Stephen Kaye

After a week spent in London, Paris was a welcome change because it had not changed.  Unlike London, which has given up being London in favor of going international, Paris has decided that being Paris is better than being modern and banal.  The roofline remains the same, and it is comforting.  One can imagine the political strength it takes for aesthetics and culture to triumph over greed and high rises.  The desire to remain French goes well beyond architecture.  The journals are full of debate as to how France can stay French given the numbers of immigrants she has absorbed. Many of these immigrants, especially those from Muslim countries, are determined to maintain their own cultures and not become French or, in derogatory terms, “Frenchified.” The conflict pits the rights of individuals against the interests of the state—both legitimate, and both deeply felt. 

The Volta art show moved from lofts in SOHO to Pier 90 where 90 galleries are each showing one artist.  Again, the galleries are from around the world, as are the artists. They are all in the “affordable” range, mostly under $30,000 and many good sized paintings are half that.  The artists are not emerging from the womb; they are seasoned to the point that they know what they are doing and they know how to do it.  My sense was that these artists show power, discipline, a mastery of technique, the result of a juried process that works. The open spaces makes for a simplicity of layout that was not possible in the confined spaces of the SOHO building where VOLTA started in 2008. It is also noteworthy that most of these works could be hung on a wall: most were paintings and most used old-fashioned paint, or ink.

In a brief visit, we found a city in the throes of becoming an international capital while at the same time struggling to remain English. The skyline in every direction is littered with construction cranes. From each construction site, there will emerge a building that will try to make its own architectural statement without reference to its neighbours or the soil from which it springs. The idea of scale, color and materials being contextual has been abandoned. The glass-and-steel structures have not a whit of Englishness. They are all of the international style. They could be anywhere.

Prince Charles’s campaign for an English style in architecture, for contextual buildings that would honor England’s past styles, was rejected by the builders and their architects. 

The English National Opera’s production of “The Indian Queen,” directed by Peter Sellars, opened at London’s Coliseum Theater to mixed- to scathing reviews.  Most of these reviews singled out the performance of Julia Bullock as one of the bright spots.  By the time we saw it, the sting of the press had worn off and the well-filled hall voiced admiration for the dancers, sets and individual performances that had so displeased our fellow scribblers.   

Miller Theater at Columbia University continues its series devoted to the music of one contemporary composer with Thursday night’s (March 5) performance of music by Augusta Read Thomas, one of our most prolific living composers.  There were three premiers.

A question and answer period after the break was most revealing as she described the care and attention she gives to every note and every sound.  She uses the word sculpt in describing the sounds she wants to achieve.  She uses the word color.  She hears in her own mind the sound she wants.  She works with instruments she knows from over 30 years of composing and playing, including the incredible diversity of percussion instruments that littered the stage, some 190 of them. She says she seeks to simulate the feel of spontaneity, but she has sculpted every note with directions as to how it is to sound, so there is little room for subjectivity in playing.

Miller Theater at Columbia University continues its series devoted to the music of one contemporary composer with Thursday night’s (March 5) performance of music by Augusta Read Thomas, one of our most prolific living composers.  There were three premiers.

A question and answer period after the break was most revealing as she described the care and attention she gives to every note and every sound.  She uses the word sculpt in describing the sounds she wants to achieve.  She uses the word color.  She hears in her own mind the sound she wants.  She works with instruments she knows from over 30 years of composing and playing, including the incredible diversity of percussion instruments that littered the stage, some 190 of them. She says she seeks to simulate the feel of spontaneity, but she has sculpted every note with directions as to how it is to sound, so there is little room for subjectivity in playing.

Contemporaneous, a group of musicians formed by undergraduates at Bard five years ago returned to Bard for their fifth anniversary concert Sunday, March 8, performing works by young composers all of whom were on hand, or on stage. 

“Impulses” by Vicente Alexim started with a whisper or rustling sound and continued as a soundscape, developing momentum and density expressed in gestures that took us over a countryside we were not familiar with but with recognizable features.  There was building, heavy breathing, fluttering and a pause. 

Matt Evans, a percussionist, offered “Still Life for Ensemble” that referred to paintings, perhaps by Barnet Newman or Clifford Still.  We begin with simple repeated notes on the Xylaphone that are enriched and deepened  as strings, piano and then other instruments join in creating texture of soft colors.  

“Rivers on Drugs” was the topic of Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall’s talk at the Cary Institute Friday. She is an aquatic ecologist who has taken on the formidable task of figuring out the environmental impact of the pharmaceuticals and other household chemicals, such as detergents and sun screen, when they enter the streams and rivers. She told the audience that there are 1,467 pharmaceuticals and an unknown number of personal care products, collectively called PPCPs, potentially entering aquatic ecosystems, and we don’t know what they are doing to our natural environment. She is trying to find out.

The compounds in PPCPs are typically not found in nature. Given the quantities involved and the pervasiveness of these man-made compounds, the questions take on a global dimension.

We are disturbed by the massacre of trees that we continue to witness in the Village of Millbrook. We think it is time for the village to stop this visual atrocity and restore a measure of dignity to our small village. Let the trees remain. It is the tangle of wires that offend. The trees are right. The poles and wires are wrong. They are ugly, and each year become more so. To sacrifice the trees so the wires can multiply may please Central Hudson, but it is not pleasing to the village’s residents and businesses, nor to visitors.   

The answer is obvious. Put the wires underground. Too expensive, says Central Hudson. Is that so?  Give us a chance to find a solution. Most cities and many towns and several countries put wires underground. Many private communities have wires underground. Telephone and cable can be placed underground. New York City’s wires are underground. Central Hudson does not live here. It evinces no qualms about destroying what we cherish. This is not Fallujah. We are not in a war zone.

This posting corrects and updates the print version that appeared in the issue of Feb 19. The corrected information was received after the print edition’s deadline.

Steve Forschler, chairman of the East Clinton Fire District commissioners, early in the district’s February meeting asked the status of the claim for losses from an earlier chairman’s misappropriation of district funds.  That commissioner, Carl German, was charged with theft but the charges were never proved in court because German died in 2008, ending the investigation by the State Police.

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