Cultural Elsewhere

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BALI: Island of art, music and entrancing dance

18 Feb 2012  |  2 min read

Music seems inescapable in Bali. Not that you want to flee from it. In the more discreet bars and restaurants, around the hotel pool or in shops and village temples, somewhere in the background is a low and unobtrusive sound which sits between the hypnotic sound of the traditional Indonesian gamelan and the vacuous ambient trickle of New Age music. It almost requires you to slow... > Read more

New Morning

PABLO PICASSO, A RETROSPECTIVE (2012): Macho minotaur and old goat

10 Feb 2012  |  5 min read

In his final few years, Picasso painted over 400 canvases. Few people however would argue all these works were the equal of his early provocative masterpieces in the three decades after 1907. Many were crass, scribbled daubs filled with self-referential jokes, and his etchings of time -- while remarkably assured in execution -- were filled with earthy sensuality bordering on the rude.... > Read more

JOHN WILLIAMS INTERVIEWED (2001): Has guitar, will travel

30 Nov 2011  |  5 min read

Consider these snapshots from his remarkable career: at the age of 17 he was announced to the world by his teacher, classical guitarist Andres Segovia, as "a prince of the guitar [on whom] God has laid a finger"; a decade later he was touring with Julian Bream; in '69 he was playing at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London; there were rock gigs with his group Sky in the early... > Read more

RICHARD NUNNS INTERVIEWED (2003): The questions are blowing in the wind

27 Aug 2011  |  4 min read

The late Hirini Melbourne, who died of cancer in January '03 aged 53, opened a window on the past which has allowed others to see a future. Through his work with fellow musicologist Richard Nunns, Melbourne -- of Tuhoe and Ngati Kahungunu descent -- brought traditional Maori instruments back into the spotlight through performance, teaching and recording. His legacy is too vast to... > Read more

Te Auraki A Taane

THE CHANGING CULTURE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC: Real world murder in the house

12 Aug 2011  |  8 min read

When the recording of Robert Moran’s new opera was released in '94 there was an almost predictable ripple of controversy in the more staid sections of the classical world. And not because this dark, disconcerting piece offered no conventional narrative structure, that one of the performers was proto-punk Iggy Pop (who spoke his part anyway), or that substantial sections of the music were... > Read more

Subject: The Beatles

THE PENINSULA, HONG KONG: A building through space and time

19 Jun 2011  |  6 min read

Only a fool would try to suggest that a single building – in this instance, worse, a luxurious hotel – could refract the story of city. But let's be foolish, because the history of the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, and the way we see it today, contains bright flashes of that unique city's history. The first time I saw the Peninsula was more than four decades ago when Hong... > Read more

JOHN PSATHAS, 21st CENTURY MAN: The helix of creativity

11 Apr 2011  |  2 min read

It seems entirely fitting that the final piece on New Zealand composer John Psathas' new album Helix should be dedicated to Jack Body, a composer like Psathas who has always looked outward as much as inward for his inspiration. Body has found source material in Indonesia and in his tribute Waiting:Still, Psathas pairs the spare piano figures of Donald Nicolson with himself on gently... > Read more

John Psathas: Demonic Thesis (pianist, Donald Nicolson)

U-THEATRE OF TAIWAN: The sound of one drop dripping

15 Mar 2011  |  6 min read

On Laochuan Mountain just 20 minutes drive from the motorcycle-clogged and fume-filled streets of Taipei is a remarkable series of open-sided wooden buildings. Part meditation retreat, part cultural centre and part performance space, this is home base for the country's acclaimed U-Theatre. It houses around 20 members who live communally and have daily exercises in gymnastics and... > Read more

THE MANGANIYAR SEDUCTION: From religion and red light

7 Mar 2011  |  4 min read

Inspiration doesn't always come in the proverbial flash. It may emerge over a period from a number of disparate sources, as it did for Roysten Abel and his theatrical staging of The Manganiyar Seduction. The 43 performers from a caste of Rajasthani musicians from Northern India are housed in four tiers of 36 separately illuminated cubicles. They sing and play a contemporary extension... > Read more

POINT MUSIC (1992-2002): A decade of delivering new music

7 Feb 2011  |  6 min read

In many ways Rory Johnston looked exactly what he was, the vice-president of A&R (artists and repertoire) of a contemporary classical music label. It was there in the high, broad forehead and clear eyes, in the modulated speech and the vocabulary which didn't shy from a polysyllable or two. When I met him in the mid Nineties in Auckland – he came there to see the world... > Read more

Philip Glass: Heroes (from Heroes Symphony, 1997)

AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ART (2011): The state of the art

31 Jan 2011  |  8 min read

If only the moment could have been frozen in the lens. It resonated with meanings. The heavily bearded Aboriginal man -- unsteady on his feet and the cuffs of his worn jeans caked red with dust -- stands outside a gallery of Aboriginal art in Alice Springs. Through glazed, yellowed eyes he stares silently into the air-conditioned room where conspicuously wealthy tourists assess the... > Read more

JONATHAN JONES INTERVIEWED (2010): Illuminating the past and present, the beyond and between

31 Jan 2011  |  6 min read

Bathed in the light from his wall-filling sculpture of fluorescent tubes, the Australian artist Jonathan Jones tells an insightful story. When Governor Arthur Phillip was establishing Sydney in the late 18th century, the survey measure of a town was the number of its brick buildings. But because Sydney lacked a natural source of lime to mix with mortar it had none. “So they were... > Read more

LOST AND FOUND IN SPACE: To boldly split an infinitive

24 Jan 2011  |  4 min read

Some time in the mid-Seventies the late Alistair Cooke – in one of his patrician but always fascinating Letter From America programmes – spoke about an old editor he worked under. On a slow news day the editor would haul out a book of important events in history and scour the pages. He’d usually return with a wonderful idea for a story and would be triumphant when the... > Read more


17 Jan 2011  |  9 min read  |  2

Paul McCartney perhaps spoke for his generation when he recalled the thrill of buying a new record as a teenager and, while taking it home, sitting in the bus pouring over the cover photo and liner notes, scanning them for clues. The covers of subsequent Beatle albums also had that effect on another generation, and their covers were emblematic of the era: their debut album Please... > Read more

SALVADOR DALI, HIS MUSEUM IN FIGUERES: The Disneyland of the disturbed

10 Jan 2011  |  10 min read

Of all the monuments a man has built to himself few, if any, are more bizarre than the grand conceit Salvador Dali designed in a burned-out theatre in his birthplace of Figueres. A little more than an hour north of Barcelona by local bus, Figueres is a modest, not especially interesting town of some 35,000 people. But it is the traditional commercial centre of the plains of Ampurdan... > Read more

NEXT STOP IS VIETNAM: The sound of history being debated

27 Dec 2010  |  5 min read

On Christmas Day 1969, at age 18, I flew in to Saigon. It was 10 months after the Tet Offensive which saw Vietcong soldiers at the door of the American embassy in Saigon and the war was at a peak. I went to Vietnam because I was curious . . . and because could. In fact, surprisingly, anyone could. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was on PanAm’s regular route -- PA001 if I... > Read more

Jan Berry: The Universal Coward

MICHAEL NYMAN INTERVIEWED (1993): Play us a film, piano man

14 Nov 2010  |  7 min read

For director Jane Campion to have as noted a composer as Michael Nyman to score the soundtrack for her film The Piano was as simple as a phone call. From his home in Toulouse, Nyman -- whose extensive career is best known for his soundtracks to Peter Greenaway films – acknowledges that he knew Campion’s previous films Sweetie and An Angel At My Table and "one does sit... > Read more

Michael Nyman: The Promise (from The Piano)


8 Nov 2010  |  3 min read

Some months ago the Auckland photographer Chris Van Ryn, whose innovative and often moving work I have long admired, told me he was putting a collection of some of his images into a book. I was genuinely excited for him because it meant his work would get to a wider audience. He asked me to the write the foreword. The book is now published -- a handsome volume where Chris writes a short... > Read more

SIR NORMAN FOSTER'S BRIDGE AT MILLAU (2004): Sublime Architecture; From Here to Modernity

18 Oct 2010  |  4 min read  |  2

We live in a cynical world, as Jerry Maguire said. And there are reasons to be cynical: corruption and graft, deja-vu politics, corporate fraud and payouts, famine and futility … Yet it is also too easy to by-pass healthy scepticism and head straight for the negativism of a suspicious, cynical view of Man and the world. Cynicism seems to be at its most refined among those who... > Read more

THE VISUAL ARTS IN BUENOS AIRES (2010): Out in the street

11 Oct 2010  |  4 min read

You can’t help notice that the skin of Buenos Aires is heavily tattooed: not just with graffiti, but by large and vivid murals, and spray-on stencil art. You can spend a lot of time looking at the walls of Buenos Aires. Many murals are clever and colourful but the graffiti -- mostly just tagging -- is as absurd and incomprehensible as any. There are whole areas of the city which look... > Read more

Sui Generis: Bienvenidos al Tren