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Paul Slavens Show: Blog for June 27, 2010

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Categorized Under: KXT, Music, Paul Slavens

Hey there.
I hope you are staying cool.
I am here to help with cool music.
This is where you leave your polite comments and music suggestions.
Make sure and leave a link if you can so we can buy it if we want.
New to me this week: Balmorhea, Nina Nastasia, Bally Sagoo and Hayes Carll.

Tonight’s Playlist:

Charlotte Gainsbourg, “La Collectionneuse,” IRM
Balmorhea, “Coahuila,” All Is Wild, All Is Silent
Donovan, “Season Of The Witch,” Sunshine Superman
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Darktown Strutters, “Grab a Silver Bullet” (radio edit) Darktown Strutters
Otis Spann, “Love, Love, Love,” Otis Spann – From The Archives (Digitally Remastered)
Nina Nastasia, “What’s Out There,” Outlaster
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The Roots, “Walk Alone,” How I Got Over
Brad Mehldau, “Capriccio” Highway Rider
Bally Sagoo, “Choli Ke Peeche,” Bollywood Flashback
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Jackson 5, “Doctor My Eyes,” Soulsation! Disc 2
Schoenberg, “Pierrot Lunaire” Valse De Chopin Contempoartensemble, Sonia Bergamasco, Pietro De Maria & Mauro Ceccanti
Conway Twitty, “I’d Love To Lay You Down,” Number Ones
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Nina Simone, “Pirate Jenny,” The 60’s Vol. 1 – Ne Me Quitte Pas
Steely Dan, “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” Pretzel Logic
Loudon Wainwright III, “Where The Whippoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight,” High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project
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Daniel Folmer, “Skin and Bones,” 20 Bands/74.4 Minutes!
Enoch Light, “Fascinating Rhythm,” Provocative Percussion
Luciana Souza, “O Bolo,” Brazilian Duos
Geeshie Wiley, “Last Kind Words,” Mississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927 – 35
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Danny Balis, “If You’re Trying To Kill Me,” Too Much Living
Laurie Anderson, “The Lake,” Homeland
Hayes Carll, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” Trouble In Mind
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Cat Power, “Silver Stallion,” Jukebox
John Zorn, “Toys,” The Dreamers
Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions, “I’m The One Who Loves You,” The Anthology 1961-1977 (Disc 1)
Mike Hankinson, “Sonata in D major” (Scarlatti), The Unusual Classical Synthesizer

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Dallas and the Musical Revisal

A number of the advance features that have been written about the Dallas Theater Center’s It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman have stumbled over whether the show — opening tonight — is a ‘revival’ of the 1966 original that flopped on Broadway. And they settle uncomfortably on ‘revisal’ as if the word were strange to them or they’d just invented it.

Actually, ‘revisal’ is not some freshly coined word, despite the fact that my computer’s stupid Microsoft spell checker keeps highlighting it. It appears, for instance, in my antique 1941 Merriam-Webster. Nor is it a rare phenom. An April WSJ feature considered briefly the recent tradition of Broadway revisals, specifically several new examples of tinkered classics (Promises, Promises, Grease,  South Pacific). And it asked the question, when does a revival become a revisal? In those instances, what mostly concerned author Joanne Kaufman was the addition or removal of a number or two.

But what about major book re-writes? The fabrication of entire scenes? Four or five new tunes? Well, Ken Mandelbaum has argued that the “revisal was the dominant form of musical revival in the ’90s.” So much for its supposed oddball or only semi-legit status. For him, the most successful revisal, believe it or not, has been Chicago. I was taken aback by the claim but he argues that because the stripped-down staging of the 1996 City Center Encores! presentation and the fact that the book was trimmed for it made the Kander-and-Ebb 1975 tuner seem like a “radical rewrite” — and that’s what lead to the Oscar-winning film version. I’m not fully convinced that a re-staging, however radical, amounts to a revisal. Many people seem to think ‘revival’ means a note-for-note, stage-prop-for-stage-prop recreation of an original. But many revivals — the majority, I think — are actually ‘re-stagings.’ (Mandelbaum argues the same revisal status, more or less, for the Donmar Warehouse-Roundabout Theater nightclub version of Cabaret — but that did have significant changes.)

