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Buffalo's influence on display at the Met

Art Pictures Generation 

"Untitled Film Still #7, 1978," a gelatin silver print by artist Cindy Sherman. Part of "The Pictures Generation," an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery's former sculpture "Artemis and the Stag" (whose latest official title is "Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer") isn't the only piece of Buffalo's storied art history currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Our fair city's contributions to contemporary art also factor heavily into "The Pictures Generation," a show about the small but prolific group of New York-based artists known as the Pictures Generation that opened April 21. (Read an Associated Press review of the show here.)

Two seminal figures in the Pictures movement were Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo, both students at Buffalo State College in the mid-70s and key contributors in the founding and early development of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, along with Charles Clough. Buffalo's contribution, as well as that of the CalArts School of Film and Video in Los Angeles, were major influences on this minor but important movement that got fully under way when Sherman, Longo and the entire gang mixed together in the New York City art world of the late '70s. 

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Will Carol Ann Duffy be Britain's first woman poet laureate?

Several British newspapers including The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian (which noted that British odds makers had stopped accepting wagers on the issue) reported on Monday that Carol Ann Duffy will be nominated by Prime Minister Gordon Brown for appointment by Queen Elizabeth as the next Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom.  Should she accept the appointment, Duffy would be the first woman ever to serve in the position, as well as the first openly gay person to carry the title.   As of this posting, she has yet to confirm her decision.
Duffy, whose work has achieved both critical and commercial success and is believed to be Britain's most widely read living poet, had been considered for the appointment in 1999 when then British Prime Minister Tony Blair demurred--later claiming that her sexuality might not be acceptable to many conservative Britons--and appointed outgoing Poet Laureate Andrew Motion (whose 10 year appointment ends April 30) instead.

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Rare Harold Arlen recording released


Composer Harold Arlen at work in 1961. News file photo.

This just in (thanks to Ed Cardoni of Hallwalls): Kritzerland, a small record and book publishing company, is reissuing a 1968 recording of "House of Flowers," the ill-fated musical by Truman Capote and Harold Arlen. While the original Broadway cast recording from 1958 is available on iTunes and elsewhere, Capote and Arlen thought this particular revival of the show far superior to the original.

Buffalo-born Arlen, of course, is a beloved local figure responsible for some of the better known musical standards of the 20th century -- "The Wizard of Oz," for starters. A release from the company notes that the recording contains updated arrangements of the show's numbers by Joe Raposo which were "much funkier and much more in tune with the Caribbean flavor of the score."

Here's an excerpt of "Madame Tango's Particular Tango," which sounds pretty tantalizing to me:

Check out the Kritzerland site here.

--Colin Dabkowski

Wray twitters character left out of "Lowboy"

Fiction writer John Wray, who was raised in Buffalo and is a graduate of Nichols School, has developed into something of a guerrilla marketer of his three critically acclaimed novels. The 37-year-old, who consistently ranks among the best American novelists under 40 in most of the publications that generate such a list, went on a reading tour down the Mississippi River on a raft he constructed out of Home Depot scrap lumber to promote his second novel, Caanan's Tongue, a narrative tour de force about John Murrell, the infamous mid-19th century Louisiana-based slave trader, horse thief, preacher and criminal gang leader.
Last month, he began a reading tour for his current novel Lowboy (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) on a New York City subway ride, returning to the location where much of the novel is set, and, in fact, was written.  Beginning on Feb. 19, Wray also began a parallel narrative project that involves the trend-setting social networking site Twitter.  

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Pulitzers to W.S. Merwin and Elizabeth Strout

The 2009 Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday afternoon at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York City. The winners in the categories of Letters, Drama, and Music were as follows:
The Pulitzer in Poetry went to The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin published by Copper Canyon Press.   This is the second time Merwin, now 81, and a major figure in American poetry since W.H. Auden selected him to receive the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1952, has won the Pulitzer.  His collection The Carrier of Ladders won the award in 1971.  A series of concise but highly evocative poems on the elusive, ineluctable qualities of memory and its centrality to what remains for us in love and art, The Shadow of Sirius has been hailed as the definitive collection of Merwin's later work. 

