Archive for September, 2006

Once in a while I get invited to one of those classic old Soho/Chelsea artist parties, and last night was the 101st birthday of artist May Wilson (who actually passed on some 20 years ago), hosted by her son, Bob Wilson, who was kind enough to introduce me to his collection of Ray Johnson postcards and miscellaneous works of art – including the famous portrait of Elvis that travels from gallery to museum. Unfortunately that day I woke up with one of those paralyzing headaches – the ones I usually deal with by lying on my couch until it’s over. It didn’t seem like I would be in any shape to attend… but I thought this time I would try a different therapy for the headache, as my friends Bobby Buecker and Maude Boltz invited me to a gallery-hopping session in the afternoon. So I went out, chasing the pain with fresh air, good company and visual stimuli.

The outing started at Bobby’s loft on West Broadway, a bastion of the old Soho, still raw as they come, with walls covered with his own art (darling boy of the early sixties art scene), a few Ray Johnson wrapping packages stamped by the United States Post Office and framed under glass, the space filled with Buecker’s mysteriously guarded, eccentric self-made harpsichords, all wrapped and covered in blankets, sculptures in their own right, as well as rarely played musical instruments. Maude joined us, bringing a bevy of birthday balloons for the party, which I carried all afternoon throughout our gallery visit.

Remarkably, the sampling of art I saw spanned all styles, as in post-classic music.In Soho we visited Leah Durner’s colorful abstracts, in Chelsea we saw Robert Yasuda’s iridescent paintings whose color changes as you move around them, Ginny Fox’s striped paintings textured on unexpected rectangular plastic boxes, David Rankin’s stripes on canvas and paper; surprise: a little room furnished with carpets, lamps and odd shaped bottles with psychological wisdom messages imparted by 75-year old Etta Ehrlich; ‘Forces of nature’ by Ron Klein who uses natural seed pods, pine cones, branches and other dried natural found objects in combination with metal, wax and rubber, painstakingly pinned to the gallery walls in clever shapes; the huge white constructs of Mia Westerlund Roosen, in giant mop shapes or other oversized household objects in disarray; Lucas Samaras’ collection of iMovie portraits of mostly mature, intelligent-looking individuals (no vacuous pretty faces here), posing for the movie camera, not moving much, but enough, which reminded me of an earlier video work by Bill Viola where a group of people kept completely still for a long time, until you might notice the almost imperceptible movement of a hand or an eye. At Bill Wilson’s party, I noticed a woman with bright orange hair and when someone introduced me I realized that was Jeanne Claude accompanied by Christo – I should have known because her hair was the color of The Gates from a couple of years ago in Central Park. When I returned home, the headache was completely gone. I should try art therapy more often.

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I am listening to Beethoven again, after many years of disregard for his music, which I realized, was due to the so-called ‘German-style’ interpretation of Beethoven, with ponderous tempos and overstated dynamic contrast. This past spring, something clicked when I heard the Moonlight Sonata performed by Joshua Pierce – the Kirnberger temperament helped a lot, but its is through Joshua’s interpretation that I was able to rediscover Beethoven – I am now enjoying Joshua Pierce’s newly-released triple CD set of Beethoven’s five piano concertos, performed by the Slovak State Philharmonic. This CD is Pierce’s fifth project on the MSR Classics label.

How does Joshua Pierce play Beethoven? How is it different? What’s magical about it? Is it the emphasis on rhythmic groupings, creating timbre with rhythms, or the utter lack of exaggeration, the fluidity, the simplicity, even? Beethoven is the first romantic, but what is the true meaning of ‘romantic’? Some consider romanticism as a synonym of excess, and I sat with Josh at the Starbucks trying to nail the definition of ‘romantic’. While I deplored the overuse of the word romantic as in ‘a romantic dinner’, we agreed that the true-to-form definition is a style focused on self-expression. Self-expression, as in the individual versus society and the limitations it entails, does not necessarily mean unbridled passion. This special quality of balanced self-expression is what makes Joshua’s interpretation unique, in its unpretentious but dazzling clarity. No exaggeration here, no excessive rubato or aggressive dynamics. It makes Beethoven’s music come through exactly as it did historically, somewhere between Mozart and Schubert.

