As noted below, I'll be joining Bill Steelman of Essex Heritage at the mic for First Friday at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport on April 5. That's a member event (although you can join that night and still get in on the buffet and drinks). But everyone is invited when I'll be on a panel at the Newburyport Literary Festival on April 27. Ghlee Woodworth and I will talking about Newburyport walking trails, local history, the byway and so forth at 11 a.m. at the Newburyport Art Association. And best of all, it's free! And I'll be the speaker at the Lynn Museum's annual membership meeting in May. In each case I'll be selling and singing the Byway Guide for interested parties.
In the last few weeks the news from northern and western Africa brings fresh conflicts. But Homeland Security means something different at Berklee College of Music on Monday night, where students from Africa will present a concert of music and dance from their homelands of Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and other countries.
Homeland Security: Celebrating Contemporary and Traditional African Music and Dance will feature original student compositions with deeply personal meanings, including “Va Gumulelana (No More War),” by Helder Tsinine, the first non-English language song to win the Peacedriven Songwriting
Contest, and “Battle” by Jason Ekhabi Sibi-Okumu, about his struggle with kidney failure. Berklee’s 16-member West African Drum and Dance Ensemble and another group choreographed by student Jeniffer Criss will perform traditional drum and dance pieces from Ghana, Togo, Guinea and Mali.
Berklee's been getting increasingly international lately, with satellite operations and outreach. The West African ensemble features percussionist
Victor “Blue” Dogah, who in 2008 was named Berklee’s first Africa Scholar—an
award covering full tuition and room and board for four years – through a program started by Berklee president Roger Brown. (No relation.)
As a juvenile film fanatic, I was given copies of "Truffaut/Hitchcock" and "Stanley Kubrick Directs" one Christmas or birthday in the early '70s, back in the days when you could see all their films at the Brattle or the Orson Welles or at your nearest college film series. DVDs and cable have pretty much put an end to those outlets, but "Psycho" and "Dr. Strangelove" remain perhaps disturbingly close to the top of my list of all-time favorites. And now the Museum of Fine Arts is offering a chance to take in Kubrick's complete filmography in order on the big screen in February.
Offerings include: "Fear and Desire," the little-seen 1953 war allegory in a print restored by the Library of Congress (Feb. 1, 2, 3 and 7); Kubrock's first masterpiece, the World War I drama of cowardice and heroism "Paths of Glory" in a print restored by UCLA (Feb. 7 and 9); and of course his 1964 peak, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," a bit of Cold War insanity that's a shortgun wedding of "Fail Safe" and "Duck Soup," that's also one of Peter Sellers' greatest films (Feb. 14 and 16). And of course those great Kubrick couples - Hal & Dave, and Tom & Nicole - are also on the schedule.
Tickets are $11 (less for members, students, seniors, etc.) at www.mfa.org/film, 800-440-6975 or the MFA ticket desks. Click the web site to find out which theater each show is in and other info.
Fresh off a win as Best Americana Band at the BMAs, Kingsley Flood seems intent on proving that they'd like to take the whole deal.
The band's new full-length, "Battles," officially due Feb. 5, still offers the intimacy that drove their 'bout-perfect first album, "Dust Windows," but you no longer hear the crickets and seldom expect Levon Helm to come in on the chorus. Again, there's an abundance of big hooks and little grace notes that will lodge these songs in your head. But "Battles" continues down the rock road of last year's "Colder Still" EP, as frontman and songwriter Naseem Khuri leads his merry band of brothers and one sister further out onto their own not-especially-categorizable musical terrain. "Battles" might be just the thing to get them into the plain-'ol'-best-band category next year.
Not that they've turned their back on rootsy. From its title to its picked-guitar intro to its timeless-sounding chorus, "Waiting on the River to Rise" couldn't be any more heartland. But it quickly dawns on the listener that there's something a little strange and slanty about that piano line, and the lonely whistling is more Morricone than Mayberry. Then, with a change of just a couple of words, the last verse goes somewhere unexpected, a declaration of - well, what? Ambition? Revolution? - before there's this ominous solar flare of a noise (Mellotron) at the close that makes you think it's something even worse. Sui generis.
At the other end of the spectrum - and the very next track - is "Down," a slashing little poseur-takedown driven by a throbbing fuzz bass riff that would not have sounded out of place from bassist Nick Balkin's other outfit, electro-rockers Logan 5 and the Runners. It's one of the slightest songs on the album, but definitely the kind of thing to make clear KF's ambitions aren't confined by genre.
