Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lobby Of Budapest, Hungary's New National Concert Hall

Photo credit:

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Budapest’s New Palace of Art

"Budapest’s Palace of Art was designed with the intention of building not only for today but for the future. The complex has created a dialogue between the traditional and the avant-garde in all art forms. Fitted with state-of-the-art technology, the building houses the Ludwig Museum, the National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chorus and Music Library, as well as the National Dance Theatre. The complex gives room for the Festival Theatre, and includes the impressive National Concert Hall. The Palace of Arts is located in the Millennium City Centre, right next to the National Theatre. Its size allows for staging large-scale performances as well. The programme for 2005 features international stars in dance and musical performances, classical music concerts, art exhibitions and other events. Through these programmes, the complex on the eastern embankment of the Danube in Budapest’s Ninth District will be one of the most buoyant cultural and social venues in all of Central Europe." ...

Source: magazin/2005_1/mupa_e.html

The Chicago Youth Orchestra in rehearsal at the new National Concert Hall, Budapest, Hungary.

Photo credit:

Give Me Some Of That Old Time Rhythm (Seriously)

"After years of trying preconcert hors d'oeuvres and Mostly Mozart festivals to stem declining attendance and attract younger patrons, orchestras around the country are banking on something different: new music that audiences actually enjoy.

From Philadelphia to Sioux Falls, orchestras are embracing a growing breed of contemporary composer that emphasizes the classical tradition of writing to entertain, rather than to explore academic, less accessible theories. While the point is partly to please crowds, these new works are taken seriously. "We have to establish the works that will be around 50 to 75 years from now," says Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington.

The popularity of this new classical music -- variously called "contemporary classical," "alt-classical" or "music of our time" -- represents the latest stage in a reaction to the 1950s and '60s, when the dominant composers were academics who invented tonal structures that broke with European musical traditions....

The influx of new music comes as large orchestras face declining attendance and an elderly base of subscribers. Nationwide symphony attendance fell 13% to 27.7 million in the 2003-04 season from 1999-2000, according to the American Symphony Orchestra League. The median age of orchestra subscribers nationwide is 55 and has been for several decades. By programming new music, orchestras are hoping their seasons will seem more relevant to would-be concertgoers, particularly those from 35 to 45.

To ease audiences into contemporary works, orchestras often program them alongside pieces by the masters." ...

Jacob Hale Russell "Classical Plays a New Tune: Orchestras are embracing modern works with melody" Wall Street Journal On-line November 26, 2005.

Mr Russell's nice article helpfully includes hyper-links to audio samples by Steve Reich, John Adams, George Rochberg, William Bolcom, Joan Tower, and Jennifer Higdon; as well as a short list of "Merry Melodies" -- a sampling of contemporary classical albums (with brief comments) released since late 2004.

Albert Bierstadt, Rocky Mountains, 1863, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
[Click on painting for larger image]

Photo credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

"Exceptionally Vigorous" vs. "Exceptionally Humane"?

"The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development on Tuesday presented a relatively upbeat view of the prospects for the world’s 30 wealthiest nations but warned the risks to its expectation of a prolonged world expansion were "substantial".

In its twice-yearly report, the Paris-based organisation said that global growth over the past few months had been "exceptionally vigorous" and resilient in the face of large oil price increases.

The higher cost of oil had not fed through to generally higher prices in the largest economies and inflationary pressures were expected to recede - unless oil prices were to shoot up again.

“With price stability maintained, a powerful impetus arising from the Asian and US economies and the spending of oil exporters’ higher revenues the case for a prolonged world expansion, finally extending to convalescent European economies looks plausible,” the report said.

Its optimism was based on increased investment and exports, helped by spending of oil revenues by oil producers. World trade growth would pick up to 9.1 per cent next year and 9.2 per cent in 2007 from a projected 7.3 per cent this year." ...

Scheherazade Daneshkhu "OECD upbeat on world growth prospects" Financial Times, November 29, 2005.

OECD Summary Outlook:


And what about the other 150+ national economies in our interdependent world? How are they doing? How are their systems of health care and education and environmental sustainability?


"Unspent donations given to help victims of the Asian tsunami could be redirected to crises in Africa after rebuilding is complete, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, now a U.N. enoy, said on Tuesday.

But visiting communities living amid the ruins of Sri Lanka’s east coast ahead of tsunami’s one year anniversary, Clinton -- said much still had to be done in areas swamped by the waves before any aid could be passed on.

"There are still some...funds that have not been spent," he told Reuters in a destroyed hospital. “In every country but the Maldives, the pledges exceed the estimated damages. Until all the work is done...the people who donated the money have to the right to expect it will be spent in the way they intended it."

The Dec. 26 tsunami sparked an unprecedented outpouring of donations and pledges from both governments and individuals -- some $12 billion -- but some aid workers trying to tackle food shortages, worsening poverty and the effect of AIDS in Africa say donations to them have fallen off as a direct result."

Reuters Limited [in Kinniya, Sri Lanka] "Unspent tsunami donations may go to Africa". Reuters via

U.N. Envoy Bill Clinton in Sri Lanka

Text and Photo credit: (c) Reuters 2005

Reader Response: Composer Daniel Wolf On Life In Today's Hungary

"I lived in Hungary for five years, until July of this year. You can not live in the country without witnessing the growing gap between the poorest and wealthiest portions of the population. While homeless, unemployed, underemployed, and the working poor are very much in evidence in Budapest and the well-touristed regions in the west, it is in the countryside, and critically in the Northeast of the country, that one encounters an acute structural poverty that has developed continuously since the change of systems. The inevitable opening of the EU to the Ukraine has already begun to further stress this population.

The change of systems has been particularly hard on musicians. Before, musicians were treated as professionals and paid as well (or as badly) as other professionals. While most other professions have seen some recognition of inflation in their salaries, this has not been true for musicians. A full-time orchestral player in a major ensemble may now take home little as 200 USD per month, and additional income from teaching, touring, and simultaneous "full-time" contracts is essential to survival. In addition, live gigs for musicians playing in light settings (restaurants, clubs) have become extremely rare, and this has had a particularly bad effect on musicians from the Sinti and Roma minorities."

By Daniel Wolf. Posted to Renaissance Research November 29, 2005.


Thank you Daniel for the very thoughtful comment. Would you care to write a Letter to the Editor of The Economist magazine? I would hope that they would publish it.

For your information, my spouse, a full-time Ukrainian senior museum curator (cultural scientist) with a major museum [Lviv's Royal Chambers -- a UNESCO listed World Heritage Property], just had her monthly salary increased from $60 a month to $85 a month, one year after the Orange Revolution. We are well aware of the pressures of now rapidly rising food, energy, clothes, and housing costs, throughout Central and Eastern Europe. [N.'s mother's pension, after a career as a doctor, is now $25 a month]. And yesterday, I did find on the Web, images of the homeless living among the Roman ruins of ancient Obuda, north of Budapest proper.

Thank you again for your comment.

"Today, watertight is good news for Obuda's homeless, who have made this their refuge. They watched us and kept their distance, letting us explore the ruins by ourselves. They returned only as we seemed to be leaving for good."

Photo and caption text credit: (With thanks)

Congratulations To Library Of Congress Living Legend Gunther Schuller!

"Saxman [sic] Gunther Schuller, who has played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and the Metropolitan Opera, has been named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. Mr. Schuller, 80, will receive the award Dec. 16 at a concert by the Jupiter String Quartet in the library, according to Associated Press. Mr. Schuller has written more than 160 musical compositions, including a saxophone sonata and works commissioned by the New York and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras. His books include "The Compleat Conductor" and "The Swing Era," a history of jazz.
The son of German immigrants, Mr. Schuller won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award in 1991 and the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1994. At 70, he started his own music publishing and recording firm, specializing in both early music and works by Duke Ellington."


