News & Notes: We are SO argumentative…

We are tussling over Bach, global warming and book awards and mourning Ada Louise Huxtable

The Pearl is a top ArtPlace in America/Flickr user LikeWhere1

The Pearl is a top ArtPlace in America/Flickr user LikeWhere1

We’ve spent the past couple of days here at ArtsWatch arguing about Brett Campbell’s survey of holiday classical music concerts, which suggested that too many of them were too long, too loose and under-rehearsed. Actually, we were arguing about something a little different, but you can dig into it all yourself, starting with Brett’s story here and then my defense of his take on things.

This served to remind me that some people care very much about classical music and are willing to throw down against other people who care very much about classical music when the issue is big enough. I take that as a good sign, I suppose, because if our arts don’t engage our passions then they aren’t doing their job. On the other hand, sometimes it all sounds a little sectarian.

I had that in mind when I read Michael O’Donnell’s review of a book on Bach, which is the first link below…

Let’s say that I develop a sudden fascination for the music of Bach. How would I satisfy my desires? Well, if I were Paul Elie, I’d start listening to lots of Bach recordings, then start researching around those recordings (Glenn Gould’s “Goldberg Variations,” of course, Pablo Casals’ recording of the Cello Suites, and to broaden things out Albert Schweitzer and Walt Disney’s Bach experiences), and then I’d write a book, “Reinventing Bach.” Of course, then I’d also invite the criticism of Michael O’Donnell in the The Nation, who would drop the hammer on me for relying on recordings instead of actually attending live concerts, and we might get into that familiar expert versus inspired amateur debate. Hey, expert, go write your own book!

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The great architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable died Monday in Manhattan. Huxtable and urban theorist Jane Jacobs used New York City as a sort of living laboratory for their ideas about what makes cities workable, arriving at complementary positions that celebrated preservation and diversity and emphasized the social dimension of the built environment over aesthetic “statements.” In 1970 Huxtable called Portland’s Keller Fountain (and the companion series of plazas and fountains through the South Auditorium district designed by Lawrence Halprin,) “may be one of the most important urban spaces since the Renaissance.” In important ways, these days Portland embraces the ideas of Huxtable and Jacobs in its urban planning and design, and so I’ve always considered her one of ours.

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How do we start to come to grips with the effects of global warming or, frankly, any natural disaster? A lot of it is practical, physics- and economics-based, but the arts have a role, too. A good example: the residency of two artists working on a riverscape-based project in Port Chester, NY, was suddenly interrupted by Hurricane Sandy, and that added a sense of urgency to the exhibition.

“At the opening reception, an environmental scientist, Pam Solo, president of the Civil Society Institute, which is based in Newton, Mass., came to speak alongside the artists.

“I asked Pam, ‘What do you think as a scientist? Could a show like this have any impact?’ ” Ms. Miranda said. “She said, ‘Beauty can open a window on how we think about things in a way data doesn’t.’ I’ve been really gratified by that,” Ms. Miranda said.”

***

Is it surprising that Portland, in the form of the Pearl district, possesses one of America’s 12 top ArtPlace neighborhoods? Not a bit. But how were the top ArtPlace neighborhoods chosen, anyway?

“Four indicators measure ingredients of vibrancy: the number of retail and service businesses; the percentage of independent businesses; the neighborhood’s Walk Score; and the percentage of workers in creative occupations living in the neighborhood. Two arts-related indicators were also used: the number of arts-related non-profits and the number of arts-related businesses. Finally, neighborhood scores were normalized for family income so that neighborhoods with the highest concentration of income did not skew the results.”

So, yes, the Pearl, sure, but we know that other concentrations are building, especially on the east side. Next time, maybe we’ll get two neighborhoods on the list.

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Literary Arts announced the finalists for the Oregon Book Awards along with its slate of 2013 fellowship winners, and I’d have to say it’s a very contentious set of categories this year. I’m not hazarding any guesses about winners nor pointing out any important omissions, though there seemed to be a few. Maybe later.

I’d also like to point you toward Kevin Sampsell’s Portland-centric list of top books of 2012, which I found full of great ideas and possible enthusiasms.

***

Let’s just say that you’re one of those people who believe that the content has been drained out of the American education curriculum. You’re going to love this example of a final exam for 8th graders in a Kansas town, circa 1895. Here’s one section of that exam:

“Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u’.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e’. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.”

Merciful heavens!

One Response.

  1. Greg Ewer says:

    I’d love to hear more about this: “On the other hand, sometimes it all sounds a little sectarian.”

Comments are closed.