And the momentum is, as this major recording is being released on MSR Classics, coming up this fall, the American Festival of Microtonal Music is also releasing a Joshua Pierce piano album of works by Alan Hovhanes, Robert Bonotto, Ivan Wyschnegradsky, Roland Moser, Maurice Ohana, and John Cage’s Daughters of the Lonesome Isle, a virtuosic work for prepared piano, plus pieces for two pianos by Charles Ives and Stepan Konicek performed by Pierce and Dorothy Jonas, his collaborator of 20 years.

I should be noted that Joshua Pierce has worked closely with David Tudor in interpreting John Cage’s music, extrapolating from score grids of possibilities, throwing coins to obtain the I Ching hexagrams linked to the particular tones that would constitute that day’s iteration of the piece. Josh said that this unique training in John Cage’s music has improved the way he interprets any other music… In this world of hyper-specialization – even in the arts – it is refreshing to see how playing both classical and avant-garde repertoire can lead to a higher level of sophistication in one’s musical approach.

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For me 9/11 at first was the beginning of the end – but eventually it led to a new phase as the life spiral folded and opened up again towards new territories. I spent the days following 9/11 holed up in my apartment pouring my impressions on to the synthesizer which resulted in a CD, SOSWTC… The piece remained actually untitled for a long time, as the sounds themselves remained unpitched, as if a stated pitch was inadequate to describe the unfathomable – the sounds were to me a writhing metal mass being thrown into the air. Meanwhile, the ‘official’ music of 9/11 was mostly and adequately sentimental. A good web site to visit or revisit is the Kalvos & Damian tribute to 9/11 at http://www.kalvos.org/tragedy.html, where a wide range of composers have contributed pieces.

Now that five years have passed, we have a different take on downtown Manhattan. I went on a pilgrimage to the World Trade Center area, no longer a ground zero but a mysterious and closely guarded no-man’s land – there is very little that one can see through the thick metal gates. Is there construction going on? You really can’t tell, except for the construction worker I caught, sunbathing on a bench on his lunch break, in one of the new adjoining parks where a too-cheery sculpture in the shape of an oversized metallic-red grape sat in the middle of a fountain.

For your information, I am reproducing the 9/11 address from Mayor Bloomberg, following below. Some of the comments are rather interesting, especially about Lower Manhattan. Reality explains a lot of things, doesn’t it?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PR- 322-06
September 8, 2006

