The editors' blog

  • A PLAY WITH TOO MUCH STYLE

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, April 23rd 2015

    The theatre company 1927 is unlike many others. They barely ever use any set—just a flat backdrop with a window and a door cut into it—and the actors spend much of their time standing still, or walking on the spot. The stage pictures they create with lighting and animation have the flickering, tableau vivant quality of early cinema: their actors wear the dark, hollowed eye make-up of silent-film stars, and even their name is a reference to screens, as 1927 is the year the talkies began. But despite the element of two-dimensionality, the performance poet Suzanne Andrade and the designer Paul Barritt make plays that encapsulate a complete world. Since 2007, when their debut show “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” was a standout hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, it’s a world that has gathered a young, growing and devoted following.

    read more » cultureIsabel LloydTheatre
  • INSIDE THE PIANO WITH NILS FRAHM

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, April 22nd 2015

    Encylopedias regularly hem and haw over whether the piano is a string instrument or a percussion instrument. In the hands of the German classical pianist Nils Frahm (above), it is both. In 2011 Frahm made an important discovery. Recording late at night and trying to do his neighbours a favour, he damped the sound of his piano with a thick layer of felt and placed his microphones so deep inside as to be almost touching the strings. The results were quite literally breathtaking: on the subsequent recordings, released on his 2011 album "Felt", you can hear not only Frahm’s breathing but the creak of floorboards beneath his feet, together with the delicate rustle and scrape of ivory against wood, wood against felt, felt against steel—the secret sonic life of the piano revealed.

    read more » classicalcultureMusicTom Shone
  • THE INNER WORKINGS OF OUTSIDER ART

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, April 21st 2015

    Last year, in a scene akin to a heavyweight boxer facing off against a tiddlywinks champion, the Museum of Modern Art knocked down its neighbour, the American Folk Art Museum. The symbolism was striking. The American Folk Art Museum, whose building was sold to MoMA in 2011 amid much financial upheaval, had been designed as a “house for art” to highlight the work of artists outside the mainstream art world—the art of peasant communities, or that of children, or those with psychiatric disorders, which is often termed “outsider art”. MoMA, on the other hand, is in the midst of a never-ending expansion replete with high-rise apartment blocks and Michelin-starred restaurants, and has recently been featuring blockbuster shows of well-known artists (Henri Matisse) and celebrities (the film-maker Tim Burton, and a much-derided show by the singer Bjork). Entry to the Folk Art Museum is free; entry to MoMA is $25 a head. Yet despite this difference in scale, the Folk Art Museum’s latest show—in their much-diminished new digs 30 blocks north—is a master class in curatorial intelligence and emotional wallop, and displays a gender and racial diversity that MoMA would give a substantial chunk of its nearly $1 billion endowment to have.

    read more » Artgeorge pendleNew York
  • OUR LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE KITCHEN

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, April 20th 2015

    The subject of kitchens—what they reveal about their owners, how many it is acceptable to have—has become something of a political football in the run-up to the British general election. Three main-party leaders have invited cameras and journalists into their kitchens for coffee and conversation—with mixed results. But there is something far more interesting about the kitchen than its brief spell as a subject of spin, as I realised on a recent visit to the Geffrye Museum. And that is its positioning over the centuries in our homes, and what that tells us about our domestic history and our relationship with food.

    read more » ArchitectureFamilyinteriorsLondonRebecca Willis
  • GEORGE CLINTON'S 40 YEARS OF FUNK

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, April 17th 2015

    George Clinton knows how to make an entrance. It’s a skill he perfected in the Seventies, when his fame as the ringleader of the funk collective Parliament Funkadelic was at its peak. Clinton would arrive on stage in the P-Funk Mothership, a glowing $500,000 “spacecraft” that would descend from on high and deliver him in a hissing fug of flames and smoke. His outfits were as outrageous as his props: he was as likely to wear head-to-toe ermine as he was a white sheet (and nothing but). And for several years Clinton, who used to work in a barbershop, took to wearing hair extensions that made him look like Medusa in Technicolour.

    read more » Charlie McCannMusicRock
  • TOM HARDY SHINES IN CHILD 44

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 16th 2015

    How do you catch a murderer in a country where murder, officially, doesn’t exist? That’s the question that keeps tripping up the characters in Daniel Espinosa’s grim, ambitious new thriller, “Child 44”, a film in which the oppressive institutional anti-logic of Stalin’s USSR is far more threatening than the serial killer on the loose.

