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Ron Silliman to read at WNYBAC tonight

The UB Poetics Program, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary as one of the vanguard Ph.D. conferring programs for "innovative" poetries and "language-centered" writing in North America, tonight welcomes Ron Silliman, a leading figure in contemporary poetics, to Buffalo for an 8 p.m. reading at the Western New York Book Arts Center, 468 Washington St. The event is free and open to the public.

Silliman is the author of over thirty books, including the volume length serial poems “Tjanting” (1979-1981), “The Alphabet” (1979-2004), and “Universe” (2005-present), all of which comprise an ongoing “life-work” he calls “Ketjak” -- both the Balinese word for "monkey" and the name of a ritual performance performed by Balinese islanders for tourists.

He was editor of “In the American Tree”(1986), widely considered the most important anthology of “language-centered writing” of its era, and also the author one of the language movement's defining critical texts, "The New Sentence" (the title essay of his 1987 volume of critical writings). 

In that now classic essay, he critiqued the "hypotactic logic" and "syllogistic leap, or integration above the level of the sentence" necessary for telling referential stories, while arguing for the paragraph as "a unit of quantity, not logic or argument" and the "limiting of syllogistic movement" to keep the reader's attention "at or very close to the level of language, the sentence level or below."

Over the past decade, Silliman, who now lives in southeastern Pennsylvania, has become one of the indispensable contributors to the public dialogue on contemporary poetry, poetics and "post-avant" writing as the creator of the eponymous Silliman's Blog, the most influential individual author maintained web log in the English-speaking literary world with over 3 million visits since its founding in 2002.

--R.D. Pohl

Live Music Chat With Jeff Miers at Noon Friday

Critics Corner Chat with Jeff Simon at 2 p.m.

A brief look at LehrerDance

This weekend, LehrerDance kicks off its home season with two performances in the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts on at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. The video above, shot by the company, exceprts the company's popular piece "A Ritual Dynamic." Look for a review of the concert on Monday.

--Colin Dabkowski

Monday morning musical quarterbacking

Orff2 After experiencing "Carmina Burana" at Kleinhans Music Hall on Saturday I found myself lying awake thinking about it. It was just so loud, if nothing else! It reminds me of one Christmas Eve when I went to Midnight Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral and they had that World's Fair organ going full blast and bells ringing and even a mighty "Silent Night" that rocked the house. I mean, I loved it, but that Christmas I was awake until dawn! Sometimes you are just on sensory overload.

"Carmina Burana" -- the fevered brainchild of composer Carl Orff, pictured at left -- was very enjoyable in its overblown way. On the way out, I turned to my husband, Howard, and I said, "How fun was that?"

I know, that is bad grammar, but that is the best way to put it!

But back to my lying awake. Because of my deadline I had to write the review really fast and a lot of the time I leave things out. There are a couple of things I wish I could have mentioned.

One was that it was a delight, what an all-ages show it was. Lots of kids and people in their 20s, all the way up to people in their 90s. I love concerts like that.

Also there was that baritone, Richard Zeller. I wish I could have gone into his singing in more depth. I wrote what a presence he had, but I did not have time to do justice to how good he was. Zeller did amazing things with that voice of his. He could be extremely soft and subtle and also powerful and resonant. I could imagine him being good in a wide range of different styles.

So much of "Carmina Burana" hinged on him and he not only sang beautifully but he sang with passion, as if he enjoyed every minute. It is great when singers and musicians look alive and involved. Kudos to him.

And to the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. It's hard to praise these singers enough in a piece like this. They really breathed and sang as one.

Is there anything else I forgot to mention? Any other aspects of "Carmina Burana" that need to be discussed?

Can I finally get some sleep?

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

 

Testing, testing ...

Manes For a while I have been looking around for another person to help in writing classical music reviews. There is just so much going on and I have trouble covering everything that needs to be covered. The reviewers to whom I am grateful for assisting me, Garaud MacTaggart and News critic emeritus Herman Trotter, are also stretched pretty thin.

Finding a person to write about classical music is easier said than done, for a whole host of reasons that could be a separate story in itself. But the good news is, I have found a reviewer I am going to be introducing shortly, who I hope will be helping us out now and then. His name is Carl Hriczak.

Carl is a pianist but more importantly he is a music nerd, like me. I had him "try out" last week. He and his girlfriend were at Slee Hall for the recital by Stephen Manes, pictured at left, the longtime head of the UB Music Department.  We unfortunately were unable to review Stephen because Garaud could not do it and Herman could not do it. And Stephen was my longtime piano teacher and we are good friends so I could not do it. Anyway, storm and stress, welcome to my world.

But there Carl was and on a whim I said, "Carl, why don't you take this notebook and, just for the heck of it, write a review, so we could see how you'd do?" And he did! He emailed it to me early next morning.

And I liked it. I did not agree with everything he wrote but that is OK, it is good for reviewers to have different tastes and opinions, as long as they can explain themselves. Anyway, I thought I would print Carl's review here, even though it was kind of a freebie because it was a tryout. He said it was OK. So if you were at the Stephen Manes concert Tuesday, or if you were not and want to know what you missed, here goes, here is Carl Hriczak's review. 

    Tuesday evening’s recital by University at Buffalo professor emeritus Stephen Manes was themed “Vienna and Beyond,” and featured works from both the mid-romantic and atonal periods of composition, by composers closely associated with both the first and second schools of Viennese composers. The atmosphere in Lippes Concert Hall was expectant as Manes took the stage to begin the Sonata No.1 by second school composer Alban Berg. The work, which straddles the line where tonality dissolves into chaos, was presented in a liquid, flowing manner, replete with copious usage of the sustain pedal. The excessive use of pedal is something I did not expect, and it resulted in smooth contours that took some of the edge off the tense, brooding harmonies. The performance as a whole had a relaxed quality that is the antithesis of what I would expect, where tension was replaced by a warmth normally reserved for Brahms and the like. 

