At 77, Harold Budd’s career has taken him from bebop to avant-garde minimalism to the lush, atmospheric soundscapes for which he’s become famous. Critics call Budd “the godfather of ambient music,” an honorific he rejects.
Mark Burnett pretty much invented reality TV as we know it: Survivor, The Apprentice, The Voice. But his latest hit was the 10-hour miniseries The Bible — out of which he's carved a feature film on the life of Jesus.
When Hoffman died last month, he was still in the process of filming the final The Hunger Games movie. The film’s producers are attempting a 21st century solution: creating new footage of Hoffman using computer animation.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies talks about the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of his play “Dinner with Friends.” He’s joined by Darren Pettie and Jeremy Shamos, who star in it. “Dinner with Friends” is playing at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre.
You sent Studio 360 hundreds of super scary, super short horror movies — from animation to claymation, to live action, they're all terrifying. Filmmaker Wes Craven will reveal the winner on this weekend's show. Meantime, the staff of Studio 360 made this list of our 10 favorites.
For more than two decades, an unknown artist has been leaving a message in the streets of Philadelphia. The message is has been cut by hand into a linoleum tile, and pressed into the asphalt by the weight of passing cars. The Toynbee tiles, as they’re called, have become a thing in ...
Uruguay is a small country, tucked between Argentina and Brazil, with a rich musical culture.
In the 1960s and '70s, Uruguayan musicians such as Alfredo Zitarrosa and Los Olimareños helped to create a strong musical identity, inspired by traditional music such as milonga, tango, zamba, candombe and murga. In the 1980s and '90s, Eduardo Mateo, Rubén Rada, Jaime Roos and others continued to form a solid musical base.
Uruguay has a wide array of musicians, not only influenced by their own folk music but also by sounds from other parts of the world, including bossa nova, rock and jazz. Jorge Drexler is perhaps the most famous Uruguayan singer. He won an Oscar for "Al Otro Lado del Rio", a song he wrote for the film "The Motorcycle Diaries."
But there are dozens of singers and bands making some exciting music in Uruguay today, from folk music to rock, from alternative rock to jazz. Uruguayan music will have a strong presence at the SXSW music festival in Austin this month. Ana Prada, Rossana Taddei and Daniel Drexler are among the artists who will be performing.
Prada began her career in music in 1994. She has collaborated and performed with artists from Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, including Jorge Drexler. She has recorded three solo albums, including her latest, "Soy Otra". While her music is firmly grounded in Uruguayan folk rhythms, her style is funky and her songs are filled with passion and humor.
Taddei has thirteen albums to her name. Her music is a blend of jazz, rock and Uruguayan rhythms. Her latest project, MINIMALmambo, is a collaboration with drummer Gustavo Etchenique. His work includes playing and recording with major Uruguayan figures such as Roos and Eduardo Mateo.
Daniel Drexler is a pop singer whose music is informed by the musical genres of the Rio de la Plata, such as candombe, milonga and murga. He has five albums and has shared the stage with Prada, Kevin Johansen and Jorge Drexler. His latest album, "Mar Abierto," received the Premio Gardel 2013 for "Best Testimonial Author Song".
For the first time in a decade, Jesus is starring on the big screen, and the creators of Son of God are determined to avoid the bad blood from last time. Producers of the final Hunger Games movie attempt to resurrect Philip Seymour Hoffman, digitally. And Kurt Andersen talks with the composer Harold Budd ...
What is the creative project you want to tackle in 2014? Gabriel Walker, from Maysville, Kentucky, has played guitar for 40 years. But his music got sidelined by a career in sound design, producing other peoples’ music instead of performing his own. “I became fearful of taking the risk,” ...
It’s fair to say that Crimea holds an important place in Svetlana Boym’s inagination. Boym's a writer, teacher and artist who spent summers in Crimea growing up. Now she writes about Russian culture and is the author of The Future of Nostalgia, which she describes as a history of the "hypochondria of the heart."
"The most important thing to remember about Crimea," Boym says, "is that Crimea really is a cultural crossroads, and has been a cultural crossroads for centuries. It's a place where east meets west, where Greek, Persian, Judaic, Moslem civilization meet. For instance, if you travel to the Crimea you can see Greek ruins, Italian fortresses, the Palace of the Crimean Khan, Jewish synagogues in the caves, as well as many Soviet era spas."
That helps explain why Crimea plays a big role in Russian literature, she says, "usually as a place of adventure, an exotic place, a place of escape, a 'dream of world culture,' as Osip Mandelstam put it."
Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's 1823 poem, The Fountain of Bakhchisarai is perhaps the best example of a Crimean inspired work of art. Boym describes Pushkin's poem as "a love triangle that takes place in the harem of the Crimean Tatar Khan, who captures a beautiful slave from Poland named Maria. And another slave women, Zarema, is jealous of her. So we have a cross-cultural encounter that does not end well, but it ends with a beautiful sight, the Fountain of Bakhchisarai that supposedly embodies the tears of this slave girl Maria who dies in the harem. It inspired Pushkin." The poem in turn inspired a Russian ballet with music by Boris Asafyev and choreography by Rostislav Zakharov (see a video, below).