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Hashing over the YouTube Symphony


The YouTube Symphony, a herd of talented musicians rounded up on YouTube starting last December, made its debut Wednesday at Carnegie Hall. Conducted by former Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra music director Michael Tilson Thomas, the intrepid band played music including the vivacious last movement of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, the March from Berlioz's "Damnation of Faust," and a new "Eroica" Symphony by the contemporary composer Tan Dun.

You can read about it in The Buffalo News here.

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Small Press Symposium focuses on Poet-Publishers

As we learned in March from the large and enthusiastic response to three events celebrating Small Press Month in the Buffalo area, the audience and support level for the small and independent press literary publishing in this community probably rivals that of any region in the country on a per capita basis. The do-it yourself ethos that is so much a part of the indie publishing scene seems such a perfect match for the vibrant but severely undercapitalized Buffalo arts scene as a whole that the two seem almost indistinguishable at times.
But quite apart from the fellowship and the bonhomie of such gatherings, this is also a critical community of peers who truly hold the future of American writing and literary expression in their collective hands.  In the absence of any meaningful investment on the part of the for-profit corporate and mainstream publishing world in emergent sensibilities and literary forms that do not hold immediate commercial potential, and the insistence of most of colleges and universities on turning creative writing programs into a profit centers with a pecking order of professional credentials, it's small and independent presses alone that are driven by aesthetics and have the freedom to represent all that is "brave, crazy, different, and beautiful" about our culture.

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Allende's magical realism gives women a voice

Isabel Allende's novel The House of the Spirits begins with a morbidly baroque recollection of a Holy Thursday processional in which a bloodied stand-in for the insurrectionist Roman prisoner Barrabas is paraded down the streets of a Chilean village ( a stand-in for Jerusalem) on his way to a mock pardoning by a stand-in for Pontius Pilate at the Church of the Martyrs.  By means of circuitous digression, the local passion play dissolves into the story of the del Valle sisters--the translucently beautiful Rosa, her younger telepathic sister, Clara, and their mother Nivea, a skeptical Catholic for whom transubstantiation mattered less than the goal of women's suffrage.
Allende, who visits Buffalo Friday night to close out the 2008-2009 Babel Series of readings by and discussions with leading international authors in Kleinhans Music Hall--began The House of the Spirits (her first novel; she had been previously been a journalist) in 1979 at the age of 35 as a letter to her dying grandfather--then in his late 90's--in order to explain and expiate the political tyranny and human tragedy that had befallen their native Chile in the years following the CIA assisted coup that ousted democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende (Isabel's cousin, once removed) in 1973.

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A journey through a violin's past


Sunday, The Buffalo News ran a story I wrote about Clement and Karen Arrison, a Buffalo couple, and the three almost-priceless violins they own: a Stradivarius, a Guarneri and a Gobetti, all hundreds of years old. They lend these violins out through the Stradivari Society of Chicago to some of the world's foremost young violinists. You can read the story here.

What I love about this unusual situation is the cachet it brings to Buffalo. It is just not the image people have of our town! To have a Guarneri that belonged to Fritz Kreisler in Buffalo hands, that is amazing. 

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The pros and cons of a silent Studio

Studio Arena Features Studi 

Studio Arena Theatre has, for all intents and purposes, been dark for more than a year. Its de facto closure has been hard to take for many. But -- as my story in today's Spotlight section brings up -- its absence from the scene has had some positive effects on the theater scene at large. What's up in the air is how long those effects will last, and, five years down the road, whether Buffalo's theater community will be hoping for its return.

What are your thoughts? Is Studio Arena's absence from the scene a deep blow to an already suffering community or, as many in the theater community have said, did they simply have it coming?

--Colin Dabkowski

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