Taschen certainly know a thing or two about producing visually exuberant books, and when the subject matter is jazz album-cover art then you know you’re in for a treat! Covering a period from the mid 20th century through to the nineties, this large two volume box-set functions as a visual history of jazz in what might well be described as its golden-age. The renewal of interest in the vinyl record album has been chugging along happily for a while now, and surely one of the drivers of this nostalgia is the scope the record album gave designers and artists to spread their creative wings.
This memoir from one of Australia’s most popular (and interesting) actors manages that special achievement of capturing its author’s dinstictive and well known voice; a bit like William McInnes’s equally charming, A man’s got to have a hobby : long summers with my dad. Bisley’s account of his country childhood reads like a mix of the idyllic and the nightmarish, and his clear-eyed memories as he recounts triumphs, disasters and the plain old humiliations of growing up are all imbued with a matter-of-factness that is positively endearing. A lovely book.
This book may not be for you if you’ve never seen Ken Russell’s film The Devils (based rather loosely on Aldous Huxley’s book The Devils of Loudon), or maybe even if you have seen it and have been trying to forget it ever since! Don’t get me wrong, I think that it’s a very great film (arguably Russell’s finest), and one of the most remarkable pieces of cinema to have come out of the British film industry, but it is not for the faint-hearted or squeamish. The full inside story of this conflicted masterpiece and its driven, visionary and maddening creator is told here in this surprisingly balanced and thoughtful history; it almost makes me want to gird-my-loins and see the film again!
The idle jotting, the preparatory sketch, the first layout of an idea, these can all have a very real life of their own on the printed page, as this visual-feast of a book clearly shows. I love seeing how ideas develop from mere scraps of thought, and how so often these first, improvisatory thoughts can have a freshness and edge not always carried over into the more polished final work.
This has been a big year for musical birthdays, with Wagner and Verdi celebrating their 200th and Benjamin Britten clocking up his 100th, but as these noisy gentlemen hog the limelight it is all too easy to ignore some other anniversaries of less well known, but no less interesting, musical personalities. One such figure is perhaps the most interesting of the lot, French composer and Titan of the piano, Charles Valentin Alkan.
Born on 30th November, 1813, Alkan remains one of the most unique musicians to come out of the 19th century, and is one of that crop of French composers who appear to disobey the laws of time by seeming in some way removed from their own; his compatriot Hector Berlioz also springs to mind. Notoriously reclusive for large swathes of time, he nonetheless mixed with the very greatest artistic personalities of the day from Chopin to Hugo to Berlioz to Liszt, Delacroix, Saint-Saens, Meyerbeer, D’Indy, etc., etc. His surviving works for solo piano (many are lost or destroyed) include a symphony and concerto (he didn’t need an orchestra!) as well as a range of smaller but no less assured pieces, such as his Esquisses.
Technically and intellectually demanding, it’s good that more and more pianists are taking up his challenge and recognising that the impact of a great performance of one of his major works can be utterly exhilirating.
To see someone like Marc Andre Hamelin perform his Symphony is quite indescribable!
The only known photograph of Alkan, apart from the characteristically eccentric rear view above:
This might seem like an odd title, until you realise just how little is really known about the life of this fine English landscape artist who landed in Melbourne in the early 1850s. Thomas Clark appears to have left only a few clues as to his doings prior to arriving in Australia, and all indications are that he liked it that way. No matter, his landscapes of regional Victoria are quite lovely, while his painting of Kenney’s Baths in St. Kilda from 1857 gives a fascinating glimpse into early Melbourne’s (at times) quirky social life; it also happens to be one of ours, currently on show at the Hamilton Art Gallery in a very fine exhibition.
Eugene von Guérard: Govett’s Leap and Grose River Valley, 1873 (National Gallery of Australia)
The Blue Mountains in New South Wales have long been a source of inspiration for artists of all persuasions. This catalogue to an exhibition held at the Blue Mountains Art Gallery earlier this year shows in abundant detail the many and varied responses this most remarkable landscape has provoked over the years, from early photographs to contemporary ceramics.
