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WattWork - The Blog
On the News, the Arts, and the Meaning of Life. What else?


Saturday, March 07, 2009
WattWork - The Book!

C Above Middle C is my long anticipated book project, recounting the cancer saga that ended my career as a classical singer—and pretty much everything else I had going on. In this memoir, I am looking for connections that make some sense of the changes that swept my life when "The Big C" was found in the bones of my face. I'm happy to report that my life has been full of high notes of every kind, in the years since then. And I look forward to sharing those with new audiences, through my new "voice".

On The Book site, I will be posting relevant news items along with some personal notes on developments in medical technology, arts or culture related to the themes in C Above Middle C. I invite readers to comment on ideas I may post, and to share freely the lessons they may have learned from their own experience of "The Big C", including any information or resources that have been particularly helpful to them, and may be useful to others facing similar challenges.

And stay tuned for news on the progress of C Above Middle C as it makes its way to a book shelf near you!

3/07/2009 11:38:00 AM
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Friday, October 29, 2004

Composer Charles Wuorinen: New Wine, Old Skins
One of America's most important composers has found music for one of the most unlikely stories to have emerged from one of the most lonely exiles of modern memory. When writer Salman Rushdie was individually targetted by a worldwide Islamic jihad, he wrote a fantastical parable to comfort his son, which composer Charles Wuorinen has now brought to the operatic stage, with a libretto by poet James Fenton. Recently I spoke with the composer for usOperaweb.com:

"There is an unfortunate general conception among a lot of people that art is elite. There is an embarrassment about the idea of expressing interest in things of an artistic nature, or things of 'higher value.' People want to get down to the level of the street. I don't want that and [there are others who] don't want that either. Thus it is our duty to expand and assert the value of higher culture in life without apology."

Composer Charles Wuorinen speaks with a patrician elan that belies his zip code of origin. Born June 9, 1938, in New York City, he proclaims, "I'm that rarest of beings -- a genuine New York-raised Manhattanite." But he declines to speculate about how that urban authenticity may have left its stamp on his work....
Read the entire interview

10/29/2004 06:00:57 PM
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Tuesday, July 13, 2004
"Portraits That Mean Something"
"I've been a portrait sculptor for years," says Jane Robbins, of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK. A single mother, she says she is "always on a crust," running from one commission to another - "I'm mommy and daddy! I'm it!"

Not for nothing. Robbins runs from one commission to another because her sensitive portraits are in demand. But that is work which she now calls "nice stylized realistic portraits," and her modus operandi is about to change. Robbins has recently joined portrait painter Mark Gilbert as Artist-in-Residence of the Facial Surgery Research Foundation, founded in 2000 by maxillofacial surgeon Iain Hutchison, of St Bart's and the Royal London Hospital.

"Now that's worthwhile," thought Robbins when she learned of Gilbert's work, "because it makes a business of doing portraits that mean something!"
Read the complete profile >>

7/13/2004 09:43:18 AM
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Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Art Song Composer Lori Laitman Is Grand at Cleveland Opera
I have called to ask composer Lori Laitman about the upcoming world premiere of her new opera, Come to Me in Dreams, at Cleveland Opera (June 9, 11, 12, 13). But the first words heard from Ms Laitman this morning are an apology for her hoarse voice. She has been composing.

"Whenever I'm writing a song, I sing it, though I'm not a singer at all. It's really hideous! I feel sorry for my poets sometimes. If I'm meeting a poet - a poet who's alive, of course - I will sing for them - because I'm always so excited about my music! I ask them to use their imagination."

Ms Laitman tends to speak with the charm and disclosure of sentence fragments, free associations and restarts, all suggesting her high energy and keen attention to changes in moments as they pass, in her busy mind.

"I don't normally sound like this! But I got a commission the other day for this piece and I just got the poem in the mail yesterday. All of a sudden, I have to work quickly for it - it's scheduled for performance on June 12. But right now I have a lot of ideas and I'm already halfway done. That doesn't always happen - at all - but when it does happen, it's nice."

One measure of composer Lori Laitman's gifts is that poets and performers with widely diverse specialties believe in common that her musical voice is ideally matched to their own....

In Ms Laitman's Come to Me in Dreams, a man (baritone Sanford Sylvan) who has survived the horrors of World War II, remembers his wife (mezzo-soprano Fenlon Lamb) and a daughter (soprano Megan Tillman) who died at the hands of the Nazis, as he finally reveals his story to his surviving daughter (a non-singing role). Ultimately he comes poignantly to terms with the past, and therefore his future. But what, I wonder, was so persuasive about the Cleveland commission that it wooed this highly sought-after composer of contemporary lyric art song to the operatic stage?
Read the complete interview

6/8/2004 01:45:38 PM
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Sunday, January 18, 2004
The Three Same Guys to Benefit 70,000
The Three Same Guys, by playwright Joe Roland, takes the stage at the Actor's Gang in Los Angeles, CA, on February 3, 2004.