     The program continued with the two Op.33 piano pieces by Arnold Schoenberg, also of the second school, and were far more radical than the Berg, which seemed tame by comparison. These pieces have allusions to jazz music, and Manes was masterful in presenting this aspect. Several times during the first of the two, he raised his left hand high in the air in a sweeping conducting motion, something very reminiscent of fellow pianist Glenn Gould, who was also closely associated with this work. The Sforzandos, or sudden attacks, were loud and abrupt, causing me to jump in my seat. The mood contrast to the first piece could not have been greater; Manes is a shape-shifter who effortlessly fit himself to the mood of the composition. 

     The first half of the program ended with the Moments Musicaux, D.780, of first school composer Franz Schubert, who wrote this set of short pieces roughly a century before the atonal works that preceded it. The presentation was at first shocking; there was an abruptness and harshness that I would have felt far more deserving of the more modern works. Tense and unhappy, the character of the performance seemed off for what one would expect of a great Schubert pianist. But, as it progressed, a warmth developed, and by the end, it was as if a tight glove had stretched to become comfortable. This was, if anything, a mixed performance, and the weakest of the evening, something about it simply did not click. 

     After a long intermission, we were treated to the Op. 27 variations of Anton Webern, perhaps the most radical work on the program, by the most radical figure of the second school. The rendering was polite, amorphous, and dreamlike, seeming more like Debussy or Bartok than I thought possible. Once again, the pedal blurred over the sharp lines and abrupt dissonances, making for a fluid performance that lacked drive and edge. The counterpoint, especially in the wild leaps that occur more often than not, was marvelously rendered, with special care taken to delineate the left-hand from the chaos in the treble register. Again, this is a performance at odds with the expected way of presenting atonal music, but in the end I found it very enjoyable. 

     The evening ended in spectacular fashion with the Carnaval, Op.9, an early work by Robert Schumann, who strictly speaking was not a Viennese figure, but who did nurture one of the great sons of Vienna, Johannes Brahms. And indeed, the way Manes presented this monumental tour-de-force of a work was greatly indebted to Brahms. It was easy to lose sight that this was Schumann, and at times I imagined I was hearing perhaps some lost intermezzi of Brahms, but the approach totally worked. I was in awe as Manes let himself go and had obvious fun, putting on full display his masterful technical skills. The octave passages in particular had a dazzling flash that left me wondering how a wrist alone could move so fluidly. A lesser pianist could play with two hands the fluid melody he played with one. 

    The mood was joyful and befitting the name of the work, and at times the rubato and crescendi coincided to produce an effect that I thought may lift me up to the heavens. During the last phrase, his left foot stomped forcefully with a loud bang, bringing us back into reality from a performance that I would gladly pay money to own in my record collection. A masterful end to a superlative evening of music.

    Good job, Carl! Interesting thoughts and alert listening, plus we got to review Stephen Manes after all, better late than never. I wish it had occurred to me to post this earlier! One other thing, I like the reference to the record collection. Carl is 29 but he listens to vinyl. As do I. As should everyone!

    But those are thoughts for another day.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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News Arts Editor Jeff Simon and Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers answered your questions directly into the camera today. Read the questions in the chat console below.

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R.E.M. calls it quits

Via a statement on its official website, www.remhq.com, the members of seminal alternative rock band R.E.M. announced today that they would be breaking up after 31 years together. The split is said to be amicable, though it comes as a surprise, considering that the band released the incredibly strong "Collapse Into Now" album in March of this year. 

Since its formation in Athens, Ga. in 1980, R.E.M. has consistently pushed the envelope of modern rock music, spearheading what came to be known as the alt-rock movement of the 1980s, inspiring countless artists in their wake, and remaining at the vanguard of popular music throughout myriad changes in trend and taste. The band - since the departure of founding member drummer Bill Berry in the late '90s, singer Michael Stipe, bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills and guitarist Peter Buck - dissolves at the peak of its collective prowess.

The official statement on remhq.com reads as follows:

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." R.E.M. 

In their own words: The guys share their thoughts on why now. 

MIKE 

"During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'what next'? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

"We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this--there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right." 

MICHAEL 

"A wise man once said--'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.' We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it. 

"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way. 

"We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing." 

PETER 

"One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you. 

"Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world." 

-- Jeff Miers

Shaw Fest announces its 2012 season

TRAVEL NIAGARA ON THE LAKE features Niagara on the Lake Cantill
The Shaw Festival's Royal George Theatre. Photo by Sharon Cantillon / The Buffalo News.

The Shaw Festival, which still has several weeks left on its 2011 schedule, announced today its season lineup for next year.

The season includes the popular musical "Ragtime," John Guare's comedy "His Girl Friday," Noel Coward's comedy "Present Laughter," along with Leonard Bernstein's one-act opera "Trouble in Tahiti," the premiere of Githa Sowerby's 1914 play "A Man and Some Women," George Bernard Shaw's "The Millionairess" and "Misalliance" and Ibsen's masterpiece "Hedda Gabler." Also on offer will be Terrence Rattigan's comedy "French Without Tears," William Inge's "Come Back Little Sheba," along with contemporary offerings "Helen's Necklace" by Quebec playwright Carole Fréchette.

The festival will also bring back its popular reading series, which will feature works yet to be announced.

A full press release on the season is available here.

--Colin Dabkowski

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