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Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Staff Pick: Hey Girlfriend!


This month's pick: Hey Girlfriend! Lena Dunham Selects
Picked by: Claire Frisbie, Digital Media Coordinator

1. Why Hey Girlfriend?

It’s so well rounded, quirky, and smart! From teen camp to Lynchian weirdness, Hey Girlfriend! basically encompasses everything I want to see in film. The music in these films is reason alone to attend the series.

Much of my initial excitement was nostalgia-induced (I could recite the better part of Clueless from memory), but a good number of the films are entirely new to me, including Amy Heckerling’s new gal-pal vampire flick, Vamps, which will be screened as a special sneak preview at the series.

2. What makes it unique?

It’s a film series in anticipation of a TV show (Dunham’s HBO series Girls, premiering April 15)—a nice nod to the recent run of quality television we’ve seen over the past few years, and a wonderful continuation of BAMcinématek’s relationship with Dunham (whose first film, Tiny Furniture, made its NY premiere at BAMcinémaFest 2010).

3. You might like this if you liked:

Tiny Furniture, obviously. But also John Hughes flicks, Heathers, My So-Called Life, David Lynch, Alicia Silverstone, the 90s, intelligent women who also have emotions.

4. Guilty-pleasure reason for seeing the show:

Vamps features actors from two of my current favorite TV shows: Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad) and Dan Stevens (dreamy Matthew in Downton Abbey), along with Alicia Silverstone, who’s long been missing in action. Need I say more?

5. Final words:
While these are movies about chicks, they transcend the chick flick label on so many levels. If this is what inspired Girls, I’ll soon be adding another favorite TV show to my list. Hey Lena Dunham, thank you for selecting!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dr. John and New Orleans Piano

By Robert Wood


Photo: Dr. John


There's a lot to love about New Orleans musician Dr. John. If you haven't yet discovered the whole gravelly-voiced "Makin' Whoopie" thing, then you might get behind the voodoo walking stick thing, or the bone-and-teeth necklaces thing, or the "playing the piano while completely covered in Mardi Gras Indian feathers" thing. There’s also something alluring about a Grammy-winning pianist who can start a story with "this guy was pistol whipping Ronnie Barron" and end it with his finger getting shot off. (It was subsequently sewn back on.)

But that same larger-than-life personality makes it easy to forget that—beneath the feathers and the bones, the "gris gris," and the rowdy past—is an amazing pianist and important torchbearer of the distinctive New Orleans piano style, one that remains a rare example of an American music still tied indissolubly to (and evocative of) a particular region, despite the whims of globalization.

As Louis Armstrong said of early jazz, you know the New Orleans style when you hear it. It’s both funky and lazy—funky because of the syncopated bass lines often derived from second-line parade rhythms (watch a second-line procession here), lazy because of those distinct flourishes and cascading rolls in the right hand—musical fleurs-de-lis if you will—that make the music seem like it's falling or stumbling from note to note. For Champion Jack Dupree, an ex-boxer and predecessor of Dr. John, those rolls evoked an unhurried NOLA pace, maybe best executed while swimming from bawdy bar to Treme jam session, contentedly buzzed, in the thick Louisiana humidity:

Champion Jack Dupree, "Strollin'" (1958)

Photo: Champion Jack Dupree


You could also argue that they're somehow related to the blissful sonic molasses of the funeral dirges commonly played by New Orleans brass bands over the last century. Here's one from the Eureka Brass Band.




Regardless, what’s certain is that few 20th-century musical styles have been as closely and consciously guarded and passed down by successive generations of musicians as that New Orleans sound. Finding origins can be futile, but the style’s modern form emerges as early as the 1940s with pianists like Dupree, mentioned above, whose recordings of “Junker Blues” and “Frankie and Johnny” paved the way for the comparatively cleaned up style of another NOLA legend, Fats Domino. The junkie becomes the fat man, but the spirit remains:

Champion Jack Dupree, "Junker Blues," (written in the '40s, recorded in 1958)


Fats Domino, "The Fat Man" (1949)

It was Dupree’s “Junker Blues,” in fact, that was the basis of another New Orleans classic “Tipitina,” written by the dean of new Orleans piano players and one of Dr. John’s biggest influences, Professor Longhair. In “Tipitina,” Longhair transforms Dupree's chord progressions and the bouncy shuffle of Domino into a stilted, stuttering Mardi Gras anthem:

