Man Those Backseat Entertainment Screens Are Getting Bigger And Bigger

I am always interested in seeing the novel approaches people employ to present performances. I happened to catch a story last week on Vice about a guy who is bringing pop up movie experiences to public spaces in India on the back of rickshaws.  The project is somewhat cheekily called Rick Show.  The concept was adapted from a Japanese storytelling form called Kamishibai which I was totally unfamiliar with.

Kamishibai, literally translating to “paper theatre,” was a Japanese art form popular before the advent of television, where a narrator popped up on street corners with sets of illustrated boards that were placed on a miniature stage on their bicycles, and then changed each board to communicate the storyline.

The artist, who goes by the name Le Gentil Garcon, worked with an architectural college to design a container to store the stage, lighting, projector, sound system and audience seating that would fit on the back of a long rickshaw. They ship their container to their target city and pop it on the back of a rented rickshaw. Then they go around and set up in public spaces like gardens and parks.

They show short, 10-20 minute films that allow passersby to pop in and out as they like. The total length of the program is about two hours.The overall goal is to bring art house films that are usually only shown in museums and specialty movie houses to the public square mixed with an element of delight at finding something unexpected.

“I liked the fact that many people who didn’t think they were going to see an art film on this particular day start to see something made by an international artist, and it’s kind of interesting,” said Le Gentil Garçon.

They’re Back! But Not Because They Waited For The Audiences To Return

Apparently the pandemic was good for classical music stations. In a story on the Current site, the general manager WDAV in Charlotte, NC had a hard time believing his station had achieved number one market share for the first time ever.

WDAV wasn’t alone, a number of other stations had similar successes. But before you assume that the value of classical music suddenly became apparent to people in a “if you play it, they will come” sort of way, it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Stations have been working to frame the music for their communities.

But by emphasizing long-held values of classical radio — to be soothing, to clear the mind, to remind people of aesthetic beauty — stations rose to the occasion to provide refuge from a world that felt scary and uncertain. That has translated into ratings records, strong fundraising and a reminder of the value of classical stations to local arts organizations.

“We heard from a significant number of listeners thanking us for being a place that was normal for them,” said Brenda Barnes, CEO of KING FM in Seattle. WDAV’s Dominguez and leaders at WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., and the USC Radio Group, which consists of KUSC in Los Angeles and KDFC in San Francisco, all said they heard the same from their listeners.

WDAV also got out into the community with their Small Batch music series where they had classical musicians perform at a local microbrewery. Will Keible, the station’s director of marketing and corporate support cited the intimidating environment of a formal concert hall and not wanting to passively wait for people to find them on the radio dial as drivers for their partnership with the brewery.

Other stations cultivated stronger relationships with the artists in their areas. The article also talks about how WXXI had reached out to ensembles and chamber groups in New York’s Finger Lakes region during the pandemic requesting recent performance recordings which they broadcast as part of a 10 week series. Many stations like WXXI have recognized the need to provide programming by musicians and composers of color and that has also helped to broaden their appeal.

“We are changing our library and our rotation cycles so that … you’re hearing representation from all different composers and performers all the time,” said WXXI’s Ruth Phinney. The station also profiles classical musicians of African descent on its website. “We’ve actually had classical musicians contact us and say, ‘I’m a classical musician, I’m not on your site yet. Can you put me on there?’”

There Is An Ambush In This Violin Concerto!

Drew McManus reposted a promotional Facebook video for Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s (WSO) performance of “The Rose of Sonora” violin concerto.  I thought it was a cool little video depicting a 19th century printer creating a Wild West wanted poster. I commented on Drew’s post how I liked the how the movements were listed in the ad like chapters of a story and those titles were interesting and evocative – Escape, Love and Freedom, Ambush, Death and Healing, Vengeance.

But thinking of the post I made yesterday about the way arts marketing promises something exciting in their ads, but doesn’t really deliver on the promises in the experience, I thought it would be wonderful if the orchestra would consider projecting even one image at the start of each chapter to provide a visual connection for the audience.

When I clicked through to the WSO website, I was really pleased to see that the orchestra would be projecting images and video with a Western theme to accompany Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Aaron Copland’s Rodeo

By the time I swung back to Facebook, Drew had posted a link to a page discussing Rose of Sonora composer George S. Clinton’s concept behind titling each movement like a book chapter. Additionally, he provided a link to a set of images and introductory narration meant to be projected and/or read at the beginning of each movement–just like I was hoping they would have.

I have been casually following the development of Rose of Sonora, but never explored the website. I am really impressed by the amount of effort that has gone into making the experience interesting and accessible for audiences and easy for orchestras to decide to do.

While I am aware that The Rose of Sonora was written for violinist Holly Mulcahy, the goal of the content seems to be to get organizations to invite The Rose of Sonora into their programming rather than Holly. Presumably (and hopefully) Holly will be performing it everywhere for a good long time, but they are looking for the composition to have a life of its own long term. So it is great that will arrive accompanied by all these assets.

Guaranteed Income For Artists Spreading

Nod to Laura Zabel who tweeted a story about the guaranteed basic income for artists pilot program being started in Ireland.  The plan is to provide €325/week to 2000 artists. This is actually more, both in terms of monthly income and number of artists included, than any similar program I have seen piloted in the US. The program will be run across three years which is also longer than any other program I have come across as well.

Minister for the Arts Catherine Martin indicated selection for participation would be random rather than competitive. It sounds like the intent is to make sure those in different sectors and career stages are represented since the article mentions “Likely “streams” will include professional artists, emerging/developing artists and creative arts workers.”

The ministry is quoted as saying there won’t be a means test for who will be able to participate in the program.

The National Campaign for the Arts which had lobbied for the pilot was quoted as saying they were:

“happy with the proposed payment of €325 per week, once it is not means tested and other benefits including disability payments are not diminished, and that there is a clear process for selection…”

In writing about other guaranteed basic income programs previously, it hadn’t occurred to me that participating in the program might end up disadvantaging people from receiving other types of aid due to income restrictions. That is something to be considered when designing programs like this –either to disburse an amount that will offset people’s losses or ensure that the amount people are receiving doesn’t adversely impact their ability to receive other aid.