Category: Art

Robert Rosenblum

On December 6 of last year, the art historian and educator Robert Rosenblum died of cancer in New York City, where he worked and taught. He was 79.  Since our tabloid culture finds no prurient interest in the partners Rosenblum was or was not “hooking up” with, most people outside the art ghetto won’t grasp...

Good Writers

Readers of my books often ask me what I like to read when I’m not writing. And whenever I post a Thought lamenting our aesthetic culture’s descent into exalted mediocrity and irrelevance, the email correspondence usually includes queries like, “Well, if you don’t think Dan Brown is a good writer, who is, smarty pants?”  I...

Poem: Desafinado

Life is a melody played repeatedly By millions and billions of musicians All trying, with various levels of success, to make the song sound right. The normal hallmarks of practice — repetition, interminable repetition — don’t apply here, for there are no second chances, no do-overs at the beginning, no opportunity to return to the...

The Price of Virtuosity

Not long ago we had the pleasure of hearing (and watching) the young soloist Hillary Hahn play the Mendelssohn violin concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. She was sublime. The notoriously difficult music, which is hard even to hum accurately, came through her fingers with supreme grace, as though her body were...

The Problem with Cirque d’Soleil

Montreal’s famed “circus without animals” has delighted audiences around the globe with its amalgam of acrobatics, clowning, original music, and spectacular lighting effects — all without tortured elephants and disgruntled tigers. The company — or, more accurately, the corporation — has as a hand in seemingly every other show in Las Vegas, where its productions...

Being Ready

Many of our friends toil in the arts. They’re singers, pianists, and painters, playwrights, actors and essayists. And they’re all enjoying varying degrees of “success,” depending on how one defines the term. Those who don’t compose songs or declaim verse for a living suspect that the trick, the moment of magic, is getting discovered. They imagine...

The Genius Trade-Off

Being a genius isn’t easy. According to both conventional wisdom and scholarly hagiography, geniuses tend to be socially maladjusted freaks terrorized by personal demons that normal people can’t understand. Many geniuses die young. They endure lives that aren’t happy. Darkness shrouds their light. On the other hand, they’re geniuses. Being a regular person, it seems,...

Vocalizing Versus Singing

Beautiful vocalizing is often mistaken for beautiful singing. Both sonic phenomena require the production of a ringing tone that exploits the peculiar vibration of the ligaments and muscles — the cords — at the back of the human mouth. Both require an acute sensitivity to intonation (being “in tune”). And both demand a steady flow...

Colorblind Music

No matter how insistently racism tries to insert itself into our social interactions, a few transcendent arenas remain where the truth is immune to strenuously repeated stereotypes and preconceived notions. One of these rare places is music. Either you swing or you don’t; you’ve got soul or not. There’s no faking it. Jazz and blues...

Painter of Light

According to a series of recently published newspaper stories, Thomas Kinkade, the enormously successful painter, isn’t as nice of a man as his collectors and business associates believed him to be. This normally wouldn’t be much of a revelation except that in Kinkade’s case the artist trades heavily on his “Christian values” and “core beliefs,”...