Professor Longhair, "Tipitina" (1972)


Photo: Professor Longhair

James Booker, an almost criminally underexposed pianist and another of Dr. John’s main influences, pays tribute to Longhair in his own version, which begins by quoting the delirious upward slurs of the original before before launching into a more Dominoesque shuffle:


James Booker, "Tipitina" (1977)

Photo: James Booker
Finally, we get to the Doctor himself, who recorded "Tipitina" in 1992. You hear Dr. John imitating both  Longhair's stilted piano style and his cracked vocal delivery:

Dr. John, "Tipitina" (1992)

There's a real love packed into this music, whether for a city as a whole or just for its unmistakable sound. You also can't help but be taken by the deferential way it's been passed down from player to player to become the living tradition it is today. Luckily through Dr. John, that tradition rolls on.






Dr. John will be at BAM March 29—April 14.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Remembering Aaron Ingram

This past Monday, a wonderful friend to BAMcinématek passed away. To those of us who were fortunate to work with Aaron Ingram, the creator of ActNow Foundation and our New Voices in Black Cinema series, he was a passionate, kind man who devoted his life to nurturing young black artists. He will be missed by all of us. Here are two remembrances of Aaron by our Marketing Assistant Alece Oxendine and former BAMcinématek Programming Associate Jake Perlin. For a recent article on Aaron in the Fort Greene The Local, go here.


Alece Oxendine, BAMcinématek Marketing Assistant:

We are heartbroken over the news of our friend Aaron Ingram ’s passing after an almost 2-year bout with cancer. Aaron founded the ActNow Foundation in 2004 and spearheaded New Voices in Black Cinema, an on-going film series at BAMcinématek that has grown to be a tremendous success. His influence was felt here and throughout the Fort Greene community and as a champion of diversity in theater and film, he introduced works from the African and Latino diasporas to the larger Brooklyn consciousness.

“Love and passion help you face the worst kind of obstacle in life.”

It is with these wise words, quoted from a recent The Local article that leaves a lasting impression of his continued dedication to the arts.

He will truly be missed.

Aaron Ingram with director Ava DuVernay and Ralph Scott at the first New Voices in Black Cinema festival
Jake Perlin, former BAMcinématek Programming Associate:

A pleasure and a privilege. When thinking about Aaron Ingram, and our time collaborating professionally and being friends, these are the two sentiments that immediately leap to mind. There is also tremendous sadness that we will not be able to continue to know each other and work together, but the huge impact he made in such a short time will continue to be felt by those of us fortunate enough to know Aaron, and the filmmakers and audiences that will continue to benefit from his legacy.

Act Now: New Voices in Black Cinema is the program that Aaron had begun before bringing it to BAMcinématek, having already built a strong audience base, but which he wanted to bring to a bigger stage, to more people. From the first show, the Act Now screening series was a hit, and in quick fashion it became an annual, multi-day film festival. BAMcinématek’s program for 2012 kicked off with Act Now, and was the series' biggest success yet, firmly establishing itself (in record time) as one of the important film and cultural events on the Brooklyn calendar.

But successes like this don’t happen out of the blue. Aaron Ingram, and his colleagues at Act Now, possessed these reasons: vision, dedication, and also good humor and kindness. Aaron has built something major that will live on for years to come, but at the same time, he did it while making everyone around him feel involved, and able to enjoy each other.

We are all so saddened that Aaron is no longer with us in the flesh, and it has been difficult to realize that we will not see and speak to one another anymore. But in the moments after learning he had passed, I remembered a moment that occurred a few years ago that instantly put a smile on my face, and reminded me how fortunate I was to know Aaron.

After a particularly challenging series of emails and conference calls in an attempt for us to secure a film we wanted to show, Aaron and I found ourselves frustrated and worn out. I emailed Aaron to express just this, but before I could hit send, in my inbox was a message from Aaron saying “Well, that conversation made me feel like…” followed by an emoticon with eyes swirling and going in all different directions, a mouth in a crooked grin, a face of complete bafflement, but still, I am convinced, smiling. There has never been a better use of an emoticon in the history of film-programming related correspondence (a very specialized title that I am sure Aaron would be thrilled to accept), and one that instantly put everything in perspective, and makes me smile whenever I think of it.