Subtler effects flavor many of the tracks on this ambitious album, which was produced at Great North Sound Society in Parsonsfield, Maine by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim). But it's not the electronics, it's the resulting broody atmosphere that matters on tracks like the opening "Don't Change My Mind" and the haunting "Habit."
With its little plucked riff and its instant-earworm "I know, I know" vocal hook, "The Fire Inside" will stick with you. Faux-jaunty "King's Men" has musical-hall piano and trumpet and a barking dog; it's "Penny Lane" to the Kinks-ish blare of "Sun's Gonna Let me Shine" and "Pick Your Battles." "Strongman" is a straight-ahead stomper that comes closest to
the joyous gonzo of the band's live shows (although I could do without the "bad cold" vocal filter here and elsewhere).
As always, from song to song Khuri's lyrics jump from confessional directness to Dylanesque and oblique, and at best split the difference. What's he singing about? Somewhere in most of these songs is the struggle to stay true to the self and what's right, against the temptations of self-doubt and fear, fame and sex, surrender and anger. Sometimes he sounds like a budding rock success trying to embrace his temptations ("Sun Gonna Lemme Shine"), while at others he's a busted-out working man overwhelmed by failure or family or infidelity. Even the twisted ones think they're doing the right thing, or at least embrace the wrong with open eyes.
"Hard times for the quiet kind" indeed. If there's any justice, and at the risk of making Jersey wince, 2013 ought to be the Year of the Flood.
Between the time she sent her press release and when I actually read it, Naomi Slipp's Kickstarter reached its goal, so some of the suspense has gone out of this. But you still have one day to kick in more to support the exhibition she's organizing, Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy, from Copley, Eakins and Rimmer to Contemporary Artists, set for Jan. 31-March 31 at the Boston University Art Gallery. Slipp, a BU grad student, says she's trying to create "a unique project that will draw together the Boston arts and medical communities and provoke a rich conversation about what it means to picture the human body." Given how large and important those two communities are here, and how interesting the results can be on the rare occasions when they interact - Remember the giant photos of cancer cells at MIT? - this seems like a worthwhile project. premiums available to backers include a copy of "Teaching the Body" (the illustrated exhibition catalog) and a private exhibition tour with Slipp.
The exhibit is especially challenging behind the scenes as she is arranging to borrow (and prepare and ship) works from all over, While she has secured significant funding, one source dropped out late in the process, leaving her with a $2,500 shortfall. Hence the Kickstarter. And her laptop got ripped off this week, which means a little extra would probably be appreciated.
From her Kickstarter sales pitch: "Over eighty works in the exhibition [many never exhibited before], including drawings, prints, sculptures, paintings, and texts, illustrate the relationship between American art and medicine, a collaboration founded because of their shared interest in the human body and the study of anatomy. Included in the exhibition are: illustrated anatomical lecture tickets; photographic stereoviews; anatomical sketches, studies, and models; pathological anatomy illustrations; and American anatomy books written for women and children. Fine art created by American artists Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908), Kiki Smith (1954- ), Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), William Rimmer (1816-1879), Hyman Bloom (1913-2009), Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), and many others, along with visual works from the 'everyday' including magazines and prints, will illustrate the ways that artists studied artistic anatomy. Perhaps, most important, this exhibition examines both what that study meant for these artists and for the way we, today, think about our own bodies and how they work."
Hurricane Sandy has local forecasters getting on their foul-weather faces and rolling out their bold-faced fonts, although there's still no telling exactly which way the storm will go early next week. Normally I'm loathe to fall under the spell of publicists who try to tie their arts events to such things - storms, the Red Sox, whatever. (Isabella Stewart Gardner liked going to Fenway, we get it, now give it a rest.) But the New England Philharmonic opens its season this saturday with - wait for it - "Atmospherics." The 8 p.m. at Tsai Performance Center program will focus on composer in residence David Rakowski's fourth symphony - wait for it! - Scare Quotes. Our local forecasters are not involved, but each movement in the symphony use titles taken from The Weather Channel website: Waning Crescent, Current Conditions, Ice to Rain and finally, Double Shot. Each movement "quotes" musical themes from pieces by other composers, including Bach, Mahler and Oliver Nelson with his jazz standard "Stolen Moments." Tickets, $25, at www.nephilharmonic.org. On the (literally) bright side, the program also includes Thea Musgrave's "Rainbow."
You have ten days to get over to the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester and see Marsden Hartley: Soliloquy in Dogtown, an exhibition of the great American painter's depiction of one of the stranger places in Massachusetts. If you don't know about Dogtown, an abandoned settlement on high ground in the center of Cape Ann, start with Wikipedia and then move on to Elyssa East's book. East was captivated by Hartley's paintings and drawings, which he made during two separate stays in Gloucester in 1931 and '34. You will be too.