Source: via


English composer Gavin Bryars attendance at Gunther Schuller's opera The Visitation, in Illinois in 1968 (the first opera he ever attended), was an inspiration behind his decision to compose his opera on the Medea legend. See

Besides composing opera, Gunther Schuller has championed American opera, including Scott Joplin's Treemonisha, which he conducted and recorded with the Houston Grand Opera.

Image credit: DGG, Hamburg, Germany

Monday, November 28, 2005

Extra! Extra! Hungary Has Almost No People Living In Poverty!!

Budapest, Hungary.

According to the November 24, 2005 edition of The Economist magazine, Hungary has almost no people living in poverty. [See entry below.] Budapest, with a population of 1,734,083, is the sixth largest city in the European Union, according to its 2003 population estimate. If Ukraine joins the European Union, its capital Kyiv will be the fourth largest city in the E.U. The U.N. estimates the population of Minsk, Belarus to be about equal to that of Budapest

The Romans occupied the region of Budapest over 1,900 years ago. See Aquincum Óbuda.

Photo credit: Ricks at via composer Michael Kaulkin's blog.

Ukrainian Windfarms From The Carpathian Mountains To The Crimea To The Donetsk Basin

"When representatives from more than 180 countries gather in Montreal [today] for two weeks of talks on the Kyoto protocol on climate change, one of the important topics for discussion will be financing the development of projects in poorer nations that will enable them to cut their greenhouse gas emissions without having to divert scarce funds from elsewhere.

The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation will have the strongest role to play in financing and facilitating many of these projects. But private banks are also seeking ways to participate in projects such as setting up wind turbines in place of fossil fuel generators, capturing methane from animal slurry and generating energy from landfill sites – all of which can reduce emissions while raising cash for local enterprises in developing countries."

Fiona Harvey "The Rise of the ethical financier" Financial Times November 27, 2005.

"Donuzlav Windfarm State Enterprise" Ukraine Ministry of Fuel and Energy, Crimea, Ukraine. Windfarm put into operation in 1992.

Photo credit: ves_eng.htm

Is It Only About The Economy Or Wealth, Stupid?

"A dollar a day or less is the World Bank's standard definition of poverty. But in the cold ex-communist countries of central and eastern Europe, where more is needed for heating and clothes, $2.15 is the poverty line. Many people have now climbed above that level: between 1998 and 2003 alone, more than 40m moved out of poverty; but 60m remain. The best performer, Hungary, has almost no people living in poverty; in the worst, Tajikistan, the figure is 70%. But the bigger question is which post-communist countries stand a chance of catching up with the rich world within a generation, and which will stay poor for the rest of the century.

The sunniest outlook is in the countries that have done best so far: the eight new members of the European Union, plus Croatia, which hopes to join soon....

What about the even poorer countries farther east and south of the new EU members? There are a couple of bright spots. The 12 former Soviet republics are the fastest-growing bit of the ex-communist world. That is partly due to the windfall of high energy and commodity prices, and also because poor countries tend to grow faster. Unlike their richer counterparts, growth is creating more jobs than restructuring is destroying. The 12 are also doing better at keeping people in work. The poor are benefiting from the rebound more than the rich; wages and benefits may be meagre, but these are now mostly paid on time.

These modest pluses are, however, dwarfed by other problems. Public services are cash-strapped. Georgia spends under 1% of GDP on health; Croatia over 7%. Household utilities are becoming more costly as subsidies dwindle. In some countries, even such basics as water, electricity and universal education are starting to crumble.

The biggest immediate problem is a lack of good jobs." ...

The Economist "East European economies: East, west and the gap between" November 24, 2005.

Kyiv, Ukraine during its Orange Revolution, of 2004-05, which was about more than simply economics.

Photo credit:

Maybe They Can Get Jeff Koons To Sculpt A Replacement Image...

"A basketball-sized piece of marble molding fell from the facade over the entrance to the Supreme Court Monday, landing on the steps near visitors waiting to enter the building. No one was hurt.

The chunk of Vermont marble was part of the dentil molding that serves as a frame for nine sculptural figures completed in 1935. The piece that fell was over the figure of Authority, near the peak of the building's pediment, and to the right of the figure of Liberty, who has the scales of justice on her lap."

Associated Press "Pieces Fall From Supreme Court Facade" November 28, 2005.

Crouching Boy c.1530-1534 by Michelangelo (Michelangelo Buonarroti) 1475-1564 Marble; h 54 cm

"This figure is the only work by Michelangelo in the Hermitage [Museum of Petersburg, Russia]. It was probably designed for the Medici Chapel in Florence. The pose of the boy repeats the cubic form of the marble block it was made from and seems constrained. But the massive protubing muscles of the bent body are emphasized by the play of light on the rough marble surface covered with chisel marks, and the tension of the pose creates the impression of enormous energy and force. The artist's concept has not yet been explained, although some scholars see here an allegory for the unborn soul, while others see the figure as a wounded soldier or a spirit of mourning. However, the figure would appear to have a wider significance than any of these particular interpretations: it represents a defeated individual, suffering not so much physically as emotionally, reflecting the tragedy of the Renaissance decline."

Text and Photo credit:

David Robertson, Alex Ross, And The Future (Multi-Racial) Faces Of Classical Music Performers And Audiences In America

"One recent morning, David Robertson, the vigorous new music director of the St. Louis Symphony, stood up in front of eighteen hundred schoolchildren in Powell Hall, the orchestra’s home, to present a Young People’s Concert. “My name is David,” he said, in a mellifluous, singsong baritone. He introduced the instruments of the orchestra and picked out some themes from the morning’s selections, the Prelude to Bizet’s “Carmen” and scenes from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.” He spoke earnestly at first, but an off-the-wall sensibility crept in. During the performance of “Romeo,” the conductor, who is forty-seven years old, encouraged his listeners to stamp on the floor to the thudding strong beats of the Dance of the Knights. He also proposed that a trombone figure represented Mrs. Capulet, “who’s really big, and she’s saying, ‘Where’s the food?,’ and when she finds these little tiny sandwiches she gets really, really mad.” If Lorin Maazel has this side to him, we haven’t seen it yet.

Robertson’s next appointment on this busy day was with fourteen children at Dunbar Elementary School, on the run-down north side of St. Louis. Still in high spirits, he led a sing-along and read aloud from a story about a mole: “ ‘I want to make beautiful music, too,’ Mole said to himself.” Deborah Bloom, a violinist with the St. Louis Symphony, supplied musical illustrations, culminating in the “Ode to Joy.”

By 4 P.M., Robertson was at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, a museum featuring modern art owned by the Pulitzer family, rehearsing an all-twentieth-century chamber program." ...

Alex Ross "Musical Events. The Evangelist: David Robertson lifts up the St. Louis Symphony" The New Yorker November 28, 2005. (December 5, 2005 issue)

California Oakland Paramount Theater, 1920s

Home of Michael Morgan and the Oakland/ East Bay Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Photo credit: © david sanger photography / Alamy Ltd.

Congratulations To Grawemeyer Prize Winner Gyorgy Kurtag!

"A concerto by Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag described as ranging through "many changes of mood, tempo and texture" has earned the 2006 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

The work, "Concertante Op. 42" for violin, viola and orchestra, was commissioned by the Leonie Sonning Foundation of Copenhagen. Since its premiere in September 2003 by the Danish Radio Orchestra led by conductor Michael Schonwandt, it has been performed in Europe, Japan and the United States.

The 26-minute piece, one large movement divided into several sections plus a two-part coda, uses an unusually large orchestra for a concerto and includes solos written for and performed by violinist Hiromi Kikuchi and violist Ken Hakii.

"The orchestra is used to full advantage but without overshadowing the role of the soloists," said award chair Marc Satterwhite. "After ranging through many changes of mood, tempo and texture, from intimate to violent, the final section is mysterious and ambiguous.""

Source: Investors Business Daily ( via November 28, 2005.

Gyorgy Kurtag, composer and humanist

Photo credit: City of Linz, Austria.