Slightly further afield, Winslow Homer’s response to the landscape of his beloved Maine resulted in some of the most iconic and exuberant paintings in all American art. His seascapes remain unrivalled in their ability to communicate the power, beauty and terror of the untamed ocean, whilst his observation of the lives of those people who depend on it comes with all of his usual humanity. This lovely book celebrates the restoration of Homer’s studio in Prouts Neck, Maine, and the essays and images are fascinating and beautiful.
This dazzling book voluminously covers the first few decades of furniture design as promoted by Arthur Lasenby Liberty at his Liberty and Co. store in Regent Street, London. An utterly fascinating period in English art and design as it emerged from the Pre-Raphaelite movement into the sumptuous design aesthetic of William Morris, Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement, this beautiful book is as much a history of the early years of this most famous store as it is a survey of its greatest designer, Leonard Wyburd.
Thomas Clark’s almost Turneresque view of Kenney’s Baths in St. Kilda, from our Picture Collection
It’s almost hard to imagine a time when orchestral music of the pre-Romantic era was played on anything other than period instruments, so familar have we become with their utterly unique timbres. Watching the great John Eliot Gardiner working with his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists on this most joyous cantata of Bach, you can see how by going back to the performance practices of Bach’s own time the music doesn’t just breath but positively sparks with electricity. Go straight to chapter 10 and the opening of the cantata if you want to hear what Baroque music is really all about!
With King Kong currently chewing up the scenery at the Regent Theatre, it seems only fitting to remind ourselves of what the original 1933 movie actually sounded like. Max Steiner’s extraordinary score remains one of the most important in movie history, not just because it works so well in the film, but because it also helped usher in a golden-age of grand symphonic film music which remains both dazzling and influential to this day. It’s great to see more and more film scores appearing in the Naxos Music Library.
Okay I admit it, I only chose this disc from the Naxos Jazz Library because of that adorable puppy on the cover! But that’s the great thing about these wonderful online collections, you can take a punt and give something a go for whatever reason takes your fancy. As it turns out, I now know that Marc Moulin was a Belgian jazz musician and journalist who wrote some pretty cool music, and if you feel like chilling out you could do worse than go with the dog!
Graeme Murphy’s production of Nutcracker : the story of Clara is the next program in the Arts on Film series to be held this Wednesday November 13 in Arts.
ABC, The Australian Ballet, 1994, c2006
Adapted from the Tchaikovsky ballet story, this work by Graeme Murphy transforms Nutcracker into a production that is uniquely Australian. It chronicles the life of Clara, a famous Russian ballerina who first came to Australia in the 1940s, and is a spectacular tribute to the development of ballet in Australia. It features Vicki Attard as Clara, David McAllister, Margaret Scott, Steven Heathcote and artists of The Australian Ballet. Choreography is by Graeme Murphy. With The State Orchestra of Victoria (now Orchestra Victoria), conducted by Noel Smith. Nutcracker was recorded live at the State Theatre, Melbourne, Sep. 22, 1994.
Nutcracker commences at 12.00 noon and concludes at 1.35 pm (approx). It will be held in the Community Lab. Enter via the Arts Reading Room (from Trescowthick Information Centre). Admission is free. No bookings required, but come early as seating is limited. Enjoy!
Given that they were throroughly dismissed by just about everybody in the “serious”rock music business of the day, The Monkees enduring popularity must come as something of a trial for those who hoped and prayed they would disappear once their hit TV show vanished from the airwaves. Prefabricated for television and the recording studio in the mid 1960s, their test-tube gestation and kooky boy-next-door image seemed at odds with the anything goes, sex-drugs-and-rock n’roll music scene into which they were catapulted. The problem was, once they got the hang of the whole music-making thing they started churning out some pretty decent albums, and as this chatty volume reveals they were deadly serious about their own success. Far be it from me to upset anybody, but I would also just like to mention that I was at Festival Hall with my sister when The Monkees visited Melbourne in 1968; settle down…..
