Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Bruckner Symphony No. 7

Britten: Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from the opera Peter Grimes
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 in E major
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.

I wasn't sure I was going to make it to a Cleveland Orchestra concert this weekend; I'll meeting my dad in Las Vegas tomorrow evening, and I've been in Columbus most of this week for a work luck would have it, I was back in Cleveland shortly after 5 PM...and at the Severance Hall Box Office by 5:30.

While I was purchasing my ticket a passerby told me that they had heard part of the Britten piece in rehearsal and I was going to love it. They were right.

It's difficult for me to imagine a more appropriate musical statement of the dawn of a new day than the first movement (Dawn) of the four sea interludes--leading with a ethereal sound from the violins and a recurring theme that offers optimism for the day ahead. The transition into Sunday Morning -- another movement that evokes all that one would imagine from a Sunday Morning, but more impressively buoys the soul to that point where the resonance of the notes on the ear becomes internal. While the third movement (Moonlight) didn't really move me, Storm, the fourth movement, once again embodied all of the emotion and power you would expect from a movement of that name.

Going into intermission, I was prepared to call this my favorite piece thus far in the 2010-11 season without hesitation. But then we had Bruckner's magnificent 7th symphony. Though a bit on the long side every note sparkled in the hall -- to borrow shamelessly from a New York Times review... "And the sound? Wow.". Beautiful sound came from every section of the orchestra, and I found it only appropriate to close my eyes for a significant portion of the piece to bask in the glow upon my ears. I did prefer the first half of the piece to the second, but I cannot pinpoint the reasons why.

In the end, I think Britten's Four Sea Interludes wins, but only by a hair.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anyone Claiming "There's Nothing to Do In Cleveland"

As a non-native -- someone who doesn't instinctively respond "I!O!" when prompted by a stranger screaming "O!H!" -- people often ask why I say I love Cleveland, not infrequently adding "There's nothing to do here".

This reaction has tempted me, on more than one occassion, to kidnap a person to show them Cleveland through an outsider's eyes. That probably wouldn't end well. But the thought has crossed my mind.

I bring your attention to the past 9 days, wherein I personally...
Attended one visual arts event. Cruised the museum of art solo, twice. Saw two plays: One hysterically funny, one left me feeling as if I was a hostage to boredome. Attended two faculty recitals of chamber music. Heard the concert that opened the Orchestra's 2010-11 season. Saw a comedy show. Saw and heard an opera. Mingled during two happy hours. Met a new friend for wine. Had a violin lesson. Attended a rehersal that was amazing. Got a couple 10 mile walks in.

That's right...15 events in 9 days...and there are at least two that I was interested in that I didn't make it to for one reason or another. And yet, "Why would you move here? There's nothing to do in Cleveland!".

Disappointing, of course, that I didn't meet any singles "my age" during any of those events, but there are certainly things to do in Cleveland. And I'm just an "artsy guy" -- if you add sporting events to that list, you get well...a nearly endless variety.

Particularly worth noting is that more than half of those events were free; all but two under $50...(And I think there are options for both of those that would get them at or under $50 in the right circumstances).

Why I love living in Cleveland...

(Presently in Columbus for work.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

CityMusic Cleveland: September Concerts Preview

Beethoven: Coriolan Overture
Beethoven: Violin Concerto
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica")
James Gaffigan, conductor.

I had the privilege of being invited to another of CityMusic Cleveland's rehearsals. With a more than a bit of engineer in my blood I love seeing how things are put together--be it a piece of equipment or a building under construction or renovation*. While listening to this afternoon's rehearsal for the upcoming week's worth of concerts it occurred to me that sans a hard hat requirement, this is exactly what the rehearsal process gives the change to glimpse.

I arrived after the rehearsal had begun and settled in to a pew for some lovely music; aside from the casual dress for the first few minutes I was there it would have been largely indistinguishable from a concert. A wonderfully textured concert at that. Mr. Gaffigan was interesting to watch as well: At the beginning of his movements were conservative and restrained matching the music, suddenly exploding outward to match the burst of energy in a beautiful swell of music that not only hit me in the chest in the most pleasant possible way but also reverberated through the pew I occupied.

Likewise fascinating the attention to detail and the collaboration; hearing musicians suggest alternate approaches, trying them; subtle adjustments that could just barely be heard. Playing over the same line until it's just right...well, to borrow from Soundheim's Putting it Together, "You improve and refine/And refine each improvement [...] The art of making art…Is putting it together…Bit by bit, part by part, Fit by fit, start by start"

As glorious as this music sounded in rehearsal, I am doubly disappointed that I will be out of town for all of the scheduled concerts...but I'm glad that I had the chance to hear what I did.

The Free Concerts are...
Tuesday, September 28 at 7:30pm - Cleveland Heights: Fairmount Presbyterian (2757 Fairmount)
Wednesday, September 29 at 8pm - Youngstown: Stambaugh Auditorium (1000 Fifth Ave); reservations required - 330.747.4175
Thursday, September 30 at 7:30pm - Willougby Hills: St. Noel Church (35200 Chardon Road)
Friday, October 1 at 8:00pm - Cleveland: St. Coleman Church (2027 W 65)
Saturday, October 2 at 7:30pm - Slavic Village: Our Lady of Lourdes (E 55 & Broadway)
Sunday, October 3 at 4:00pm - Elyria: St. Mary Church (320 Middle Ave)

*-Playing a role, in the restoration of the Virginia State Capitol--a building where Thomas Jefferson Robert E. Lee and others have made their mark--remains one of the highlights of my professional career.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

CIM Faculty Recital: Fullard/Rose/Docter/Allen/Kraut/Brown

Popper: Requiem, Op. 66*
Mozart: Piano Quartet in G Minor, K. 478**
Schubert: Cello Quintet in C Major, D. 956, Op. 163***
* - Matthew Allen, Unknown^, Melissa Kraut, cello; Kathryn Brown, piano.
** - Annie Fullard, violin; Kirsten Docter, viola; Melissa Kraut, cello.
***- Stephen Rose, Mari Sato, violin; Kirsten Docter, viola; Matthew Allen, Meilissa Kraut; cello.

This afternoon's recital began with an addition to the program in the form of Popper's Requiem for Three Cellos and Piano, in memory Mr. Allen's father. It's no secret that I'm a fan of the string family, but I'm particularly fond of the cello's wonderfully rich voice. The three cellos in this piece truly sung and invited the audience to close their eyes while the ears slurped in the harmonies. While somber--as one would expect a requiem to be--it was certainly not depressing. My ears could be deceiving me, but I could have sworn I heard references to ave maria in the piano part.

I read somewhere that Western cultures tend to be more visually-oriented while Asian cultures tend to be more aurally-oriented, while some are emotion-oriented and in any case an individual's disposition based on empathetic word choice: I see what you mean; I hear what you're saying. I'm squarely in the visual camp.

