Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cypress String Quartet - The Evolution of Bel Canto

On the evening of Thursday, February 25, 2010, the Art, Music & Recreation Center will present the Cypress String Quartet in the Koret Auditorium for the program The Evolution of Bel Canto: A Cycle of Inspiration.

This event is part of the annual Call & Response program where the Cypress String Quartet commissions new works that “explore the mutually inspirational relationship between literature and music.” For 2010 the Quartet commissioned Boston composer Elena Ruehr who has composed Bel Canto, a work inspired by Ann Patchett’s 2001 novel by the same name.

Thursday night’s program will present the Cypress Quartet and composer Elena Ruehr in a conversation about the process of inspiration and the creative synergy between literature and music. Led by Robert Cole, conductor and former director of Cal Performances, this interview-style event will include live performances by the Quartet as well as the opportunity for questions directly from audience members.

This program will last from 6:15 to 7:30 P.M. and is co-supported by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and the Cypress String Quartet. The Koret Auditorium is located in the Lower Level of the Main Library.

All programs at the Library are free and open to the public.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Alexander McQueen (1969-2010)

The provocative London fashion designer Alexander McQueen died on February 11, 2010. He was born in 1969 into a large working class family. At 16 he saw a television documentary on the craft of tailoring and the dearth of apprentices taking up the trade. This prompted him to drop out of school to work at the clothier Anderson & Sheppard. His education in traditional tailoring continued at two other houses - Gieves and Hawks and at the theatrical costumer, Berman and Nathan. He later worked for two other designers before returning to London to attend Central St. Martin’s School of Art. His final project there garnered a great deal of publicity. The collection was based on Jack the Ripper and Victorian prostitutes. Locks of human hair (which were sold by prostitutes for people to buy for their lovers) were stitched into blood red linings of the clothing.

Subsequent collections have been inspired by movies, 17th century anatomists, photography, historical events and a host of other sources. In a show entitled “Taxi Driver,” his first after graduating from art school, models wore heavy eyeliner and punk-type clothing accented with paint mimicking the color of dried blood. In the spirit of the show they also sneered at and flipped off the audience. One of the most memorable pieces to be introduced was the “bumster,” trousers that rode so low on the hips that they revealed cleavage.

In the “Highland Rape” collection the designer mixed the McQueen tartan with military jackets, and tailored jackets with torn lace dresses and skirts. The runway was transformed for the collection as well – McQueen placed heather and bracken on the runway, and the models staggered rather than stalked the catwalk. To claims of misogyny, the designer replied that he was referencing the uprooting of the Scottish in the 17th and 18th centuries by the English.

In 1997 McQueen took over the top spot at Givenchy, vacated by fellow Englishmen, John Galliano. The agreement allowed him to continue designing for his own label. In his first show for Givenchy he surprised the public by creating a collection that a reviewer in the London Guardian called “dangerously polite.” Over their 5 year association his designs for and remarks about the French couturier drew the ire of the old guard. In late 2000 Gucci bought a 51 per cent share in McQueen’s company, a rival of Givenchy. In March of the following year he gave his last show for Givenchy.

In his Paris collection, shown in October 2009, McQueen once again gave the audience a lot to talk about. Plato’s Atlantis opened with a blue –tinged video of a topless model lying with snakes, models wore a prosthetic piece around their eyes. But one of the most alien-looking of all these elements were the shoes dubbed “lobster claw” because of its apparent likeness to the crustacean.

In 2003 the Council of Fashion Designers of America named him International Designer of the Year. In the same year Britain awarded him a CBE, (Commander of the British Empire). McQueen will be remembered for the sensational nature of his collections and the theatricality of his shows; however without the skills that he built early in his career as a tailor, he could not have reached the level of success that he had achieved. There are no full length biographies available in the United States on Alexander McQueen, but the following materials are a starting point for research.

Current Biography Yearbook (H.W. Wilson Co.) 2002 edition. A substantial biography that also includes a bibliography.

Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion, Valerie Steele, editor in chief (Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005) - also available as an electronic resource through the Gale Virtual Reference Library (login with your library card number and PIN).

Contemporary Fashion [electronic resource], editor, Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf (St. James Press, 2002). Only available through the Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed by Harold Koda. (Metropolitan Museum of Art; Yale University Press, 2001).

