The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Robert Butler, November 7th 2014

    I’ve heard the climate scientist Chris Rapley speak many times. Seven years ago I interviewed him for this magazine (when he told me Sherlock Holmes would have quickly grasped the evidence) and, since then, I've heard him at conferences, in lecture halls, on panels and at dinners. Last night he appeared on the Royal Court stage, delivering a 75-minute monologue entitled “2071”—the year his eldest grandchild will be the same age, 67, as he is now. Here was a Rapley I’d never seen.

    A professor of climate science at UCL, the former head of the British Antarctic Survey and the former director of London's Science Museum, the Rapley I know is a busy, bustling figure, who appears at the lectern with smiling flourishes and an air of importance, and then turns frequently from the laptop on the lectern to the large screen behind as he works his way through a PowerPoint presentation. On the way in last night, I’d readied myself for the graphs where lines run along the bottom axis for most of the page and then suddenly shoot up at an exponential rate at the right-hand edge; maps of the world where the parts getting hotter now appear in lurid red and orange; and those pairs of black-and-white photos of the Antarctic which show how much ice there was only a few years ago and how much less there is now.

    read more » climate changeRobert ButlerSCIENCETheatre

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, November 6th 2014

    When the Australian composer and producer Ben Frost released his fifth album, “A U R O R A”, earlier this year the reviews were rapturous. Rolling Stone called it “unrelentingly menacing”, Drowned in Sound said it was a piece of “aural suffocation” (in a good way), and both picked it as “Best Album of the Year So Far”. Frost, though, is more low-key. His albums, he has said, are “over-glorified business cards”—adverts which get him well-paid commissions (he has written music for ballet, opera and film) and bring audiences to his live shows. He has been touring “A U R O R A” since April, and is playing six nights in Britain next week. It's only live that you hear the album’s terrifying architecture. Listening to it on headphones is like reading a book about brutalism: it doesn’t do justice to its scale and weight.

    read more » Charlie McCannDanceMusic

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, November 6th 2014

    Two musicals currently playing in the West End both finish with an unspeaking female character alone on the stage, standing for something important. One is the middle-aged black woman who hovers mutely on the fringes of much of the action in “The Scottsboro Boys”, a witness to the decades-long persecution of nine black teenagers in Alabama. At the end, in a moment of gut-punching power, we see her refuse to give up her seat to a man on a bus and the civil rights movement find its touchpaper. The other is a young white cleaner in a headscarf and pinny, who quietly pours tea and helps with scene changes during “Made in Dagenham”, a brash, upbeat new musical about the 1968 Ford machinists’ strike that opened at the Adelphi last night (above). Her sign-off is a solo, rather self-consciously silly dance, celebrating—well, what exactly?

    read more » Isabel LloydMusicalsTheatre

    ~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, November 5th 2014

    It's a good week for Bob Dylan completists. On Tuesday, volume 11 of the bootleg series was released, comprising a six-disc collection of the so-called "Basement Tapes", recorded during Dylan's 1967 sessions with The Band in upstate New York. This Friday, a hardback collection called “The Lyrics” is published. For the princely sum of £125, collectors can get hold of one of only 3,000 copies of this 6kg, gold-embossed treasure, which has been compiled by Sir Christopher Ricks, a former professor of poetry at Oxford whose 2003 book "Dylan's Visions of Sin" examined the lyrics with the same critical eye he's applied to Keats and T.S. Eliot. The publishers, Simon & Schuster, were not sending out review copies, so I had to go and visit the book at their office. One of the publishers told me they thought the 500 copies that will make it across the Atlantic to Britain might be gone on presales alone.

    read more » BooksHazel SheffieldMusicPoetry

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, November 3rd 2014

    Dean Belcher's photo essay for our November/December issue captures a special relationship—the one people have with their first record. His subjects range from a 13-year-old girl who got a record player for her birthday and dashed out to buy Pulp's "Different Class" on vinyl, to a 95-year-old retired dressmaker clutching a Vera Lynn 78 bought for a sixpence when she was courting with her husband. In this behind-the-scenes video from the photo shoot, Belcher talks about finding his participants, being nosey, and the influence music has had on him.

    read more » MusicPhoto EssayPhotographySimon WillisVideo

    ~ Posted by Hazel Sheffield, October 30th 2014

    read more » awardsHazel SheffieldHip-hopMusicRock

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, October 27th 2014

    Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” can only really be approached by a series of paradoxes similar to those chalked up on a blackboard near its start. Just as the theory of relativity dictates that space and time are functions of one another, so the film welds commercial blockbuster and auteurist cinema into a single, stunning ribbon of celluloid—movie as Möbius strip—with obvious debts to both Spielberg and Tarkovsky. It’s both the most boffinish of Nolan’s films and the most boldly open-hearted, a hymn to human connection that mows you down, turns you inside out and deposits you on the pavement afterwards, blinking. And yet if someone were to ask you what it was about you would probably mumble something about black holes, or wormholes, and the like. The film is its own astrophysical anomaly. There have to be 99m alternative universes in which “Interstellar” is a bad movie and another couple of hundred in which it is a terrible one. And yet, Nolan has finagled his way to the single universe in which it is a good, and maybe even great one.

    read more » cinemaFilmTom Shone

    ~ Posted by George Pendle, October 27th 2014

    Discovering a new exhibition of platinum photographs tucked away in the sprawling National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is akin to discovering tiny deposits of the precious metal itself in the alluvial sands of some jungle river—it’s small but valuable.

    “A Subtle Beauty” consists of barely two dozen portrait, landscape and architectural photographs from the late-19th and early-20th centuries. What unites them is their printing technique. Platinum prints, or platinotypes, were created by using photographic paper with very fine platinum crystals embedded in the uppermost fibres. This was in contrast to the more popular albumen or gelatin prints of the time, in which silver salts were suspended in an emulsion that was then coated onto the paper. A technicality, you may well think, but the platinum process not only gave photographs a luminosity and a wide tonal scale that other methods couldn’t match (as well as a slight three-dimensional appearance), but it was also responsible for establishing photography as a fine art.

    read more » Exhibitionsgeorge pendlePhotographywashington DC

    ~ Posted by Jasper Rees, October 24th, 2014

    Actors adore playing a powerful real-life villain. It’s where all the fun is. More than 20 actresses have played Margaret Thatcher, and Michael Sheen got such a buzz from playing Tony Blair that he did it three times. But there’s one role of this type for which no bargepole seems quite long enough. The name Rupert Murdoch is sending shivers down actors' spines. 

    read more » FilmJasper ReesMediaTheatre

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, October 24th 2014

    At Frieze art fair last week, I spent an afternoon browsing the galleries and snapping photos of artworks on my iPhone. I didn’t think twice about it, and nobody stopped me. Some of the photos I shared on social media, some I showed to friends, and I’ll keep them all for reference. But this prompts a few questions: in our digital age, who has ownership of art? Is it OK to share images of art, or is this an act of piracy against which artists should be protected, as musicians and film-makers are? And how can you police it anyway?

    This was the sticky subject of a Frieze-week debate hosted by Sculpture in the City, an organisation that brightens up London’s corporate Square Mile with works of contemporary art. On the panel were a sculptor, a museum director, an arts journalist, an expert in art law and the head of an artists’ copyright society. I was anticipating “artistic differences”.

    read more » ArtExhibitionsLucy FarmerMedia