The Tarells of this world don’t start in Hollywood or the Royal Shakespeare Company. They start at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, and that place has helped thousands of kids dream about something bigger than they knew – and what they knew was poverty in the inner city.

That’s Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade county department of cultural affairs, quoted by The Guardian’s Joanna Walters. He’s referring to Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote the play on which the film Moonlight was based, in Walters’ examination of some of the consequences of cutting the National Endowment for the Arts.

Spring was blunt on the plans:

It’s diabolical.

The National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, though they seem to have survived this year’s budget, are very much in the crosshairs of the U.S. federal government. Arts are a public good, and state support, especially in disadvantaged areas, is essential.

But the appearance of saving money—though the money saved is minimal—is the only thing that matters to the Trump kakistocracy.

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture

I haven’t been able to make my mind up about Dylan’s win of the Nobel Prize, partly because I’ve never been able to make my mind up about Dylan. At times I see the genius some people credit him with, and at other times I see The Great MacGonagall.

In any case, given his usual intense privacy, his Nobel lecture is surprisingly revealing and personal, an exploration of the words—both in song lyrics and in books—that have influenced him, and springing from “wondering exactly how [his] songs related to literature.”

That’s what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

New Design

This site has a new look.

I liked the old design, but it left some things to be desired as regards a modern WordPress blog. This keeps the best of the old site, but it’s got more up-to-date features like responsive design and (hopefully) properly-functioning, not-hacked-together link posts.

It’s a heavily-modified version of the Toivo Lite theme. My thanks to Bart Busschots for both doing the heavy lifting and showing me the ropes of CSS.

I’ll be making other tweaks here and there as I find things that don’t work or don’t work properly, but in the main it’s done.


The Nodosaur

National Geographic:

At first glance the reassembled gray blocks look like a nine-foot-long sculpture of a dinosaur. A bony mosaic of armor coats its neck and back, and gray circles outline individual scales. Its neck gracefully curves to the left, as if reaching toward some tasty plant. But this is no lifelike sculpture. It’s an actual dinosaur, petrified from the snout to the hips.

I got very wary of NatGeo when Murdoch bought the magazine, but this story shows that they’ve still got it when it counts. And, as ever, incredible photography.

“They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead”

Netflix have taken on the task of finishing and releasing (and sorting out the extensive legal problems of releasing) Orson Welles’ last film, The Other Side of the Wind. Now Wellesnet is reporting that Netflix will be releasing a companion documentary on the making of the film, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead.

If the only film of Welles’ you’ve seen is Citizen Kane, you’re missing out. I find it hard not to gush when I’m talking about his work: I love every film he made.

Marco Arment: “MP3 Is Dead” Missed the Real, Much Better Story

Marco Arment:

MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year — the last known MP3 patents have simply expired.

So while there’s a debate to be had — in a moment — about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer’s announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format.

I admit this story really got my goat. It’s a company transparently trying to push people away from a format on which they don’t make money, and towards one on which they do. Judging by the number of “MP3 is dead” headlines I saw, they may have succeeded too.

If you really think you can hear the difference between high-bitrate MP3 and AAC, I’d love to see you do it in a double-blind test. Succeed, and I’ll buy you a cookie.

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Candy Floss and Merry-Go-Rounds: Female Composers, Gendered Language, and Emotion

And speaking of the problems of composing while female, just about everyone is linking to this piece by Sarah Kirkland Snider on NewMusicBox, so I will too:

I receive a discouraging number of emails from young female composers thanking me for my “courage” and “bravery” in writing music that is emotionally direct. Courage! Bravery! They use these words because the implicit mistrust of emotion and affect in art is the aesthetic world we continue to live in, well beyond the turn of the 21st century. In a career where the deck is stacked against them before they write a single note, young female composers are eager to prove that they are every bit as serious and capable as men. Some feel pressure to compromise their natural artistic instincts to fit within a paradigm that can seem intractable and inhospitable. I know where these women are coming from.

I remember being in college (maybe earlier), learning about the history of sonata form, and being told about the two main themes: one “masculine”, one “feminine”. I always found it a strange, old-fashioned way of talking about music. And yet somehow it’s only in retrospect that I ever realised we barely spoke about female composers.

Kirkland Snider has a lot to say in this piece. Some things, like taking care when gendered language in talking about music, seem attainable today. But she’s frank about the fact that others pose more complex problems.

“Why Are Pioneering Female Composers so Neglected?”

Terrific post from a few weeks back by Emily Hogstad on her Song of the Lark blog. She runs down a number of (more) prominent historical female composers, and the unfortunate fates that prevented them from pursuing composition as a career. There’s something heartbreaking in this line:

It seems strange to me that so many of the best-known female composers ran into these cruel twists of fate that prohibited them from fulfilling their true potential, while so many of their sisters who went into performing didn’t.