with a woman, Peggy Piacenza, on a dark, empty stage, matter-of-factly putting on the pieces of a chintzy, worn-out elephant suit. She jiggled the headpiece into place, and bing! Elephant! The now-elephant contemplated her newfound existence for a moment before beginning a series of delightful, childlike dances, at moments hesitant and at others exuberant, until collapsing exhausted on the floor.

I was quickly learning that the elephants in my own mind rest in a much different place than the ones in Popkin’s. Popkin, raised in a split Hindu/Jewish home, grew up surrounded by images of Ganesh, the Hindu deity esteemed as the Remover of Obstacles and Lord of Beginnings. Popkin used his own connection to the iconography of Ganesh to explore the themes of cultural identity and self-actualization in There’s an Elephant.

Following the opening, the dance centered on the character played by Lionel Popkin himself. The wistful, plucky music of composer Robert Een’s live score accompanied by a black-and-white video of the furry dancing elephant by Cari Ann Shim Sham and Kyle Ruddick served as a backdrop for Popkin’s more serious self-exploration. Hands in pockets, Popkin planted himself center-stage and looked around inquisitively. Slowly, he began to sway, his spine swiveling at his hips just like the trunk of a curious pachyderm, whipping and contorting with increasing ferocity. Popkin was soon joined by the dance’s other players, including long-time collaborator Carolyn Hall and modern dance veteran Ishmael Houston-Jones.

Hall and Popkin took the lead in a terrific duet, wherein Hall commanded Popkin about the stage with her index finger, leading him by the mouth like a mule to a carrot. The innocent buoyancy of the dance dissolved quickly as the power struggle between the two dancers grew. Caught between resistance and longing, both dancers struggled to assert their individuality while simultaneously remaining clearly co-dependent. A beautiful play of domination, desire, and will emerged as Popkin’s character scuffled with the ever-more-clingy Hall. Finally, in a brilliant reversal of roles, it was no longer Hall’s character who led Popkin’s on her finger, but he who carried her, limp with exhaustion, into darkness.

What was so great about this dance was its capacity to mimic human capriciousness—at one moment somber and pensive, the dancers entwined in this petulant power-struggle, and at another playful and blithe. Being prone to emotional volatility myself (only sometimes, y’all) I found myself laughing out loud and then immediately sinking back with the dancers into their pining.

In the concluding act, Popkin’s character reached the final stage in his quest for self-actualization. Alone again, he encountered the elephant suit, which had maintained an eerie side-stage presence for much of the dance (aside from a charming interlude in which Piacenza romped excitedly around stage while attempting to put the thing on). Watching Popkin explore the dimensions of the suit, dressing and disrobing, at times rolling on the floor trailing the head by its trunk, gave strange feelings of awe and unease. With the last moments of the dance Popkin seemed to find peace, but only after many fits full of grace and existential yearning (I said it! Existential yearning!).

I was left not only wanting to sign up for an agro-yoga class, but feeling almost like I’d already taken one myself. That feeling you get after a not-to-strenuous bike ride on a sunny day. So what if I saw “dance” and “elephant” and I didn’t read any further—I’m glad I didn’t. There’s an Elephant in This Dance was the most pleasant surprise a trunk-lovin’ girl could’ve asked for.

For more information on REDCAT and their upcoming events, please call 213-237-2800, or visit www.redcat.org.

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Robo-Fusion: Artificial Intelligence Takes the Stage at SCREAM Fest

KarmetikI may be living in the “age of technology” here in 2010, with the smart phones and the talking GPS devices and the iTunes auto-DJ always at my disposal.  We’ve all become pretty accustomed to—and spoiled by—this kind of “smart” technology that’s taking over at such a rapid rate. But, to this day, when I hear “robot technology” or “artificial intelligence,” I still think of Rosie—the sweet, lovable, wheel-legged house-bot from The Jetsons. And that’s just what I was expecting when I attended the SCREAM Festival at the REDCAT this Wednesday night, where the KarmetiK Machine Orchestra performed a unique symposium of electronic North Indian music.

The Karmetik Music Orchestra is the creation of music director Ajay Kapur, production director Michael Darling, and a whole team of musicians and designers both within and without the CalArts sphere. Ajay Kapur is the Director of Music Technology at CalArts and the creator of KarmetiK, a body of artists and engineers working to redraw the line between music and technology. KarmetiK uses artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction technologies to create new digital works of art. This is more than just reinventing the sitar, though. This is a whole new man behind the sitar. I’m talking about robots, here. The researchers and engineers at KarmetiK have pushed the technological barrier so far as to create custom-built robotic instruments that can improvise with a human musician, fusing musical tradition and modern engineering.