Crimea attracted early 20th century Russian poets including Marina Tsvetaeva and Osip Mandelstam. Boym describes it as “a place where artists and poets imagined other worlds and other forms of cultural co-existence.”
Among many Soviet-era adventure films that were set in Crimea, Boym points to the comic love drama, Kidnapping Caucasian Style (Russian: Кавказская пленница, или Новые приключения Шурика). She says the Soviet comedy revolved around bride kidnapping, an old tradition that used to exist in the Caucasus. It's a favorite of her parent's generations and familiar to Russian school children. High on Boym's recommended reading list is Anton Chekhov's short story, Lady with Lapdog, (an affair between a Russian banker and the young lady he meets while vacationing in Yalta) which she calls "one of the greatest love stories in Russian literature."
Crimea's landscapes have filled Boym's own imagination ever since she spent summers there. "I immediately imagine Crimean landscapes, the steppes, the mountains and the sea. It really was a place where perhaps I dreamt about leaving Russia and imagined other lands, and it's a place where I made lifelong friendships. So, for me, it's very important to not just to think about ethnic conflicts, although this is a place where Crimean Tatars were deported during Stalin's time, and where the Jewish population disappeared, but I would still like to think about this place as a kind of place of possibility for cultural encounters. And it's important to remember that."
In Afghanistan under the Taliban, it was against the law to take a photo. The US invasion in 2001 brought with it more freedom of press and created a revolution in photography there.
Now, Afghanistan is going through another major transition — this time, as the US prepares to leave. And that has journalists and photographers wondering if things will go back to the way they were.
Two American filmmakers — Mo Scarpelli and Alexandria Bombach — traveled to Afghanistan with funds raised on Kickstarter to document the country's photojournalism and reflect on its future. They produced the documentary "Frame by Frame."
"What better way to tell the story of a country than through the people who are storytellers — the journalists and photographers?" asks Alexandria Bombach. So she and Scarpelli followed four Afghan photojournalists: Farzana Wahidy, Massoud Hossaini, Wakil Kohsar, and Najibullah Musafer.
The first, Farzana Wahidy, is the only female photographer in Afghanistan. Scarpelli says she is also the only one of the four who has stayed in Afghanistan her entire life.
"She went to school in secret, hiding her books as she walked in the streets to get to a secret school at someone's apartment," Scarpelli says.
Wahidy also helped raise her family. She wanted to become a powerful, independent woman, and, in 2001, she heard about a photography program that was funded by non-governmental organizations from around the world.
"She was 17 years old and said, 'I have to do this,'" Scarpelli says. She was so determined to attend the program, she lied about her age, since she had to be 18 to enroll. And then she started her career.
"It’s very hard to work as a woman in Afghanistan," Scarpelli says. "She faces a lot of backlash. She can't drive to her own assignments."
But being female also gives Wahidy unique access in Afghanistan. Women in Afghanistan, for the most part, don’t want to be photographed. Wahidy builds relationships with them to overcome that barrier.
While Wahidy faces many challenges to do her job, Scarpelli and Bombach — as Americans — say, for them, filming in Afghanistan wasn't very difficult.
"Foreign women in Afghanistan have a really interesting level of access," says Bombach. "It’s almost like you are considered a third gender, where you’re respected as a professional by men and you’re also allowed behind the closed doors where men are not allowed to go with women."
Afghanistan is such a beautiful country, she says, it is easy for filmmakers to shoot there. "You just fall in love with the place, the dust, the beautiful pigeons everywhere, the mosques ... the people are so colorful." But, Bombach added, security was always on her mind.
As the US prepares to leave Afghanistan, the four photojournalists in "Frame by Frame" worry about what the future holds. "It’s really a time when people don’t know what’s going to happen," Bombach says.
Some of the Afghan photographers are hopeful. Massoud Hossaini is not.
“Taliban will come back, somehow," Hossaini says in the film trailer, “and I feel I will be one of those people who will be faced with the revenge of these extremists."
Scarpelli and Bombach plan to release their documentary in early 2015.
Katarzyna Ploszaj is the chef and co-owner of Petit Oven, a restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The restaurant serves French-American food, although Plosjaz was born and raised in Poland.
Polish food is still close to her heart: she grew up on her mother’s pierogies — little stuffed dumplings filled with all kinds of goodness.
When Plosjaz was 5, her mother, Ela, left Poland for the United States. That was in 1982. Poland was still a communist state under the control of the Soviet Union. Ela arrived on a visitor's visa and was allowed to stay. But Katarzyna and her sister couldn’t go to the US with her.
"We couldn't get a visa," says Ploszaj. So they moved to a small farm to live with their mother's parents, their grandparents. It was a small Polish village, with no more than "14 households," she says. "It was small."
"My grandmother, she never threw a piece of food out. Because she remembered days during the war when their was nothing to eat."
