Brooklyn Academy of Music

Matthew Barney's New Epic Is a Mythomaniacal Mailer-Hemingway Mash-Up

And he's more scatological than ever

Nobody among the current elite crew of megalomaniacal mixed-media artists has gone farther than Matthew Barney when it comes to rejecting the old-fashioned constraints of the art gallery in favor of the dramatic possibilities of film. 

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The Night Birds

A few weeks ago I noticed that the dead of night is no longer dead. It is alive with the songs of birds. The nocturnal concert comes from somewhere in the thickets of my garden, a small bucolic refuge in an unpastoral corner of the city. The performance is lyrical and cacophonous, a patterned program of warbles and screeches and trills and whistles, with an occasional phrase that pierces the heart—very Brooklyn Academy of Music. Robbed of sleep by the din, I thought of transliterating it, but old memories of Hopkins at his most ludicrous (“Teevo cheevo cheevio chee”) made me think again.

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You know the name "Bobby Seale?" But do you know who he is now? And what he was back then? This is not a nostalgia story. It is a pathetic story. But it is the pathos of the present a direct result of the pathos then. A report from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, this year, not on the late sixties, from San Francisco or from Yale.

Maria Stuart may not seem like the perfect project for Ingmar Bergman's biannual exploration of classical texts. Written in 1800, some years after Schiller had completed The Robbers and Don Carlos, it is a typical product of Sturm und Drang--more workable perhaps as an opera libretto than as a dramatic text. Maria Stuart has a lot of strong scenes, particularly the confrontation between the two rival queens and the Machiavellian plotting of the treacherous courtiers.

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Last weekend was the hundredth anniversary of George Gershwin's birth, and, to commemorate the event, while seeking refuge from the obscene cd-rom containing the appendices of the Starr report, I put on the Brooklyn Academy of Music's terrific recording of Gershwin's greatest political operetta, Of Thee I Sing.

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