Fashion At The Edge: Spectacle, Modernity and Deathliness by Caroline Evans (Yale University Press, 2003).

Glamour: Fashion + Industrial Design + Architecture, edited by Joseph Rosa, Virginia Postrel, Valerie Steele and Phil Patton (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in association with Yale University Press, 2004).

Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture, organized by Brooke Hodge (Museum of Contemporary Art [Los Angeles]; Thames & Hudson, 2006).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

San Francisco Theatre Research (pt. 2)

The front cover of San Francisco Theatre Research, vol. 1, Introduction to the Series

One of our most valued reference resources is now available online. Archive.org with the San Francisco History Center have collaborated to scan the most of the volumes of the San Francisco Theatre Research series created by the Works Progress Administration between 1938 and 1942.

Here is a listing of the volumes scanned to date:

Volume 1 - Introduction To The Series: Stephen C. Massett, singer, writer, showman; Joseph A. Rowe, pioneer circus manager

Volume 2 - Tom Maguire; Dr. David G. (Yankee) Robinson; M.B. Leavitt

Volume 3 - The Starks; The Bakers; The Chapmans

Volume 4 - Junius Brutus Booth, the elder; Junius Brutus Booth, the younger; Edwin Booth

Volume 5 - Lola Montez; Adah Isaacs Menken; Mrs. Judah

Volume 6 - Lotta Crabtree; John McCullough

Volume 9 - The French Theatre in San Francisco; The German Theatre in San Francisco

Volume 10 - The Italian Theatre in San Francisco

Volume 11 - Edwin Forrest; Catherine Sinclair

Volume 12 - Little Theatres

Volume 13 - Minstrelsy

Volume 14 - A History of Burlesque

Volume 15 - Theatre Buildings, part 1

Volume 16 - Famous Playhouses (vol. 1)

Volume 17 - Famous Playhouses (vol. 2)

Volume 20 - James O'Neill

To date, the scanned series lacks volumes 7 and 8, the two volume History of Opera in San Francisco. The Art, Music & Recreation Center has a complete set of the series shelved in our reference room at the call number: 792.079 Un3.

From March 22 through May 31, 2008, our department participated in a Library-wide exhibit for the 75th Anniversary of the New Deal. Our portion of the exhibit largely history and contributions of the Works Project Administration to the arts in San Francisco. The August 11, 2008 entry of our blog discussed the San Francisco Theatre Research series.

The back inside cover of San Francisco Theatre Research, vol. 20, James O'Neill

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society

The Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society is a unique, wide-ranging two volume reference to all aspects of sports, recreation, play and leisure.

In the area of games it includes categories like Adult Games (billiards, bowling, charades, crosswords, etc.), Children's Games (blindman's bluff, car and travel games, clapping games, etc.), Board Games (Backgammon, Battleships, Bingo, etc.), Card Game (ace-deuce-jack, all fives, baccarat, etc.), and Video Games (flight simulation, Grand Theft Auto. Mario, etc.). There are articles on "Toys and Businesses" concerning phenomena like action figures, dolls, hobby horses, teddy bears, and various other branded toys.

The chapters on "Outdoor games and amateur sports" cover all kinds of competitive and recreational activities--from horse racing and kite flying to maypole dancing and mazes. The major professional sports receive limited attention in this set, the intent being to look at "all aspects of play as an informal activity" (p. xii). It's also worth noting that the Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society also altogether lacks entries for gymnastics, track and the Olympics.

The two volumes include several chapters that detail the history of play. These include sections written about a variety of societies from antiquity up to the recent present. There are also nearly one hundred articles about play in countries all across the globe.

For the student and scholar there are also theoretical articles pertaining to the psychology and sociology of play as well as the subject of play in education and child development. "Play as Interspecies Communication" examines human play with animals. There are even articles on "Play as Catharsis" (on the release of "superfluous energy" (p. 500) and "Play as Mock War" that looks at war games and computer gaming.

The aim of these chapters in this work is not merely to describe the rules of play, but instead to detail the history, development and meaning of the games, sports or activities. Each entry includes a bibliography that provides a basis for further research.

In addition to these 450 articles, there is also a "chronology of play," a glossary, a resource guide, and an index. Finally the first appendix provides statistics about play, and a second appendix reprints a United States Federal Trade Commission report on "Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children."

Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society, Rodney P. Carlisle, general editor (SAGE, 2009).