Franciszak Skaryna of Polatsk, Belarus

"For we are born into this world not only for ourselves, but rather to serve God and the common wealth"

Franciszak Skaryna,
Preface to the book of Esther the Queen. Prague 1519

"Franciszak Skaryna, a leading Renaissance scholar and humanist, was born in the north Belarusian city of Polatsk on the river Dzvina, in 1486. His father, Lukasz, was a merchant.

After leaving his native city as a youth, Skaryna matriculated at the arts faculty of Krakow university, and in 1504 he graduated as a Bachelor of Arts. He evidently pursued his studies with some success for in 1509 he was filling a post of Secretary to Jan, King Of Denmark, at his Court in Copenhagen. From thence he traveled from Germany to Italy, and in 1512 he took Doctor's degree in medicine at Padua University.

Little is known of Skaryna's life from 1512 to 1517, but it is surmised that he devoted the years to the study of the techniques of printing and engraving, possibly in Venice, Nuremberg, and Ausburg. He must also have begun to prepare his monumental work, the translation of the Bible [into Eastern Church Slavonic and Belarusian], the greater part of which he printed and published in Prague from 1517-19. Skaryna then returned to Vilna where from 1525-27 he published the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and a collection of prayers entitled Malaja Padarozhnaja Knizhica (Little Itinerary Book). Some time after completing his work he is thought to have visited Moscow, though as a "heretic Lithuanian" he was given a poor welcome by the authorities and the Muscovites publicly burned his books." ...


Polatsk, Belarus had been a major center for Slavonic Orthodox chant composition and study as early as the 10th century C.E.

Franciszak Skaryna (Франці'шак (Францыск) Скары'на) was famous as the printer of the first book in an Eastern Slavic language (Eastern Church Slavonic and Belarusian).

Text and image credit: Guy De Picarda and the Virtual Guide to Belarus - a collaborative project of Belarusian scientists and professionals abroad.

(Also see

The Franciszak Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum of London's Music Division

"The global revolution in instant electronic communication has opened up new horizons for commercial and scientific progress. But it has yet to create better understanding between cultures.

The rapid intrusion of western television and internet marketing into non-western regions has aroused appetites and stimulated curiosity. But it has also intensified a desire in developing nations to assert, with increasing forcefulness, the uniqueness of their own indigenous religions, cultures, and historic identities."...

Librarian of Congress James Billington "A digital library that all nations can learn from" Financial Times, November 27, 2005.


"The Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum music section contains important printed and ms. material. For historical reasons this is principally vocal. Early church music is represented by a valuable collection of ms. extracts from the Suprasl (1598) and Zhyrovitsy Irmalohia, two Bahahlasniki (Vilna 1912 in photocopy; Warsaw 1935), and collections of printed and ms. liturgical pieces by composers of the early national school, M. Antsau, A. Turankou, M. Ravienski and M. Kulikovich-Shchahlou.

Polyphonic settings of folksongs, romances and lieder are included in A. Hrynievich's Bielaruskija piesni z notami (Vilna 1910), Ul. Terauski's Bielaruski lirnik (Berlin 1922), M. Ravienski's Zbornik piesien z notami (Minsk 1922 in photocopy), H. Shyrma's Zbornik narodnych piesniau (Vilna 1929 in photocopy), songs printed in Riga in 1942 by K. Jezavitau, M. Kulikovich-Shchahlou's Iunatski spieunik (Minsk 1943), the Belarusian Scouting Association's Spieunik (Watenstedt 1948), collections of songs, mainly by Kulikovich, published in Cleveland by K. Kisly and Ul. Duniec in the 1950s. Soviet collections of choral music include H. Shyrma's classic 3-vol. Bielaruskiia narodnyia piesni (Minsk 1959-61), vol. 3 of N. Aladau's Khrestomatiia po belorusskoi muzykal'noi literature (Minsk 1961), the anthologies by V. Rouda of Belarusian choral and operatic works (Minsk 1971-81), as well as smaller collections of songs by leading Belarusian composers.

The manuscript collection consists largely of the material bequeathed by Nadzieia Hradé, widow of the composer M. Kulikovich-Shchahlou. This includes the scores of his operas Katsiaryna (1939), Liasnoie voziera (1942) and Usiaslau Charadziei Kniaz Polatski (1944). There are also mss. by the composers Karpovich, M. Ravienski and Niadzviedzki (P. Zvonny) writing in emigration."

Franciszak Skaryna, Renaissance Scholar, Humanist, Printer, Court Doctor, and Gardener, 1486 - c1540.

After 1991, the name of the main boulevard in Minsk, Belarus, was changed from Lenin Boulevard to Skaryna Boulevard. [Has this name change now been reversed?]

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Pakistan Earthquake and the Frigid Himalayan Winter

"The head of the U.N. refugee agency said Thursday he was concerned about the fate of more than 40,000 highland quake survivors expected to flee their mountain villages as the frigid Himalayan winter arrives.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres urged local officials and the international aid community to urgently prepare for the arrival of thousands of people fleeing harsh conditions and said the world must ensure that villagers who choose to remain in the ruins of their homes get the help they need to survive the next few months.

"We are doing our best to ensure that everybody, even in the most remote locations, gets enough support to face the winter and to get through the winter without tragedy," he said."

Associated Press "U.N. Pleads for Pakistan Relief Aid 40,000 Quake Survivors May Flee Mountains as Winter Arrives" November 25, 2005.


I-Pods become obsolete over time; connectedness does not.

P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013

151 Ellis St. NE
Atlanta, Ga. 30303-2439

Photo credit: Goran Tomasevic and Reuters via

National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial - A Physical And A Living Memorial

"Most of the presidential memorials we know best, such as the Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson memorials, are physical monuments or statues within monuments. Their entire presence consists of a physical structure as a permanent remembrance of the president they represent.

There are also official presidential memorials that have no physical presence. An example of a presidential living memorial is the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Located in Washington, DC, the Wilson Center has no dominant physical public presence, but operates from leased space to unite the world of ideas to the world of policy by supporting pre-eminent scholarship linked to issues of contemporary importance. In this way the living memorial perpetuates President Wilson’s legacy of scholarship linked closely to international relations.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is an example of an official presidential memorial that has both a physical element, a striking building in Washington, DC, and a living element, an ongoing series of live theatrical performances, presented in the name of a fallen president.

When the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission resolved that the memorial should combine physical and living elements, it did not specify how these elements should be combined. Perhaps a physical structure could house an organization or a monument could be erected with an active organization operating elsewhere. In either case, there will be a physical structure and an ongoing organization carrying out programs in furtherance of President Eisenhower’s lifetime legacy of public service. The actual design questions remain open to those who will offer concepts."

Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission

FDR Memorial, Washington, D.C. Environmental Design by Lawrence Halprin and Sculpture of FDR and Fala by Neil Estern. Mr Estern also created a figurative sculpture depicting Eleanor Roosevelt standing in front of a seal of the United Nations in commemoration of her role as one of the first U.S. delegates to the U.N. This statue represents the first time a First Lady has been so honored in a presidential memorial.

"Lawrence Halprin was selected by the FDR Memorial Commission in 1974 to design the FDR Memorial. His design, encompassing 7.5 acres in a park-like setting, fits within the 1901 McMillan plan, identifying sites for Presidential Memorials and Monuments.

The work of Mr. Halprin is one of the most celebrated among environmental designers. His projects range from designs for rapid transit systems to university campuses, from new cities to civic redevelopment, from large-scale land developments and inner-city parks to small private gardens. Among them are Sea Ranch on California's central coast, representing the application of town planning principles to an exquisite rural landscape designed with extraordinary sensitivity to the natural environment; San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square, which involved restoring old buildings for new uses; Seattle's Freeway park, a sensitive re-making of a freeway into recreational space; and the Walter & Elise Haas Promenade in Israel, a 1-1/2 mile stone walkway overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.

Mr. Halprin has moved outside and beyond the confines traditionally imposed by the field of landscape architects, working on a variety of scale. He creates urban renaissance where open spaces are designed to perform ecologically for the good of the community."