Several years ago, Michael Dale made a convincing case that the 1973 version of Irene was the world’s first Broadway musical revisal:

Sure, there had been revivals featuring book revisions and added and deleted songs before producer Harry Rigby, spurred by the success of the 1971 revival of No, No, Nanette, thought of presenting [Irene,] the long-running hit from 1919 (Broadway’s longest running book musical before Oklahoma!) as a vehicle for the Broadway debut of Debbie Reynolds. But never before had there been such a drastic overhauling of a successful show for its return to New York.  …  Hugh Wheeler was brought in to write a new book (with Joseph Stein added to the mix during previews) with new songs, and lyric revisions to old songs, penned by Charles Gaynor, Otis Clements, Wally Harper and Jack Lloyd.  Only five of the original Tierney/McCarthy tunes remained, including the big hit “Alice Blue Gown”, but a couple of popular numbers McCarthy wrote with other composers, “You Made Me Love You” and “They Go Wild, Simply Wild, Over Me” found their way into the new Irene.  “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” was sung by Reynolds during previews, but was cut before the Broadway opening.  It was added again when Jane Powell came in as her replacement.

The Irene revisal was successful (a year-and-a-half run) although mostly because of Debbie Reynolds’ celebrity draw.

I can’t find anything that might be considered a revisal after 1973’s Irene - although there certainly could have been some, I’m not claiming the most thorough search through everything in the period loosely termed a ‘revival’ — but it’s plain the show didn’t exactly spark a trend. Instead, I would maintain that the contemporary movement to revisals — and by that I mean re-vamping Golden Age musicals with updated yucks or plots, more contemporary sensibilities and at least a couple new tunes — that kind of revisal actually began with Dallasite Roger Horchow’s wholesale re-working of the Gershwins’ Girl Crazy into 1991’s Broadway smash, Crazy for You. It was like Irene in how heavily it re-worked its original source. But unlike Irene, not only was it a full-fledged, long-running, international hit, it won three Tonys, including best musical.

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This Week in Texas Music History: Victoria Louise Massey

Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman looks at a trailblazing singer whom many have called “the original rhinestone cowgirl.”

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.

  • Click the player to listen to the podcast:
  • Expanded online version:

Victoria Louise Massey, who died on June 20, 1983, was born in Midland  in 1902. As a teenager, she joined with other family members to form what would become Louise Massey and the Westerners. The group toured throughout the United States and had several major hits, including “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” and “My Adobe Hacienda,” which she co-wrote with Lee Penny. Massey was a groundbreaking artist in many ways. She sang in both English and Spanish and became one of the first women to front a prominent country band. She also was well-known for wearing spectacular stage costumes, earning her the nickname of “the original rhinestone cowgirl.” During her 30-year career, Massey blazed a trail for numerous other women in country music as a performer, songwriter and businesswoman.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we honor a Texan who was a Rhodes scholar, a janitor, and a helicopter pilot before becoming an award winning songwriter and movie star.

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Saturday Spotlight: Bye Bye Birdie

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Categorized Under: Local Events, Music, Theater

In the Saturday Spotlight, we’re hearing a musical the old-fashioned way. Lyric Stage’s production of Bye Bye Birdie features a 31-piece orchestra playing the original Broadway orchestrations. It’s only the second time the original orchestration has been performed since the show was on Broadway. Click here to listen to an interview with Birdie composer Charles Strouse.

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Where Were We: Pecha Kucha at Dallas Center for Architecture

The premise behind Pecha Kucha is simple:  Presenters – artists, designers, architects, writers, or anyone with an interesting idea to share – show 20 slides, and get 20 seconds to talk about each one.

Conceived in Tokyo, the concept has spread around the world.  And last night, The Dallas Center for Architecture hosted the third meeting of a Dallas/Fort Worth group.  (Manny Mendoza blogged for us about another group two years ago, and we reported on a merger earlier this year with Spark Club, so there may be others out there.)  Co-organizer Bryan Brian Murphy describes the event as a cross between creative sharing and show-and-tell.  To me, it’s like a salon on speed. And I mean that in the nicest way – a great catalyst for ideas, an opportunity to connect with others who are doing interesting work.

Such as? First up last night:  Comic book writer David Hopkins. As his slides of scripts and finished comics scrolled past, Hopkins talked about what he does – much more than filling in the words in the balloons coming out of characters’ mouths.  Hopkins says he frequently writes 20,000 words for his projects, of which perhaps 6,000 are actual dialogue. The rest are descriptions, ideas for images, word pictures that will guide his artist partners as they bring his characters to life. Then Hopkins segued into making points about artistic collaborations.  The idea of the artist almost always centers on an individual creator, which, he points out, completely overlooks the collaborations necessary to make movies, theater productions, video games, etc.  He closed with his tips for nurturing successful collaborations. Six minutes and out.

Others:

Architect Jonathan Brown, associate at JHP, a firm devoted to the concept of “whole community design.” He and his co-presentor, Melissa Joesoef, protested “too many brown buildings” and urged the architects and designers in the room to explore color. They showed  apartment and retail projects they’ve done in The Colony, Garland, Plano and Dallas,  awash in bright greens, reds, blues.