MAYOR BLOOMBERG DELIVERS REPORT ON LOWER MANHATTAN AND NEW YORK CITY’S PROGRESS FIVE YEARS AFTER 9/11

The Following Is the Text of Mayor Bloomberg’s Remarks As Delivered

“It’s a pleasure to welcome to New York so many journalists from so many nations; there are reporters here from something like 35 countries, as well as five boroughs. And I would urge those of you who do not live here to spend a little bit of time in all five boroughs, and you will find probably more people living in those boroughs from your country than live in the biggest city in your country. There are very few exceptions where that’s not true. I happen to be the mayor of the largest Irish city in the world, and the largest Jewish city in the world, and probably the largest Sri Lankan city in the world. It’s really quite amazing – the diversity of New York City.
“And New York City continues to grow. This decade we will add something like 325,000 people to our population. It’s at a record high and continues to grow. So, and these people come from every place around the world and you’ll hear every language, you’ll find every cuisine, we practice every religion. Welcome to New York. You will find that our home is your home.
“Anyway, a little more serious. For New Yorkers, the fifth anniversary of 9/11 does bring back a flood of memories – and this week you’ll see a lot of that on display. There are memories of sorrow, and also memories of extraordinary acts of courage and compassion that marked that day and the period after it.
“We also vividly recall the outpouring of sympathy and support that we received from governments and from people around the globe.
“We will never forget how the world came to our aid. And we have tried very hard, whenever there’s been a disaster elsewhere in the world, to have New Yorkers assist and try to say ‘thank you’ by doing the same for others that they came here and did for us.
“The horror that took place here on 9/11 was felt by people everywhere and it was captured by the front page headlines. In one major Italian daily newspaper that described the events of 9/11 as ‘An Attack on America and an Attack on Civilization.’ And I think that really is true. The attack took place here, it took place in New York, but the values that we have that caused people to attack us were values that a lot of people in this world and a lot of countries have.
“The terrorists were striking out against civilization, and their target here, the World Trade Center, just was a symbol of a globe increasingly united by the free movement of products, ideas, and people across oceans and borders.
“That significance was more than symbolic; every day, men and women from many nations came to the World Trade Center to work and to do business.
“And on 9/11, citizens of more than 80 different nations perished in the terrorist attack here.
“We’ll be reminded of that on Monday morning when, once again, the loved ones read the names of the 9/11 victims at the World Trade Center site.
“This anniversary is a time for people around the world to remember them, and to mourn the passing. 2,790-odd people were killed between what happened at the World Trade Center and Pennsylvania and in Washington, and there were another 11 killed in a bomb attack on the World Trade Center back in 1993. It’s a sad time. We’re here to mourn their passing, and it’s also a time for New York to take stock of how far we have come since that terrible day.
“I think it’s fair to say our achievements have been remarkable. On 9/11, New York City was deeply wounded.
“We experienced something that Americans thought they were immune to: massive assaults against innocent civilians, like those that the people of many other cities experienced over the course of World War Two, and like those that terrorists across the globe have inflicted in more recent years.
“The attack on our defenseless city, and the loss of more than 2,700 lives in the space of a few brief hours, really was devastating. I think that’s the only word that you can use.
“And that makes our recovery over the last five years all the more remarkable. Because instead of experiencing the post-9/11 economic collapse that Al-Qaeda envisioned and that many doomsayers feared, we are stronger and safer now than we have ever been before.
“Today, as I said, our population is growing. More New Yorkers are working than any time in the history of our city. Fewer New Yorkers are on the welfare rolls than at any time since 1964.
“Consider that in our first two years of office, we faced back-to-back budget shortfalls of $5 billion and $6.5 billion – a product of the national recession, and of the tremendous economic impact of 9/11.
“But today, because of a surging economy and sound fiscal management at City Hall, we’ve closed the fiscal year that just ended in June with a $3.75 billion surplus.
“So, far from collapsing, New York City today is infused with a new optimism, shown by our willingness to forge solutions to the most intractable problems.
“Over the past four years, we have begun to turn around a public school system in which for far too long, too many schools were mired in failure. We really have made a difference and our school system is the future of our country and the future of the world.
“Or take housing, another example: we have launched the most ambitious affordable housing program ever undertaken by an American city – one that will create or preserve housing for half a million New Yorkers by 2013. That’s equivalent to the population of Atlanta, Georgia, which is a pretty good sized city in this country.
“And soon we will unveil a new, targeted effort to help more New Yorkers move out of poverty, and realize fully the American dream.
“I think it’s fair to say the prospects for our city are bright at this time.
“And that’s demonstrated by the fact that before this decade is up, this city’s population will be at something like 8.2 millio
n people.
“Recovery, I think, shows that Al-Qaeda’s deadly plot against New York failed. Now let me discuss that recovery a little more fully for those of you that don’t live here and don’t see the changes that have tak
en place in our city.
“Our recovery’s cornerstone has been our remarkable success in enhancing public safety in the post-9/11 world.
“All of you who were in New York five years ago remember that sense of dread that followed 9/11.
“Our city’s economy in recession and our city hemorrhaging jobs – and with anxiety about further terrorist attacks hanging in the air – many people really did believe, and the newspapers were full of stories, that we would not be able to maintain the gains in safety that had been achieved during the 1990s.
“But in short, people thought crime was going to go up. And the truth of the matter is we proved them wrong. Today, crime in New York is nearly 22% lower than it was at this time in 2001. Crime is down in every single major category. New York is safer than every other major city in the nation, and also safer than 9 out of every 10 smaller cities as well.
“And we’ve accomplished that even though today there are some 4,000 fewer officers assigned to ordinary patrol duties than were back in 9/11. In part, that’s because of the attrition that reduced the Department’s headcount by 3,000 officers during the 2002 and 2003 years when we had our budget problems.
“And it’s also in part due to the fact that we have assigned 1,000 of our police officers to duties in the NYPD’s nationally acclaimed counter-terrorism and intelligence division.
“Today, we recognize that as New York’s population grows, our police force has to grow as well, and this year, we are adding 1,200 more police officers to the streets.
“The bottom line is we have a mission today that we didn’t have before: intelligence and counter-terrorism. We have our own police officers around the world working with intelligent services in other cities. We have fewer police officers on the streets just because of the economics, and yet we’ve brought crime down in every single major category – overall, 22% in the last five years. And there was nobody who predicted that.