That lesson still held in the early to mid-1980s, when Poland labored under martial law and Soviet control. "It was still very hard to get food. Communism was breaking up at that moment; things were starting to change, but I still remember my grandparents lining up to get stamps for, let's say, a kilo of kielbasa."
Living on a farm made things easier. If you could grow your own food or raise your own animals, recalls Plosjaz, you could survive more easily.
In 1987, Katarzyna and her sister finally moved to the United States, where they were reunited with their mother, Ela. "And we started enjoying her food again, her fabulous food, her amazing pierogies." Ploszaj says she tried many times to get the recipe, especially for the potato and cheese variety, but her mom never really had one — it was all about touch and experience: a little more water, or a little more flour.
Sometimes, Ela would come to make pierogies for Petit Oven, her daughter's restaurant. "She'd do 50 dozen in a couple of hours, like a machine. Boom boom boom."
Ela Ploszaj passed away recently: her pierogies are deeply meaningful to Katarzyna. "I still have a couple bags in the freezer," she says.
"I think the role that food played in my mother's heart was just being a mother. We celebrated it, and celebrated life."
In 1984, the central Chilean town of Villa Alemana became well-known when a teenager claimed to see and communicate with the Virgin Mary. His claims drew hundreds of thousands of Catholic devotees to the small town — and created speculation that this was a distraction from the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
Ever since, the town has been regarded as a place full of spiritualism. It's also where award-winning novelist Álvaro Bisama grew up and it serves as the backdrop for his most recent novel "Ruido" (or "noise" in Spanish).
"[It's] just a really powerful, lovely novel. And it’s about being a child during the dictatorship, during the dark Pinochet years," says Daniel Alarcón, executive producer and co-founder of Radio Ambulante, which tells Latin American stories from anywhere Spanish is spoken. Radio Ambulante recently took an excerpt of Bisama's novel and translated it into English by creating a short, animated video. Nelly Ragua animated the video, with sound design by Martina Castro and Nancy López.
"We selected an excerpt that sort of captures some of the most powerful images from that text," Alarcón says.
The video "Cómo Crecimos" or "How We Were Raised" shows what life was like in Villa Alemada: long-distance phone calls to exiled relatives in Europe and Mexico, a train transporting workers to the coast, people climbing nearby mountains to make spiritual pilgrimages. "We are seeing all of that and those are the stark memories from [the author's] own childhood," says Alarcón.
Today, Villa Alemada is also a musical hub, "comparable to Seattle, in some ways, like the grunge capital of Chilean rock," Alarcón says. "A place with a lot of mysticism, lot of history. And a lot of great bands have come out of there."
Villa Alemada's music has seeped into Bisama's writing. "[His novels] — they're very musical, very rhythmic. He's really close to the punk scene and music scene in Chile," Alarcón says. He calls Bisama's work a rock-and-roll novel, evoking music through its writing.
"It’s an excellent portrait of a time," Alarcón says. "It has that background of the music, it has a background of this spiritual soothsaying street kid who saw the Virgin Mary and became kind of a hero to a lot of people. It just sounds, to me, like an absolute bizarre place to grow up, and God bless writers who have the talent to encapsulate that."
Radio Ambulante is supported by the New Visions, New Voices project, which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The illustration was created with help from PRI's New Voices Fund, whose donors include Maureen and Michael Ruettgers and the Sara & Evan Williams Foundation.
We’ll see your Oscars speech and raise you one, Matthew. Your Rustin Cohle says “time is a flat circle,” so we put Dave Wooderson behind the wheel of his 1970 Chevy and had him pick up our favorite Nietzschean True Detective. Let’s listen to how the conversation unfolds.
Legendary directors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens played major roles in World War II. We'll find out how their time in the armed services changed Hollywood, and how Hollywood, in turn, influenced the war.
For a new production of Antony and Cleopatra, Tarell Alvin McCraney wanted his audiences to have more immediate access to the colonial background of the story, so he took it out of Rome and Egypt and transplanted it to colonial Haiti, on the brink of revolution against France. ...
Christine Chapman loved acting, but between a full-time job and a family, she couldn’t find time to perform. For almost seven years, she says, “I didn’t do anything. That was killing me.” One afternoon when she found herself watching The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid as a a former baseball ...
This week in Studio 360, Kurt Andersen talks with a songwriter whose words are being sung by protesters in the deadly clashes in Venezuela — he gives a firsthand account of life trapped behind barricades. A playwright explains why he moved Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra from Rome to colonial Haiti. ...
Pharrell, Kanye West, and Billy Joel have it. Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige say they do too. In recent years synesthesia — a condition that causes the senses to blend together — has become a high-prestige neurological namedrop for creative people. First recognized by scientists ...
The student protests in Venezuela have turned violent in recent weeks. According to reports from inside the country, over a dozen protesters have died in clashes with the government and paramilitary groups. Amidst the turmoil, the music of the Venezuelan rock band La Vida Boheme ...