Speaking of color, Fort Worth artist Joyce Martin showed off some of her work using salvaged plastic trash – specimen cases, cable packaging ties – to create brightly-hued organic shapes that resemble thistles and pods, coral, barnacles (slideshow here). Martin was inspired by the floating trash islands … and she bases some of her work on the idea of building an island out of your trash and her own.  One of the wonderful things about being an artist, she observes, is that “you get to change what’s reality by your own interpretations.”

Scott Horn also touches on environmental issues in his work, such as an installation recreating the High Five interchange, made from canvas and hung from a ceiling; or a collection of “jellyfish” made of plastic bags and water bottles. But empowerment was the spine of his message: “Anyone can create culture in their community.” He quickly traced his own path, beginning with Pink House in Lawrence, Kansas then, in Dallas, helping create Pigeon Stone Project and Art Conspiracy, turning the Magnolia Theater lobby into a gallery, and collaborating on shows like FuNction in the Cedars.  He closed with a shout-out to others, such as photographer Ange Fitzgerald, who are spotting needs and opportunities and then making them happen.

Brad Goldberg closed out the first half of the evening with his stone sculptures – enormous and painstaking works  installed in the Miami and Dallas airports, above an abandoned quarry in Scotland. Six giant stone eggs lined with solar panels in China. Work in Allen, Fair Park’s Dart station, and coming soon, a water tower in Addison. (Photos of many of these can be seen here.)

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the second round of talks. I missed artists Brad Ford Smith and Nancy Rebal, toymaker Edward Ruiz, paper conservator Tish Brewer, muralist Chris Arnold and furniture maker Sean Springer.

Pecha Kucha joins what seems to be a growing collection of local groups fostering idea sharing and networking. Some, like Pecha Kucha, stop there; others seek to forge new partnerships or accomplish a goal.  Not all of them are arts-related. I’m thinking of events like Art Conspiracy and Pin Show; networking groups like Spark Club or Net Impact,  conferences like TedXSMU and Big Bang (which threw together social entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and non-profits earlier this month).   Hat tip to Jim Schutze who noticed energy shifting in Oak Cliff in a column about efforts to build community gardens there and make it biker-friendly.

Regardless of where any of this might lead,  an evening spent absorbing snapshots of cool projects going on around town reminds one – hey, you know, there are really some cool projects going on around town – and might just inspire you to start your own.

Check back here for the next Pecha Kucha event. Know that they “sell out” quickly. The event is free, $5 donation suggested at the door, but tickets are required. There was a lengthy waiting list for last night.

UPDATE:

1)You can read a q/a with Sarah Jane Semrad, co-founder of Dallas chapter of Pecha Kucha over on Front Row.

2.) Neat idea, but how the heck do you pronounce that word? Brian Murphy pronounces it PeCHOCKcha. That is slightly different from this.

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Surprise! Tenor Ben Heppner Wins the Dallas Opera's Callas Award

Selected online by Dallas Opera season subscribers, the winner of the “Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year” Award was announced yesterday evening. The internationally acclaimed singer created the role of Captain Ahab in the opera’s recent production of Moby-Dick.

In an official statement, DO general director and CEO Keith Cerny said:

“With Mr. Heppner at the helm, the cast and production team of Moby-Dick set the standard for productions yet to come – because the Callas Award, while an acknowledgement of our illustrious past, more importantly points the way to an exciting and ground-breaking artistic future.”

“In the new Winspear Era,” Mr. Cerny added, “we are determined to create state-of-the-art productions and commission new works that will attract the finest singers, conductors, directors and designers the world has to offer.  And the task of choosing an honoree for this award should become more difficult for our subscribers with each outstanding season.”

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Calder Coming to the Nasher in December

The Associated Press reports on a new exhibition of Alexander Calder mobiles and stabiles that opens this weekend at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and will be there through the summer. Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art: Form, Balance, Joy features more than 50 of Calder’s works, some drawn from the MCA’s stock, others from the Whitney and MOMA in New York, plus Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The show also has an accompanying exhibition of some 30 works by young artists (36 to 43) inspired by Calder.

The AP also reports that the exhibition (that’s its catalog, left) will be coming to the Nasher Sculpture Center Dec. 11-March 6.

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W Magazine Discovers Dallas Visual Arts …

…. at least insofar as that means a photo gallery in W’s July issue of fashion-plate, female arts patrons — plus Kenny Goss and the occasional spouse.