Followers of New York's off-Broadway scene know Roland as a founding actor of Water Theate r Company, where the founding charter touts "the political and social change that enlightening, artful theatre brings...We dedicate ourselves to exploring and sharing the explosive, transforming power of that human endeavor--the creative process--with all its revelations."

And here's where the rubber meets the road. These guys really believe this stuff. This month Roland has pressed his own creative output into this ... well ... this noble purpose. The Three Same Guys begins a run at Trinity Rep in Providence, RI, in fall 2004; acclaimed director Mike Nichols recently said of The Three Same Guys, "There hasn't been a play like it since Waiting for Lefty." But at the Actor's Gang in L.A., Roland himself will appear as Dev, along with four intrepid New York actors of like mind, as a benefit performance to raise money and awareness for the 70,000 supermarket workers on strike in Southern California. Three giant corporations (Safeway, Kroger and Albertson's) are attempting to eliminate health care benefits at work, effectively destroying affordable health care for these workers. Says Roland,

"There is a war being waged on the working class in America. They are slowly disappearing into the ranks of the working poor.... Personally I think that [corporate America is] taking the short view. A nation of poor, overworked, underinsured service workers can't be good for business.

"[But] this benefit isn't really about the money. It's about morale and attention. Those mothers and fathers and sons and daughters are fighting for their jobs, and for the jobs of millions of Americans, because although the American public may not be watching, you can bet your ass that American business is. I want those people on strike to know that I am paying attention, that many of us are paying attention and that we appreciate it...."

Artful theater has the power to enlighten, to effect political and social change--because its explosive, transforming power motivates human endeavor. It can give voice to the voiceless, to the unspoken, and to the unspeakable. This is what theater in the right hands can do.

You can help these five artists effect change for 70,000 Americans.
Make out a check for the price of a ticket--$50--payable to:
UFCW Strike Hardship Fund
and mail to
19 Commerce Street #12
New York, NY 10014

And if you're in L.A, go see the show:
Tuesday, February 3rd
7:00 and 10:00 pm
Actors Gang
6209 Santa Monica Blvd.
(323) 782-6277

Theater matters. So do you.

Ciao for nao!>

1/18/2004 12:24:36 AM


Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Good Advice: Get ArtsJournal Online
Douglas McLennan edits the ArtsJournal newsletter. If you're not getting it, you're missing out on the web's best daily roundup of arts news and issues of interest to arts-aware readers. By "best" I mean smart, thorough, inclusive, trustworthy. And, PS, the site design is refreshingly clean and navigable. Recent selections include:

"Knowledge For Wisdom, Not Acquisition" from The Philosopher's Magazine,
"Iraqi Art In A Time Of War" in the San Francisco Chronicle,
commentary on architecture by The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik,
theater criticism (or not) by WBUR's Bill Marx,
Barenboim: An Artist's Dilemma from La Scena Musicale.

Why "Angels" Don't Fly On TV is commentary by ArtsJournal's own blogger Jan Herman.
Eight other blogs you can trust are at AJ Blog Central:

Terry Teachout's About Last Night
Andrew Taylor's Artful Manager
Tobi Tobias' Seeing Things
Greg Sandow's Sandow
Bob Goldfarb's In Media Res
Kyle Gann's PostClassic
Tim Riley's blog riley
Drew McManus' Adaptistration

Check it out.

Ciao for nao.

12/9/2003 11:37:26 AM


Monday, December 08, 2003
Knowledge Management Crossing Over
Knowledge Managers are referring increasingly to parallel uses of KM's governing principles, as witness the appearance at excited utterances (Joy London's award winning KM blog), of items like this one on November 24, 2003: Knowledge for Its Own Sake? "[T]he Warwick Business School will host a seminar entitled "Knowing as Desiring: Mythic Knowledge and the Knowledge Journey in Communities of Practitioners."

Now for more crossover, read Michael F. Brown, Lambert Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies at Williams College.

Writing for Cultural Commons, website of the Center for Arts and Culture, Brown makes a thoughtful report on the 32nd General Conference of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which met in October at the organization's headquarters in Paris. In "Safeguarding the Intangible" Brown reports, "the convention's goal is to provide a framework for promoting the survival of traditional folklore, knowledge, and artistic expressions throughout the world...."