Neat! But are these robot-musicians self-aware? Maybe not, but this was nothing like what I expected. At Wednesday night’s performance, five robots shared the stage with a dozen or so musicians. Two strange looking drum sets hovered on each side of the stage, roughly seven feet from the ground, with drums, bells, cymbals, gongs, strings, and shakers splaying from the center. A rain stick spun slowly on an automated pinwheel at stage left. There was a gamelan-bot, like the Reyong used in the Balinese tradition, with upside-down metal pots suspended on a wooden frame. Tammy, a master-bot of sorts, stood high in the center. Tammy was designed by the well-known instrument sculptor Trimpin, Michael Darling, and Ajay Kapur, and built by students in the Robotic Design class at CalArts. Made up of a marimba, a self-plucking drone device, and five bells—all recycled objects found in the electronics junkyard—Tammy stands 14 feet tall and is certainly nothing like my dearly-beloved Rosie.

The program consisted of music in the North Indian style, beginning with a sparse call-and-response piece, Digital Sankirna, demonstrating the performer-robot interaction, in which the robots seemed to learn and play more as the piece progressed. Amazing was the robot’s sense of restraint—it seemed to intuitively know just when to release. Accompanied by Ajay Kapur’s ESitar and Curtis Bahn’s most beautiful EDilruba, it made for an arrestingly haunting opening. A second highlight was the appearance of the Ustad Aashish Kahn, considered one of the greatest living sarodists in the world, for a performance of the an Indian raga Shivranjani. Finally, the dance of the dalem, in the Balinese masked-dance tradition, concluded the program, complete with five gamelan players, the Reyong Bot, and the dancing white-masked king.

So maybe we haven’t yet advanced artificial intelligence to the point where robots are self-actualizing, but after watching KarmetiK, I feel that we are frighteningly close. This is more than a simple case of deus ex machina. Music is one of mankind’s most primitive forms of communication, fastening us together on the most gut level. The technology powerful enough to create a robot that can tap into the human psyche on that basic plane may be the great equalizer between man and machine, and that is a loaded possibility. Rosie is with us, certainly more than we might have known.

- By Helen Kearns

To see the full calendar of upcoming shows at REDCAT, please click here.

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New Year, New Art

The way you start off a new year is very important to the way the new year ends up going for you.  At least that’s what they say.  Put their theory into practice with some of January’s most promising arts events in our fair city – would you like your 2010 to look a little more Bond-like? Would you rather it looked a little more experimental than your 2009?  It’s so tempting to answer those questions with: there’s an app for that, but really your city has got what it takes to kick off your new year just the way you’d like.

Mr. Bond

Friday, January 1 is not likely to be your most shining and perky day.  That doesn’t mean you can’t start on a sleek, technologically advanced, Bond-like bend – from 7:30pm at the Egyptian Theatre there’s a double feature of Dr. No and You Only Live Twice.  You may not be at your sharpest on Friday, but you’ll soon make a better Bond than Mr. Connery.  If you’re less than interested in leaving your house that day, worry not.  Saturday evening (January 2) from 7:00pm, they’ll be screening Goldfinger and Thunderball – if you don’t have a love/hate relationship with villains after a weekend like that, you’re not cut out to be the next Mr. Bond.  And that’s no way to start a new year.

Please click here for the Egyptian Theatre’s full January 2010 calendar.

Barely There

At Sam Lee Gallery, just near Dodger Stadium, you’ll find local artist Jeff Gambill’s exhibit “Barely There,” on through January 23.  His paintings have this generally zen, colorful feeling that convey the transient, transitional message he’s going for.  Fresh from a trip to Japan, you’ll definitely see an East Asian influence in each of his works.  They don’t scream out at you, but they definitely make you want to look closer.  And what better message than looking closer at something that doesn’t shock and awe for a new year?  Time to delve a little deeper, kids.

The Sam Lee Gallery is located at 990 N. Hill Street #190.  Please call (323) 227-0275 or click here for more information.

New Year, New Music

It’s so easy to fall into an all-Mozart (or all-Beyonce) rut.  Take some time in January 2010 to break out of it.  It may not last the whole year, but at least you can say you tried.  On Saturday, January 16 at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica,Jacaranda invites you to discover Thomas Ades, Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell Davies, George Benjamin, and others.  The concert, called Licorice and Rosin (“licorice” is a slang term for clarinet and rosin is a solid form of resin used on string instruments), will present some of Britain’s more exciting contemporary music from the last twenty-five years.