With the centenary of the war to end all wars fast approaching in 2014, it’s fascinating to see research on some of the more out of the way aspects of the conflagration. War is hell, but it’s amazing to see how the human need for something to hold onto in even the worst of times can manifest itself in the most improbable and gloriously odd ways. This book centres on some of the most successful concert-parties that sprang up in the ranks of the Canadian army during the First World War, particularly a troupe known as The Dumbells, and how their success brought some cheer not just to the front-line, but extended for a remarkable number of years after the war had ended. I would have paid good money to see their HMS Pinafore!
This book, published in conjunction with a touring exhibition in England, focuses on the friendship of two artists who came to prominence in the heady world of 1920s Britain. Cedric Morris had a long and distinguished career as a painter and art teacher, while Christopher Wood’s blossoming career was cut tragically short with his apparent suicide when he threw himself under a train, possibly due to drug induced paranoia. Both men were involved, at one time or another, with the lovely St. Ives school of painting, and their at times charmingly naive post-Impressionist works do seem to inhabitat a very similar universe. Good to make their acquaintance.
Being a musician with little to no rights to such a title, I owe a great debt of gratitude to the recently departed Lou Reed. At the same time as he was assisting the maturation of rock music (not to mention the invention of punk, indie, and the furthering of noise music), he also seemingly stretched the genre in the opposite direction by showing that you didn’t need to have amazing skill in order to bang a tune out. In other words, you don’t need to play in order to play.
For those wanting to spend some time pondering his work in the Library, there’s plenty on offer – some familiar, some unexpected – to allocate day after day to discovering more on this man who did so much for fringe cultures around the world.
Once you’ve lingered on his life a while, the next stop would be his words. Muddy, dark, though full of life, his rambling delivery continues to be influential, with such stylings evident in everyone from Patti Smith to Michael Stipe to Arab Strap.
The man can be enigmatic though, so an intimate concert video of one of his most personal works could just about shave off some of that edge. Berlin was generally misunderstood for quite some time, though is more at home nowadays, as we’ve become more accustomed to difficult confessional works in popular music.
Allocating some time for his sound, of course, would be good. Possibly whilst reading a decent account of the life of The Velvet Underground. Maybe even a book of his recent photography. Any of our librarians will gladly help you track down more items, if you’ve still not had enough. But who has, really?
Some recent CD arrivals feature on the Listening Posts in Arts. They include new releases in opera & classical, country & folk, jazz, and musical theatre. Theonline catalogue indicates which Listening Post the CD is available on.
As performances of Wagner’s mammoth Ring Cycle commence at the Arts Centre in November, this new compilation from Deutsche Grammophon celebrates Great Wagner Singers. It includes highlights from operas in the Cycle such as Siegfried and Das Rheingold, as well as other great Wagner works such as The Flying Dutchman and The Mastersingers of Nuremburg. Monet’s Garden was the fantastic winter exhibition at the NGV this year and inspires this new release from the ABC, Claude Monet : the magic garden. It features composers associated with impressionist music such as Debussy, Ravel, Faure and Saint-Saens.
Banjo Australis features a cross section of tunes across time and genre including themes from TV classics such as Rush and Skippy, Waltzing Matilda and a Seekers medley resulting in a great repertoire of Australian banjo music perfomed by Ian Simpson and John Kane. Lovegrass features 12 original tracks including songs with John Williamson and Greg Storer performed by Australian country music singer, Sara Storer.
Facade of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, NYC. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. 2012.
The Metropolitan Opera Centennial Gala, Part 2 commences at 12.00 noon and concludes at 1.55 pm (approx). It will be held in the Community Lab. Enter via the Arts Reading Room (from Trescowthick Information Centre). Admission is free. No bookings required, but come early as seating is limited. Enjoy!
Guest blogger and pigeon-fancier Jane Miller couldn’t resist celebrating Bird Week…..
A bit of cross promotion here for Bird week (19-25 October) as the Arts Library includes in its’ collections a wide array of works illustrating birds in art. Illustration plays an important role in the scientific record, and our collection includes guides to perfecting your work. As well as more realistic forms, bird illustration features in Chinese and Japanese art. Our audio collection includes recordings of birdsongs, available for listening in the Arts Reading Room.