Springsteen: The Boss of Inspiration

August 6th, 2012

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is the Boss of artistic inspiration.

Last spring he gave the keynote address at SXSW, which provided amazing insight into his creative sparks and process and provided inspiration to the next generation of artists at SXSW.

Now, he is providing the kind of wisdom-from-experience that should reach into the hearts and minds of anyone who wants to create and perform. As posted in KadmusArts’ Daily Culture News feed, David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, recently wrote a feature piece on the life and career of Bruce Springsteen. This is the story of an artist who continues to grow, develop, change and explore. Remnick captures the essence of the rare rock ‘n roller who isn’t just playing the same ol’ hits, but one who keeps writing, keeps creating, and keeps connecting with audiences.

The key to Springsteen’s ongoing link with the audience is that he isn’t a performer who thinks it’s all about himself. Rather, for Springsteen everything is about the audience.

Here are a few of Springsteen’s words from Remnick’s article:

I want an extreme experience [for the audience]…with your hands hurting, your voice sore, and your sexual organs stimulated.

For an adult, the world is constantly trying to clamp down on itself…Routine, responsibility, decay of institutions, corruption: this is all the world closing in. Music, when it’s really great, pries that shit back open and lets people back in, it lets light in, and air in, and energy in, and sends people home with that and sends me back to the hotel with it. People carry that with them sometimes for a very long period of time.

The essence of the way this band moves is one of soul. It’s supposed to be overwhelming. You shouldn’t be able to catch your breath. That’s what being a front man is all about — the idea of having something supple underneath you, that machine that roars and can turn on a dime.

You’re the shaman, a little bit, you’re leading the congregation…But you are the same as everybody else in the sense that your troubles are the same, you’re problems are the same, you’ve got your blessings, you’ve got your sins, you’ve got the things you can do well, you’ve got the things you fuck up all the time. And so you’re a conduit.

We’re repairmen — repairmen with a toolbox. If I repair a little of myself, I’ll repair a little of you. That’s the job.

It’s theatre, you know… I’m a theatrical performer. I’m whispering in your ear, and you’re dreaming my dreams, and them I’m getting a feeling for yours. I’ve been doing that for forty years.

[As Springsteen’s bandmate Steve Van Zandt told him]: People don’t need you talking about your life. Nobody gives a shit about a your life. They need you for their lives. That’s your thing. Giving some logic and reason and sympathy and passion to this cold, fragmented, confusing world — that’s your gift. Explaining their lives to them. Their lives, not yours.

[On his recent more political songs]: They function at the very edges of politics at best, though they try to administer to its center. You have to be satisfied with that. You have to understand it’s a long road, and there have been people doing some version of what we’re doing on this tour going all the way back, and there will be people doing it after us. I think one thing this record tries to do is to remind people that there is a continuity that is passed on from generation to generation, a set of ideas expressed in myriad different ways: books, protests, essays, songs, around the kitchen table. So these ideas are ever-present. And you are a raindrop.

That ticket is my handshake. That ticket is me promising you that it’s gonna be all the way every chance I get. That’s my contract. And ever since I was a young guy I took that seriously.

A transformation takes place. That’s what we’re selling. We’re selling that possibility. It’s half a joke: I go out onstage and — snap — ‘Are you ready to be transformed?’ What? At a rock show? By a guy with a guitar? Part of it is a goof, and part of it is, Let’s do it, let’s see if we can.

I worked harder than anyone else I saw.

Towards the end of the article, Remnick recounts seeing a sign in English at one of Bruce’s shows in Spain: “Bruce, Thanks for Making Our Lives Better.”

Springsteen has made more than our lives better; he’s doing the same for music, live performance, and for art.

- Bill Reichblum

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Video Just Got More Social

July 23rd, 2012

Cellphones

Original Photo by Josué Goge — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

A new app sparks a new way to see festivals.

As posted in KadmusArts’ daily Culture News this week, a new start-up is creating a video sharing tool for festival fans throughout the world. Vyclone is an iPhone and iPad app that can automatically edit individual videos into one movie-like clip.

Imagine all those individual videos easily becoming genuinely social.

We are living through a time of new approaches to festival technologies, community outreach, and online developments. (See My Video, Your Show and Festivals’ Online Revolution.) This app is another game changer for the festival and other live event experience.

The brainchild of David Lassman and Joseph Sumner (son of Sting, and former band member of Fiction Plane), Vyclone holds enormous promise for festival connection. Rather than scrolling through thousands of individual videos of the same event, their approach mashes up multiple views into one seamless video that captures the experience.