    Adapted from Tom Rob Smith’s bestselling novel, “Child 44” features Tom Hardy as Leo Demidov (pictured), a ruthless secret-police investigator who is so efficient at snaring “traitors”, and so loyal to the Party, that he has earnt a swanky Moscow apartment and a beautiful wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace). His rise through the ranks stalls only when his best friend’s young son is found dead by a railway track. All the forensic evidence suggests that a Russian Jack the Ripper is picking off children, but Leo’s superior officer (Vincent Cassel) declares that the boy was hit by a train: murder, after all, is a “capitalist disease” with no place in Stalin’s socialist Utopia. If Leo asks to look at the autopsy report, he will be committing treason and inviting execution—especially if his envious lieutenant (Joel Kinnaman) has anything to do with it. But after a lifetime’s profitable obedience, not even Leo can keep ignoring the chasm between the real truth and the government-approved version.

    read more » cinemacultureFilmNicholas Barber
  • WHERE BALLET MEETS BATTLE ZONES

    ~ Posted by Julie Kavanagh, April 15th 2015

    How is it possible to judge one dancer against another in a radically different style? That's the question facing the judges in the BBC's new Young Dancer of the Year competition, in which the categories are contemporary, hip-hop, ballet and the South Asian classical tradition. The four category finals will be shown weekly on BBC4, starting on April 17th. The winners in each category will then compete in the grand final, broadcast live from Sadler's Wells on May 9th. There’s an impressive panel of judges including the choreographer Wayne McGregor and Tamara Rojo, the artistic director of the English National Ballet. I asked Darcey Bussell, the former Royal Ballet principal and a host of the grand final, how they'd pick a winner. "Talent always shines through," she told me. "Despite having different techniques, it all comes down to whether a dancer has the determination and scope to adapt their performance within their genre."

    read more » DanceHip-hopJulie KavanaghTELEVISION
  • THE UNWAVERING GUNTER GRASS

    ~ Posted by Alix Christie, April 13th 2015

    Günter Grass, the towering German writer who has died age 87, called himself many things: toad, dinosaur, "notorious pessimist". Yet this was the same man whom the Nobel committee in 1999 praised for giving German literature "a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction" with his first novel, “The Tin Drum”, published 40 years before. He could be caustic and lyrical, arrogant and kind, a mass of seeming contradiction. Yet one through-line animated his extraordinary life: he never wavered in his role as a member of that vanishing breed, the public intellectual.

    read more » Alix ChristiefictionGermanyHISTORYLiteraturePOLITICS
  • THE BIG QUESTION: THE RESULTS

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, April 13th 2015

    Time is an unusual commodity: we all have it and, if we’re lucky, plenty of it. It’s in ample supply, yet highly valued—and some times more than others. For our last Big Question, we asked seven writers to choose their favourite time of day. Readers voted for the answer that chimed most in our online poll.

    Ann Wroe, the author of the forthcoming “Six Excursions in Light”, waxed lyrical about twilight, that sliver of evening when light is on the wane. She won the day (just) with 20% of the vote. Tied at 17% were the poet Simon Armitage and the pilot Mark Vanhoenacker, both champions of the solitude that steals in when the sun slips away. Vanhoenacker relishes the small hours, when “the world below sleeps”; Armitage thrills to 5am, when the day isn’t yet “muddled with people”. The poet Kathleen Jamie yearns for 9-11am, when her children are at school and “time is my own”; she took in 15% of the vote. With her ode to midnight, the novelist Elif Shafak claimed 10% for the night. The author Romesh Gunesekera prefers 7.23am, when there’s “still time to save the day”; he convinced 8%. The novelist Ali Smith recalled a January afternoon 45 years ago: 4pm, school finished, marbles out. She won 4%.

    Some readers voted for their own slices of time. But one commented that this Big Question “enriches any time of the day”.

    read more » Charlie McCannLifestyleThe Big Questiontime
  • HOW JONI MITCHELL CHANGED MUSIC

    ~ Posted by David Bennun, April 10th 2015

    These days, Joni Mitchell’s appearances in the news are more often prompted by her opinions (rebarbative) or her health (erratic) than her music. But after her hospitalisation in Los Angeles last week, her fans had reason to wonder if they were about to lose her, which inevitably concentrated minds on her career. “Folk legend” was the phrase frequently invoked in coverage of the story, alongside an emphasis on her lasting impact upon women performers. It’s not exactly damning her with faint praise, but it does misrepresent and undervalue her.

    read more » cultureDavid BennunjazzMusicPopRock

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