Following the requiem, Mozart's Paino Quartet again found me with eyes closed for the first two movements; the allegro struck me as being a bit playful with a serious side while the second movement struck me as yellow. Yes, yellow. It's difficult for me to tell you what I mean by "yellow", but with my eyes closed near the beginning of the movement I saw a pool of yellow that grew throughout the remainder of the movement. The third movement Rondeau returned to the same general feeling as the first.

Closing out the program was Schubert's Cello Quintet. It's probably not necessary for me to repeat the strained relationship that I have with Schubert, but this was entirely enjoyable to listen to, particularly while watching the beautiful gardens behind Cleveland Institute of Music's Mixon Hall... squirrels running up and down the trees; at least one rabbit bouncing around, and some beautiful blue birds (not sure if they were actually Bluebirds) that at times seemed to move with the music.

I think the wonderfully bold third movement (Scherzo: presto; Trio: Andante sostenuto) may be my favorite single Schubert movement -- and it seems that the audience agreed with a rare display of inter-movement applause, prompting Mr. Rose to remind the audience that there was still one more movement.

^- If any readers can supply a name it would be appreciated.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Opera Cleveland: Bizet's The Pearl Fishers

Before this evening's opera, I attended a Happy Hour at the House of Blues Cleveland's Foundation Room -- while relatively short--at just over a true clock hour--it was another interesting event with good conversation. The host for the event mentioned walking, and leaving HOB I realized that I would have both felt more comfortable about drinking (limiting myself to one glass of white) and saved $5 on parking at East 4th if I had parked in Playhouse Square's garage and walked to/from the HOB... anyway...

After relocating my car I downed a cupcake in the State Theatre's lobby (Cursing fate: The one time I was really craving a pretzel for 'dinner' they were not to be found) and entered for Opera Cleveland's presentation of Georges Bizet's The Pearl Fishers.

I've said before that Opera is an art form that challenges me. Tonight I must admit defeat in response to its challenge. The music was beautifully played, the libretto beautifully sung, and the set was a a fantastic blend of minimal but eye catching physical props with tastefully (not over) done multimedia. The show received one of the more enthusiastic applauses I can recall from an operatic performance.

But it wasn't for me. Perhaps the length -- the program lists the running time as 2:30 including two 2o-minute intermissions: If that was accurate and allowing for the customary 5-minute hold, the 3rd act would have been approximately 10 minutes. It was not. Perhaps the foreign language: Again, the placement of the surtitles in relation to the set makes it impossible to follow both action and plot at the same time-- even reading the synopsis, I'm not entirely sure what I saw, heard, and listened to so beautifully.

But whatever it was I found myself entirely unmoved: Though I stayed through the curtain call, I felt no compulsion to linger.

In the vein of "history is taught in a vacuum" seeing the premiere date -- September 30, 1863 -- perhaps in conjunction with the trivia note in the program that John Wilkes Booth's appeared in a Cleveland venue just prior to the assassination of my namesake was in Cleveland -- fell in the middle of the American Civil War. Not that that's of iny significance, it's just an interesting point to ponder.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Playhouse Square: Tweetup and Last Call Cleveland

I've come to the conclusion that I need to widen my network of friends* and that the best way to do that is probably by attending more socially-focused events**. I'm also trying to turn down my overly-cautious [read: pessimistic] side by asking fewer questions.

As such, when I saw the announcement for the TweetUp from Playhouse Square, I had no idea what it was but I figured I'd check it out: Though the crowd was a bit quieter than I had expected, it was great to put a few names to faces and I had one of the better random-stranger conversations over a happy hour glass of white zinfandel. (By the way, I can be found over there as @lincolnjkc if you want to read my musings 160 characters at a time)

Immediately following the TweetUp in the same venue -- Playhouse Square's 14th Street Theater -- was a show by sketch comedy group Last Call Cleveland. The ticket was cheap, the parking was already paid for, what else would I do on a random Friday evening?

I laughed. I didn't laugh. I laughed some more. I think this is the first comedy show I've seen live. Though I'm not sure if Last Call is something I would go out of my way to do again, it was a pretty decent way to spend a few hours. My laughter level would have almost certainly been higher if I had drunk something alcoholic immediately before or during the show -- but overall it was enjoyable; the plot tying the sketches together got a bit tiring, but the jokes at Toledo's expense never did.

I thought I recognized someone from Pandemonium, but "Excuse me, were you wearing a swan as a dress two weeks ago?" was not a question I was prepared to ask with a straight face.

*- Generally as well as romantically: The online dating thing is leaving me even more frustrated than usual lately. (In seven words: "If you aren't interested, just say so.")
**- Let's face it, "Intermission At ________" is rarely listed as a place where people met friends, let alone significant others.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring

Takemitsu: Dream/Window
Bach: Mass in F major, BVW233
Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Scenes from Pagan Russia in Two Parts.

Summer has officially ended; the Cleveland Orchestra has returned to it's beautiful* Severance Hall home. Though Thursday is not my normal concert night** and many of the ushers and patrons I had become used to greeting on Saturdays last season weren't present it was great to settle into the hall.

The orchestra opened the 2010-11 season with Takemitsu's Dream/Window. This is the fourth Takemitsu piece I've heard since I started blogging and in general his works are just not music that I enjoy listening to making it an inauspicious start to the program.

What that lead, Bach's Mass in F Major had me worried: The last Bach Mass I heard was at a concert presented by another organization so disappointing as to be described as nothing more than "Blugh" -- that was Bach's B minor mass -- this however, was quite a pleasant excursion. While the first movement did little for me, the second (Gloria) and sixth (Cum Sancto Spiritu) were almost spiritual experiences in themselves, with the intervening movements holding my attention.

Following intermission was the leisurely Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Though the program notes draw an explicit comparison between the Prelude and Dream/Window, I didn't hear the similarity in soundscape. I closed my eyes through much of the piece and had no problem visualizing an early fall landscape on cool afternoon.

Finally, the program concluded with Stravinsky's groundbreaking The Rite of Spring. Listening to the wonderfully textured with a full palette of orchestral color, at times primitive piece it's not difficult to understand why it provoked riots upon it's 1913 debut. As when I first heard this piece I strongly preferred Part One (The Adoration of the Earth) to Part Two (The Sacrifice), from the opening solo bars to the particularly biting and wonderfully pulsating string staccato (I believe this is the Dances of the Young Girls, however, I'm far from positive)

*- Not to mention far more convenient for me. I love having the Cleveland Orchestra and CIM both within walking distance.
**- This week only because I have an Opera Cleveland ticket for Saturday; next week because I'm flying out to meet my dad in Las Vegas that Friday--but I haven't bought a ticket yet, and depending on when I get back from Columbus I may have to forgo that concert.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cleveland Play House: (Hitchcock's) The 39 Steps

Every once in a while a play will come along that completely changes your outlook on life. This is not that play. The 39 Steps is a hell of a lot funnier than that play.