It is one of many memories of knowing Aaron that I am lucky to have, and one of many that will always remind me of how grateful I am that our paths crossed in life.

Monday, March 19, 2012

1864: The Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, Part 2

A Winslow Homer illustration of the Post Office at the Sanitary Fair
Immensely popular, the Brooklyn and Long Island Sanitary Fair ran from February 22 to March 8, 1864, and raised over $400,000, the highest sum of any Sanitary Fair in the country up to that time. Housed at the original Brooklyn Academy of Music premises on Montague Street, the Brooklyn Sanitary Fair drew masses from throughout the region. The March 12, 1864 issue of Frank’s Illustrated Newspaper describes the jovial crowd at the Fair:
Everyone seemed to be in the best possible humor—old men smiled though grimly—when their favorite corns were trodden upon, and the ladies didn’t seem to mind in the least having the gathers torn out of their dresses.
For nearly three weeks, the Academy became a microcosm of Brooklyn society. Three temporary buildings, connected to the Academy by bridges, were erected. Throughout the Fair’s quarters were several restaurants, art galleries, a soda fountain, and over a dozen vendors offering various goods made by local industries. The Sanitary Fair even had its own daily newspaper, The Drum-Beat, as well as a Post Office.

Stamp from the Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, with certificate of authenticity

Of all the Brooklyn Sanitary Fair’s attractions, the Post Office was perhaps the most popular. Located in the Proscenium Box to the right of the stage, the Post Office was staffed primarily by young ladies dressed to the nines, and it served as a site for playful flirtations. Messages, written predominantly by men, were posted to other fairgoers for the price of either 15¢ or 25¢. (It has been suggested that the higher rate was for messages written in verse.) The male fairgoers would attempt to impress their addressees—as well as the Post Office staff—with the mellifluence of their speech or the bravado of their verse, while the women of the Post Office pronounced their judgments by displaying the best messages of the day on a wall outside of the office. Up to 5,000 messages were posted during the Fair, and the Post Office raised over $800 ($11,000 in today’s USD) in the sale of stamps alone.

Stamp from an earlier Brooklyn fundraiser for the Sanitary Commission

The objects pictured here, along with many others from the Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, are currently on view in From Brooklyn to the World, the archival exhibition celebrating BAM's 150th anniversary.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack at BAM



Early this month Friends of BAM were invited to join Friends of BAM Chairs Sinead Cusack and Jeremy Irons for a special screening of their 1988 film Stealing Beauty. This coming of age story explores the relationships of Lucy, an American teenager visiting Tuscany, and the eccentric residents she encounters, including Irons as a dying playwright and Cusack as one of her hosts. The couple recounted their experience of making the film in an exclusive introduction to the audience.

To learn more about becoming a member and receiving access to special screenings and events visit BAM.org/Membership.

Click below for more photographs of this special event.


1864: The Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, Part 1


Founded after the outbreak of the Civil War, the United States Sanitary Commission was a relief agency that took as its mission the supply of food, potable water, clean clothing, bandages, hospital equipment, bedding, writing supplies, and postage to soldiers in the Union Army. It was directed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, known today as one of the principal designers of Central Park and Prospect Park.

In an appeal sent to northern states on June 21, 1861, the Sanitary Commission stated that “four soldiers die of diseases incident to camp life for one that falls in battle… Sanitary measures, prudently devised and thoroughly executed, will do more to economize the lives of our soldiers, and thus save the nation men, money, and time, than could be effected by any improvement in the arms put into their hands.”

A New York weekly featuring illustrations from the Fair
While male soldiers fought and died on the battlefield, women were central to the workforce of the Sanitary Commission, working in the laundry, or as cooks, seamstresses and, especially, nurses. At the height of the Civil War, almost 3,000 nurses were working in makeshift Union hospitals—many of them volunteers. (Superintendent of Army Nurses, activist Dorothea Dix, insisted that her nurses be “past 30 years of age, healthy, plain almost to repulsion in dress and devoid of personal attractions.”) Women were also the driving force behind what were referred to as “Sanitary Fairs.” Organized via a network of women’s charitable societies, Sanitary Fairs held in cities across the northern states raised over $25 million for the relief of sick and wounded Union soldiers.