Photo for W by Jason Schmidt of John and Lisa Runyon with Mask (1995) by Richard Phillips

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A Big Weekend for New Local Music

As you’ve been listening to KXT 91.7 this week, you’ve no doubt heard our occasional breaks in the music to let you know we’re in pledge drive mode. (Good news: Friday is the last day. Improving news: We’re still working on reaching our 1,500 member goal. Won’t you help us reach it?) And one of the big KXT talking points we always pride ourselves on is the station’s dedication to being the first to play new local music. If that’s your sorta thing, you’ve got a big weekend ahead of you.

First up is The Orbans’ CD release party tonight at Sons of Hermann Hall. They’ll be playing cuts from their new disc, When We Were Wild (take a behind-the-scenes look at the album’s recording in the video above). And they’ll be joined by fellow Fort Worthians Telegraph Canyon, whose The Tide and the Current was widely regarded as the best new local album of 2009.

Then, on Saturday, it’s time to take a listen to Paul Slavens’ new album, Alphabet Girls, Vol. 1, at his CD release party at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton. To get a taste of what you’ll hear at the show, listen to the current edition of the Track by Track podcast, during which Paul talks about the album. Then be sure to listen to The Paul Slavens Show on Sunday night at 8 on (you guessed it) KXT.

And if that weren’t enough, the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards are on Sunday. And you can bet that of the 36 performers, someone will be debuting something at some point.

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Live vs. Recorded Music in Dance – The Debate Continues

Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a dance lecturer at the University of Texas Arlington. She also serves as assistant director of  UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. She looks back at the Mark Morrie Dance Group’s appearance in Dallas last weekend.

Last week, I interviewed choreographer Mark Morris about his upcoming show at the Winspear Opera House. Unlike other choreographers who like to explain the meaning of their works and prepare their audience for what they are about to see, Morris likes to leave it all up to interpretation, and, instead, concentrate on the music. For him, it’s all about the music – live music.

We were in for a treat Friday night, as his musical ensemble warmed up their instruments for an evening full of Beethoven, Ives and Schumann. This was the first time this dance season that I went to a show with live music, and the first one at the Winspear. The acoustics in the space are amazing and definitely suited the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG).

Dallas McMurray in Visitation Photo: Sharen Bradford (The Dancing Image)

The dancers intimately knew that music, and it went beyond muscle memory and response. It felt more like they were one with the music, existing together in a symbiotic relationship. The quirky, exciting and all-Americana Empire Garden would not exist without the pop-cultural references to “Dixie,” “Rock of Ages,” and “My Old Kentucky Home” embedded in Charles Ives’ Trio for Violin, Violoncello, and Piano. Visitation wouldn’t be as mysterious and playful if it wasn’t set to Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major. As the dialogue between the cello and the piano developed in complexity, so did the movement. And V, a Morris classic, could not soar without Robert Schumann’s allegro Quintet in E flat for Piano and Strings.

The reason for this seamless combination is Morris’s pedagogical theory of working exclusively with live music in both rehearsal and performance. That is how, he says, the dancers learn everything.

“When I decide on a piece of music, the first thing I do is play it for them. Then I work in the studio, bar by bar, page by page, with the pianist, so that the dancers learn the piece, as they are learning the music,” he told me last week. “They are inside the music. … From the very first second, the music is the same thing as the dance.”

Live music is an integral part of the MMDG performance experience, and even though it is more expensive and complicated, Morris has made it a priority. However, he is in a unique position to hire musicians – he has the funding. For other companies, it’s a little more difficult, and here in Dallas, it has been an ongoing debate about the lack of live music at ballet performances, specifically.

It’s a matter of coordinating schedules and money. It’s difficult to get 20 dancers’ schedules to match 10 musicians’ and tod find the money to pay all the performers.

"Empire Garden" Photo: Sharen Bradford

Then there’s the question of whether or not live music is necessary to complete the performance experience. Does it make a difference? Does it change the dancing? Many choreographers have no intention of ever using live music. Recorded music is easier to work with; you can press rewind at any time.

As a choreographer and dancer, I’ve worked with both, and there are pros and cons to each. There’s nothing like hearing fingers pounding out tempos on a piano, or strings sawing out melodies, or hearing a classic piece by Beethoven live. But then there’s something in controlling the musical element by pressing play. Yet, as Morris said, “if it is an urgent necessity…then you find a way to make it happen.” But, he does agree that it is difficult, and it doesn’t help that musicians make three times as much as dancers do.

Aside from the debate of live versus recorded music, there is no denying that the inclusion of it during the MMDG performance completes it. It adds an extra layer to the works and brings the audience into the performance. Last weekend was no exception. The dancing was fantastic, entertaining and inspiring. Morris created an environment that left us wanting more, and the live music might have had a little something to do with that.

Danielle’s review of the Mark Morris Dance Group’s performance at the Winspear Opera House ran in the Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News.

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