Text and Photo credit: National Park Service

Where Is Our Shining City On The Hilltop?

"I don't think Americans realize how much we have tarnished [our own] ideals in the eyes of the rest of the world these past few years. The public opinion polls tell us that America isn't just disliked or feared overseas -- it is reviled. We are seen as hypocrites who boast of our democratic values but who behave lawlessly and with contempt for others. I hate this America-bashing, but when I try to defend the United States and its values in my travels abroad, I find foreigners increasingly are dismissive. How do you deny the reality of Abu Ghraib, they ask, when the vice president of the United States is actively lobbying against rules that would ban torture?

Of all the reversals the United States has suffered in recent years, this may be the worst. We are slowly shredding the fabric that defines what it means to be an American.

Not so long ago our country really was seen as different. Foreigners queued up outside any institution that called itself an "American university," hoping for a chance at their piece of the dream." ...

David Ignatius "Replant the American Dream" Washington Post November 25, 2005.

From the sketchbook attributed to the early Renaissance Milanese painter, illuminator, sculptor, and architect Giovannino de’ Grassi (d. 1398) [detail].

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Where Is Our Peaceable Kingdom?

From the sketchbook attributed to the early Renaissance Milanese painter, illuminator, sculptor, and architect Giovannino de’ Grassi (d. 1398).

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

(And with thanks to anonymous).

Roman Catholic Church of St. Simeon and St. Helen (Red Church), Central Minsk, Belarus

Photo credit: Archives of the Government of Belarus. ekultz/eminsk.htm

The Search For Reconciliation in Church Building -- Minsk, Belarus and Nagasaki, Japan

"According to a legend, Helen Wojnilowicz, [of Minsk, Belarus and eighteen years old],being seriously ill and feeling death, had a dream. She dreamed about an angel who showed her an incredibly wonderful temple. Next morning Helen drew the temple and asked her parents to build such a church after her death.

After Helen – the last hope of the family [her young brother having died before her]–left the earth [on the day before her nineteenth birthday], Edward and Olympia Wojnilowicz made the decision to donate their wealth for constructing a Roman Catholic Church provided the church would be built according to their own project and nobody would interfere in the process of the construction.

For a long time Edward Wojnilowicz looked for an architect capable of making the dream a reality. At that time Art Nouveau and Neogothic styles dominated in Roman Catholic architecture. Expression and decorations of medieval Catholic Gothic style were opposed to the strict canons of Russian [and Belarussian] Orthodox Classicism. However, Edward Wojnilowicz searched for reconciliation, not confrontation [between the Catholic and Orthodox faiths in Belarus]. He chose a Roman style which flourished when the Eastern church was not separated from Rome.

Edward and Olimpia Wojnilowicz donated large funds to build a church in memory of their children. Construction work began in 1905. In November 1910, the St. Simon and St. Helena Church was solemnly consecrated [in Central Minsk, Belarus].

In September 1996, a statue of the Archangel Michael killing the Dragon was erected in front of Red Church [the St. Simon and St. Helena Church]. The bronze statue 4.5 meters high, represents the archangel Michael as a symbol of the victory and glory of Heaven.

In the Fall of 2000, a memorial composition of the Japanese Nagasaki bell was installed close to the Red Church. The bell represents a copy of the original bell named Angel from Urakami Cathedral that was destroyed during the nuclear bombing of August 9, 1945. The composition was given as a gift to Red Church and the Belarusian people by the diocese of the Roman Catholic Church of the city of Nagasaki (Japan)."

Source: www/

In Nagasaki, Japan, the Urakami Cathedral — a Romanesque-style building of brick and stone —was completed in 1925 after some 30 years of work. It was the largest Christian Church in the Orient. It was destroyed during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The rebuilt Cathedral was reopened in 1959

Librarian Of Congress James Billington On Libraries And The Recovery Of Distinctive Elements Of National Cultures

"Libraries are inherently islands of freedom and antidotes to fanaticism. They are temples of pluralism where books that contradict one another stand peacefully side by side just as intellectual antagonists work peacefully next to each other in reading rooms. It is legitimate and in our nation's interest that the new technology be used internationally, both by the private sector to promote economic enterprise and by the public sector to promote democratic institutions. But it is also necessary that America have a more inclusive foreign cultural policy -- and not just to blunt charges that we are insensitive cultural imperialists. We have an opportunity and an obligation to form a private-public partnership to use this new technology to celebrate the cultural variety of the world.

Through a World Digital Library, the rich store of the world's culture could be provided in a form more universally accessible than ever before. An American partnership in promoting such a project for UNESCO would show how we are helping other people recover distinctive elements of their cultures through a shared enterprise that may also help them discover more about the experience of our own and other free cultures."

Librarian of Congress James Billington "A Library for The New World" Washington Post, November 22, 2005.

Vienna, Austria, Ephesus Museum, Statues from the Ancient Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey: Sophia (Wisdom) and Arete (Excellence)

Photo credit: (c) Professor E.W. Leach and the Trustees of Indiana University.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Henry Kissinger On The Atlanticist Community And The 21st Century

"Mistakes were made on both sides of the Atlantic. The proclamation by the Bush administration of a new strategic doctrine of preemptive war was one of them. The doctrine was intellectually defensible in light of changed technology, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism. But announcing unilaterally what appeared as a radical change of doctrine ran counter to traditional alliance practice.

In the end, the issue of multilateralism vs. unilateralism does not concern procedure but substance. When purposes are parallel, multilateral decision follows nearly automatically. When they diverge, multilateral decision making turns into an empty shell. The challenge to the Atlantic Alliance has been less the abandonment of procedure than the gradual evaporation of a sense of common destiny.

Both sides seem committed to restoring a more positive collaboration....

With her systematic scientist's approach, Merkel will avoid choosing between Atlanticism and Europe or confusing sentimental moves toward Russia with grand strategy. Matter-of-fact, serious and thoughtful, she will strive to be a partner for a set of relationships appropriate to the new international order -- one that refuses to choose between France and the United States but rather establishes a framework embracing both.... Scope needs to be left for the elaboration of a German view of the future.

The key challenge before the Atlantic nations is to develop a new sense of common destiny in the age of jihad, the rise of Asia, and the emerging universal problems of poverty, pandemics and energy, among many others."

Henry A. Kissinger "Will Germany's Coalition Work?" Washington Post, November 22, 2005.

Farny Cathedral [Franciscan], Grodno, Belarus. First completed in 1705.

Grodno was largely spared the massive destruction inflicted upon other Belarusan cities, by the Nazis, in the Second World World. The western city contains some of the oldest and finest Orthodox and Catholic religious structures in Belarus, with some Orthodox Church structures dating back to the 11th century. Belarus, in the 11th century, was the major center for the development of Slavonic Orthodox musical chant.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Expedia, Inc. and UN Foundation Launch World Heritage Alliance ( ...Get Me My Lawyer!...)

18 November 2005

"Expedia, Inc. and the United Nations Foundation announced the launch of the World Heritage Alliance, an innovative joint initiative to promote
sustainable tourism and awareness of World Heritage sites and communities around the world. This partnership believes conscientious travelers can contribute directly to nature conservation, historic preservation, and poverty reduction through sustainable tourism.

"As one of the world's leading travel service providers, Expedia has the unique privilege of helping educate our customers, suppliers, and employees about the importance of sustainable tourism," said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia, Inc. "By working with the UN Foundation to found the World Heritage Alliance, we hope to expand our customers' travel horizons and help preserve our world's treasures for current and future generations to enjoy."

There are currently 812 designated World Heritage sites that span 137 countries and offer an extraordinary range of travel experiences. These sites have been internationally recognized for their outstanding value and are protected by the 1972 World Heritage Convention, signed by 180 countries and
administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

World Heritage sites include many of the most iconic travel spots on the planet, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; the Egyptian Pyramids; the Taj Mahal in India; England's Stonehenge; the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador; and 20 sites in the United States, including Yellowstone and the Statue of Liberty. But the list also encompasses scores of lesser-known places of singular importance, including Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the Buddhist Borobudur Temple Compounds in Central Java, Indonesia; the archaeologically rich Orkhon Valley in Mongolia; and the sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand, home to more than 125 separate species of birds.