After a collaboration with their New York counterparts was postponed, Brooklyn women, representing various relief societies, took it upon themselves to erect their own fair. Housed at the original Brooklyn Academy of Music premises on Montague Street, the Brooklyn and Long Island Sanitary Fair ran from February 22 to March 8, 1864, and raised over $400,000, the highest sum of any Sanitary Fair in the country up to that time. 

The two objects pictured here, along with many others from the Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, are currently on view in From Brooklyn to the World, the archival exhibition celebrating BAM's 150th anniversary.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Watch the New Trailer for Einstein on the Beach!

The dates for the BAM 2012 production of Einstein on the Beach have been announced (Sep 14—23, 2012)! Watch the official trailer here:



And here's a little tidbit to amuse and delight you, dear BAMblog readers: an excerpt from a conversation between theater critic John Rockwell and Harvey Lichtenstein about the impact of the 1976 production of Einstein on Rockwell's writing.

JOHN ROCKWELL: That was my total immersion, man. I went to auditions on Spring Street.

HARVEY LICHTENSTEIN: Really?

ROCKWELL: I spent three or four weeks in Avignon. I saw all five performances.

LICHTENSTEIN: Really?

ROCKWELL: And then I saw it at the Met. And then I wrote a big, long piece about it for The Village Voice, under a pen name, which is my compilation—actually, one of my better pieces, I must say. But—

LICHTENSTEIN: [Chuckles.]

ROCKWELL: Well, I mean, it reflected a real immersion. I mean, I tried to sell a piece on Einstein in the spring of that year to New York Times Magazine, but they had never heard of Wilson; they had never heard of Glass; they had no interest whatsoever, so I said, “Fuck this,” and I went to The Village Voice and did it under a pen name, and they played it up big.

(For those of you interested in tracking down the piece, it can be found in Rockwell's 2006 collection, Outsider.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

1983: Victory Over the Sun

Stuart Hodes in The Birth of the Poet
As noted in our recent post on The Birth of the Poet, Richard Foreman’s direction made heavy reference to the avant-garde theater of the past. One of the pieces alluded to—via elements of movement and costume design—was Victory Over the Sun. Performed only twice in St. Petersburg in 1913, Victory is both the beginning and end of Russian Cubo-Futurist opera. And with good reason—it would have been inconceivable to produce a similar piece after the explosive collaboration of such mighty artists. Aleksei Kruchenykh wrote the libretto (in the invented Futurist dialect christened zaum), while Velimir Khlebnikov contributed the prologue. Music was written by Mikhail Matyushin, and the stage and costume designs were contributed by Kasimir Malevich, a pioneer in non-figurative painting (the Victory set contains one of his first non-figurative pieces).

After those two St. Petersburg performances, Victory was largely considered a curiosity of theater history. It was not until the early 80s that it was revived (though reconstructed may be a more apt word). Under the direction of Robert Benedetti, with CalArts students comprising the cast, Malevich’s sets and costumes were reinterpreted based on his original sketches, Matyushin’s music—most of which had been lost—was re-imagined, and an English translation of the text was produced by Larissa Shmailo. After performances in Berlin and LA, Victory was presented as part of the first annual Next Wave Festival at BAM, in a season that included Philip Glass, Molissa Fenley, Trisha Brown, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Victory Over the Sun. Photo: Alma Law

Victory Over the Sun. Photo: Tom Caravaglia
Malevich's costume designs

Friday, March 9, 2012

BAMcafé Live All-Stars: Nora York

Photo: Nora York by Stephanie Berger
Cabaret music was once at the center of the American popular musical dialect, but the onset of rock and roll/rhythm and blues has largely driven the form into select corners of the nation’s songbook. As such, there’s an unrelenting gulf between its connoisseurs and the hoi polloi. These days, the typical haunts for cabaret are elite supper clubs, underground jazz bars, and downtown lounges. Negotiations for détente between the disparate worlds of cabaret and contemporary pop have yielded dubious results and real world commentary in the realm of cabaret music is well-nigh inviolable.

Nora York is the rare artist who has managed successfully to inhabit the cabaret milieu while subverting its sacred cows. Rock and roll and soul carry equal space on Nora’s palette as standards and show tunes, with composers such as Hendrix and Dylan being elevated into the otherwise restrictive Great American Songbook. She makes the lounge presentation a living, connective idiom, rather than long-tooth clichés and snobbish pretense. She has an uncanny ability to conjure themes and linkages, such as her meditation on the mutability between love and madness in her medley “You Go To My Head” married with “Manic Depression.”

