In a season of volatility in classical music, the merger of the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall — reported in Monday’s New York Times — is a development of international significance.
The move will return the New York Philharmonic to the hall that was its home from 1891 until Lincoln Center opened in 1962. America’s oldest orchestra will leave the flawed acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall for the splendor of one of the world’s best concert venues.
The Philharmonic, currently a tenant at Lincoln Center, will become a managing partner of its new-old home. The combined endowment of the orchestra and concert hall would be valued at about $350 million in the currently depressed market.
The Philharmonic, whose music director is former Pittsburgh Symphony musician and music director Lorin Maazel, will increase its Carnegie Hall presence before the move is complete in 2006. Backstage facilities at Carnegie Hall will be renovated.
The New York orchestra gives three to four subscription concerts a week, which will sharply curtail Carnegie Hall’s availability for guest ensembles and soloists. Carnegie Hall is the focal point for international orchestras touring North America, as well as the most prestigious site for national tours by American orchestras.
The development is a serious blow to Lincoln Center, which has had to shelve a $1.5 billion, 10-year renovation plan and instead settle for a $350 million, 12-year plan, not counting additional attempts to improve Fisher Hall.
In addition, the New York City Opera, another Lincoln Center tenant, is also looking to move. Acoustics at the New York State Theater are even worse than at Fisher Hall.
When Fisher Hall opened as Philharmonic Hall, conductor Leopold Stokowski heard one chord and said, “You called me too late.” Another legendary conductor, George Szell, said “Burn it down and start over.” It was renamed after stereo equipment manufacturer Avery Fisher donated money for a partially successful acoustical renovation.
‘Sampling cinema’ gives ‘Rebirth’ to 1915 film
Klansmen ride against the army of occupation in this scene from D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation.” Paul Miller, the artist and musician known as DJ Spooky, is doing to the movie what music has been undergoing for years — remixing it. The work-in-progress titled “Rebirth of a Nation,” which Miller has performed twice before, has been shown at the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York’s borough of Queens.
In 1915, “The Birth of a Nation” changed the art of filmmaking. It also celebrated the Ku Klux Klan as heroes of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Now the movie itself is under reconstruction.
The artist and musician DJ Spooky is treating the seminal but racist film like a piece of music — he’s doing a “remix.” Spooky’s work-in-progress, titled “Rebirth of a Nation,” was shown last week at the American Museum of the Moving Image.
Spooky chose D.W. Griffith’s “Birth” precisely because it deals with issues of race. By manipulating it, and showing how it can be changed, he hopes to show how images and ideas about race are mutable as well.
“In one era, race is one thing. In another … it changes,” the DJ says. “There’s never one final answer for any of this, it’s always a remix.”
Carl Goodman, curator of digital media at the museum, called it “sampling cinema.”
“By allowing people to play with and remix and reconfigure the media of the past, it becomes a powerful form of commentating,” Goodman says.
On Thursday night, Spooky projected the film onto a large screen, adding layers of visual effects. An image of a fully robed Klansman underlay the scene depicting the South’s surrender at the end of the war. An image of a young Southern woman looking at cotton cloth for a dress was followed by an image of slaves picking the cotton.
Spooky also added material, such as images of a dance performance inspired by Southern history. And the soundtrack was of course his creation, a mix that ranged from a rendition of “Dixieland” to the type of beat-driven music one would hear in a club.
Spooky, born Paul Miller, has recorded with musicians ranging from Yoko Ono to Wu-Tang Clan’s Killa Priest. His artwork has appeared in the Whitney Biennial, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany and the Andy Warhol Museum, among others.
Spooky said he planned to travel with the project and was working out arrangements to show it internationally. His ultimate goal is to show it on three screens at a time, accompanied by an orchestra.
“Birth” is a milestone in American screen history, an epic production that changed how movies were filmed and edited with its use of massive numbers of extras, on-location shoots and camera close-ups.
It also outraged many people with its stereotypical, racist portrayals of black people and its embrace of the Klan.
Timothy Shary, an assistant professor of screen studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., says Griffith made a movie that was admirable for its artistic innovations, but not much else.
“You have to wonder what Griffith was thinking,” he says.
Shary was curious at the idea of a film being remixed, but expressed a cautionary note as well.
“If you take a lot of scenes out of that film out of context, they do play very violently and they generate a lot of vehement reactions,” he says, adding it could create misinterpretations of the originator’s intent.
However, Shary said, “if you are very thoughtful about it, you will extract even more meaning from it.”
Harrison Ford gets star on Walk of Fame
LOS ANGELES — It’s the first star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the Harrison Ford, but not the first for Harrison Ford.
The “Star Wars” actor thought for years he’d been stepping over his marker in front of the famed Hollywood Boulevard eatery Musso & Frank — never realizing it belonged to a silent-film star of the same name who died in 1957.
The contemporary Harrison Ford got his own sidewalk honor amid hype for his new buddy film, “Hollywood Homicide,” and teases about a fourth “Indiana Jones” movie from director Steven Spielberg.
“When I came to Hollywood, bearing the name I was born with, I went to register at the Screen Actors Guild and they told me — and it was news to me — that there was already a Harrison Ford and that I couldn’t use that name,” the 60-year-old actor says.
He was credited as Harrison J. Ford for his small role in the 1967 Western, “A Time for Killing,” but the guild eventually let him drop the initial.
The younger Ford’s star was dedicated in front of the Kodak Theatre. The actor was joined by his girlfriend, former “Ally McBeal” star Calista Flockhart, his mother and Spielberg, who introduced him to the crowd of onlookers.
“All of his work has been seen in every country on this planet and dare I say the earlier works are now being viewed on more distant ones,” Spielberg said. “Like the car that bears his name, Ford has stood the test of time as a modern-day hero and an old-fashioned movie star with all the tools of our most gifted actors and the talent to use them.”
Spielberg promised the cheering crowd: “We’re about to launch production next year on ‘Indiana Jones Four.”‘ After the ceremony, however, Ford was more circumspect about his involvement in the sequel.
“I don’t know anything about it except that Steven’s very enthusiastic,” he says. “He’s got a period of time to work on the script before I see it. So I should see it in a couple of weeks.”
Does that mean a new film about the whip-cracking archaeologist is a definite go?
“I can’t say that until I read it,” Ford says. “But it feels like a go to me.”