The World Heritage Alliance aims to:

Inspire Travelers to Explore and Experience More
New trips to World Heritage sites are currently available through, as well as the,, and
websites. The profits from the designated World Heritage trips booked on the Expedia websites will be donated to the Friends of World Heritage -- an initiative with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre -- for investment in local community projects at World Heritage sites in need...."


For more information, please visit:
-- Friends of World Heritage:
-- Expedia, Inc.:
-- World Heritage Alliance:
-- United Nations Foundation:
-- Renaissance Research:

Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh, Belarus. UNESCO World Heritage Inscription, July 2005.
(The Radziwill Palace in Warsaw, Poland, is currently used as the Executive Offices of the President ["White House"]).

UNESCO Justification for Inscription:

Criterion (ii): The architectural, residential and cultural complex of the Radziwill family at Nesvizh was the cradle for inoculation of new concepts based on the synthesis of the Western traditions, leading to the establishment of a new architectural school in Central Europe.

Criterion (iv): The Radziwill complex represents an important stage in the development of building typology in the history of architecture of the Central Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. This concerned particularly the Corpus Christi Church with its typology related to cross-cupola basilica.

Criterion (vi): The Radziwill family was particularly significant for being associated with the interpretation of the influences from Southern and Western Europe and the transmission of the ideas in the Central and Eastern Europe.

Text and Photo credit:

Einstein Explains the Equivalence of Energy and Matter

"It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing -- a somewhat unfamilar conception for the average mind. Furthermore, the equation E is equal to m c-squared, in which energy is put equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa. The mass and energy were in fact equivalent, according to the formula mentioned before. This was demonstrated by Cockcroft and Walton in 1932, experimentally."

To listen to Albert Einstein explain his famous formula:

From the soundtrack of the film, Atomic Physics
copyright © J. Arthur Rank Organization, Ltd., 1948.

Source: (c) American Institute of Physics

"This exceptional image of the Horsehead nebula was taken at the National Science Foundation's 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak with the NOAO Mosaic CCD camera. Located in the constellation of Orion, the Hunter, the Horsehead is part of a dense cloud of gas in front of an active star-forming nebula known as IC434. The nebulosity of the Horsehead is believed to be excited by the bright star Sigma Orionis, which is located above the top of the image. Just off the left side of the image is the bright star Zeta Orionis, which is the easternmost of the three stars that form Orion's belt. Zeta Orionis is a foreground star, and is not related to the nebula. The streaks in the nebulosity that extend above the Horsehead are likely due to magnetic fields within the nebula. Close study reveals that many more stars are visible in the top half of the image. Stars in the lower half of the image are obscured by a dark cloud of hydrogen gas. The edge of this large cloud is the horizontal strip of glowing gas that bisects the image. The Horsehead is located about 1,600 light-years away from Earth. The area shown in this image is quite large on the sky, covering about five times the area of the full Moon. This false-color image was created by combining emission-line images taken in hydrogen-alpha (red), oxygen [OIII] (green) and sulfur [SII] (blue)."

Text and Photo credit: T.A.Rector (NOAO/AURA/NSF) and Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA/NASA)

Friday, November 18, 2005

New Sports Stadia For The Post-Industrial World

"A much-anticipated design for a new home for the Washington Nationals [baseball team] features glass, stone and steel as the primary materials and departs sharply from the popular red-brick throwback ballparks.

The design will not be released for several weeks and still could be modified, but Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and key city officials have given the nod to the modern look.

In briefings over the past week, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission presented a projector show to Williams and several D.C. Council members containing drawings developed by the stadium's architectural team, led by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Sport of Kansas City, Mo.

The stadium, ... will be along the Anacostia River in near Southeast [five blocks north of a site for planned luxury condominiums]."

David Nakamura "Stadium's Modern Design Is Clear Winner on Council" Washington Post, November 18, 2005.

Turin, Italy, XX Winter Olympics (2006) Ice Hockey Stadium by Arata Isozaki/Archa and Arup.

"The design can accommodate up to 12,500 spectators during the ice hockey games with a maximum capacity of 17,500 for post-Olympics flexibility use. Its large structural roof spans of up to 90m and limited number of main supports means that stadium will have a high degree of flexibility for different uses. The services strategy for the building minimises energy demand and ensures that the environment can be easily adapted to suit the many uses of the building, ranging from ice hockey to exhibitions and concerts. This unique stainless facade is composed of glass "window slots": these not only allow natural light in the building, but also break the continuity of the stainless steel. During the Olympics, the windows will be covered to provide professional ice-hockey conditions."

Text and Photo credit:

Washington, D.C. and Minsk, Belarus: Avenues, Squares, and Circles 1800 and 1950

Pierre L'Enfant's plan for Washington, D.C. -- avenues, squares, and circles -- is often held up as a model of very late 18th c. Enlightenment urban planning -- in Washington's case, planning for a city from scratch. Then the are the imposed U.S. rectangular urban grid patterns so well known from Manhattan and most American cities which first developed largely in the 19th century.

Kharkiv, Ukraine, a capital of the eastern part of that country, first grew rapidily under industrialization in the second half of the 19th c., but then received an injection of Soviet Futurist or Constructivist urban planning in the 1920s.

Minsk, Belarus, largely leveled by the Nazis in World War II, became in the 1950s a showcase for Soviet urban-planning, conducted on a highly rational, either neo-Enlightenment or Neo-Constructivist, basis. Here is a description of Minsk post-War urban planning, according to the Belarussian State University, in Minsk. Note the referrences to geometry, lines, squares, and circles:

"The decisive role in determining the urban development and architecture of Minsk was played by its status of the capital of Belarus as a major political, economic, and culture center, by its geo-economic situation at the crossroads of railroads, motorways and airlines. The street-pattern of the city is a "circular-radical" character and it has the following three noticeable features:

* the main city diameter is the Skorina Avenue [named after the founder of printing in Belarus in the 16th c.], crossing the city from the West to the East, being the most respectable neighborhood city axis, along which the main city squares are threaded (Independence Square, October Square, Victory Square, Y. Kolas Square, Kalinin Square), and the most important administrative, social, and recreation centers, as well as various services;

* the "green and blue" diameter (a kind of a belt formed by parks, public gardens, by a cascade of “green” reservoirs) cross the city from the North to South forming the main recreation zone;

* the system of three transport "circles", the largest of them, the circular suburban motorway, over 60 kilometers long, is a dimension limit for today's Minsk;...

Vast living zones were formed in the peripheral parts of the city by 1970-1980 ...

There are over 200 state-owned enterprises — plants, factories, works, science and production amalgamations. Their ‘age’ is mostly 20-50 years, but there are also “survivors” from the previous [19th] century."

Belarussian State University, Minsk, Belarus
[Click on photo for greater detail.]

Source and Photo credit: Belarussian State University, Minsk, Belarus

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Migrants Choosing the E.U. Over The U.S.

"Immigration and migration are among the hottest political topics today, particularly in Europe and the US. The World Bank is to be congratulated for having highlighted one issue in a report issued this week: the economics of money transfers by immigrants to their countries of origin. The figures revealed in the report are staggering, particularly the $167bn (£96bn, €142bn) that flowed to developing countries last year. These are just the official numbers. The real amounts may be larger.

The top destination for migrants is the European Union, currently with 71m, followed by the US with more than 40m. The top recipient countries of recorded remittances in the year were India with $21.7bn, China $21.2bn and Mexico $18bn. For some smaller, poorer countries, remittances amounted to more than 20 per cent of their gross domestic product. Worldwide, remittances are now growing at 8-9 per cent per annum."

Norman Lamont "Remittances are effective weapon against poverty" Financial Times, November 16, 2005.