Further, Nora commits the heresy of turning the lounge into a communal, democratized space, rather than a hallowed shrine to the inscrutable, standoffish diva. Engaging the audience, provoking, challenging, and removing stale atmosphere of sedate, passive ennui associated with most cabaret, Nora morphs the form into a snarling, furious, and wounded beast which she subsequently tames, heals and loves back to life.

Nora’s opus “Power/Play” emerged at the crux of tensions following the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and America’s subsequent adventures into Afghanistan and Iraq. Threading her disciplines as an ingénue, actress, dramaturge, bandleader, composer, and multimedia collaborator, “Power/Play” is Nora’s emotive wrestling match with the wages of war, its engineers, and its cosigners. It is only appropriate, as part of BAMcafé Live All-Stars, that Nora returns with this particular work, as it was born from a BAM commission complementing the BAMcinematek series “From Hanoi to Hollywood.”

As both a personal friend and as a performer, it’s good to have Nora back home at BAM.

—Darrell McNeill, Associate Producer, Music Programming

Nora York appears at BAMcafé Live on Friday, March 9 at 9pm.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Teju Cole's Open City

Photo: Teju Cole, by Teju Cole
Teju Cole's Open City, his debut novel and one of my favorite books in recent memory, is about nothing and everything (like Seinfeld, just keep the wit and lose the slapstick). The protagonist Julius, a native Nigerian with Nigerian-German parents, is doing a psychiatry fellowship in New York. From his apartment in upper Manhattan, he discovers the city through walks and acquaintances. Each anecdote offers a facet of his biography that shapes and gradually defines him. Yet just as a picture of Julius begins to emerge for the reader, an old friend's confession reveals a shocking episode that makes us reassess him, and he himself.

Julius is like many New Yorkers: non-native, and of a non-Caucasian heritage that alternately hinders and provides access to opportunity; cultured, yet sometimes lacking in street smarts; a voyeur of those who do things, and a sounding board for those who have strong opinions. His family is either deceased or unlocatable (he visits Brussels thinking he might run into his estranged grandmother), but in spite of this, or because of it, he has created a network that functions in makeshift familial roles, as many New Yorkers do.

He mentions visiting the giant panorama model of New York City at the Queens Museum, and in some ways, Open City parallels that experience. At times, Cole surveys the city from afar, like a promenading Godzilla might; at others, he zooms in to view small details with clarity (although Brooklyn is not in his book's scope, he will be here for BAM's Eat, Drink & Be Literary on March 15). Encounters with strangers and friends of African descent reveal an ever-shifting assessment of the complexities of racial identity, and the creeping feeling of never fully belonging.

Cole writes in beautiful, smart, accessible language, without quotation marks or superfluous stage directions, but with masterful descriptions. He mentions a soaring public space on Wall Street:

When I moved back into the center of the nave, which was almost free of human presence, a solitary man hurrying across to the subway escalators dropped his briefcase with a loud clatter. He got on his knees, and began gathering pieces. His oversize, mouse-colored trench coat fell like a Victorian dress around him.

Even violent or strident situations are described in ripe language that somehow seems to soften them, and complex concepts of politics or philosophy are suffused with a tangible humanity. Shifting between internal and external, micro and macro, banal and signficant, Cole eloquently expresses the nuances of daily life in all its coarseness and transcendence.

Susan Yung

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Andrzej Zulawski: Untamable Heroines

Isabelle Adjani in Possession. Photo courtesy Bleeding Light Film Group
Possession (1981), director Andrzej Zulawski’s best-known film, commences as a study of a marriage in meltdown. An autobiographical cri de coeur from a filmmaker whose wife (Polish star Malgorzata Braunek) left him and their young son to become a Buddhist priest, Possession focuses initially on the husband, Mark (Sam Neill), who stalks and beats his unfaithful spouse (Isabelle Adjani). With eyes dilated and words ground out in an I’m-trying-to-be-patient pitch, the typically placid Neill sets his sights on Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny” moment from the preceding year’s The Shining.

