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Friday, July 14, 2017

Cinematic Classics

From the Vault Dept.: Speaking of music and movies (as was the case yesterday), here’s a trip down the memory aisle, to one of my earliest pieces for Metroland Magazine.


IN A SHREWD PROGRAMMING MOVE, the new Crossgates Cinema 10 movie complex opened last weekend with three MGM chestnuts: “Gone With the Wind,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I saw 2001 a decade and a half ago, in its initial distribution, and was very frustrated by its ambiguities; since then, I’ve caught it a few more times, each time persuading me to enjoy it more. Last Sunday I went to see it with an eye (and an ear) toward discovering how director Stanley Kubrick’s inter-planetary vision has stood the test of what time has passed – and I came away most impressed with the endurance of the music he chose.

First of all, it was an ideal setting: “2001" in 70mm stereo is an audio-visual orgy, and Crossgates is equipped to project it as such. As you recall, the movie begins and ends with the first two minutes of Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” which inspired it to become the theme song for every half-assed automobile ad and basketball game during the ’70s. Still, it was an inspired choice.

Equally inspired, but much riskier, saw the depiction of space travel to the strains of “The Blue Danube.” The seeming disparity is the thing, I think, that will ensure that the combination will never seem dated – long after the silly Holst ripoff of “Star Wars” music reveals itself as ridiculously overblown. And the ethereal, almost inaccessible qualities of the music by contemporary Hungarian composer György Ligeti will save those parts of the film set to his stuff from sounding, many years hence, too much like 1969.

We classical-music fans owe a great debt to Kubrick. With no help whatsoever from bland television shows. you’re left with movies as having the most powerful potential for cultural dissemination.

Kubrick always chooses his tunes with great care and usually brings the pieces much renewed attention. Purcell and Beethoven were featured in “A Clockwork Orange;” Handel, Schubert, and the Chieftains in “Barry Lyndon;” Bartók, Penderecki, and the Ray Noble Orchestra in “The Shining.” (Heaven knows what his next picture, “Full Metal Jacket,” about a young Marine in Vietnam, will offer.)

It also has been encouraging to see this practice spread: Music by Vivaldi showed up in “All That Jazz,” “Kramer vs. Kramer,” and “The Four Seasons.” Pachelbel’s formidable Canon was heard in “Ordinary People.” Mendelssohn and Rossini in “Breaking Away” – the list can go on and on, even to include such oddities as a porno film set to music by Gilbert and Sullivan (“The Naughty Victorians.”)

The successful movie is followed by a soundtrack album, and the album – who knows? – may inspire another curious soul to cross the great divide and buy a classical disk or two ... and listen
to it, enjoy it, and help me yank down these superficial walls.


HE CALLS HIMSELF a “saloon singer,” but that hardly fits the urbane image of Bobby Short. As anyone who attended his sellout concert at the Egg last year will tell you, there is no other performer who can so easily convince you of the sincerity of the sophisticated songs he sings. He has made the music and lyrics of Cole Porter. Noël Coward, the Gershwins, and Rodgers and Hart the backbone of his repertoire – but you’ll also find the work of Stephen Sondheim, Harold Arlen, Cy Coleman, and many other similarly gifted songwriters in his mixed but tasteful bag.
Bobby Short will perform in the Main Theater at the Egg on Sunday at 3 PM. Tickets, at $10 (adults), $8 (senior citizens), and $5 (children) are available at the Egg box office and at CBO outlets.


TO UNDERSTAND DANCE TRADITIONS in this country is to recognize how strongly African and Caribbean influences have informed them. There will be a one-day celebration of Black Dance in America at the New York State Museum Auditorium on Saturday. Beginning at 10 AM, the program includes a dance workshop for grade-school teachers; a lecture-demonstration by Joe Nash, director and founder of the Black and Multiethnic Christian Education Resource Center of the National Council of Churches; a performance (at 4:15) by the Burundi Dancers; and a screening of slides and film clips illustrating American black dance throughout this century. The program is sponsored by the Capital District Humanities Program: call them at 457-3907 for more information.

Metroland Magazine, 8 March 1984

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