Norman Lebrecht doesn’t think much of the modern BBC. “Do not mistake the BBC for what was once the British Broadcasting Corporation. It has become an uncontrollable conglomerate whose activities extend from urban regeneration to webcasting in America. These enterprises were never envisaged in its limited public licence. The BBC is an organisation that has lost its sense of direction, stumbling hopefully into virtual incoherence.”
Is the Philadelphia Orchestra slipping a few steps? “With a new performance space, and a European tour imminent under a new director, all seems rosy enough superficially. But there have recently been mutterings in the press about strife beneath the surface, including difficult contract negotiations for the players and arguments about poor acoustics at the Kimmel Centre. But then in Philadelphia, there is a sense, more than other places I’ve been, that the orchestra is a potent symbol, an ambassador of the city, and everyone you meet has an opinion about it.”
The guitarist for the art-rock band Radiohead has been named the BBC’s newest composer-in-residence. Jonny Greenwood will fill the role for the next two years, and is committed to composing at least one orchestral work in that time. Greenwood, who is a classically trained viola player, has never formally attempted composition before, although Radiohead’s songs have been hailed by many in the art music world, and pianist Chris O’Riley has even transcribed them for solo piano.
Britain’s museums are a big success both in terms of the quality of their collections and with the audiences that throng to see them, writes Nicholas Serota. “But the museum economy itself is near breaking point. The success of free entry has placed ever greater demands on resources – at Tate Modern we have even found a sponsor for lavatory paper. With art prices reaching astronomical levels, we are having difficulty in renewing the collections that are at the heart of what we do.”
A controversial motion passed recently by the Toronto City Council to change the governance of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts, has raised concerns that it amounts to a takeover by primary tenant CanStage.” The center’s six other, smaller resident tenants charge that their survival would be in doubt under the new arrangement.
“It took five separate screenings to accommodate the press demand to see Michael Moore’s heavily anticipated anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, and when it came to turning up the political heat here, neither the movie nor its maker failed to disappoint. The audience at a afternoon gala screening responded with a 20-minute standing ovation.”
“American theater always manages to reinvent itself at the worst of all possible times. The best of our new theater practitioners have already begun to imagine a set of goals and procedures in which perception requires no other justification than the beauty that entitles it. In this dramatic universe, theatrical high jinks are their own reward; and so it is with the new plays one is beginning to encounter these days in New York.”
“A theatre director has lost her high court claim that she should be credited as joint author of the hit West End play Stones In His Pockets by award-winning writer Marie Jones. But Mr Justice Park, sitting in London, ruled that Pam Brighton, who claimed she had made an “extraordinary” creative contribution to the comedy, did have copyright in a draft opening script of the play.”
What’s the Next Big Thing in visual art? Some are making the case for figurative painting. But the truth? “There is no next big thing. In any case, the novelty of the YBA generation wore off a decade ago. For younger artists, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin probably look as old hat and establishment as Howard Hodgkin or Henry Moore. Emulating the strategies of the past generation – in terms of self-promotion as well as their more formal devices – would be pointless and self-defeating. Artists have to carve out their own territory.”
Cellist Matt Haimovitz has given up traditional concert life to play in nightclubs. “No one hearing Mr. Haimovitz at CBGB could doubt his integrity and passion as he continues a 50-state tour that included a performance at a pizza palace in Jackson, Miss. Still, just as there are trade-offs when restless young listeners go to a chamber music concert at a venerated recital hall where they are expected to sit quietly and pay attention, no drinking, no eating, there are trade-offs to hearing Mr. Haimovitz play at a place like CBGB, among them his use of reverberant amplification.”