I've been looking for an excuse to use "a riotous romp" for a while, yet it seems a disservice to apply a such a menial tag to this: I laughed so hard that I cried. Twice.

The 39 steps -- where four actors (Joe Foust, Rob Johansen, Sarah Nealis, Nick Sandys) create a nearly limitless variety of characters. Sight gags run rampant, word play is plentiful, theatrical references are thoroughly sprinkled throughout. The stage is free from distraction with props sliding, flying, being dragged, pushed, pulled, carried, or tumbled into position as needed and disappearing just as quickly and just as oddly. It is one of the few times I can recall contributing to spontaneous mid-scene applause.

The 39 Steps is truly a "you have to be there to get it" show: I couldn't possibly do justice to try describing a favorite scene, assuming I could identify a favorite scene. If I have one complaint about the evening it is that the theater was too cold*. Well, and the show ended a little too quickly.

It seems that there may be generational appeal, though: If anyone has labeled you an "Old Fogey" or the like, this show may not be for you: Two older women in my row decided to leave during intermission because it "wasn't all that funny" and--though hardly an accurate judge of age--the laughter had a distinctly sub-50 tinge to it.

Of course I'd be remiss to not mention the Cleveland Play House's "Handcuffed for Half Price" promotion: If you show up at the box office handcuffed to your date (well, handcuffed to someone who will become your date) you can purchase tickets for half price. I seriously considered handcuffing myself to a random (attractive) stranger, but on further consideration that seemed like it would make a bad first impression, and a good case for assault charges. As it stands it was hard enough to get a ticket for one for the sold-out house.

Go. See. This. Show.


*-Seriously, though, in a heavy-ish sport coat**, dress shirt, and undershirt I was still on the chilled side. I'm never cold with that combination.
**- My normal play going jacket is still in the care of my dry cleaners after my Pandemonium Bridge Building Exercise.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CIM Faculty Recital: Kantor/Ramsey/Geber/Weckstrom

Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 4 in A Minor, Op. 23
Schubert: String Trio in B flat Major, D. 471
Penderecki: String Trio (1990-91)
Faure: Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 14
Paul Kantor, violin; Lynne Ramsey, viola; Stephen Geber, cello; Virginia Weckstrom, piano.

Following my visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art in Part I of this afternoon, I moved my car over to the CIM lot and picked up the seating passes I had reserved -- as it turns out that was a good call for a sold-out(reserved-out?) performance. Having not had lunch, while waiting for the doors to open I found what may be the best stocked vending alley I've seen in a while and had a reasonably good and inexpensive (as far as shrink-wrapped food goes) Italian sub and soda.

With the nearly-endless buffet of music CIM offers to the community it only stands to reason that some concerts or recitals will move the audience more than others. I hate to say it, but I wasn't moved my any of the pieces on the program: They were all well played, without a doubt, and the variety was impressive, but that je ne sais quois feeling didn't hit me. You'll note though that I don't use the word unfortunately as there is nothing unfortunate about it: You have to try a piece before you know its not for you.

Beethoven's Violin Sonata opened with a bold, almost startling attack in the first movement, transitioned into a loving second movement and ended on a lovingly playful transitioning into energetic third movement.

Schubert's String Trio was pleasant to listen to and was possibly the shortest of his pieces that I've heard; while I've noted a sense of rigorous repetition with some of this other works, that sensation didn't strike me here.

The other String Trio, by Pendrecki, the only modern composer on the program, opened with a bold staccato attack (which made several appearances throughout the piece) contrasted immediately by a beautiful viola solo played by Ms. Ramsey. The pieces gave me a distinct air of mystery, like walking down a dark and deserted hallway wondering what would be found at the end.

A significant portion of the audience disappeared following intermission, which was a shame as Gabriel Faure's Piano Quartet received the most enthusiastic response from the audience. The first three movements alternated between somber and playful with the allegro probably being my favorite from the afternoon by a hair. The third movement adagio struck me as nostalgic--an emotion that doesn't often occur to me while listening to instrumental music. In the final movement, the clear, rich tones of Mr. Gerber's cello were amazing--and a good way to end the recital. I probably could have spent a good hour just listening to those few lines.


Cleveland Museum of Art: Member's Appreciation Day 2010

Today made for a confluence of events that seems only natural for Cleveland: I started the afternoon at The Cleveland Museum of Art for the 2nd annual Member's Appreciation Day, then well, Part II.

Last year, member's appreciation day was something I literally stumbled apron while my dad was visiting -- the postcard announcing the event arrived 2 weeks later. This time I had plenty of advanced notice.

I had originally planned on walking down but with the skies and the forecast looking uniformly ominous -- and having done my "official" weekly 10-mile walk yesterday, the decision was made to play it safe and drive.
This year's program for the afternoon didn't include the "Behind The Scenes" events that I found so fascinating last year, but the event was still worth attending.

The afternoon at CMA began with a presentation by chief curator Griffith Mann on the upcoming exhibition Saints Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe. While there's still a month to go before the exhibition opens, the context given by the talk was great. Being a mother-and-grandparents Catholic* with a potentially unhealthy degree of skepticism and not the best grasp on religious history, for example, the opening declaration that relics serve as objects of saints and as art to both authenticate the object and provide a connection between the viewer and the saint with whom they connected.

I'll avoid the rundown of artifacts, both because I can't read my own handwriting from the notes and because you should just go to the exhibition at least once anyway, but it's interesting to note that this exhibition--opening in Cleveland--marks the first time many of the objects have been seen outside of their home country or the first time they've been seen in the US; with several objects are on loan from The Vatican or The Treasury of San Marco in Venice.

At the end of the talk, I stumbled upon the Cleveland Museum of Art's Distance Learning studios which I approached with a degree of both professional and child-like curiosity, the latter thanks to their Picture Yourself in a Masterpiece! demonstration, using their collection of digital images and green screen technology to insert patrons into the art. The attractive young lady in front of me chose the Mona Lisa, I appeared in (on?) The Thinker. It was a fun exercise, and the resulting images should be emailed out sometime next week.

Working my way up to floor 2.5 -- yes, you read correctly: Floor two-and-one-half -- of the Museum's Breuer building, I made my first visit to the Ingalls Library. While I knew of the existence of the library, the tone of Museum's website gives the distinct impression that mere mortals are not welcome so I've never attempted to visit or discern the location. The reading room, home to a silent auction**, was gorgeous. Following, was a talk titled Exuberant Excess in Strawberry Hill in the library's reference room. The talk was interesting, but I felt quite disadvantages as far as context (I'm not 100% clear on the who, what, where, when, why, or how) of Strawberry Hill.

