The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, May 15th 2015

    Bryce Dessner is a professional shape-shifter. Best known as a guitarist in the maudlin indie band The National, he is also a classical composer and festival organiser. Last weekend, he was all three at once. Hosted by the Barbican Centre in London, “Mountains and Waves” was Dessner’s miniature festival of music by Americans and about America. Contemporary orchestral pieces by Dessner and his friends, among them the composers Philip Glass and Nico Muhly, rubbed shoulders with folk and electronica. On the night I went, two minimalist works were on the bill: Dessner’s “Wave Movements” and Steve Reich’s “Drumming” (1970-71), a classic of the genre. One showed when less is more; the other when less is less.

    read more » Charlie McCannclassicalcultureMusicRock

    ~ Posted by Jasper Rees, May 15th 2015

    In late 2013 I visited the bookdealer Jeff Towns, who is the human face of the Dylan Thomas industry. Many rare books, manuscripts and other collectables associated with the poet have passed through his hands, and some are still hoarded in his home in the Mumbles on the western flank of Swansea Bay. He showed me a first edition of “18 Poems” (1934), the slim volume with which Thomas announced himself at 20. And he recalled being on the phone to a potential buyer when, casually flicking through its pages, he found that the poet had graffitied two critiques of his own work: “one’s worst poem ever” on one page, and a few pages later, “Welsh masturbating Swinburne”. With its rarity value all of a sudden vastly enhanced, Towns withdrew the copy from sale.

    read more » Jasper ReesPoetryWales

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, May 14th 2015

    Whatever realm it is that dead playwrights inhabit, right now there must be at least one up there smiling. Arthur Miller, the most profound of all stage analysts of the American dream, would be delighted enough with Ivo van Hove’s recent stripped-back production of “A View From the Bridge” in London, which threw out all the trappings of realism to lay bare the expressionistic power of Miller’s prose. Rarely was a returns queue more worth standing in. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Death of a Salesman”, which opened at the Noël Coward Theatre last night after a high-speed transfer from Stratford, will be the cherry on his heavenly cake.

    read more » AmericacultureIsabel LloydTheatre

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, May 14th 2015 

    In 1876, the English shipping magnate Frederick Leyland asked James McNeill Whistler, the enfant terrible of the art world, for advice on decorating his London dining room. The room was intended to showcase Leyland’s collection of blue and white Chinese porcelain—for which there was a collecting craze at the time—but when the original architect fell ill and Leyland was called back to Liverpool on business, Whistler decided to take over the project and infuse it completely with his own particular artistic genius. He painted its walls in shimmering Prussian blue and blue-green, not sparing the expensive leather wall-hangings. He ladled on gold leaf, covered the ribbed ceiling in oxidised brass, and filled every surface with delicate abstract patterns and lustrous images of peacocks.

    read more » ArtcultureExhibitionsgeorge pendleinteriors

    ~ Posted by Kassia St Clair, May 13th 2015

    What do Iris Apfel (above), Elsa Schiaparelli, Isabella Blow, Diana Vreeland and Jenna Lyons all have in common? These grande dames of fashion spent their early years bemoaning their appearance. The connection isn’t surprising. It’s natural to throw distraction in the face of a perceived deficit: who will notice that your eyes are too close together, or your nose too long, or your legs too thick if you are dressed like a goddess? There is no doubt that Iris, the subject of a new documentary by the late Albert Maysles, dresses spectacularly. Her careers as a textile designer and interior decorator have given her a fine eye and she and her singular wardrobe became such darlings of the fashion world that they had their own exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2005. You might assume—as I did—that a film about a woman who cares deeply about how she looks, and who dresses to be noticed, would err on the side of vapidity. But, like me, you would be wrong.

    read more » DocumentaryFASHIONFilmKassia St Clair

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, May 13th 2015

    Here's our pick of the best new tunes. You can listen to them on the player below, or find the playlist on Spotify by searching for IntLifeMag. All songs are available on iTunes, unless otherwise stated.

    Tobias Jesso: Without You
    Not the Nilsson hit, but Nilsson-like in its emotional intelligence.

    Stornoway: Get Low (pictured)
    Folk meets 60s pop.

    Paul Simon: Father & Daughter
    An unsung gem, now joining the classics in his “Ultimate Collection”.

    Madonna: Inside Out
    Her new album, “Rebel Heart”, is patchy, but 
this is a cracker.

    Natalie Prass: Why Don’t You Believe in Me
    The kind of ballad you slip into like a hot bath. Produced by this man...

    Matthew E. White: Take Care My Baby
    The acceptable face of meandering.

    read more » intelligent tunesmay/june 2015MusicTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, May 7th 2015

    “It’s just dib-dib-dib all day long.” So said the Turner prize-winning artist Grayson Perry (right) last night—but he wasn’t talking about scouting or Lord Baden-Powell. Instead he was describing the happy life of the man (or woman, or man dressed as woman) who works with their hands for a living. On stage at the Victoria and Albert Museum for the launch of the inaugural London Craft Week, a joint venture led by the Swiss watch manufacturer Vacheron Constantin and the Crafts Council, he gave a typically earthy and invigorating speech about what craft is, and why it matters.

    read more » DesignExhibitionsIsabel Lloydstyletalks

    ~ Posted by Anthony Gardner, May 6th 2015

    I’d been trying to get into journalism for two years, and was close to despair, when Ann Barr—who died on Monday aged 85—gave me my first break. I couldn’t have asked for a better apprenticeship. As features editor of Harpers & Queen in the 1970s and early 1980s, Ann helped to create the quintessential magazine of that era, proudly bearing the spineline, “The world’s most intelligent glossy”. Her diamond-sharp eye for trends and detail made “The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook”, which she edited with Peter York, into an unexpected million-seller.

    read more » Anthony GardnerJournalismObituary

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, May 5th 2015

    Beautiful liturgies and an atmosphere of real belief don’t always go hand in hand. But last Wednesday evening, at a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of P.D. James, they were perfectly interwoven. The Temple Church in London felt like a 12th-century stone ship riding on waves of April blossom; the choir was celestial, the readings profoundly moving. And at the heart of it all was a sense of collective gratitude for what Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, described during the service as “a long life lived in tumultuous times”—a life sustained by what P.D. James herself called “the magnificent irrationality of faith”.

    read more » BookscultureMaggie FergussonRELIGION

    ~ Posted by Julia Lovell, May 2nd 2015

    The invention of photography coincided with the mortification of modern China. In 1839, the year Henry Fox Talbot presented his early photographic experiments to the Royal Society, China’s “Century of Humiliation” at the hands of imperialist powers began with the first opium war. Through the second half of the 19th century, foreign photographers joined the armies of soldiers, diplomats, traders and missionaries swarming over China. In the late summer of 1860, the Italian photographer Felix Beato captured the carnage of the second opium war, and four decades later the “punitive picnic” of the Boxer war was photographed on new Kodak Reloadables. Compositions designed to shame a defeated China were staged and sent around the world in newspapers, periodicals, photobooks and picture postcards: images of privates playing hockey around sacred temples; officers lolling on imperial thrones and picking over the emperor’s apartments; grisly public executions of suspected Chinese Boxer rebels.

    read more » ChinacultureExhibitionsJulia LovellPhotography