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September 08, 1994 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-08

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THEMIHIAN""""".SU."N -I - A ~ThIR lV ~P FR R l- - .v . . . I v. a m-. WF .---, V"'* 1 [U U SCU 1 .5 I PJI Iage

Reporter's Notebook
* Travails of
covering the
annual art fair
And now that is the howling baby! Yes, no
doubt about it ... and why not? Not an uninspired
reaction -- "Aaaahh! Yaaaaaaooohhh, oooooh,
waaaaah ... Waaaaaah!" - all things considered.
SQUIMP (half-devoured wiener, pork parts,
under foot). What kind. of yuppie disco prince
brings his kid to artfairin 90 degrees and sunshine
to suffer the pots and paintings at outrageous for-
tune, to bestow suffering upon - to drop a pork-
part wiener among - the crowds? Ahh, but they
are the pearls of their own wisdom, the crowds. No,
they've come to purchase the pearls of that wis-
dom. The perils. Masochism: were it the only
possible reason for their attendance!
Covering the story - the only sane explanation
for my attendance. But sanity is no longer an issue
as I claw across streets 80 people deep and fend off
an eager chesty man in a muu-muu who thrusts a 20
in my face for the paint-stained overall cutoffs I
wear. ("They would look so post-modern in my
garage," he confesses.)
Jesus, unhealthy waves of frenzy, schizophre-
nia, fear and loathing - insufferable reverbera-
tions this last weekend of July in Ann Arbor. Get
out. Flee! But I can't. It's late summer. The coffee
shops sag, the fire hydrants wilt: but a journalist
must cover her story! I have to be on campus. Still
I wonder, is it worth it?
I find safety and oxygen atop a parking meter on
Church Street, where I sit still for three or so
minutes until an old man mistakes me for a statue
and inquires of the closest vendor whether I can be
shipped with no chance of breakage. I jump down
and the elderly inquirer screams, falls to the ground
with a heart attack. The vendor calls an ambulance
from his cellular phone, but the crowd simply
refuses to let the vehicle through, and the unfortu-
nate bloke dies. What can be done? The browsing
continues. Who can stand still in such heat? The
vendor smiles - the dead man will make a lovely
statue once rigamortis sets in. Little chance of
breakage in shipping. The key is lots of Styrofoam.
The key is not to stand still for too long. I'm not
a statue, but a journalist! I can't be purchased! I
fume for a moment, but alas, there is work to be
done. First I need a drink. Over the heads of the
crowd I see the sky, and a sign that reads "Cold

Composer calls
classics 'bonng'


Thousands of art lovers and dealers flock to the city each year for the annual art fair.

Beverages." I try to barrel through the masses.
After five minutes of college-try I have moved four
inches, backwards. I need a strategy. At the top of
my lungs I yell: "Fire!" No one moves, other than
the half-inch it takes them to arrive at the next piece
of art. I think for a moment. In a conversational
pitch I remark to no one in particular, "Free T-shirts
on the Diag." The crowd takes off for the center of
campus and I am able to trudge the six feet to my
beverage salesman who has resisted the draw of the
free tees in favor of his pop shop.
I reach him panting. "Diet Coke."
"That'll be two dollars," he says handing me a 12-
ounce can.
"Two American dollars," I say.
"No, two of those little Monopoly bill dollars," he
says, a real wise guy.
I hesitate. He crouches toward me, moving in for
the hard sell.
"It's worth it. You can keep the can afterwards,
for like a book end, or a little coffee table chatchka.
Haven't you ever heard of pop art?"
Art! Buying art is part of the story. I take it,
smiling at my fortune until I see my half-crazed
reflection, the maniacal grin on my face, in a coffee
shop window - the product of art fair mentality
and Ann Arbor dehydration. I swig the pop, drop the
can and sprint down an alley toward State Street.
And now that is the presumptuous tourist! Yes,

no doubt about it ... and why not? Not an uninvited
guest - "Another summer another Ann Arbor Art
Fair!" - all things considered. But still, need they
request of me so forcefully to "Get out of the way?"
Don't they see I'm not just another student, but that
I'm covering a story?
The tourists have been waiting for art fair -
that woebegone spectacle boasting necklaces, vases,
wall hangings, greasy food - and ascend in packs
to Ann Arbor to wake the comatose summer city
from much-needed slumber. Ann Arbor reacts like
a 5-year-old startled out of a nap. She howls: sweaty,
irritable. Cranky. And all the presumptuous tourists
say flippantly, "Get out of the way." Get out of
the way!
State Street mirrors South University and I
lose myself in the crowds. All around me people
sweat and drip and move slowly through the
trash-lined streets. The Art! They cannot even
see the art anymore through the rows of people.
All they see are backs - wet with perspiration,
calves - grimy with street soot, bald spots -
burned from the sun. I get dizzy and I am falling
and falling and falling. "Fire," I remark before I
hit the ground, spinning.
Nike and deck shoes move carelessly around
my fallen body. But I do not move. I may be a
journalist, but I will not cover this story. They
could not pay me enough to cover art fair.