“And we’re doing that – we take these duties very seriously of protecting people on the streets from common crime as well as from terrorism. We have 17 New York City detectives assigned to the Federal-City-State Joint Terrorism Task Force. We had 17 back in 9/11. To show you where we are today, we have 120.
“The bottom line is we live in a different world than we lived in back on 9/11, or at least than we thought we lived in on 9/11. And we have to keep the people of New York City safe from outside forces, as well as from those who live here.
“In 2002, we also overhauled the NYPD’s intelligence division, transforming it primarily from a dignitary protection unit to a robust intelligence-gathering and analysis sector.
“Over the past four and a half years, we have dispatched some of our best detectives to nine cities beyond our nation’s borders to improve our forward defense, as we call it, against terror. The NYPD now has officers posted in London, and Madrid, and Singapore, and Tel Aviv, and Amman, and other cities.
“Here in New York, intelligence detectives regularly monitor the sale of services and products that might be useful to terrorists, and have established a closer relationship with corporate private security directors.
“The NYPD’s ‘Operation Atlas’ has stepped up security in the Financial District as well as at our landmarks and at key parts of our infrastructure. And that includes the heavily armed and highly mobile Hercules teams, as we call them, that are rapidly deploy throughout the city.
“We have also thoroughly revised the intelligence and counter-terrorism training of our officers in all boroughs, providing them with the latest and best equipment.
“Our counter-terrorism efforts have also been enhanced by vastly improved coordination among our emergency response agencies.
“One of the most important lessons learned from 9/11 was that our emergency responders require the best available access to inter-operable communications and information in the field.
“And to that end, we have brought all of our first responder agencies onto a common radio frequency band, so that voice communication can take place when it’s needed among police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians.
“And early on, we made it standard operating procedure for fire chiefs to be able to ride in police helicopters at major fires, so they can provide information and direction to firefighters on the ground – and that was something that didn’t exist five years ago.
“We’ve also put in place a ‘Citywide Incident Management System’ – called ‘CIMS’ – and it clearly spells out the division of responsibility and chain of command for the FDNY and NYPD, and establishes joint command posts at major incidents where both must respond. Remember hundreds of times a day, both our police officers and firefighters show up at locations to protect this city, and they work together. It’s the big incidents that you want to make sure there is a clear chain of command. And by having this agreement in advance and training continuously in advance, we’ve shown time and again since 9/11 that the coordination that gets you the best safety and the quickest response really is in place.
“Our Office of Emergency Management also has taken the lead in increasing our capacity to plan for and respond to any emergency – natural or man-made, accidental or intentional.
“There are a whole variety of things that we have to be ready to respond to, and we try, to the extent possible, imagine what those would be, figure out what we would do if they occurred in different places, at different times of the day, different weather conditions, different times of the year, and make sure that we know what we do and talk about it in advance.
“We have organized and managed dozens of inter-agency simulations and exercises that have, for example, tested responses to attacks using employing bio-terrorism and other weapons of mass destruction, or natural disasters – a hurricane or an enormous snowstorm – communications or power failure.
“All of these exercises have been aimed at improving coordination across City, State and Federal lines, and with key private sector players as well.
“To sum up: our achievements in fighting crime on the streets are measurable and incontrovertible. Our success in combating terrorism is, by definition, harder to quantify, but unmistakably clear. We know that the NYPD has succeeded in disrupting a number of possible attacks, including one aimed at the Brooklyn Bridge.
“What we do know is that we have to remain vigilant and prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our city safe.
“And we also appreciate that our commitment to safety has persuaded businesses to remain in New York or locate to New York, and it really has been a major factor in the city’s economic recovery, our city’s economic growth.
“You can see that recovery, economic growth in virtually every sector of our city.
“For example, tourism: if you go back to right after 9/11, nobody was going to come to New York ever again. Well last year, we welcomed more than 42 million visitors to our city – it was a new record. This year we expect to do even better. Our hotel occupancy and room rates are at historic highs and our airports are packed. If you tried to come through our airports, I’m sorry, but, all this traffic, that what it gets you.
“Film and television production – another key industry – is experiencing robust growth. Last year, we hosted more than 350 film and television productions right here in New York City.
“Construction is
booming. Building permits have increased by nearly 30% since 2001, and are at an all-time high.
“Our commercial real estate market is also hot – fueled in part by the increasing number of Fortune 500 companies now making their headquarters in New York, and that’s reversing a decades-long exodus from our city. r />“As the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, companies that after 9/11 were contemplating leaving New York once their leases were up today are clamoring for more space as the number of employees they have in the city continues to climb.