The physical isolation and family dynamic of Mark, Anna, and their young son unavoidably call to mind Kubrick’s film, and that association may be the only preparation a first-timer will have for Possession’s midpoint shift into mind-bending, Cronenbergian science fiction. When Zulawski at last turns his attention to Mark’s wife, he reveals that Anna’s hideout is not a trysting place—it’s a nest for the viscous puddle of goo to which she has given birth. Her own insanity, far worse than Mark’s, has migrated from the mind to the body. Possession became the only film to win a major award at Cannes and get banned in Britain as a “video nasty.”

Zulawski is best-known for Possession, but he has made a dozen films. They share its fever-dream intensity of expression, its bizarre obsessions and raw emotions, its unique penchant for literalizing ideas that other directors would render as symbols or subtext. It is a cinema of mostly highs and few lows, sustained beyond the breaking point and gratifying even as it slams the spectator into sensory overload.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Executive Files: the first Next Wave show

Joe Melillo (center) with Bob Telson and BAM staff during Next Wave Festival 1983
On my first day on the job to produce the inaugural Next Wave Festival for the autumn of 1983, I arrived in President/Executive Producer Harvey Lichtenstein’s office to start my duties and responsibilities. I was handed a sheet of paper with a list of names of artists and productions. My first management decision was to make a manila file folder with each name from the list, and I began the task of contacting those individuals and researching those productions.

It was clear that I was going to produce The Photographer: Far From the Truth, a three-part, 90 minute work to a Philip Glass score, performed by his ensemble. The first section was theater, the second part a multimedia work of Eadward Muybridge images, and the final section was a dance work. JoAnne Akalaitis, a founding member of Mabou Mines, was engaged to be the director. She also happened to be the ex-wife of Philip Glass. I remember our first meeting to create the production. She had a notebook that she had filled with images, words, and designs. The Photographer had been produced in Holland, but her production was going to be a completely new interpretation.

She selected the writer Robert Coe to write the script for the first act which was going to reference sections from Muybridge’s biography. Wendell Harrington was hired to visualize the second section. She was going to use large-scale projections of the human figure in motion and actually also animate those still photographs. The third section would be choreographed by David Gordon.

Photo: Johan Elbers

Photo: Johan Elbers

It was very much like producing three different works of art, given the discrete art for each section. There were five weeks of rehearsal, a technical week, and the inaugural production of  the first Next Wave Festival opened in the Opera House. New York audiences had never seen a performance work on such a scale—the Philip Glass Ensemble performing his propulsive musical score, and the bombardment of visual material and the kinetic imagistic movement of David Gordon all contributed to a compelling, thrilling evening of contemporary, non-traditional art making that continues in the Next Wave Festival tradition today.

 —Joseph V. Melillo, Executive Producer, BAM

Sunday, March 4, 2012

BAM Iconic Artist: Steve Reich

Photo credit: Beatriz Schiller

Steve Reich’s body of work reflects an imagination both profoundly curious and disciplined, ranging from studies that use the body as an instrument to large-scale compositions concerning philosophical
issues. Born in New York City, Reich received a philosophy degree at Cornell. At Mills College, in Oakland, California, he studied composition with Luciano Berio and Darius Milhaud, earning an MA in music. In his early compositions, Reich experimented with tape loops, text, and shifting phrasing, notably in Piano Phase (1967). From 1974 to 1976, he composed Music for 18 Musicians, a hypnotic performance in which percussionists move between instruments, creating an invisible web of movement. “I think it’s effective because it’s coming out of necessity,” Reich said. “It’s not choreography—it’s simply watching a task being done.”

This concept was central to the Judson Church movement, whose performances Reich attended. Around the same time, he also saw Balanchine’s ballets set to music by Stravinsky. “I’ve always been interested in dance and in the relationship between music and dance. I’ve also always felt that what I do is danceable because sometimes while composing, I dance while I’m doing it,” Reich noted. A rich emotional soundscape arises out of his music’s complex, shifting sections, graduated dynamics and volume that shape phrases, and words that dart between meaning and aural pattern. His rigorous compositions have been favored by choreographers who have frequented BAM, particularly Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who has employed Reich’s work in numerous productions, beginning with Fase, four movements to the music of Steve Reich (1982), which Reich calls a masterpiece. Other choreographers who have set dance to Reich’s music include Jerome Robbins, Laura Dean, and Doug Varone.