Of the four gallery talk ("American Landscape Paintings--Twilight in the Wilderness by Frederic Church", "Educator of the Modern Gallery", "Art of the Byzantine Era", and "For You, Always New: Recently Installed Contemporary Art") I had varying degrees of interest in all, but due to scheduling overlaps I only made it to a portion of Art in the Byzantine Era. Though this was actually the one I had the least initial interest in, once again, hearing the context and historical use of the art and artifacts on display was quite helpful -- several connections were made to, and points emphasized from, the upcoming Treasures of Heaven exhibition.

On my way to that gallery talk, I got sidetracked by the Art Cart. Though I part of my brain feels it far too early in the season to be donning gloves, it acquiesced to the more rational part of my brain. In exchange: The opportunity to go hands on with three dimensional works of art that are not just centuries but thousands of years old: A bowl, one of the two pieces I handled, for example, has an accession date of 1914 [remember the museum opened in 1916] and is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,500 years old, stunningly somewhere around 2,400 BCE. I've often looked at painting and objects on display and marveled at the detail or simply that the work has survived for such a long period of time.

Being a tactile person I've often wondered, though, what the objects feel like. The art cart gives that opportunity. While the sensation was slightly muted through cotton gloves it was fantastic to feel the detail, weight, and texture. The bowl made from a granite-like stone chiseled and sanded was remarkable with a lip and internal styling not found in my own 21st century machine-made kitchenware.

But alas, before the For You: Always New gallery talk--arguably the one I was most interested in, it was necessary to move my car across the circle for Part II of the afternoon at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

*- you may wish to compare with Christmas And Easter Catholics.
**- There were actually quite a few interesting pieces on offer, yet none sufficiently spoke to me to break my "this is why you can't have nice things" rule (see Day 1 in Jacksonville). Even if I could afford them I doubt that they would survive in my collection.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dobama Theatre: The Walworth Farce

(Written by Edna Walsh; Directed by Mark Moritz; at Dobama's Lee Road Theatre in Cleveland Heights through October 3rd)

The character of Haley, well played by Carly Germany, spends most of the second half of The Walworth Farce as an unwitting hostage trying to escape from a demented family's flat. The longer the play the progressed, the more closely I related to Haley with one major exception: She was able to leave.

While calling The Walworth Farce the least compelling legitimate play I've ever seen is undoubtedly an overstatement, it is certainly the least compelling in recent memory. Perhaps it was because I was expecting something funny and entertaining -- Wikipedia defines farce as "a comedy which aims to entertain the audience..." -- and perhaps I should have taken the The Simpson's episode I watched last night as a harbinger* in this respect -- but aside from some very quiet chuckles at the beginning [i.e. before a line of dialog was spoken] it struck me as neither funny nor entertaining.

I can't really fault the actors -- who seemed to be doing the best they could with the material given, but I also hate to lay 100% of the blame on the script. Perhaps most telling, during intermission--where a portion of the audience explicably disappeared--I overheard the following exchange between a group of older women in front of me:

"It's a play about...?"
"Well, that's a good question. I can't say."
"It's dark"
"Yeah, it's dark"

That seemed to be general consensus: I certainly couldn't tell you what the play was about with any level of specificity beyond a deranged family. I can't tell you what the moral was -- if there was one -- nor do I feel any different about a particular issue or the world in general. I felt no call to action, no desire to do anything but get the hell out. I left the theater as I entered with one major exception: My wallet is $25 lighter.

Well, it wasn't all bad: The actors all pulled off 'deranged' well and Ms. Germany's Hayley was convincingly terrified. Ron Newell's set was both superbly detailed and one of the more visually interesting of recent memory which at least made the 2-hour show slightly less painful to sit through.

*- Any Given Sundance, to be specific, but I can't the exact quote from Marge. The gist: Don't trust titles.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CIM Orchestra: Dvorak/Schumann/Mahler

Dvorak: Slavonic Dance in C Major, Op. 72, No. 7
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54*
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Carl Topilow, conductor; *-Martina Filjak, piano.

I continue to be impressed by the caliber of CIM's Orchestra, and just weeks into the new academic year the audience at tonight's concert was treated to a performance that worthy of Severance Hall.

The evening started when my friend**, her coworker, and myself ventured over to Sergio's University Circle -- a restaurant I've been wanting to try for a little while. When I made the reservation I mentioned that we were pre-concert dining, and the staff was quite helpful with getting us in, fed, and out in reasonable time without feeling rushed. A great dinner and a bottle of Riesling later we walked back to Severance, where after a brief hiccup with a ticket we found our seats.

My typical preference for Severance seats are seats A, B, E, or F in boxes 2-12, though I've also found the center of the Dress Circle to afford a sublime listening experience. I've often wanted to try the front legs of the Dress Circle's "U" and tonight we found ourselves on the house left side -- generally great sound, though through the acoustics of the hall, the balance of the sound leaves the basses a little more prominent and the violins a bit muted than I generally prefer.***

This slightly skewed balance, however, was a challenge easily overcome by the Cleveland Institute of Music opening the concert with the delectable but short Slavonic Dance. Lest ye think that classical works are de rigueur long, this spritely dance was over before I had fully grasped it. Last season I had heard both CIM and the Cleveland Orchestra's wonderfully illuminating Musically Speaking performance of Dvorak's From the New World (Symphony No. 9) -- and this past weekend Classical Revolution included his American Quartet. This, I think, was the first of Dvorak's works I've heard that wasn't inspired by or related to one of his trips to America -- but the more I hear, the more I have to list Dvorak among my favorite composers.

Following the dance was Schumann's opus 54 piano concerto, played by the wonderfully talented Nartina Filjak. I loved hearing this piece and watching her fingers dance the keyboard -- our seats offered a perfect vantage of this action. Quite a few individual passages caught my ear but the piece as a whole it didn't move me in any compelling way.

Belying my impression of what the 'typical' audience would be, profuse inter-movement applause appeared in this concerto as well as Mahler's symphony. Purists may find this objectionable, yet this strikes me as a sign that new audiences are finding and appreciating the music: Always a good thing.

Mahler's Symphony No. 1 capped off the evening in a spectacular way. Once again the piece -- in ways almost too numerous to be enumerated -- highlights why classical music is best heard live. Although the persistent calls of cuckoo and hunt in the first movement seemed to be a bit redundant, as the theme emerged the texture of the piece was beautiful. Particularly impressive, to my ear, was how cleanly notes were sustained for seemingly impossible duration by the violins. I think the second movement earned its place as my favorite from the evening -- described in the program notes as a "a dressed-up version of the Austrian peasant dance known as the Landler" -- it was both full of energy and fun to listen to (I'll confess to a little toe-tapping here).

Though I just called the second movement my favorite, the opening lines of the third movement -- with a solo bass opening the movement and solemnly filling the hall -- deserves note. The movement struck me as entirely depressing: The note to myself I scribbled on the cover of the program sums up the feeling it evokes: "Funeral March".

The third movement transitioned into the fourth without pause and announced with a cymbal crash that easily woke anyone who may have been lured into sleep by the solemn nature of the previous movement. I got the distinct feeling that the orchestra was doing battle triumphant against some unseen evil.