The Cape Ann owns some of the works and borrowed others for an exhibition in 1985, when community leaders were gearing up to save Dogtown after its problems were brought to the fore by a murder that is the centerpiece of East's book. Now more than 3,000 acres are protected as conservation land and offer a relatively safe place for hikers and bikers and birdwatchers, although the place still retains its unique spookiness. And the museum has mounted a slightly larger version of the exhibit, which ends Oct. 14. It only takes up one room, but it feels more expansive.
Soliloquoy in Dogtown features a dozen drawings but it is the paintings that are striking. Hartley's flattened perspectives and blunted shapes somehow embody the skewed feeling of the place. The colors are similar from painting to painting, somehow both vivid and unsettling, greens and greys and browns dominating under a blue sky with white clouds. The exception is the brilliant canvas simply titled "Dogtown," alive with autumn red and gold. This is one of those paintings that you'll want to absorb for a while.
The exhibit also includes a portrait of Hartley by Helen Stein and a variety of Dogtown memorabilia that should further whet your appetite for the real thing. Dogtown was largely open in Hartley's day, but is no less individual now for the scrub woods that have grown up. It's less than ten minutes from the museum by car, and there are maps at the trail head. But it's still easy to get lost there.
Image: Marsden Hartley (1877-1943). Summer Outward Bound, Gloucester, 1931. Oil on board. Gift of the estate of Robert L. French, 2009. Courtesy of Cape Ann Museum.
Saturday brings the autumnal equinox, which means it's time for music, poetry and communal singing at the 9th annual Revels RiverSing at the Charles River. Revels music director George Emlen hosts the free outdoor celebration featuring over 100 chorus members, the Revels Children’s Chorus, musician David Coffin, the Second Line Pleasure Aid and Social Society Brass Band, sax man Stan Strickland on the river (right) and more. Did we mention it's free? There will be groups sings of about 20 folk songs (lyrics available onsite and at www.revels.org). Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s Steve Barkhimer and Jennie Israel and Cambridgepoet Toni Bee will recite. The main event is at 6 p.m., but festivities begin at 5 with family fun in Harvard Square's Winthrop Park, followed by a procession to the river. This is fun for anyone who likes music and ritual, and those with an anthropological interest in Cambridge's unique culture.
Many TV shows kick off a pop culture meme or two, and a brilliant few invade your dreams. "Breaking Bad" invaded reality a couple of weeks ago, as Alabama authorities put an alleged meth cook named Walter White on their most-wanted list. That the arrest of a real-life Walter seemed unsurprising was an interesting data point in understanding just how much this AMC drama about a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher turned badass meth kingpin has gotten under my skin. So it's going to be a bear waiting until next summer for the show's final eight episodes. (SPOILERS AHEAD!)
The 2012 finale on Sunday night ended with a classic "Breaking Bad" moment. Walter (the amazing Bryan Cranston) hosted a family party a few days after he told his wife he was out of the meth biz. The unspoken theme was a return to normalcy. But then Walter's DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank, sat down for a little bathroom reading and picked up a volume of Walt (!) Whitman. Inside he found a hand-written inscription that made his jaw drop to match his pants, linking Walter to a murdered meth chemist. I worried Hank was going to have a stroke right there on the can as he faced the absurd truth that he has subconsciously suspected for a long time: Suburban milquetoast Walter has a double life as the evil Heisenberg! Walt is Heisenberg!
DEA agent brother-in-law? Whitman? Toilet? Heisenberg? What? All this may sound like gibberish to the non-fan, but we are so far down the rabbit hole with this show that it's way too late to bring newcomers up to, ahem, speed. Suffice to say that the moment's ruthless plotting, painfully mundane setting, literary touches and wonderful acting (by Dean Norris as Hank) were all expressions of what makes this show great.
A few weeks back I wrote a Globe column about New Exhibition Room's "Zombie Double Feature," a darkly comic summer extravaganza of two gore-soaked zombie plays ("Terror at BPT" and "Last Night Cabaret") at Boston Playwrights' Theatre. One of the rotating lineup of musicians in the show was among those left homeless by the fire, and apparently several other artists of various stripes with ties to the troupe are also among the victims. There's a Facebook page for those who want to help them.
But all in-person ticket sales to tonight's 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. "Zombie Double Feature" performances will be donated to the cause, and the zombies will be taking up a collection as well. More details here.
Pictured: Omar Robinson and Greer Rooney with Baby Zombie in "Terror at BPT." Photo courtesy New Exhibtion Room.