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The King's music

Kingspeech "The King's Speech," the beautiful new movie about George VI of England, is almost as much about music as it is about speech.

There is the episode when therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) has the future King George (Colin Firth) try speaking while music is blasting in his ears. The music is the brilliant, effervescent Overture to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."

The beautiful Allegretto from Beethoven's Seventh plays at the movie's high point, as the King finally begins his speech, the historic address he has been dreading.

The trouble is, that Allegretto is so beautiful, I found myself tuning out the King's speech. I wanted to get around it and hear Beethoven. I wonder if the moviemakers intended that.

I also wonder if they used all these German masterpieces for a reason. As that Beethoven plays, George VI is declaring that Britain is at war with Germany. A few minutes later, as the movie ends, you hear the start to the slow movement of Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto. You can't help but think of the contrast between this sublime creation and the horrifying state Germany was in at the time the King was making his speech.

Then again, maybe the message is that this music is universal. The King's struggles, too, are universal. Most of us have something we are trying to accomplish or overcome.

Well, there I go, overcomplicating things.

One thing is clear: the King's speech would not be half as thrilling without that Beethoven. That glorious Allegretto speaks of triumph as words can not.

I am always fascinated by the music in movies because it can say so much.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


'Fame' coming to Artpark

Today, Artpark announced its annual summer musical. The big news: "Fame," the much-loved musical about a group of hyper-comeptitive students at a high school for the performing arts, will play the Artpark Mainstage Theater from Aug. 12 to 18, 2011. The show began its many lives in 1980 as a film and has since been brought to the stage for countless revivals, tours and original productions, from Miami to Monte Carlo. The show's last major local production was also at Artpark, directed by Niagara University's Augustine Towey, in 2001.

--Colin Dabkowski

Pick a movie to see as Christmas festivities wind down

Looking for a movie to see after Christmas festivities wrap up?

Here is a list of six of the top movies playing at area theaters this holiday season (click the title to read News Arts Editor Jeff Simon's complete review of each one):

Black Swan -- 3 stars
Rated: R
Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder in Darren Aronofsky’s portrait of ballerinas preparing for a production of “Swan Lake."

The Fighter -- 3 1/2 stars
Rated: R
Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo in a first-rate American boxing film.

The King's Speech -- 4 stars
Rated: R
Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter in the true story of how a highly unconventional Australian tutor helped King George VI overcome a terrible stutter. Directed by Tom Hooper.

Little Fockers -- 2 stars
Rated: PG-13
Robert De Niro, Ben Stilller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Jessica Alba and Teri Polo in the third installment of the supposedly comic saga of a Jewish male nurse who marries into an uptight WASP family.

Tron -- 2 1/2 stars
Rated: PG
Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen in a sci-fi sequel. Directed by Joseph Kosinski.

True Grit -- 3 1/2 stars
Rated: PG-13
Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin in Joel and Ethan Coen's new adaptation of Charles Portis' revered Western novel about a young girl and a mean, drunken killer out for revenge.

Even Santa has a backstory

As a child of immigrant parents growing up in the Buffalo area in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I couldn't help but notice what I would later identify as "cognitive dissonance" between the way our family celebrated a traditional Bavarian Christmas and the way the holiday was then celebrated by my peer group and in American popular culture as a whole. Last Christmas Eve, while listening to a public radio broadcast of Naughty and Nice: A History of the Holiday Season, a program in the American History series BackStory, produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, I was reminded of those days and how blended a social construct the holiday season is for every family.

A common element of celebrations occurring near the winter solstice dating back to antiquity, according to the historians who contributed to the program, is the concept of social inversion, whereby the wealthy and powerful pay tribute to the moral virtue of the poor and the powerless, for reasons that are both genuine and self-serving.

Continue reading "Even Santa has a backstory" »

The Journal knocks the Knox

The Wall Street Journal today takes sharply critical aim at "Alternating Currents," the exhibit currently spread around the Western New York area and centered at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The writer, Lance Esplund, finds some things to praise but argues that the exhibit, now winding down, does not add up to anything substantial. Worse, he finds it a sign of desperation.