**- Still the same great just friends friend; if you happen to know anyone interested in giving me a dating whirl... I'm not hard to find ;)
***- It's interesting that when I was in Box 12 -- on the opposite of the hall -- for a Cleveland Orchestra concert last season, I noted the inverse effect, and I'm a fan of bright violins.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Classical Revolution Cleveland @ Prosperity Social Club (9/12)

"The kids are disco dancing / They're tired of rock and roll / I try to tell them 'hey, that drum machine ain't got no soul'" -- The Limosuines, Internet Killed The Video Star*

Classical Revolution should be required reading for anyone who thinks that classical is stuffy, dull, or expensive.

I actually hadn't thought that I was going to be able to attend tonight's edition -- I had a violin lesson scheduled for tonight, and aside from that when I woke up this, um, very late morning I was more sore than I've been in a while and I may, possibly, have been feeling other after effects** from Pandemonium at Cleveland Public Theatre... but as fate would have it my teacher had to reschedule our lesson, and I decided I didn't want to miss this installment.

Held at the same venue as last time, Prosperity Social Club in Tremont. I can't really imagine a better description of the venue than I used in that post, so...

To paint the setting in one word: Bar. To use slightly more words: A narrow, old-school bar in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. The door is flanked with "Thank You" and "Call Again" neon signs; the paneled walls--looking slightly older than the 1940-70s vintage to which I typically attribute that architectural detail--hold advertisements for karaoke, happy hour, and other such events. A lone and strangely out of place disco ball spins in the front corner. The bar itself is well-worn, with the finish giving way to bare wood at places... behind the bar is the standard assortment of alcoholic beverages. Tables are scattered throughout, and a couple pool tables fill a back corner.

Yet in the front corner is something atypical for a bar: A collection of music stands and musical instrument cases.

Once again, the majority of the participants seemed to be CIM students. Where last time the majority of the participants were string players today the winds were well represented. The variety of music throughout the 3 hours of performance I attended***. This is not an environment for critical listening; conversations and clinking glassware developed, progressed, and faded. I had a Gouda Burger which was fantastic and gigantic.

I couldn't make out many of the composers or titles of the pieces as they were announced, but that's not really relevant: All of the music was enjoyable to listen to, and the selections were pleasantly short, so like the Cleveland weather, should you not be fully engaged in a work you needn't wait long before something else came along.

While I've certainly heard string ensembles in intimate settings -- and I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of that vibrancy -- the same can not be said for many of the instruments making an appearance tonight. (It was jokingly suggested, among those at my table, that for additional variety someone may wish to perform hip hop or Chinese techno at a future event)

Starting with a collection of works for solo and duo flute it was an exciting foray into new sounds in an intimate setting: I've only heard solo flute once previously -- in a more formal recital context; and I've not heard duo flute previously -- so it was nice to have the instrument in a more relaxed and intimate environment. Also interesting was duet for flute and bassoon--an unusual pairing of instruments.

Following that was a lively piece played with quartet including baroque violin and baroque cello, though I didn't catch the title of the piece or the composer (such is the peril of being caught with a burger in both hands while a work is being announced) though if I recall correctly it would have originally been played during the intermission of a comedia.

Brass made an appearance in the form of a tuba, trombone, an trumpet playing decidedly more modern music -- including an impressive, toe-tapping head bobbing work that one of the musicians had composed during a required course (Untitled at the Moment).

Strings came back for at collection of Stravinsky string quartets and a concertino before a pair of wind instruments -- that I've never seen or heard before -- appeared. Described as the "medieval oboe" and having a form that remained essentially unchanged from 1200-1500 the two Shawms made lively work out of dance music originally heard in the 1400s

Finally--before my heavy eyelids (through no fault of the music) forced my departure--we have Dvorak's American Quartet. Dvorak's Symphony 9, From the New World, is one of my favorite symphonic works, and that piece borrowed heavily from and built upon sounds that Dvorak found during a trip to America in the late 1800s. The American Quartet shares the foundations of From the New World, and if Wikipedia is to be trusted finished around the same time. To my ear, From The New World gives a very bold and confident extrospective air, while the American Quartet has a much more introspective and soulful -- though lively and not depressing -- feeling.

If you haven't tried Classical Revolution I certainly encourage it -- and bring a friend who thinks they don't like classical with you. Next time will be at the Barking Spider Tavern (University Circle), Sunday, October 24th starting at 3:30.

*- Yeah, I try to avoid quoting the same piece of music in consecutive quotes but it seems appropriate. Plus I'm really digging this song right now.
** - I still can't agree with myself about what to call it. Really, I only had 3 glasses of wine and 'enough' food over 6 hours.
*** - I excused myself befor the evening was completely finished... I think Pandemonium took more out of me than I realized.

Cleveland Public Theatre: Pandemonium

"I don't need your umbrella, that's OK, I like the rain" - No More Kings, Umbrella

"Well, I'm a horrible dancer, I ain't going to lie, but I'll be damned if that means I ain't going to try / Yeah, I'm a sh---y romancer, baby I ain't gonna lie, but I'll be damned if I ain't going to try" - The Limousines, Internet Killed the Video Star

"No time for cameras, we'll use our eyes instead, I see flashes of gold" - Matt and Kim, Cameras

So... I'm confronted with a conundrum: I had planned on attending Cleveland Public Theatre's Pandemonium with someone who I would have been meeting for the first time and who had a rather pressing personal matter come up. Despite the best efforts of myself, friends, and even a few random strangers I couldn't come up with someone to use the ticket. Thus, if I'm evaluating value at $125 per person Pandemonium was a fantastic hit; if I'm evaluating value at $250 per person, effectively what I paid,'s a bit steep.

The event, covering nearly the entire CPT campus, including parts that I had never before realized were parts of the CPT campus defies easy description: With performances ranging from stand up comedy to interpretive dance on 20-odd stages throughout the complex, mingled with food from an equally diverse selection of providers, all without being nickle-and-dimmed-- admission is truly all-inclusive.

Early in the evening I decided not to ask questions, but before we get there... I helped to build a bridge. Literally. And it may have been the single most memorable part of the night for me. As the event began it was raining, and a small river formed between the main entrance and half of the stages. Several CPT volunteers and staffers looking quite nice in their evening wear were shuttling bricks in to form a dry walkway and it seemed like it would have been most ungentlemanly of myself to not lend a hand while they were wading through the that's exactly what I did. Eventually a 8' table also appeared, and between the table and bricks we solved a problem. Boom.