The University's distinguished
faculty has always been praised for its
scholarly research and teaching capa-
bilities. Although most noted for such
excellence, some members of the
University faculty do more than de-
liver lectures and write books. How
many people are aware that the Uni-
versity has several Pulitzer prize-win-
ning composers on its faculty? I mean
composers in the truest sense of the
word -our own modern day Mozarts
and Beethovens on this very campus!
One such Pulitzer prize-winning
composer is Prof. Leslie Bassett who
retired from the University School of
Music faculty in 1991. Born in 1923
on a ranch in California, Bassett
started off
playing the
trombone. Fol-
lowing World ncert h
War II, he be- has a proble
gan training as
a composer. image. We I
Bassett at-v
tended Fresno very inform
State College, the orchestr
and then went
on to attend the image is a s
University --Prof
where he stud-P
ied with com- Pulitzer-prize wi
posers Ross
Lee Finney and Roberto Gerhard.
Bassett was also a Fulbright Scholar
and studied in France with the re-
nowned Nadia Boulanger.
Bassett received the Pulitzer Prize
in 1965 for his orchestral work titled
"Variations for Orchestra."
In every art form there are certain
trends or fashions that each artist ex-
periments with in order to remain on
the cutting edge. Bassett cited several
current fashions in the world of
musical composition including
minimalism, neoclassicism and the
most recent trend, an integration of
pop music into the concert hall.
Bassett praised his colleague, Uni-
versity Prof. William Bolcom - also a
Pulitzer prize winner- for his work in
developing these new musical trends.
"That's what Mr. Bolcom does.
He enjoyed pop music all his life and
does it very well," Bassett said. "For
me, I don't like the idea because the
danger is that the quote can often
become more attractive than the rest
of the music. Nevertheless, if they
can emerge and then disappear before
you really know it's there, the effect


can be quite wonderful."
As the century nears its close,
many musicians fear that concert hall
music will continue to suffer from
low ticket sales, aging audiences and
financial cutbacks. Bassett believes
more needs to be done to revive inter-
est in classical music.
"We live in an age of marketing.
When we pick up the newspaper, we
see page after page of advertisements
for movies and pop music, but it is only
toward the back that we see anything
about our kind of music," he said.
"Concert hall music has a problem
with image. We live in a very infor-
mal age and the orchestra concert
image is a stuffy one. It is furthered by
the aspirations of
the orchestras to
further that kind
lII music of thing," he
mn with said.
Bassett also
ve in a expressed frus-
4 age and tration at how
rarely new com-
i concert positions are
,, performed by
Uffy one American or-
Leslie Bassett chestras.
"The orches-
ing cormposer tras mainly play
the same music
that can often be heard on the radio and
on recordings. If you've heard these
pieces time and time again, it can get
boring - there are no surprises. The
orchestras are just plowing the same
field as opposed to pop music in which
there is always something new. That's
impressive marketing and they have a
lot to teach us."
Bassett added, "It's a fallacy that
new compositions drive audiences
away. More importantly, how do we
educate our audiences that new music
is being created? In all other art forms,
the newest thing is greatly anticipated.
Why not new music?"
Bassett offered some advice to
the incoming class of 1998. He said,
"Look at what the School of Music is
doing when you plan your weekend
activities. They perform 350 free con-
certs a year, with performances by the
band, orchestras choir, and faculty
and student recitals. There are more
concerts here in Ann Arbor than on
any other campus that I can think of.
Besides, it's often a chance to see and
hear music performed by your own