“The perception of New York among these employers, the Journal wrote, has changed from our being ‘a place to fear to a place they have to be.’ And I think you couldn’t say that any better.
“In fact, one of our most urgent needs is to increase New York City’s supply of modern office space. That’s why we’ve made a major priority of rezoning and redeveloping Downtown Brooklyn, Flushing in Queens, and the Hudson Yards area on Manhattan’s West Side.
“That’s a major part of our strategy to bring jobs and opportunity to all five boroughs – and our success in doing so is demonstrated by the fact that New York City’s Gross City Product – our GCP as we call it – is expected to be more than $442 billion this year—a new all-time high. That’s $442 billion.
“Lower Manhattan’s recovery is a key part of New York’s future. Today, five years after 9/11, that recovery is well underway.
“It even began before the last fires at the World Trade Center site were extinguished. Then, it was conservatively estimated that the clean-up of the site – an unprecedented job – would take a year. In fact, it was completed in far less time, with the last rubble removed from the site in May 2002.
“In the days immediately following 9/11, City, State, and Federal leaders came together with Downtown business leaders to create a framework for transforming Lower Manhattan into a true 21st century downtown – a vibrant and attractive commercial and residential community.
“The process of implementing that plan has not always been smooth or seamless, or moved at the pace that we would like.
“But the fact remains that today, more than $30 billion is being invested in public and private construction that is concentrated in one square mile from the World Trade Center site north to Canal Street.
“It’s the largest concentration of construction activity in New York history – and it is completely consistent with the vision for Lower Manhattan that we articulated in December, 2002.
“By the year 2011, nearly every street south of Chambers Street will have been rebuilt. Almost $10 billion worth of mass transit projects will have been completed or be nearing completion. They include new ferry terminals, a major new subway hub, and Santiago Calatrava’s spectacular new PATH station at the World Trade Center site, for which we broke ground a year ago.
“We also expect Congressional approval this fall of $1.75 billion for a direct rail link from Lower Manhattan to Kennedy Airport.
“Today, $1 billion is being invested in cultural institutions and museums, including the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum, which we broke ground for last month.
“We are investing more than $300 million to create or enhance 20 Downtown parks and public spaces, as well as a beautiful new ring of green along the tip of Lower Manhattan, opening up the Hudson and East River waterfronts to the public.
“Our Downtown residential population is booming. If you remember back, right after 9/11, there was nobody that was ever going to want to live Downtown. Well since 2002, 10,000 apartments have been created; and by 2011, there will be another 7,000 apartments build downtown.
“That means five years from now nearly 70,000 people will live in Lower Manhattan – double the number that lives there today, and more than triple the number who lived there on 9/11.
“To serve these new residents, and Downtown workers and visitors, by 2011 there will also be 800,000 square feet of new retail space.
“Combined, all of these investments are making Lower Manhattan a more attractive place to live and do business – and as a result, businesses are expanding and relocating to New York’s historic birthplace. For those of you who don’t know, New York City started in Lower Manhattan. There were people that never thought anybody would live north of Canal Street. Today they do live north of Canal Street, but what’s happening is a resurgence of people wanting to live down right where New York was started.
“Companies were going to leave Downtown. Well go down and take a look at Goldman Sach’s new building. They’re building a $2 billion new headquarters building at the World Financial Center. It’s the first new corporate headquarters to be built downtown in decades.
“Today, the vacancy rate for office space in Lower Manhattan is 11.9% – compared to better than 20% just across the river in northern New Jersey. It’s really quite an amazing performance.
“In five years from now, 12.5 million square feet of new Class “A” office space in Lower Manhattan will be completed or nearing completion. That will include the four towers to be built at the World Trade Center site – the designs for three of which were unveiled just yesterday. So take a look in the papers; there are three beautiful buildings which will make an enormous difference.
“We are, in short, I think it’s fair to say well on our way to rebuilding and reinventing Lower Manhattan, so that it in the 21st century, it – and our entire city – will be a place that draws people from around the world to live, and to work, and to contribute to a better world.
“Over the past five years, we’ve really have made extraordinary strides in realizing that vision – a vision of freedom and progress that the terrorists can never extinguish.
“Today, every indication is that our city is moving in the right direction. Let me leave you with these contrasts:
“In the dark months after 9/11, unemployment in our city climbed to, and eventually reached 8.6%. Today, because of our success in creating new jobs and opportunity, it’s at 6%.
“Just four years ago, fewer than 40% of public students were performing at or above grade level in reading, writing, and math. Today, that’s more than 50% are performing at that level.
“And five years ago, anxiety plagued our city. Today, we remain the undisputed safest big city in the United States.
“Over the past five years, we’ve made the hard decisions, but I think history shows we’ve made the right ones. And because we have, New York’s best days are yet to come.
“Over the next three years and three months while I remain in office, I look forward to helping make those best days a reality for all New Yorkers.”