Then we get to the not asking questions part: Those who know me know I'm probably one of the pickiest non-itarian eaters you'll encounter in the wild. Tonight I made a conscious effort not to ask what I was eating, or to examine it too closely: I took a small portion, tasted, and moved on. While all of the food was reasonably good, I have to say that Bourbon Bakeshop's plate was delicious: A wild mushroom risotto with dates, thyme, and toasted almonds, basil gougers, and summer vegetable compote with goat cheese was fantastic. I don't generally like mushrooms, and I've had mixed luck with vegetables and almonds but the combination was tasty, and I probably could have eaten the basil gougers (I'm still not entirely sure what a gouger actually is) all night.

Entertainment wise, I took a similar approach wandering from stage to stage without paying particular attention to the schedule. I didn't make it to all of the stages -- and the evening's entertainment was over before I could really blink -- but I saw some funny stuff (stage 20), some disturbing stuff (stage I-can't-remember), some thought provoking stuff (stage 18, The Petition Box -- a project that when I first walked in I didn't get, but reading submissions I felt compelled to add my own note to the wall).

Approaching random strangers is not something that comes easily to me but I did initiate a few conversations on my own; unfortunately none really went anywhere (One: "If I ever get married for a third time, I'm keeping it simple. I gotta pee. Nice talking to you.") and it was exceptionally difficult to tell who was with whom, but, anyway.

Once the entertainment was finished, dessert came out in the form of tables with people in the middle roving through stage 1. I've never had to chase dessert before.

Following that, I caught up with a friend from CPT who made some easy introductions and several hours of good conversation flowed. I'm glad. Taking to other humans has a distinct stress-relieving component to it.

Ok, and now I'm going to fall asleep.


Friday, September 10, 2010

CIM: Cavani String Quartet, Joan Kwoun, Antionio Pompa-Balidi

Schubert: Impromptu No. 3 in B-flat Major, D. 935 (op. posth. 143), Theme and Variations*
Schumann: Carnaval, Op. 9*
Chausson: Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet in D Major, Op. 21**
*- Antonio Pompa-Baldi, piano
**-Joan Kwuon, violin; Antonio Pompa-Baldi, piano; The Cavani Strong Quartet (Annie Fullard, Mari Sato, violin; Kirsten Docter, viola; Merry Peckham, cello)

The beautiful thing about classical music is that you can find your thoughts while listening just as easily as you can loose them while soaking in music. Tonight was a night where I wanted to get lost: My pile of work at work seems to be growing faster than I can eat away at it, and in my personal life I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that as a sports-apathetic, performing-arts loving Clevelander I'm undatable. Sigh. Anyway.

Over the summer an acquaintance asked me, jokingly, if I was going through concert withdrawal; I have to admit that between few concerts at CIM and a the summer hiatus that most of the theatrical companies go thorough... I think I was. Thus, I couldn't let myself miss this, the first recital of Cleveland Institute of Music's 2010-11 school year.

I've mentioned before that both the piano as a solo instrument and Schubert as a composer can be a challenge for me. Opening the recital with the two combined--Schubert's Impromptu No. 3--held my interest initially but as the sensation of repetition built, the noise of my thoughts took over and I spent too much time trying to order and filter hose.

Following, also a piece for solo piano, Schumann's Carnival was a fascinating mix of textures, leaving no room for the noise of my thoughts--but unfortunately, a noisy hearing aid took its place for the first few movements--the 21 movements in the piece blended nearly seamlessly and ranged in emotion, but I have to call the Preambule, where Mr. Pompa-Baldi's fingers flew across the keyboard, but each note clearly heard, my favorite.

Following an intermission where I had the pleasure of meeting some of CIM's newest students, Mr. Pompa-Baldi was joined by Joan Kwuon and the Cavani String Quartet for Chausson's Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet. Though generally more somber than I would like -- and a gentleman behind me felt the need to narrate the performance quite loudly -- the piece was beautifully played by all involved. The soulful dance of the 2nd movement (Siclienne) was my favorite from the evening. The 3rd movement (Grave) could be called the most evocative, however, with the early portions of the movement conjuring the ominous image of walking with despair down a long and lonely hallway...or perhaps to one's grave...though the end of the movement offers a parting of the dark clouds where the sun begins to peak out and offer hope.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Take a Hike Cleveland: Historic Gateway District

The Extra Ticket for CPT's Pandemonium is still Extra... if you know anyone, drop me a line. Please.

"When you're in a new place and looking for good food," I heard somewhere, "ask a police officer." I'm not quite sure where I first heard that advice -- I think it was actually from a police officer -- but it has served me well. At the conclusion of tonight's tour, on East 4th St, surrounded by food I asked an officer "Who has the best food?" After a few questions, he pointed me to Flannerty's Pub, where most of this post was written. The service wasn't particularly speedy, but the drink was strong and the food was reasonably good. But I'm ahead of myself.

A few weeks ago I happened upon the fantastic waking tour of PlayhouseSquare, and during that great tour I learned of a whole series of tours covering much if downtown Cleveland. Having been out of town on business for most of the past two weeks and with the end of the season upon us, I wanted to seize the opportunity.

While the temperature was a bit cooler, tonight's tour, covering Cleveland's historic Gateway District was no less fascinating than the previous tour. The district, covering Public Square to East 9th on Euclid and Huron. Early in the tour, a visit by an actor providing a historic interpretation of Progressivist Mayor Tom Johnson (proponent of a single tax and inventor of the transparent fare box among others notables) prompted some unplanned drama as a passerby mistook the interpretation as a besmirchment of current Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson. After tensions were cut, the tour progressed.

While the history of each building and boulevard covered along the way was of course interesting -- you're reading from a guy who loves architectural history and would drop almost anything for a tour of a construction site (it's one of the unexpected highlights of my job as it turns out) -- in that vein, of course there's the Arcade, precursor to the modern shopping mall, where every one of the 40-something griffins at ceiling level carries a different facial expression, the May Company clock which stopped at 4:10 and was never repaired [for some reason this immediately summoned my brain to make a connection connection to Back to the Future]

But as interesting were the tales of the people involved; the proprietor of a women's wear shop (who's name I can't make out from my electronic scribble) who, thanks to a gambling problem, progressively lost portions of his store to the owner of a neighboring building -- or that Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster based the 'Daily Planet' building in the Superman comics that they created on the American Perpendicular Gothic Ohio Bell Telephone Company building (which, incidentally, has some amazing memorabilia on display in their street level windows) -- and that The Daily Planet was the name of their high school newspaper.

Other bits that surprised me is that the Protestant United Church of Christ maintains their national headquarters in Cleveland, and or a brief period of time Time magazine also made the gateway district their home. Oh, and the alley down which a restaurant lead to the creation of the Chef Boyardee brand.

While there was some overlap with the Playhouse Square tour, it was well worth the chilly evening.

It's impossible to leave one of these tours without realizing that not only is Cleveland is a city rich in history, but Cleveland has a bright future. If only the city's self esteem could take a boost. There are 2 more opportunities this season -- this Saturday and Sunday, both at 10am but at various locations.