The Michigan Theater withstands the test of time

A landmark built in
the 1920s, the
Michigan Theater
houses not only a
towering movie
screen, but a stage
for orchestral
Sitting in the front row of the bal-
cony you can see it all: the peeling
plaster, the carpeting that is in need of
a shampoo, the unsatiating combina-
tion of red, gold and blue in the deco-
rating, the seats that appear old and
hard and not very forgiving for the
back. Like all great relics from the
past, the Michigan Theater, located
off State Street, Ann Arbor's equiva-
lent of Fifth Avenue or the Champs
d'Elysses (well, sort of), is a dino-
saur. Built in 1928, the theater is a
surviving remnant from the golden
age of film. Designed in the Ro-
manesque and Moorish styles, it cost
$600,000 to construct. Today, because
of its rarity, a theater of this sort is
This theater has seen it all and like
an old man with too much time on his
hands, it only wants to be useful and
hopefully impart some of its wisdom
with the younger generation. The-
aters like this simply are not built
anymore. Theater owners, nowadays,
aren't interested in how many seats
they can fit into a theater but how
many theaters they can get into a
building. The result is the unfortunate
number of googolplexes dotting the
landscape, whose decor is reminis-
cent of early KGB debriefing centers.
Originally designed for silent pic-
tures, the 1,800 seat Michigan The-
ater is replete with a stage, orchestra
pit and a 13-rank Barton pipe organ.
Silent pictures do not enjoy the popu-
larity in the 1990s that they did in
1928 but the stage and orchestra pit
are what enable the Michigan Theater
to bring to Ann Arbor live concerts,
symphonies and stage productions as
well as avant-garde movie fare and
old revivals.
The Michigan Theater has seen it
all - the Police and R.E.M. on their
way up and Mel Torme on his way

Continued from page 2D
50-minute drive), is a great venue; see
"Once on this Island," "Jeffrey" and
"Sweeney Todd" there this season.
National tours can be a little pricey,
but often top out at around $45 - still
20 bucks cheaper than the best ticket
on Broadway.
A few out-of-town productions stop
in Ann Arbor. For example, the Michi-
gan Theater (a film house) hosts the
occasional stage production, but is a
favorite for solo acts. Spalding Gray's
"Gray's Anatomy," Lynn Redgrave's
"Shakespeare for my Father" and
MandyPatinkin's"DressCasual" tours
have played the Michigan.
If you want to be on the other
side of the footlights, there are ample
opportunities in Ann Arbor to act,
sing, dance or all of the above. The
Department of Theatre and Drama

is the only University venue which
opens its auditions to all students-
Musical Theatre Program and Op
era Theatre shows are restricted to
program majors.
MUSKET is the only musical the-
ater opportunity to non-majors on
campus. Basement Arts is a great
chance for non-theater majors to show
off. Performance Network often has
open auditions; Ann Arbor Civic The=
atre welcomes student performers. All
aforementioned out-of-town produc-
tions are professional.
Theater in Ann Arbor is at its peak
in November-December and Februk
ary-April. At some times you could:
literally spend Thursday night, Fri
day night, Saturday night and Sun-
day afternoon at performances. You
don't have to be that much of a
fanatic to enjoy Ann Arbor theater,
but if you are that much of a fanatic,:
you'll be right at home here.


The Michigan Theater, one of the last true theater palaces, houses a "big" movie screen.

nal splendor. Run as a not-for-profit
operation the objective is simply to
keep the doors open.
But the theater is fighting an up-
hill battle. It's a small fish in a large
pond. Audiences continue to flock to
the malls in droves to see the latest
installment of the "Police Academy"
series, paying no attention to what
matters: atmosphere. Russ Collins,
executive director, says people walk
in and see the large lobby, the stair-
case that leads to the mezzanine, and
the numerous doors that lead to the
seats and they ask which theater their
movie is in. Today's audience was
weaned on the multiplex and they
marvel at the luxuriance of a real
movie palace.
This is the way it was done in the

VCRs and cable. Hyperbolic as that
statement may seem, it is not far off.
Film makers take great pride in how
they set up their shots, aesthetics of a
movie being just as important as the
story line or the soundtrack, only to
find their shots cropped off at either
end to adjust to the format of televi-
sion. That is what the Michigan The-
ater, fighting a lonely battle, is trying
to save us from.
Offering more diverse fare than
your typical movie forum, the Michi-
gan Theater is striving to give stu-
dents and residents of Ann Arbor an
opportunity to broaden their selec-
tion. Not being a giant metropolis like
New York or Chicago, it is important
that Ann Arbor still has the same

didn't know about it sooner."
The Michigan Theater is an anach-
ronism, a holdout from the past. It
survives by catering to a niche in the
community. A niche that favors solid,
often times offbeat, often times main-
stream entertainment, but always en-
tertainment offered with a touch of
Take a Reality Break.
Visit Sanctuary, a
medieval town where
brave knights and

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