Also see,

Part of the small, newly restored Old Town district of Minsk, Belarus.
[Click on picture for greater detail.]

Both Warsaw, Poland and Minsk, Belarus were virtually leveled by the Nazis during the Second World War. While Warsaw carefully rebuilt its two Old Towns starting in the 1950s (based upon 18th c. paintings in the Polish National Collection by Bernardo Bellotto -- Canaletto's nephew), Minsk rebuilt its smaller Old Town area in celebration of the city's 900th Anniversary in 1996.

Photo credit: Embassy of Belarus to Poland.

The pity of war, the pity war distilled

Memorial to the Soviet Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan, Minsk, Belarus
[Please click on image for greater detail.]

Photo credit: Embassy of Belarus to Poland

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

World Bank 2006 Global Economic Prospects Report

"Migration, though it has been with us for millennia, has only recently emerged as a way to reduce poverty in developing countries. The recent report by the Global Commission on International Migration urged that the role of migrants in economic growth and development be “recognised and ­reinforced”.

The World Bank’s 2006 Global Economic Prospects report, to be launched today, looks at how to enhance the poverty-reducing impact of remittances and migration. It follows another recently-published Bank research study, based on household surveys, that shows that remittances – which totalled $232bn (£133.6bn, €198.4bn) worldwide in 2005, of which $167bn went to developing countries – do reduce poverty."

World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President for Development Economics François Bourguignon "Migration can enrich all sides if interests are shared" Financial Times, November 15, 2005.


Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Kyiv, Ukraine, the oldest university in Eastern Europe.

"Established in the 17th century by the Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy became a widely respected educational institution and a centre for the development of Ukraine's first national political, cultural, and government elite. The Academy was closed in 1817 by the Russian tsarist government. In 1992, after a 175-year hiatus, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was reinstated as a secular teaching institution, becoming a symbol of the rebirth of independent Ukraine. The Academy was granted the status of "National University" in 1994. The Academy has become a centre for the promotion of democratic values in Ukraine, and its students are actively involved in the political life of the country. The Kyiv-Mohyla Academy is a bilingual institution: courses are taught in Ukrainian and English."

Photo and Academy text credit:

Birth Of An Opera

"[Sir Michael] Tippett set his tale on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice when, according to ancient legends and Shakespeare, all kinds of mystical creatures are afoot. Clearly, he modeled one set of lovers, Mark and Jenifer, on the noble lovers Tamino and Pamina who undergo fiery trials in Mozart's "The Magic Flute.'' Similar parallels between Tippett's more down-to-earth Bella and Jack and Papageno and Papagena of "Flute" are easy to see. But Tippett's emphasis on each character's need to reconcile such opposing forces within themselves as darkness and light, masculine and feminine, force and gentleness tries some listeners' patience.

[Director Sir Peter] Hall takes a more relaxed approach in a director's note written for [Chicago Lyric Opera's] program. He sees the opera as "a kind of dream -- what may happen to a young man's mind the night before he marries. 'The Midsummer Marriage' is a journey to find love, a journey to find whether one is capable of marriage. It isn't easy to start explaining everything because it is about instinct and emotion.''

"This was Tippett's first full-scale opera," said Roger Pines, Lyric's dramaturg. "In 1929, he created a realization of a ballad opera from 1729. Then he wrote a folk song opera and did two musical plays for children. But especially after 'A Child of Our Time' [written in 1939-41] -- with the importance of the chorus, with everything else in that piece -- it was inevitable that he would write opera.''

Wynne Delacoma "Mystical creatures, lovers drift through 'Midsummer'[Preview to the Chicago Lyric Opera Production] Chicago Sun-Times November 13, 2005.

(And with many thanks to Charles T. Downey at for this preview and image.)

Sir Michael Tippett Midsummer Marriage Covent Garden Production, 2005

Photo credit: Royal Covent Garden Opera, London, U.K.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Open Source Ware Symphonic Composition

The Library of Congress Music Division has made available, on-line, compositional sketches, and other materials, from the new Roger Reynolds Collection. The Collection is curated by music theorist and musicologist Stephen Soderberg.

Score and manuscript materials to compositions by distinguished American composer Roger Reynolds (b. 1934), including Transfigured Wind III, The angel of death, Symphony (Myths), and Whispers out of time [Pulitzer Prize for Music, 1989], are available on the site. Additionally, the site features an interview with Mr Reynolds, a recording of Transfigured Wind III, full documentation, and a photo gallery. See:

Below is the link to six manuscript sketches from Mr Reynold's Symphony (Myths):

Now, if Washington, D.C. had a fully functioning culture, the National Symphony Orchestra would program some of the works by Mr. Reynolds to celebrate the launch of the Library of Congress Music Division's humanist initiative.


For information on MIT's free, global OpenCourseWare, see:

"OpenCourseWare expresses in an immediate and far-reaching way MIT's goal of advancing education around the world. Through MIT OCW, educators and students everywhere can benefit from the academic activities of our faculty and join a global learning community in which knowledge and ideas are shared openly and freely for the benefit of all."

- Susan Hockfield, President of MIT

Page 1 of 6 compositional sketches to Roger Reynolds's Symphony (Myths); not soon to be performed by the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.).

Photo source and credit: (c) Roger Reynolds. Credit to Stephen Soderberg and the technical staff of the Music Division, Library of Congress.

Thirty Minutes of Silence (Estonia, Finland, Slovakia, Lapland)

Thirty Minutes of Silence (Estonia, Finland, Slovakia, Lapland)
Director/Producer: Ove Musting

"A famous conductor returns to his homeland after a 30-year exile to conduct a local symphony orchestra on his 50th anniversary. But from now on, the indebted orchestra will be sponsored by a railway company which demands that train sounds be incorporated into the symphony."

In conjunction with the EU Film Showcase (November 8 – 20) at the AFI Silver, the Goethe-Institut presents a true European collaboration in film. Eight multinational European film teams explore and celebrate the cultural diversity of the new Europe.

Thursday, 17 November 2005, 6:30 pm
Goethe-Institut Washington, GoetheForum
English subtitles

Lviv, Ukraine Train Station (The actual one, built by the Austro-Hungarians in 1904, and not the proxy one featured in the film version of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated).

Photo credit:

Monday, November 14, 2005

Anchiskhati Choir from Tbilisi, Georgia

The Anchiskhati Choir from Georgia (Eastern Europe) -- the world's leading exponent of Georgian polyphonic choral music -- will be performing two concerts this week in Washington, D.C., and will also be conducting an afternoon workshop. Additionally, there is a musicological lecture on Georgian and Caucasian music this Thursday, at noon, at the Library of Congress. (contact 202 707-2743)

When not touring, the Choir sings weekly at the famous 6th c. Anchiskhati Church in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The concert dates in this area are November 16 at 7 PM at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist ( on upper 17th Street, N.W.), and November 20, at Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral on Massachusetts Avenue (concert at 8 PM; workshop from 2:30 to 4:30 PM).

Full details of the Choirs Fall 2005 American tour is available at:


With thanks to singer and musicologist David Gillman; the ensemble's facilitator in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Anchiskhati Church Tblisi, Georgia

Photo credit:

The Ring Dance of the Nazarene

"[Sir] Harrison Birtwistle has been shortlisted for not just one, but two British Composer Awards [by the British Academy of Composers & Songwriters].

The avant-gardist features in both the Orchestral award nominations, for his Night's Black Bird and in the Choral category, for his The Ring Dance of the Nazarene.

Also up for two awards is Judith Weir, whose Piano Trio Two is shortlisted in the Chamber category and her wackily-titled Rain and Mist are on the Mountain, I'd Better Buy Some Shoes in the Instrumental Solo and Duo category.

The Awards are set to take place on Friday, 9 December in London, and broadcast on Radio 3 the following Monday, 12 December.

The full shortlists are at:

Source: BBC Music Magazine "British Composer Awards shortlists announced" November 8, 2005.