And I'm somewhat shocked and a little depressed that I still can't find anyone (ok, anyone my age and single) interested in a free ticket to join me for Pandemonium on Saturday.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Joffrey Ballet

Reflections (choreographed by Gearld Arpino; music: Tchaikovsky)
Age of Innocence (chor. Edwaard Liang; music: Glass and Newman)
Tarantella (chor. Blanchine, music: Gottschalk)
Pass de deux from Le Corsaire (chor. Petipa, music: Dingo)
Pretty BALLET (chor. Kudelka, music: Martinu)
Tito Munoz, conductor.

Tonight's performance was attended with my friend* and her friend; before making our way to Blossom we visited Sarah's Vineyard -- just a little south of Blossom and literally across the street -- for some food and wine. It was the first time for all three of us, and I think all of us thoroughly enjoyed the food and conversation.

Making our way across the street and into a packed pavilion we were treated to a pleasant evening of dance. Without the distraction of technical elements noted at some earlier performances -- here, the spotlight work was without reproach, and the audio amplification when used nearly transparent -- it was thoroughly enjoyable. The great thing about dance with live music is that you have stimulation for both visual and auditory senses; while my friend noted that she wished she could see the effort the orchestra was contributing to the work, as is possible when they are on stage, and oddly, as I had noted in my brief comment on last year's performance (it's near the bottom, notibly one of my first posts), the dancers provide a more fluid, and in Cleveland, less often experienced, representation of that effort.

Discussing the performance on the way back north, one topic surfaced that we all agreed on: As the program progressed, the company seemed to develop some synchronization issues where it seemed that some dancers would randomly arrive at a point noticeably before or after the rest of the troupe.

The first dance on the card, Reflections, featuring Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, was beautifully played by the orchestra, with particular note to newly-appointed principal cellist Mark Kosower, however the dance was a bit dark for my taste.

Following Reflections, Age of Innocence finished out the first half and was brighter musically and metaphorically. Featuring the music of Philip Glass (the 2nd movement from his 3rd symphony, The Poet Acts from The Hours, 3rd movement from the 3rd symphony, music from The Secret Agent) and Thomas Newman (End Title from The Little Children) had a variety of textures, and was inspired by the social dancing found in Jane Austen's novels. Age of Innocence was my favorite piece from the program.

After intermission, a piece that felt very familiar: Balanchine's Tarantella. It wasn't until after I returned home that I realized not only have I seen this dance before, I've seen it in the past month: It was on the program for Verb Ballets' Cain Park Performance in early August. Given the almost ethereal nature of dance it's odd to me, and I had in fact never considered the possibility, of seeing the same dance performed by two different companies. Joffrey had a decided advantage with a live orchestra, and Tarantella was the favorite of the other members of my group.

In the middle of the second half was Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire. I'm not sure how I feel about this one and there was some disagreement among my group about who the players in the dance were: While the title of the piece is The Pirate it is unclear who the dancers were representing and the ballet notes do nothing to help resolve this ambiguity: The best guess that my group could arrive at is prince and princess, but as an extract from The Pirate... I'm also curious about the 'new music' added to the ballet.

Wrapping up the program was Pretty BALLET featuring Martinu's Symphony No. 2. -- since the music was premiered by our own Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall in 1943, I desperately wanted to be able to call this my favorite; in the end I couldn't. Aside from the synchronization issue I mentioned earlier, there was nothing wrong with the dance or the music, but the combination didn't really captivate me.

In the end: A nice evening of music collaborating with dance; I hope that such collaborations will be embraced and extended in the future.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wherein Lincoln Returns from Jacksonville

“Air traffic control/I've been gone/I've been up away from home/now my gear is down/I'm circling round/and I am coming in/running out of oxygen/and my fuel is running low/runway lights, where do I go?/I'm looking down, but they don't show” – Louis XIV, Air Traffic Control

“Trade one town for another/Delayed/Now why did we bother?/An X on the calendar square/New city, same stuff/Seatbacks and traytables up/Seatbacks and traytables up” – Fountains of Wayne, Seatbacks and Traytables

Ahh… checking out of a hotel room. When I’ve been there for only one night, it doesn’t take much effort, but for some reason once I cross the three night mark it’s a process that feels more like moving out than checking out. Today’s hotel, for example, after four nights I had finally figured out the layout of the room; I had become comfortable and now am moving out.

Sure I have inevitably left something behind I make one last scan of the room. It’s a ritual of longer stays: I turn every light on, and open every drawer. Starting at the far end of the room and working my way out, I close and turn off when I’m satisfied that no remnant of my stay remains. I see the same clerk that I’ve exchanged small talk with over the past week. “Well, Mark, it looks like I’m out” I say, as I slip one keycard across the counter—needing the other for my upcoming escape from the garage.” “You’re all set”. “Am I?” I wonder silently.

You would think that after spending 32 nights in hotels since January 1st that I would be less jittery about the checkout process; on one hand it’s true: I no longer look under the bed; on the other hand I’m convinced that my odds of forgetting something increase with every stay. After trying to get in to Room 404 – my room at my last hotel – at this hotel, where I belonged in 631, I’m beginning to wonder how much intangible is left behind.

As I walk out to the car I wonder if I remembered to grab my shaver during my ritualistic cleansing: I end roll my bag into the trunk then open it. Sigh. It’s there. I drive off. I am increasingly convinced that Florida drivers are either oblivious to this invention called a “mirror” or are simply intent on killing me during my the state. I think this is probably the largest reason why I will not have fond memories of Jacksonville: The city is urban sprawl personified: While the wide avenues and endless look alike housing developments and shopping centers remind me of home they lack meaningful character; aside from the occasional marsh there was nothing to distinguish where I was from Any Town, Southern USA. Except the crazy drivers.

I am discovering that while I am more dependant than I would like on my car at home I value walkability and functional mass transit: New York and San Francisco, both rank highly on my favorite cities list, in no small part based on the fact that I could do everything I wanted on foot of by hopping on one of the plentiful transit vehicles.

I make it to the airport without contributing any additional damage to the tin can I’ve been carefully folding myself into for the past week…curiously, there are no guide signs for rental car return until immediately before the turn; I hedge my bets by keeping to the center lane and quickly veering to the left when I see Rental Car Return. After veering, the course is somewhat unclear, but I make my way to Hertz return. I get out of the car doing one last sweep for anything left behind, and I check in for my flight.

While waiting, I make my way over to the airport Chili’s: I’m having a craving for their Chicken Crispers and…score…they’re on the menu. For the first time in more than 176 flights, I have a sit down meal at an airport. I probably ate more than I should have, but my craving satisfied I return to the gate to wait for my flight. Miraculously, my flight to Newark departs and arrives on time and I make my relatively tight connection with time to spare.

