Print

"The Cage Variations" by Ted Hearne

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

A leopard went around his cage from one side back to the other side; he stopped only when the keeper came around with meat; A boy who had been there three hours began to wonder, "Is life anything like that?" —text from "The Cage" by Charles Ives

I had a super-interesting conversation today with composer Ted Hearne, who is in town this week for the world premiere of his work, "The Cage Variations." It was commissioned by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, which opened its summer-only season last weekend. 

The piece can stand on its own, but for the PNME concert, "The Cage Variations" is an evening-length production, said Mr. Hearne. The music is 12 variations on Charles Ives' "The Cage," a short song for voice and piano. Mr. Hearne's variations are based on shards of pieces written by other composers. They'll be layered on top of each other (both in live performance and through electronic samples); threaded throughout for this performance are whole and complete versions of those works.

"It's all constructed through a kind of cut-and-paste technique, so each sound comes from one of these other pieces I used as the source material," the Brooklyn-based composer said. Together, his variations are about 20 minutes long, and the preexisting works are about 45 minutes.

Besides the Ives, the pieces that are drawn upon are by Amy Beth Kirsten, Scott Wollschleger, Molly Joyce, Alex Mincek, Anna Clyne, Daniel Wohl, Morton Feldman, Robert Honstein and Mr. Hearne (using another of his works). Aside from Ives and Feldman, "the oldest composer is 10 years older than me, and the youngest is 10 years young than me," said Mr. Hearne, 32.

OK, so lots of questions. Why "The Cage," and why these composers? As you'll see from the language of "The Cage," "it's an ambiguous and evocative text," Mr. Hearne said. "I have so many different interpretations of it, and that's part of the magic of that piece." It's also short and structurally conducive to turning into variations, he said. 

But the work of Ives, who rejected many old traditions, also speaks to Mr. Hearne. "I'm really interested in recontextualizing music" in the genres of classical and pop, he said. He sees the use of sampling in other genres as an inspiration, particularly hip hop and Kanye West's album "Yeezus," which is "full of this kind of dialogue," Mr. Hearne said.

"[Ives] was very ecumenical with respect to some vernacular music or some non-classical music that was going on around him," Mr. Hearne said. The other composers whose works are drawn on for "The Cage Variations" represent diverse styles, but "they're very open listeners and open composers, and the piece is sort of a celebration of that," Mr. Hearne said. Another thread running through the works is a focus on variations in timbre, rhythm and contour. "A lot of these variations don't have to do with pitch," he said.

"It's an experiment," Mr. Hearne. "There are moments that are going to be pretty weird, and there're moments that are going to be less weird."

Sound intriguing? Check out PNME at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at City Theatre on the South Side. More information at www.pnme.org. 

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Print

Grow something weird and wonderful

Written by Doug Oster on .

Blog cool plantsaMy truck was loaded up with cool plants to use on Pittsburgh Today Live. Photo by Doug Oster

With every thing on sale at the garden centers, this is a perfect time to look for interesting plants to grow.

Here's a segment from Pittsburgh Today Live where I show some things you don't normally see planted in the garden. Interested in a chartreuse elephant ear with burgundy stalks? I am!

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Print

Elaine Stritch dies at 89, was captured in "Shoot Me" doc

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

Stritch4
Elaine Stritch, the brassy, bossy and spirited performer, died today at home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.
 
Her death came not long after the release of the documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” which played at the Harris Theater, Downtown, in early March thanks to Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Her long career included work on stage, TV (she played Alec Baldwin’s mother on “30 Rock”) and in movies. 
 
If you’re looking for a fitting way to celebrate her life, I would suggest you track down the movie through amazon.com or other outlets. Here is my review: 
 
By Barbara Vancheri / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
350Stritch2An old friend of Elaine Stritch recalls meeting the actress, a recovering alcoholic, at an AA meeting. After an opening insult, the performer asked Julie Keyes for a ride home, ordered her to pick her up later with a decaf Diet Coke at the ready and, by the way, to clean her car.
 
That, ladies and gentlemen (cue the applause), is Elaine Stritch, now 89 but 86 and 87 years old during the filming of a documentary about her six-decade career and her indomitable spirit, brassiness, bossiness, survivor’s instincts and simple belief, “I feel better when I work.”
 