The article, headlined "The Show That Ate Buffalo," alludes to the "deaccessioning" that took place a couple of years ago, when the Albright-Knox, defying the concerns of the community, sold off valuable antiquities including the sculpture "Artemis and the Stag." That move, Buffalonians will recall, raised questions that were hotly debated around town, and out of town. Such as: Whom does the gallery belong to -- its curators, or the Buffalo community that has funded it through the decades? And is it wise for the gallery to sell proven masterworks and invest instead in work of dubious value?

The Journal suggests that no, it is not. Esplund calls the gallery's big new Sol LeWitt scribble drawing, a bit of which is pictured above, "a complete snore."

He adds: "Clearly, the wager here is that the acquisition of such works will bolster the museum's reputation and transform the Albright-Knox into a destination spot This may prove, however, to be a devil's bargain."

The article concludes:

But in this the Albright-Knox is not alone. And who can blame it and other smaller museums? Feeling competitive pressure to increase their contemporary-art profiles through acquisitions and exhibitions, they are taking their cues from institutions such as New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met is feverishly bolstering its own lax contemporary holdings and is seriously considering leasing the Whitney Museum of American Art's Breuer building, specifically as a venue to display art since 1960.

"Alternating Currents" has its strong points. But like many other biennials (and increasingly like many museum programs), it feels more like a purveyor of fashion than of culture. The compulsion of this regional show to go global, and the Albright-Knox's insistence on bringing us the latest, hottest thing, while it sells or puts its greatest works of art in storage, are acts not of worldly sophistication, but of desperation.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

A different "Christmas Groove"


This is right around the time when you find yourself scratching your head and wondering if it's all worth it. You can feel a little edge in the air - people are less patient in traffic, in line at the store, at work. There's too much to do, not enough time to do it in, and not enough money to cover it all even if you do find the time. Er, Merry Christmas!

If you're getting stressed, some music will help you let it go. And no, I don;t mean the same old tired classics you're hearing pumped through muzak systems wherever you go from Thanksgiving forward. Check out this collection of classic urban funk takes on the Christmas song genre. It kicks booty.

I found mine locally at Record Theatre. You can also check out this site. - Jeff Miers

It Never Hurts to Have Friends

Critic Maureen Corrigan obviously liked Lauren Belfer's 532-page second novel "A Fierce Radiance" quite a bit. She wrote briefs on the book for two-- count 'em, two--separate best books of the year lists.
Her entry on Belfer's book was included in the Washington Post's lengthy list of Best Novels of the Year. And it was also included NPR's list of the Best Mysteries of 2010.
The book--which Corrigan described in the Post as "sex, spies, murder, big money [in a] story about the wartime race to make large quantities of penicillin"--was Belfer's second novel after her first "City of Light" was set in turn-of-the-20th-century Buffalo. Belfer was a former student at the Buffalo Seminary, where a great deal of the action of her first novel took place.
--Jeff Simon

New music releases this week, plus stocking stuffers for vinyl collectors!

The big pop releases this week :

Jamie Foxx, Best Night of My Life (J Records)
Ghostface Killah, Apollo Kids (Def Jam)
Keri Hilson, No Boys Allowed (Interscope)
Keyshia Cole, Calling All Hearts (Geffen)
Jonathan Richman, O Moon Queen of Night On Earth (ADA) 
 Cool vinyl and deluxe editions:


XTC, Skylarking (Ape)

Dead Can Dance, Dead Can Dance Vinyl Box (Vinyl 180)

Monster Magnet, MasterMind Box Set with USB (Napalm)

Tom Waits, Nighthawks At the Diner 180 gram vinyl (WEA)


Tom Waits, Small Change 180 gram vinyl (WEA)
Tom Waits, Closing Time 180 gram vinyl (WEA)