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We are so busy living our lives that information about election candidates that comes through the mail is just like any other junk, it is so easy to tune out of the voting process – but actually, it doesn’t take that long to review the issues and make some intelligent and conscious choices. I found some well organized info at: http://www.politics1.com/ny.htm

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Well, my friend Jonathan has declared the word ‘cool’ unutterable, and at this point it’s only for children under 10 years old – or should I say seven… kids are so grown up these days. Born out of the sixties and reborn in the nineties, cool has done double-time, unlike its siblings copacetic and groovy that never made it past 1975. At a slightly higher degree of enthusiasm, awesome seems exclusively reserved for kids under 15 – who else? Do students still say awesome post-1998? Beautiful seems old-fashioned. Gorgeous, fabulous, sound too much like fashion talk. Fantastic and terrific seem off the mark… a bit over-enthusiastic perhaps? What’s left? Nice, great, are wonderfully neutral but so hackneyed they lack any kind of flavor. But again, lack of flavor gets people places, like donning a corporate uniform.

My artist friend Arleen Schloss has found a new way around this curious language problem. She makes up short versions of these same adjectives and uses those instead, and says, “that’s gorg’… that’s groov’…”, which ends up sounding a little more sophisticated than the fully uttered version, but a bit odd as well.

I am at a loss for superlatives… but on the other hand, certain nouns have found a new fountain of youth in media language. You may have read my earlier July article about the ‘revenge of the nerds’, holders of the prized knowledge of the web… A recent issue of Time Out devoted its cover story to what they are touting as the new leading edge of culture, Nerds, Dorks and Geeks, with venues like weird spelling bees, dork dj collectives, trivia quizzes, campy cabaret, video game parties, Star-Trek characters impersonators, etc. Nerds, originally referring to shy, socially misfit individuals given to wearing white socks with black shoes (a transgression generally unforgiven in American dress code) and eyeglasses, have evolved from negative to positive over the last 30 years. Although a few rednecks may still refer to geeks negatively, a positive association occurs when the geek or nerd fixes your computer, gets you exposure on the net and becomes the new century hero. Maybe the new superlatives should be dorky, nerdy and geeky… What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?

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