Walker Evans Church of the Nazarene (Tennessee) 1936

Photo credit: Material History of American Religion Project
Picturing Faith: Religious America in Government Photography, 1935 - 1943

American Music: Looking Toward The Future?

"In St. Louis, David Robertson has attempted to transform the symphony practically overnight with the most adventurous programming in the country, more daring than that in Los Angeles or San Francisco. And by opening night, he had already motivated the most miserable musicians in any major American orchestra (at least to hear them publicly complain); turned on teenagers as well as dowagers; and begun reaching deep into a racially divided community.

Driving around that autumn afternoon, I saw many appealing signs of urban renewal in this fine old city on the Mississippi. In the loft district, once-spectacular industrial buildings have lately become spectacularly livable. I strolled through Forest Park, one of the loveliest city parks in America (where everything, including museum admission, is free).

Then came the orchestra's exciting, illuminating and decidedly strange concert in Powell Symphony Hall. A handsome, acoustically acceptable former movie palace, the Powell is the centerpiece of a newly designated arts district that has attracted interesting galleries and theaters and a first-rate jazz club (where anyone attending the symphony gets a discount and where Robertson is a regular).

But the next morning, I saw a different St. Louis from a cab on the way to the airport. The driver, a jazz drummer, knew what the symphony was up to and was pleased and impressed that Robertson, whose eclecticism would have put Leonard Bernstein to shame, is a jazz buff and had invited the Wayne Shorter Quartet to perform with the orchestra the following week. He was well acquainted with gentrification and politicians' boasts.

Yet he trusted no one's motives and had little good to say about the city. Insisting I see another side of it, he turned off the meter and took a detour through some of the worst parts of town. He pointed out the drug dealers. The terrible poverty needed no pointing out.

"You hear all about New Orleans," he said, "but this is no better. This is New Orleans. You tell me how David Robertson can change this. How anybody can change this."

The restoration of a great city is hardly a job for the music director of a symphony orchestra, no matter how inspired or inspiring. But symphony orchestras are also small societies and can serve as models for larger ones....(The New York Philharmonic clearly has its eye and ear on [Robertson] as a potential successor to Lorin Maazel, who is scheduled to step down in 2009).

Mark Swed "Classical Music: Urbane renewal" Los Angeles Times November 13, 2005.

Albert Bierstadt, Untitled, 1859

Photo credit: Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley.

Choral Music: Looking Largely To The Past

I very much enjoyed the National Cathedral Choral Society's - under J. Reilly Lewis - performance yesterday of Arnold Schoenberg's Kol Nidre and, in a Washington premiere, Eric Ziesl's Requiem Ebraico, a work from 1944 dedicated to Mr Ziesl's father and other victims of the Jewish Holocaust. (This Requiem is a setting of Psalm 92.) It was an exquisite 32 minutes of music -- 12 minutes for the Schoenberg and 20 minutes for the Ziesl. (I had a conflict and missed the first half of the late afternoon concert.) The program note concerning the difficult meaning of the Kol Nidre prayer was well written, and it quoted from the late Washington, D.C. composer Herman Berlinsky, himself a missed humanist musical presence on the Washington musical and cultural scene.

I came home, and after dinner, listened a third time to Steve Reich's new choral "Are You? Variations", on Nonesuch, premiered last year by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Set to English and Hebrew texts, this almost 30 minute work, I believe, qualifies as a contemporary (cubist) choral near-masterpiece. The Schoenberg and Ziesl works are absolute masterpieces.


Tonight, Gilbert Levine leads the Orchestra of Saint Luke's and the Morgan State University Chorus in a free performance at the National Catholic Shrine, of Beethoven's Symphony #9 and the world premiere of Richard Danielpour's Washington Speaks, with narrator Ted Koppel. This concert is in celebration of the 1965 Papal Nostra Aetate, proclaimed to set forth the Catholic Church's position toward Non-Christian religions -- in turn, Buddhists, Moslems, and Jews (an interesting order).

From the tonight's concert program note:

“The illuminating Ode by Schiller, so impressively set to music by Beethoven, is characterized by the humanism of that time, which places man at the center and — where there is a reference to God — prefers the language of myth. Nevertheless, one should not forget that Beethoven is also the composer of the Missa Solemnis. The good Father, of which the Ode speaks, is not so much a supposition, as Schiller’s text might suggest, but rather, an ultimate certainty. And thus, we can clearly see the divine spark, of whose joy the Ode speaks, as that spark of God which is communicated to us through the music and reassures us: yes the good Father truly exists and is not utterly remote, but is here in our midst." [Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 2003].

Thus the choice of the major work on our program was perfectly clear. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is our touchstone as it reaches toward the universal brotherhood of all mankind. It portrays our soul’s struggle to find meaning, asks the question in Movement I, portrays the struggle in Movement II, shows the profound illumination of the answer that is God in Movement III and bursts forth in song—the very first time in any symphony—to give voice to our universality as mankind in the famous “Ode to Joy.”

It is important and fitting that our national concert “Rejoice In This Land” include not only an American work but also a world première. We set out first to identify a text that was uniquely American.We found it very close to home in the words of our first president, George Washington. Over the course of his public life, he wrote missives of tolerance and religious freedom to the Catholic community, the non-Catholic Christian community, the Quakers and the Jewish communities of our nascent American land. Excerpts from these letters were selected and then set to music by the extraordinarily gifted major American composer Richard Danielpour. Therefore, tonight’s concert encompasses the old and the new, Beethoven and Danielpour."...

Program Note (including text of Nostra Aetate):

Washington National Catholic Shrine Mosaic Pancrator.

Photo credit: Arlington Catholic Herald.

Friday, November 11, 2005

National Medals To James DePriest, Wynton Marsalis, and Paquito D'Rivera

Congratulations to conductor James DePriest, jazz musician and composer Wynton Marsalis, and jazz musician and composer Paquito D'Rivera (among others) for their National Medals for the Arts, awarded yesterday in the Oval Office by President George Bush. I hope that all of these artists will be collaborating with the National Symphony and the Washington National Opera in the near future -- both in live performances and in music conservatory-level master classes.

James DePriest

Photo Credit: Columbia University

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Extra! Extra! A Female Conductor To Lead Vienna Philharmonic!

An Australian woman has broken one of the world's last bastions of male domination by being named the first woman to conduct the prestigious Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.

Sydney born Simone Young will take the baton this Sunday, becoming the first female to conduct the 156-year-old orchestra.

The Vienna Philharmonic was ordered to accept women in 1997 if it wanted to continue getting state subsidies, but although technically open to female musicians it continued to keep them out by claiming aspiring female musicians were not up to standard.

Ms Young's appointment was welcomed in musical circles where the orchestra's male only policy was branded sexist and out of date.

Of the two concerts scheduled for November 12 and 13 in the Wiener Musikverein, the site of the famous new Year's concert, Ms Young will conduct Leonard Bernstein's Overture to Candide, Aaron Copland's Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra and excerpts from Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Robert Schumann's Symphony Number Four."...

Source: AAR Seven News (Australia) "Aussie is Vienna's first woman conductor" November 9, 2005.

Funereal Sculpture of Peter I. Chaikovsky and Two Female Figures in the Tikhvin Cemetery (Тихвинское кладбище) located in the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, (St.) Petersburg, Russia.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

November 8, 1960...

... Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy defeats Vice President Richard M. Nixon for the Presidency of the United States.

President John F. Kennedy was a lifelong supporter and advocate of the arts, and frequently steered the public discourse toward what he called "our contribution to the human spirit."

"I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit."

-- John F. Kennedy

Photo credit: (c) Y. S. Kim 2004 from his Music Page

Life on Earth: The Year Is '42

Please see On An Overgrown Path's post on Ukrainian-born writer
Nella Bielski's new novel The Year is '42, which places the
setting of this new novel within the context of the major world
classical music compositional events during those terrible war years.


Other books newly purchased this past weekend, but as of yet unread:

Czeslaw Milosz's new volume of Warsaw war-time essays and letter-essays; and Stephan Wackwitz's new Sebald-like memoir An Invisible Country.