Robin Brox featured in Queer Vibes Series reading


Even as the days grow short in December, she's one of the brightest lights on the Buffalo area literary scene--a poet, educator, teaching artist, arts publicist, proprietress of a small press, performer for the Buffalo Poets' Theater, and perhaps the only founder of a collective of women writers and artists to also have created a blog on the finer points of professional hockey and the National Hockey League.
Robin Brox is one-of-a-kind, and tonight she'll join fellow poet Gary Andrews in just the second installment of the Queer Vibes Quarterly Reading Series.  The event starts at 7 p.m. at Buffalo East, 1412 Main St. (near Utica.)  Admission is $2.
The new series, which began in September, focuses on gender and showcases the work of poets and writers from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities.  Poet and spoken word artist Marek Phillip Parker is the series co-founder and host.
Ms. Brox is the founder of Saucebox, a women’s performance series turned small press, which produces handmade chapbooks, broadsides, and other book art projects.  She teaches creative writing for Young Audiences of WNY, as well as Just Buffalo Literary Center, where she is also Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator.  An Amherst, NY native and graduate of Amherst High School, she did her undergraduate work at Barnard College and the University at Buffalo.  She earned an M.A. in English from The University of Maine-Orono in 2005, and later that year released her first collection of poems Tinsel Strength and the Orchid Sheaf.   She has a chapbook of new poems forthcoming from Bay City, Michigan's Binge Press, and a full-length volume of poems and other writings to be published next year by Buffalo's own BlazeVox Books.
A lifelong hockey fan, Brox is also is the Buffalo-based author of Ice Hockey Chick, a lively and informative blog that rants and rambles it way around all things pertaining to hockey culture and the aesthetics of the National Hockey League. 
As for her poetics, it is no less filled with thrilling breakaways, breath-taking enjambments, and dazzling linguistic stops.  Here is her poem "Waiting For It" from Tinsel Strength
Waiting For It

Waiting for it,
This, a poem scrubbing its makeup off, now naked on the page telling me
         what I want to hear,
Truthful and unashamed, a woman loving herself, seeking same, enticing
          her equals to act,
To write poems, the other woman's poems, a taciturn haiku or florid song,
One unafraid to confront itself as hypocrisy or antifeminist, a love song by
          and for women with fury in its words,
And in its company, each verse one girl becomes a woman and thankfully
She finds her voice in ink in front of her, now confronting her here,
Confronting the fear inside of women, women needing each other yet
          often competing amongst themselves, against fear of betrayal,
A poem proposing getting past all that, whose reader waits for it, who then
          embraces it as one woman's arms encircling her friend or lover,
A poem with lines long enough to wrap around the blank page's potential,
           lines long and black as memory, whose music soothes us with the
About her work, Brox has written "I believe that language exists inside our minds and outside our selves, as part of an ongoing conversation, across time, culture, and geography. The world we encounter provides us the raw material, but language is the tool with which we carve poetry."
--R.D. Pohl

Two guitars

CastellaniFleur de Son Classics, Ltd., the Buffalo-based recording label owned by the Castellani-Andriaccio Guitar Duo, has big news for the spring. They have forged a partnership with Naxos of America. Naxos will be distributing Fleur de Son's recordings worldwide as of March 1, 2011.

Michael Andriaccio has a new CD coming out right about the same time, a recording with the London Symphony Orchestra. He is performing the "Goyescana" Concerto by Michael Colina. Colina was one of the judges at the last JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, held in Buffalo this past June. Before the final round the orchestra played another piece he had written, "Mambosa." To get an idea of Colina's music, here is his piece "Chiton," which like the guitar concerto was inspired by the art of Goya.

So, exciting times for Castellani and Andriaccio. The handsome couple were even featured in the November issue of Classical Guitar magazine. That is the cover pictured to the left.

The magazine includes a lengthy interview. One thing interesting about it is how the duo discuss their influences. You don't think of guitarists as learning from string players, but they do, and the pair give credit to the Budapest and Cleveland String Quartets, who were in residence at UB.

There is also a beautiful quote they attribute to Maestro Andres Segovia, who died in 1987. Joanne Castellani recalls: "In his inimitable, gentilhombre accent he said, 'The guitar is so beautiful, like beautiful glass. Two guitars are even more beautiful than one. But with three or four, there are too many panes of glass and it becomes opaque.'"

She adds that one of the couple's coaches then joked: "If the marriage breaks up, be sure to keep the duo going!"

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


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