iTunes: Not Just For Toy Computers Anymore!

When Apple launched its music downloading service, iTunes, last spring, it marked a seismic shift in the computing and music industries towards an eventual embrace of the new technologies which have caused so many headaches for copyright holders. Now, Apple has (finally) launched a version of iTunes that runs on PCs, thereby greatly expanding the company’s reach and share of the legal downloading market. Cross-promotions with Pepsi and AOL will follow soon, and just like that, Apple CEO Steve Jobs hopes to do what the music industry has been insisting isn’t possible: convince consumers to pay for music they can still find for free on other services.

Marvelous Merce At 50

Interest has been intense on Merce Cunningham’s dance company celebration of 50 years, writes Tobi Tobias. “For the opening night gala, attended by a packed house of the rich, the famous, and the curious, augmented by squads of rock music fans and their Cunningham-reverent equivalent, as well as an extra component of security folks, the dice rolling was done onstage, in the presence of the musicians who would later be hidden in the pit and a few dancers picturesquely warming up. It featured New York’s Mayor Bloomberg at his most aggressively exuberant (to compensate for Cunningham’s decades of under appreciation?), with the rolling done by celebs like former Cunningham collaborators Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cunningham ur-dancer Carolyn Brown. Eventually, after all the brouhaha, here it was, another Merce Cunningham dance, and this time, as chance would have it, not a particularly distinguished one.”

The Death Of The Middlebrow?

“Middlebrowism, which dominated mid-century culture in the Anglo-American world, can be a complex subject beset by issues of status and social power, but at its heart lay the duty of all educated persons to become “well-rounded” citizens, especially by exposing themselves to great ideas, great art, and great literature. The precipitous decline in middlebrow culture is in large measure a function of technological innovation, which has had the effect of redrawing culture’s sociological map. ‘Cable, VCRs, satellites, and the multidimensional changes wrought by the home computer have not only opened a vast array of new cultural choices to people, they are achieving something much larger: They are moving the consumption of culture out of the city and into the home.

Out Of Cuba: When A Dance Is More Than A Dance

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the Ballet Nacional de Cuba is among the best in the world. That alone makes watching its dancers take flight on stage a thrill for any lover of the arts. But for us, Cuban exiles from Miami of different generations in emigration and age, this evening was more than a performance. It was an act of rebellion against a 44-year-standoff, my entire lifetime, and of faith that not all is lost.”

The NEA’s Shakespeare Guild

The National Endowment for the Arts is forming a performers guild to support its program touring Shakespeare across the country. “The endowment has taken on the guild image in organizing the respected performers and art experts who will openly support the Shakespeare project. Shakespeare in American Communities will bring professional performances of the Bard, along with related educational activities, to more than 100 communities throughout the country.”

Disney-High Ambitions

LA’s Disney Hall opens next week. “For all the energy and playfulness of this $274 million piece of civic sculpture, Disney Hall also bears a heavy burden as an instrument of this city’s heady ambition. Sixteen years in the making, it represents Los Angeles’ determination to shake off its perpetual No. 2 status, to be recognized, along with New York, as an international cultural heavyweight, yet on its own highly theatrical terms.”

The New Corporate Art

“Pardon visitors to this King County library branch if they can’t quite get a fix on the new addition to the art collection: One minute it’s a Winslow Homer, a few minutes later it’s a Cezanne, and then a Latour. They’re among the first to experience high-resolution digital art delivered by Seattle startup RGB Labs through its just-launched GalleryPlayer, a software-hardware service that provides secure delivery of copyright art directly to plasma screens. Designed primarily for corporate or public-space use, for $195 a month… the GalleryPlayer service delivers digital galleries of art displayed in intervals of 15 to 25 minutes.”

The Strange And Wonderful Documentary Explosion

“If the unprecedented box office success of documentary films in 2003 were itself the subject of a documentary, critics would find the plot wildly implausible and the explanations maddeningly inconclusive. A nearly wordless cinematic love poem to the flapping of birds, Winged Migration, has earned nearly twice as much money this year as that teetering blockbuster with Ben and J.Lo… Why this is happening to the much-maligned documentary category is much harder to pinpoint than box-office numbers. The most obvious answer: Good movies sell tickets.”