Dr Wackwitz has most recently been director of the Goethe Institutes of Krakow, Poland and Bratislava, Slovak Republic.

Lucy Beckett on "Czeslaw Milosz reappraised" TLS October 18, 2005.

Szetejnie, a rural town in Lithuania. Birthplace of Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004).

Photo credit: Anna Supruniuk, Universitas Nicolai Copernici, Torun, Poland.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Life on Earth: Mir, Belarus

Town Center, Mir, Belarus, ca. 1910

(The Radziwill Palace Complex at Mir, Belarus -- founded in the 14th Century -- has been, since 2000, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.)

"Jews were involved in local trade and in the fairs held in Mir twice a year. Jews from all parts of Poland and Lithuania came to the fairs at Mir to trade furs, horses, oxen, spices, grain, textiles, tobacco and wine. Jews were also the carters whose wagons moved the traded items.

Encyclopedia Judaica reports that from 1673 the taxes owed by the Jews of Lithuania to state institutions and debts to other creditors were occasionally collected at the Mir fairs. In 1685, after complaints by the Jewish representatives, Catherine Sapieha of the Radziwill family instructed the administrator of the town to respect the rights of the Jews and to refrain from dispensing justice or arbitrating in their internal affairs.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Jewish population continued to increase, as evidenced by the records of Jewish contributions to the poll tax. There are also records which indicate that merchants of Mir were in communication with Leipzig, Koenigsberg, Memel and Libau. There were over eight hundred Jews in Mir by 1806. Some were tailors, goldsmiths, cord-makers and merchants. In the 65 nearby villages there were fewer than 500 Jews in 1818. By the end of the 19th century, there were more than 3,000 Jews in Mir (62% of the town population). Most were craftsmen such as scribes, carters, butchers, and tailors, but the upper class Jews were merchants dealing with wood, grain, horses and textiles.

By the middle of the 19th century, people in Mir were poor. According to an official newspaper in the Minsk Guberniya that reported on poverty in each town of every district , Mir had a population of 1464 in 1858. Of those 1200 were considered poor. But the Jews built a wooden synagogue which was used for about 50 years before it was destroyed by fire in 1901.

Jews were leaving Mir in significant numbers by the end of the 19th century. They emigrated to escape pogroms and poverty. Some went to large cities in the eastern United States. Others went to small towns in the Midwest where the climate and geography were much like their homeland and economic opportunities were not so limited."

Source: "A History of the Jews of Mir, Belarus" compiled by R. Kimble at

Photo credit: Collection of Joseph Jacobson via R. Kimble at Mirweb.

The King Speaks To The Cook About The Edible Schoolyard

Having pulled themselves away from the swank Point
Reyes Station Saloon, in Northern California, Prince
Charles and Camilla are expected, this morning, to
visit Berkeley's Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle
School experimental organic foods garden -- The
Edible Foodyard -- founded by Alice Waters of Berkeley's Chez
Panisse fame.

And I think of all the fatty, unhealthful food that I
ate as a high school student on both American coasts;
and the disgraceful and greedy role of junk-food machines
on public school campuses throughout the world.

Alice Waters and Berkeley Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School Students and Gardeners.

Photo credit: Thomas Heinser via

Friday, November 04, 2005

Babi Leto (Women's Summer Or Indian Summer)

Seneca Creek State Park, Maryland

Photo credit: Eileen McVey via the Library of Congress

Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis National Art Museum, Kaunus, Lithuania

The Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis National Art Museum, Kaunus, Lithuania, collects, keeps, investigates and popularizes M. K. Ciurlionis' (1875–1911) creative works, a cultural heritage of Lithuania and the world.

Photo credit: The National M. K. Ciurlionis Museum of Art

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Eid al Fitr

Islamic Center of Washington D.C., designed by architect Mario Rossi and built in 1950.

Photo credit: Aga Khan Visual Archive, M.I.T.

Building Bridges To The Twentieth Century -- And To Audiences

"In the last 15 years I think the quality of what one writes is critical because we're trying to build bridges back to the audience which we've lost. That's a good thing, but it can also involve throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

"There are a lot of things that audiences find very difficult, from the Second Viennese School right up to Stockhausen, and a lot of lessons to be learned from that music that shouldn't be chucked out.

"The richest tonal music being written today -- which is by John Adams, David Del Tredici and others -- is by composers with the most sophisticated awareness of what preceded them. They have worked through that in a very rigorous way, and I would like to think I have been similarly rigorous in working through the things that have made me what I am today -- the architectural aspect of Britten's music, or the detailing and formal structure in a composer like Berg, or the unbelievable careful patterning in Ligeti and Boulez."

Composer/Conductor Oliver Knussen quoted in Joshua Kosman "Conductor has a passion for precision, but hitting deadlines just isn't his thing" San Francisco Chronicle November 3, 2005.

Composer/Painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, Tiesa, 1905

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Geography of Found Sound

Sound Art by Alberto Gaitan, Richard Chartier, Robin Rose, Joseph Grigely, Brandon Morse, Helmut Kopetzky and Alex Van Oss, Jennie C. Jones, and Harry Shearer is temporarily changing our perception of the Washington downtown urban-scape -- including the revived 14th Street Corridor long scarred by the 1968 racial riots following the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.. Curated by Welmoed Lannstra, and with an Essay by Nora Halpern, the project extends through November 5.

Sound samples by Gaitan, Jones, and Morse available at

1515 14th Street, focus of a new Washington D.C. art hotspot

The Geography of Sacred Belief

Ulica Lipowa Cemetary, Lublin, Poland

"This is about mid-day on All Souls Day [November 2]. By the same time the next day, there [will be] about 100% more flowers and far more candles."

Photo credit:

Another New Tradition For The Washington National Opera?

"The trustees of Washington National Opera are giving a gift to the citizens of Washington, D.C. -- a special big-screen simulcast performance of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess on the National Mall, Sunday, November 6 at 2:00 p.m. WNO will transmit the performance of Porgy live from the Kennedy Center stage to a huge 18' x 32' LED video screen located near the Capitol, marking the first time a live performance has ever been transmitted to the Mall. Thousands of people are expected to bundle up as they do for football games and gather on the Mall to watch and listen to a spectacular performance of America's most popular opera, highlighted by almost a dozen of Gershwin's gorgeous melodies such as "Summertime," "It Ain't Necessarily So," and "Bess, You Is My Woman Now." ...

General Director Plácido Domingo stated, "Opera is for everyone, of all ages and backgrounds. It's an amazing experience--an art form full of glorious music, passion, and spectacle. As the General Director of Washington National Opera for the last ten years, I join the Opera's trustees in giving the city the gift of this marvelous free simulcast performance on the National Mall. You will know all the music and you will hear some of the greatest African-American singers in the world. I am very happy that thousands of people will be able to enjoy this opera for free. I hope this is the beginning of a new tradition for Washington National Opera!"

Source: http://www.dc

Thank you WNO President Michael R. Sonnenreich, WNO Trustees, and WNO General Director Plácido Domingo. This is indeed a promising new tradition. At the same time, I hope that the Washington National Opera will continue to honor its commitment to program one American opera each and every season -- preferably on the stage of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Javanese Shadow Puppet Theater

Photo credit:

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pending Problems Of Nationalism At the Washington National Opera?

"Plácido Domingo, the General Director of the Washington National Opera, wishes to bring the company to the Savonlinna Opera Festival in 2007.

Domingo is currently having talks with the Savonlinna organisers over performances of Richard Wagner's Die Walküre and one contemporary American opera.

According to Christina Scheppelman, the Washington National Opera's Director of Artistic Operations, Domingo has booked the Savonlinna Opera Festival in his calendar for 2007, but no contract has yet been signed.

"Domingo's plan is that the WNO would perform Wagner's Die Walküre and either Carlise Floyd's Of Mice and Men or Nicholas Maw's Sophie's Choice."

November 1, 2005.

Meryl Streep (1949- )

Photo Credit: