Roiling Politics At Writers’ Union

The controversial president of the National Writers’ Union abruptly announced his departure from the post last week, but the infighting which has plagued the NWU in recent days doesn’t appear to be waning with Jonathan Tasini’s resignation. “Some in the anti-Tasini faction Your Union said they expect next fall’s election to be intense,” and nobody appears to be above taking shots at Tasini as he leaves the premises.

Can Good Writing Be Taught?

Judging by the number of writing courses offered, the answer for many is yes. But “a quick glance at the bestseller lists will tell you it’s hard enough to find something halfway decent to read at the best of times, so no great synaptic leap is required to intuit that most writing courses produce writers who are only going to be read by those unlucky enough to be friends, family or fellow course mates. So there is a lurking feeling that many creative writing courses are driven by market forces rather than any altruistic desire to release untapped genius.”

One Way To Lower CD Costs

A new study of the European music market indicates that a significant reduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT), which EU countries append to the price of goods for sale, would go a long way towards reducing the price of CDs and could dramatically expand how much music European consumers purchase. The VAT is unlike the American sales tax in that the rate of the tax varies with the type of item being sold. “VAT on sound recordings is set between 16% and 25% while other cultural products, including magazines and entrance to zoos, starts from 5%.”

Struggle For The Soul (Pocketbook?) Of Bertelsmann

Media giant Bertelsmann is locked in a power struggle among owners and management. “The new generation took Bertelsmann into television and the internet and promised that before long the privately owned and secretive organisation would be transformed into a transparent, publicly traded multinational with stock market listings in the US and Europe by 2005. Yet the modernisation process has been an uneasy one, compounded by the deepest advertising recession in 30 years and a number of questionable acquisitions.”

The Distance Between Speaking And Singing

For some time now, theatre has bridged the gap between speaking and singing. But “as the recent reviews of ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Chicago’ have made clear, it has become commonplace wisdom that today’s film musicals cannot work if songs arise naturally and directly out of dialogue. Critic after critic deems film too naturalistic a medium for such an inherently unreal device; characters singing on screen, they insist, must acknowledge the artifice in some way in order for audiences to accept it.”

The Inevitability Of Arts Education Cuts

California is facing big budget cuts, and San Francisco alongside it. So state and city governments are making cuts wherever they can. And what’s likely to get cut? In the schools – arts education. Why? because it’s easier than cutting general teachers. “The cuts will come with apologies and heart-wrenching statements from City officials, SFUSD leaders, and school site decision makers. They will give the arts their verbal support and let us all know how much they love the arts and how important arts are to the education of our youth, but then will say, ‘What choice do we have’?”

Rethinking Opera In San Francisco

A few weeks ago San Francisco Opera made some big cuts in its budget and schedule. SFO director Pamela Rosenberg says the cuts are an indication of the company’s deire to rethink how it does opera. “The road to long-term vitality is not an easy one, but it provides a necessary opportunity to re-examine many aspects of how we do business, including how we might proceed more effectively and more efficiently.”

Why Orchestras?

Philippe Herreweghe is a leader of the period instrument movement. But the conductor wonders about the use of tradional symphony orchesras. “Must we go on with these traditional orchestras? The ancient music movement is very strong. First they played Baroque music, and the attitude of the traditional orchestras was to say ‘OK, it’s not serious music. Let them do it, but they are not good enough to play real music.’ But later, we played Mozart and Beethoven. We play Brahms, Schumann and Bruckner, and we noticed that there was an interest from the public and the press. And now, when there is a concert of Schubert symphonies on gut strings here in Antwerp, it attracts a full audience with young people, but when some local orchestras play the same symphonies of Schubert or Haydn in a traditional way the hall is half empty.”

The Secret Behind Van Dyck

The Van Dyck painting that hung in Scotland’s National Gallery for more than 100 years, was keeping a secret. “After a year of restoration and investigation, staff at the Edinburgh gallery have been able to shed light on a work Van Dyck wanted no one to see. Underneath the canvas of St Sebastian Bound for Martyrdom is a previous work, also of St Sebastian and almost an exact copy of a Van Dyck that hangs in the Louvre.”

Music Man

Raymond Gubbay is the kind of populist promoter who draws contempt from more traditional arts managers. “His success is based on providing what he has accepted is middle-brow populist material.” But his shows consistently sell, and he prides himself on finding entertaining ways to present music and opera.