Reich’s history at BAM is extensive. In 1971, Reich and his group performed Drumming, and in 1982 he was first presented under the Next Wave rubric. In 2002, with his wife, video artist Beryl Korot, he created Three Tales, a documentary digital video opera about the Hindenburg, the atomic bomb, and cloning. With other large venues, BAM hosted a major element of Steve Reich @ 70 (2006)—a two-part evening with choreography by De Keersmaeker and Akram Khan. Reich—who has garnered a Pulitzer Prize, received Grammy and Bessie Awards, and been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and awarded the Ordre des Arts et Lettres—might be forgiven if he sported a laurel wreath rather than the baseball cap he favors in performance.

Susan Yung

This text was excerpted from BAM: The Complete Works . Click here for more information on the book. Steve Reich will participate in an Iconic Artist Talk with John Schaefer on Tuesday, March 6.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Amaranth Dance Card


Dance cards, which originated in 18th-century Vienna, were immensely popular in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At formal balls, women would tie the often elaborate cards to their wrists or gowns. Each card listed the order of dances, along with spaces for the signatures of intended dance partners.


This dance card comes from a ball for the Amaranth Society held at the Academy on January 19, 1876. Founded in 1873, the Amaranth Society is a Masonic-affiliated women’s association. This card, along with many other treasures from the BAM Hamm Archives, is currently on view in From Brooklyn to the World, the archival exhibition celebrating BAM's 150th anniversary, which is located in the lobby and Natman Room at BAM. The exhibition is free and open to the public.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Fresh Hamm: Orson Welles at BAM, 1934

The young Welles
1934 was quite a year. While the Great Depression was in full swing, the first Soap Box Derby took place in Dayton, OH; George Oppen published his first book of poetry, Discrete Series, and then quit writing for the next 25 years; John Dillinger made his last bank robberies before being shot by police outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago; Ralph Nader, Jane Goodall, Pat Boone, Giorgio Armani, and Joan Didion were born; Adolf Hitler became Germany’s Führer; and FDR signed into existence the centerpiece of the New Deal, the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

But that’s not all. Here in our little corner of New York, Orson Welles appeared as Octavius Moulton-Barrett in The Barretts of Wimpole Street, a period piece about the courtship between British Romantic poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett. The 19-year-old Welles had been in New York for a couple of years, and was already making a name for himself. Just under two years later, he would direct the piece that catapulted him to fame: the so-called “Voodoo Macbeth” at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem, created under the New Deal’s Federal Theatre Project.

Surprisingly, we at the BAM Hamm Archives weren’t aware of this Welles-BAM connection. In a happy accident we stumbled across the vintage program for The Barretts of Wimpole Street—on eBay, of all places! We snatched up the program and it is now a proud part of our collection. We add yet another amazing arti/fact to the ever-unfolding history of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.   


Thursday, March 1, 2012

BAM And Then It Hits You: Part Deux

Nattily-dressed fish-men piloting gondolas, horn-headed cyclops, Cate Blanchett: all perfectly reasonable things to daydream about. But no place could be prouder to inspire those daydreams than BAM! Here are six more ads from our BAM And Then It Hits You campaign, hitting a subway car near you today. Many thanks to our friends at mcgarrybowen. 


Name: Santi (center)  |  Lives in: North Bergen, NJ  |  Job: actor and elevator consultant
(Original performance photo courtesy of Photofest)

 Name: Lily  |  Lives in: Sheepshead Bay  |  Job: Brooklyn College student / BAM Rose Cinema employee
Favorite BAM Show/Moment: Speedy (1928, directed by Ted Wilde)
(Original performance photo by Stephanie Berger Photography)


Name: Kristin  |  Lives in: East Williamsburg  |  Job: textile designer and illustrator 
Favorite BAM Show/Moment: Brooklyn Babylon
(Original performance photo by Richard Termine)


Name: Gayle (center)  |  Lives in: the Upper West Side  |  Job: Actor
Favorite BAM Show/Moment: Anything Shakespeare that's ever been at BAM
(Original performance photo by Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos)  


 Name: Michelle  |  Lives in: Cambria Heights  |  Job: Masters candidate in English, Brooklyn College
Favorite BAM Show/Moment: BAMcinématek's New Voices in Black Cinema series
(Original performance photo by Richard Termine)


Job: Actionist  |  Lives in: Fort Greene  | Favorite BAM Show/Moment: Pina Bausch's Vollmond
(Original performance photo by Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos)

You can view all eleven ads in the campaign here. Where did BAM hit you?