Echoing KM's concerns around what it calls tacit knowledge, Brown writes convincingly that UNESCO's concern about the survival of intangible heritage is warranted, "in view of the general trajectory of cultural change today..." but that "...simmering resentment about the developed world's intellectual property practices" hobble UNESCO's best intentions. "Once documented, [intangible property] is more readily commandeered by musicians, novelists, pharmaceutical companies, the motion-picture industry--indeed, by anyone positioned to take advantage of an intellectual property system that favors individual or corporate creativity over the collective inventiveness of folk traditions, which are considered to reside in the public domain." Indigenous groups themselves are resisting, edging toward greater secrecy and cultural closure. And global behemoths like the U.S. are also refusing to sign on. UNESCO policies favor closer management of intellectual property. But "[a]s the world's biggest exporter of copyrighted media products," writes Brown, "the U.S. opposes this approach to cultural preservation." Naturally.

KMers will also recognize the challenge of UNESCO's call for taxonomies. October's General Conference insists that each signatory nation prepare one or more inventories of the intangible cultural heritage present in its territory. "How", asks Brown, "does one turn the complexity of even a single culture into a list?"

Sound familiar? But solutions are discoverable, and crucial to achieve, for, as Brown writes, "...culture is more than a set of performances. It rests on deep-seated values and emotional dispositions so implicit that they may not be fully recognized even by culture-bearers themselves." Looks like KMers will need to sharpen their soft skills (don't we all?), in order to reap the tacit knowledge of the wise ones of their tribes, firms and corporations.

Ciao for nao!

12/8/2003 10:57:29 AM


Tuesday, December 02, 2003
My Last Word on Gay Marriage
Like millions of others in commited same-sex relationships, we'll go on living our lives of fealty, domestic minutiae, and assorted civil inequities--just like everyone else--regardless of the outcome of the constitutional crucible in Massachuse tts. Because the whole matter is merely our daily fabric of life, I want to pass over it quickly, feeling as much spectator as participant, as I might at a giant picnic of tiresomely familiar extended family. But, like those picnics, this is, after all a big deal--it's history, and life. Some ideas are worth pausing over:

Speaking for the "libcons," New York Times op-ed columnist WILLIAM SAFIRE writes ("On Same-Sex Marriage," NYT December 1, 2002) that gay marriage "is generating [a] jangle of cognitive dissonance..." and that "[t]he pace of profound cultural change is too important to be left to activist judges. As moral-political issues go, th is big one deserves examination in communities with minds that can deal with internal contradictions...."

LAURENCE TRIBE, Tyler Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University, t o ld NPR's Bob Edwards (November 18, 2003) that, for all the "heartfelt but perhaps misguided arguments of those who think marriage will be in some way threatened...," Massachusetts lawmakers "don't have th e option" to define marriage as uniquely heterosexual. "The Supreme Judicial Court has said that the traditional, historic definition does not meet even the requirement of minimum rationality, if you look carefully at all of the reasons for creating and p r o tecting marriage, and the state Supreme Court, therefore, has itself defined marriage now as a matter of civil law, not a matter of religious law."

Speaking on NPR November 19, STANLEY KURTZ (a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a contributing editor for National Review Online) said not everyone who is anti-gay marriage is anti-gay. Nevertheless, citing Scandinavia's "higher ou t-of-wedlock birth rates and higher rates of family disollution," Kurtz worries about "a genuine conflict between the need for social tolerance and the welfare of children who need and deserve stable families."

ADAM NAGOURNEY writes (NYT, November 18, 2003) that neither Dems nor Republicans will score a clear political hit here, whatever the outcome, although a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found th at opposition among highly religious Americans is "an overwhelming six to one." Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and Democrat Representative Dick Gephardt each has an openly lesbian daughter--so we may at least hope for reflective, as well as reflexi ve, discourse on this thorny issue in the 2004 campaign year.

NPR's BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY reports about how one Detroit family's views on gay m arriage have shifted over three generations. Host ROBERT SIEGEL spoke with a couple in Catonsville, Maryland, who continue to struggle with moral relativism.

Reporting on the history of this issue, MARGOT ADLER told NPR "[t]his is not the first time that marriage has been in transition. Originally a transaction to preserve property and lineage, with fixed roles for each gende r, it was not until the middle of the 19th centu ry that married women in America could own property and have legal status. Fifty years ago, interracial marriage was viewed by many as unacceptable as same-sex marriage is viewed by some today...." She spok e with Mary Shanley (a professor of political sci ence at Vassar College), David Blankenhorn (president of the Institute for American Values), and author Laura Kipnis (Against Love: A Polemic).

ANTHONY BROOKS interviewed some of the seven plaintiff couples whose suit against the state of Massachusetts more than two years ago led to the decision announced in Boston, November 18, 2003.

Ciao for nao!

12/2/2003 11:53:19 AM





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