Right now the app is limited to only four videos shot from within the same hundred-foot radius and for sixty seconds. However, there’s no doubt the technology underpinning the app will get better, more inclusive and more expansive.

In addition to live events, this kind of easy-to-use technology is also applicable to crowdsourced reporting. And, we know that there are other companies who will soon enter the same space, creating better technology through better competition for users.

The opportunity to edit together multiple shots into one video clip creates a new way to share, a new way to see, and a new way to archive your experience at a festival.

Festival Fans of the World Unite, indeed!

- Bill Reichblum

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Live from Backstage

July 9th, 2012

Theatre Royal Stratford East

Don’t Worry; Be Live.

The arts could use an anthem these days, and they might as well adapt Bobby McFerrin’s upbeat everything-will-be-all-right song. As more and more audiences keep their heads down with fingers ready to dial, click, expand, and scroll, arts professionals worry they are losing their audiences to wired connections.

The recent conference produced by the TCG, America’s national organization for theatre, hosted panels devoted to new models of theatre-making. The assumption was that the old ways of attracting and sustaining audiences are not sustainable. On the one hand this is about what kinds of works are produced; on the other hand, it’s about how to engage new audiences to have a stake in the development of artists, their work, and a community’s artistic identity.

At KadmusArts, we watch and capture the development of live event festivals across the world. There is no doubt that even as more of the planet is wired, live events continue to grow and expand their audiences. In fact, our database of festivals has expanded every single week since we were founded to help producers and promoters, audiences and fans, artists and bands travel, discover and create.

Last week in our daily Global Arts News feed, we posted a story that should lead arts professionals away from their struts and frets toward a brave new world approach to audience development and engagement. The Theatre Royal Stratford East has created a new and brilliant initiative: live streaming from the rehearsal room.

This simple idea is a perfect way to bring audiences backstage to better understand and yes, connect with the development and experience of art.

For Theatre Royal’s artistic director Kerry Michael, this approach creates a “third space” in addition to the main stage and the theatre bar. Of course, providing a platform to go inside the work helps generate interest and sell tickets. But for Michael, there’s more to it: “…it is also about finding a virtual way you can engage with our organisation. People talk about how exciting it is to hang out in our bar, or how good our access programmes are, or how political we are in our debates and that is now represented in a virtual way.” In a way, Theatre Royal is honoring one of its early leaders, Joan Littlewood, who was one of the great theatrical innovators and talents of the last century. She knew how to involve everyone in the process.

Rather than trying to change the program for the social net gen’s benefit, this theatre is leading with what it does best and then bringing the audience along for the ride. The way to bridge the divide between the arts and audiences is to work on better informing audiences about the process and the choices in creating work. The more the audiences know, the more they will enjoy. A backstage pass is no longer a privilege; it’s a open party.

Just like singing along to that old tune: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

- Bill Reichblum

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Oh, To Live Again in a Yellow Submarine

June 18th, 2012

Yellow Submarine

Original Photo by Benj Carson — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Here’s a way to make your June more festive: The Yellow Submarine has been digitally restored for DVD and Blu-ray.

As posted in KadmusArts Culture News, the 1968 film created for The Beatles is now available in brighter colors, clearer sounds, and meticulous artistry. The Yellow Submarine is just plain brilliantly cool.

Created by art director and production designer, Heinz Edelmann, directed by George Dunning, and written by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn and Erich Segal (yes, that Erich Segal), Yellow Submarine took two years to make. They used fourteen different scripts, forty animators, and one hundred and forty technical artists.

The key player was Edelmann, designer, illustrator, and teacher. Born in born Ústí Nad Labem, Czech Republic, Edelmann was a professor at the Stuttgart Academy of Fine Arts for thirty years. Inspired by Edelmann’s concepts, the innovative animation process incorporated still photos, freeform rotoscoping and watercolors, and transparent tape along with traditional cel animation. Taken together, the film not only appears to sum-up all the flair of the sixties’ generation, but Edelmann’s design created a whole vision of the possibilities of animation, design, and story telling.

The restored release includes an essay by John Lasseter. (Of course, Lasseter would love this film!) Lasseter writes, “As a fan of animation and as a filmmaker, I tip my hat to the artists of Yellow Submarine, whose revolutionary work helped pave the way for the fantastically diverse world of animation that we all enjoy today.”