For the flight from Newark to Cleveland I settle into my seat, 2A. One of the flight attendants tells the woman in 1F that she has to properly stow her purse before departure. She ignores him. After the door is closed he returns, and again politely tells her that since it’s a bulkhead seat, her purse has to be stored in the overhead. She gets all snitty and starts screaming. Oh great. I bite my tongue as long as I can, but as she is now the only identifiable obstacle standing between me and my bed, I’m on the verge of saying something I might—but probably wouldn’t—regret. She demands a supervisor who…surprise, surprise, tells her the exact same thing. She wants to make a complaint. Lovely. While she’s whining my seatmate and I quickly agree that she’s a moron and can’t understand what the issue is… especially since there’s a sign in front of her that says exactly what the FA was telling her.

The purser wenches the purse from the lady’s curled fingers and puts it in the overhead. We push back. We’re in the air and the remainder of the flight is uneventful. We land. After the rest of the first class cabin has cleared out, I approach the purser, “If that ‘lady’ does file a complaint,” I say while offering my business card, “I’d be glad to offer a statement: I heard both sides, and your colleague really was quite polite about it.”

Off the aircraft, I’m at the end of the concourse and head for baggage claim. My bags are sitting there, but curiously my hard-sided tool bag has zip ties through both lock holes. They weren’t there when I dropped my bag off. This makes me suspicious. A quick visit to the Baggage Service Office, wherein I borrow a pair of scissors and cut them off. I open the bag to check… not only is everything there; it’s actually better packed than when I left it. Score one for Jacksonville TSA Agents.

I make it to my car, and drive home.

I get home, unwind by checking email, and find that the acquaintance who I’ve invited to join me for Cleveland Public Theatre’s Pandemonium will be unable to attend. Due to a unexpected and pressing engagement in Florida the preceding Friday. Sigh. I can’t win.

Anyone know anyone (preferably around my age) who might be interested in joining me for Pandemonium next Saturday, September 11th? I’d really hate to let the ticket go to waste. (Drop me an email if you do -- l at lincolnincleveland dot com)


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lincoln in Jacksonville: Days 3/4: Part II: MOCA

Continued from Part I...

After leaving MOSH, I decided to make my way to the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (AKA MOCA Jacksonville), though my GPS insisted on calling it the Museum of Modern Art...curious. Admission was 1/2 off because one of the galleries was closed for installation. While there was not much art on view -- the area of the museum open to the public was perhaps 1/3 the size of CMA's new Contemporary Galleries -- all of the art caught my eye in one way or another.

While wandering through the gallery, I realized that I think Contemporary art has greater appeal to my eye because the works are so easily distinguishable from each other and generally make bold use of colors and materials.

Particularly interesting were Picasso's Imaginary Portraits series, and I loved the simplicity of Joseph Kosuth's Art Made With a Rubber Stamp and Signed by Joseph Kosuth -- literally, a framed brown piece of paper with a rubber stamped impression of the pieces title and a signature.

Programmaticly interesting were the installations White Hot Summer and Imagination Squared. White Hot Summer was "conceived, curated, and hung" by students of University of North Florida's Gallery Practices Class using selections from the museum's permanent collection.

On the other hand, Imagination Squared is an interesting project where wood boxes (904 to date) were distributed to artists (it seems, from the website, that this is 'anyone who wants to be an artist is an artist' rather than requiring qualifications) who painted/decorated/modified them and returned them. Currently displayed as a massive grid covering 3 walls its an installation that is an overwhelming mix of color and texture from afar, but compelling up close, really making you wonder about each individuals inspiration and motivation -- and a powerful statement about the size of the artistic community.

(Particularly given the close proximity that both CWRU and CIA share to the Cleveland Museum of Art, I would be interested to see if either of these concepts could fly closer to home and what the results would be).

After leaving MOCA, I took some time to wander around Downtown Jacksonville, right around lunchtime... and I think we have a strong contender for the most lifeless downtown in a major city I've visited (Cleveland looks like Manhattan by comparison); covering a 5 block radius from the museum I think I saw one restaurant and maybe a dozen people on the street. I will say that downtown was quite clean.

Having about a 1/2 tank of prepaid gas left in the rental I did what can best be described as random driving... took I95 down to St. Augustine, wandered around a little bit, then took A1A north along the Atlantic coast, back up to Jacksonville Beach, and then Atlantic Avenue back to the hotel. Without GPS assistance (well... the "Trip Log", which highlights roads you've driven on was on, and I did reference that but I didn't actually get directions from my GPS).

I fly back home tomorrow early afternoon... right now both of my flights are on time, but the pessimistic part of me is worried about what that hurricane might do to my schedule, particularly since I have a ghastly 45 minutes to connect in Newark (as I tweeted earlier this week "God, do I hate [that] airport."). I'm looking forward to my own bed. Actually, I'm looking forward to the hotel room bed, where I think this party animal is heading in 5..4...3...2...


Lincoln in Jacksonville: Days 3/4: Part I: MOSH

Yesterday was quiet. I finished up my project, spent some time with my client and then came back to the hotel and crashed hard. I think I may have slept a good 14 hours across the span of 3 chunks, including one where I "cooked" Stoufers mac-and-cheese found in the hotel gift shop. Yeah. I needed it, though... I've been running hard for the past few weeks and needed a break.

This morning, I slept in before heading to "MOSH". The same 13-year-old internal self that was snickering about the name of the museum visited on day 2 was wondering if there would be a "PIT" nearby*, but no--this is Jacksonville's Museum of Science and History. This is one of those places, like the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where I sadly feel that I'm well beyond the target demographic age...and I get strange looks asking for "one adult, please".

Exhibit, uh. Science: As far as static exhibits go, there wasn't a lot there, but there was a water cycle display that I thought was quite affective; the live animals were the highlight of the visit: I don't think I've seen a live alligator before, let alone one so small. Likewise, I could have probably spent hours standing out in the courtyard watching the turtles and tortoises (tortuisi?) swimming and sunning themselves.

History, covering only the greater Jacksonville area, was much stronger. I learned many interesting facts about the region's history--like the Great Fire of 1901 which burned a large area of the city--that my inspire additional research tonight. That said, I found it a bit curious that the same topic was covered in two different exhibits with what I perceived as wildly different spins: In one, the division of the Baptist church, originally by an interracial group of 6 including slaves, into a 'Black Baptist' and 'White Baptist' reads like an amicable the other, it's a settlement at the end of a contentious legal battle with one segment being shut out of the original house of warship.

Also interesting was that Timucua Indian tribe engaged in warfare primarily to avenge injury to the tribe, e.g. the murder of one of its members, not normally for conquest, which lends credence to a hypothesis that I might discuss in a later post. Perplexing was a "Narnia" exhibit; I admittedly didn't spend much time in this area because my tolerance for screaming children was quickly exceeded, but from the time I spent it wasn't clear to me if this was "science", "history", or something else.

To be continued in Part II...


*- If that joke flew over the heads of everyone, my apologies. You didn't really miss anything; it's not that funny, but it still had the juvenile me amused.