If a church is the last place you’d like to be, Monday Evening Concerts at the Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School kicks off 2010 on January 11 at 8:00pm with a concert called “Mostly Californian.”  Featuring compositions by Clint McCallum, Luciano Chessa, Michael Pisaro, and others, you will hear sounds of contemporary California.  (No, that doesn’t include woeful cries for our current economic situation.) The composers in question present lyrical, theatrical works that won’t sound like anything else you’ve heard before.

Please click here for more information about Jacaranda.  Alternatively, click here for information about Monday Evening Concerts.

Soundtrack for a Revolution

The Grammy Museum just celebrated their first birthday – still haven’t been? Monday, January 11 at 7:00pm they’re presenting Reel to Reel: Soundtrack for a Revolution, a documentary that looks at the American civil rights movement and the unparalleled soundtrack that went along with it.  Filled with archive footage, interviews with civil rights leaders, and a soundtrack of freedom songs sung by modern day R&B, Hip Hop, and Soul legends like Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, The Roots, and John Legend.  Monday’s screening will be followed by a panel discussion chock full of everyone you’d like to get advice from for a soulful 2010 – Danny Glover, filmmakers Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, producer Dylan Nelson, and music producer Corey Smyth.

For more information, please click here.

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New Waves of Enlightenment

Enlightenment comes in many forms, especially in Los Angeles.  Depending on the weather, the day of the week, or the current passing trend, enlightenment can be found in a yoga class, in a martini shaker, or at the movies.  Where some need to sweat out their worries on a treadmill, others are of the school of thought that meditation, silence, and breathing are the ticket.  Personally, one thing that works every time is good music, played loud and up close.  I’m not talking about the ‘jump on your bed while listening to Pearl Jam’ kind of loud and up close, I’m talking about the kind of music that moves you to your core – Yo-Yo Ma on the violin or Ravi Shankar on the sitar, for example.

This weekend at the Broad Stage, you’ll find another musician bringing enlightenment in bulk – Rajeev Taranath.  One of the world’s leading Sarod players, Taranath will grace the stage on Saturday evening with tabla virtuoso Abhiman Kaushal for a performance guaranteed to shift your perspective for the better.  The Sarod is a stringed instrument similar to the sitar that has long been used in classical Indian music, while the tabla is a classical Indian drum that has been featured in both traditional and popular music around the world.

What’s more is… Fine Arts LA has got tickets for you!  The lucky winner of today’s Extra! Extra! raffle will win tickets to see Rajeev and Abhiman enlighten Santa Monica on Saturday night at the Broad Stage at 7:30pm.  Some Extra! Extra! details you’ll need to remember: by entering into this raffle, you’re also eligible to win the next three (3!) raffles!  All we need is your first name, last name, and email address and voila – you’re a newly enlightened guru!

(Click here if you don’t want to risk it and you’re just gonna buy your own tickets.)

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Posted in Extra! Extra!, Music, Santa Monica, Tickets, World Music No Comments »

Only at REDCAT

As you sneak around the grandiose Walt Disney Conert Hall to find the hidden door to REDCAT, you almost feel like you know something that concertgoers heading in to hear Brahms don’t.  When you slip into the space, that you secretly consider an artistic speakeasy, what you’re hoping to hear is something that will get conversations flowing and inspire you in an esoteric way that only a contemporary artist can – no offense, Beethoven. 

Ana Cervantes is the perfect candidate to perform at REDCAT.  A Mexican-American mix, Cervantes plays piano with the same gusto and fervor that the forthcoming Gustavo Dudamel puts toward conducting – perhaps it’s a Latin thing.  She has performed works by Mexican composers throughout the US and Cuba and can be seen at REDCAT on Wednesday evening at 8:30pm performing her Rumor de Paramo.  Rumor is a solo concert featuring seventeen pieces inspired by Juan Rulfo who, in 1955, changed the face of Latin American literature with his Pedro Paramo. 

With composers that run the gamut from Englishman Paul Barker to Spain’s Tomas Marco, the concert will be as eccentric as you’d hope without going too far.  Rulfo’s story alone is a magical-realist look at tragic social and family histories; your narrators are ghosts.  This is the kind of concert that will have you saying things like “I always head to REDCAT for the best new music,” or “there are so few places in LA that will support this kind of fresh experimentation,” or “that’s so REDCAT.”  See you Wednesday, connoisseur. 

Ana Cervantes will perform her Rumor de Paramo at REDCAT on Wednesday, September 30 at 8:30pm.  For more information, please call (213) 237-2800 or click here. 

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