In Pepperland, the Beatles battle the Blue Meanies, who hate music. How can the Blue Meanies of the world stand a chance against Eleanor Rigby, When I’m Sixty-Four, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Nowhere Man, All Together Now, and All You Need is Love?

As Edelmann, who died in 2009, described it in an interview, “rock and roll meets innocence.”

Go watch and sing-a-long. Isn’t this a perfect inspiration for a festive season of fun?

- Bill Reichblum

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Artists v. Art?

June 4th, 2012

Censored

Original Photo by Nicolò Paternoster — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Should artists silence art?

As part of the Olympic festivities, England is hosting Globe to Globe, a festival that presents all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in 37 different languages. Companies from all over the world are appearing at The Globe with their vision of Shakespeare. Brilliant idea, yes? A true bridge to mutual exchange, right? A genuine opportunity for international understanding and learning, agreed?

Not so for many significant British artists including Caryl Churchill, Mike Leigh, Jonathan Miller, Mark Rylance (founding artistic director of the Globe), and Emma Thompson. They called for the theatre to cancel its invitation to the Habima Theatre of Israel and when the Globe didn’t, for audiences to boycott Habima’s production of Merchant of Venice (ironically enough).

The artists published in The Guardian their rationale:

The Globe says it wants to “include” the Hebrew language in its festival – we have no problem with that. “Inclusiveness” is a core value of arts policy in Britain, and we support it. But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company. We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.

The Habima is, without question, one of the world’s great theatres. Founded in Moscow in 1913, the theatre was home to some of Russia’s most cutting edge artists, including being led for a time by Yevgeny Vkahtongov. The theatre moved to Tel Aviv in the 1920’s. Each year, the Habima presents about 1,500 performances. Last year, five performances were in the Ariel settlement in the West Bank. Habima artists who did not want to perform there were not required to do so. As with most European theatres, including the theatres and industries where these British artists work, the Habima receives substantial funding from their government.

On opening night, Dominic Dromgoole, Globe artistic director, gave a pre-show speech to let the audience know that the Globe staff anticipated some protest during the performance; “You’re not watching politicians or policy-makers. You are watching artists who are here to tell a story.” (In fact there were a couple of incidents of banner waving and shouts, but to their credit, the protestors made their point and were escorted out of the theatre without any real harm to the audience, artists or the production.)

The political issue is, of course, complex. However, isn’t it simple to let artists speak for themselves?

The festival also included performances by artists from other countries whose governments suppress freedom of expression and human rights. No one questioned the appearance of these artists in a world-wide festival, supported by their governments. The festival also presented a performance by Palestinian company based in Ramallah, Ahstar Theatre.

Ilan Ronen, artistic director of Habima, explained:

It is important to emphasize, we express our political views in many of our projects. But like other theatre companies and dance companies in Israel, we are state-financed, and financially supported to perform all over the country. This is the law… We are supported by the state, but not representing it. We are completely independent, artistically and politically.

The point that Ronen was trying to make is not a small one. The Israeli government does not censor, interfere, or determine the company’s choice of performances or personnel. Moreover, historically the festival spirit thrived when companies from the former Eastern block, many of which were under the control of their repressive governments, were able to perform at festivals in the west. At that time, most artists, including some of the ones who wanted the Globe to boycott Habima, welcomed the opportunity to host these companies and their work. This kind of artist to artist, audience to art contact is surely one of the most direct ways of understanding another point of view.

Not all of the leading British artists are against the Globe hosting an Israeli company. Steven Berkoff, Simon Callow, Maureen Lipman, Arnold Wesker were among those who welcomed the Habima’s place in the festival. Perhaps, the British novelist, Howard Jacobson, best articulated the reasons to open the borders, not close them:

If there is one justification for art… it is that it proceeds from, and addresses, our unaligned humanity. Whoever would go to art with a mind made up on any subject misses the point of what art is for… So to censor it in the name of political or religious conviction… is to tear out its very heart. For artists themselves to do such a thing to art is not only treasonable, it is an act of self-harm… One could almost laugh about it, so Kafkaesque is the reasoning: The Merchant of Venice, acted in Hebrew, a troubling work of great moral complexity (and therefore one that we should welcome every new interpretation of), to be banned not by virtue of itself, but because of where the theatre company performing it had also performed. But the laughter dies in our throats.

Shouldn’t protests be directed against governments and not artists? After all, aren’t the best artists the ones who enlighten and inform the politicians and us?

- Bill Reichblum

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