She may forget the lyrics to a song now and again, due as much to her diabetes as her age, but she soldiers on, turning to musical director Rob Bowman for able assistance, allowing her eyes to twinkle as she pokes fun at herself and invariably winning the audience’s affection along the way. And allowing rehearsals and musical muscle memory to carry the day and bring the words back to her.
 
That’s what “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” shows as she sings Sondheim numbers, much as she did on Broadway. You see her perform her signature “The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company” along with the particularly relevant “I’m Still Here” from “Follies.”
 
Filmmaker Chiemi Karasawa allows Ms. Stritch to talk about her life, uses archival photos and some clips to highlight her career and interviews such colleagues as Tina Fey, Cherry Jones, the late James Gandolfini (he played her son in “Romance & Cigarettes”) and theatrical producer Hal Prince.
 
Ms. Fey, who appeared with Ms. Stritch on “30 Rock” where she played Alec Baldwin’s mother, calls the octogenarian a great role model. She’s “confident, brassy, stylish, gorgeous and doesn’t wear pants,” opting for long white button-down shirts and black tights.
 
“Elaine Stritch,” whose subject worked with such legendary figures on stage and big and small screens as Noel Coward, George Abbott, Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim, Ben Gazzara, Rock Hudson, John Gielgud, Woody Allen and Bernadette Peters, seems designed to be celebratory but also proves revelatory.
 
That is particularly true when she’s in the throes of a diabetic emergency. She’s out of town and has three malfunctioning glucose meters and is in a panic and even temporarily loses her ability to speak.
 
Spooked by what’s happened, she swears off her single alcoholic drink a day although reverts to her indulgence later, arguing she doesn’t want to make any more sacrifices. It’s obvious why this is a slippery slope for an alcoholic, but no medical testimony is offered about why this might be ill-advised for a diabetic.
 
The 81-minute movie is not a comprehensive look at Ms. Stritch — why did she move into the Carlyle Hotel, how did the Stella Adler Studio shape her as an actress and how did a room dedicated to her turn out? — but it is an intimate one.
 
The documentary not only captures her at her most vulnerable as she sleeps in a hospital bed but most participatory as she tries to direct the camera operator about how he should shoot a scene. The Michigan-born actress believes, as did Bette Davis, that old age is no place for sissies and she shows she is still anything but.
 
Photos from “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.” 
 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Print

West Virginia again projected to finish eighth in the Big 12

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

There's a clear distinction between the Haves and the Have Nots in the Big 12, at least in the eyes of the media. The Big 12 media preseason poll was released Thursday, and for the second year in a row it's West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas — in that order — bringing up the rear.

Two years ago, the Mountaineers were selected to finish second, behind Oklahoma, and even received seven first-place votes. But the reality of life in the Big 12 set in and have brought West Virginia hurtling back to earth. Head coach Dana Holgorsen's team went 7-6 in 2012, its first season in the Big 12, and fell out of bowl contention with a 4-8 season in 2013.

Oklahoma, the preseason favorite, received 47 first-place votes, followed by Baylor with nine. West Virginia was a full 127 points behind seventh-place TCU. 

Here is the full 2014 Big 12 preseason poll, with first-place votes in parentheses:

1. Oklahoma (47)
2. Baylor (9)
3. Kansas State
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Texas Tech
7. TCU
8. West Virginia
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Print

Spaghetti and a Western at Parkway Theater in Stowe

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

 

a-fistful-of-dollarsParkway Theater in Stowe Township tonight will relaunch its Spaghetti Western Dinner series which will offer a movie and a meal on the third Thursday of the month through year’s end. 
 
The program opens today (July 17) with "A Fistful of Dollars" starring Clint Eastwood and will continue with:  "My Name Is Nobody," with Henry Fonda and Terence Hill, Aug. 21; "Keoma" with Franco Nero, Sept.18; "The Great Silence," featuring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Klaus Kinski, Oct. 16; "Once Upon a Time in the West," with Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards and Charles Bronson, Nov. 20; and "For a Few Dollars More," also starring Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, Dec. 18. 
 
Admission of $8 includes spaghetti, meatballs and Mancini bread along with the movie. Wine and beer are available with a donation, and popcorn and other refreshments will be sold.
 
Doors open at 6 p.m., movie starts at 6:30 p.m. and reservations are appreciated. Prizes will be awarded to anyone dressed in cowboy attire.
 
For more information about the event at the theater, 644 Broadway Ave., see www.parkwaytheater.org or call 412-766-1668. 

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.