Articles by Michael Miller

Music

Music in Midtown at CUNY Graduate Center: Bilitis et Babar with Paula Robison and Friends

In recent years a great deal of Paula Robison’s energy has gone into training the next generation of flutists. Knowing her approach to music and many other valuable forms of thought and expression, her teaching is a humanistic education in itself. Still, she finds time to perform and record. Most recently she delighted a New York audience with her talents as a narrator—in French, on this occasion. Narration for her is a passion that goes back to her family origins, as the daughter and niece of theater people: her mother was an actress, her father a screenplay writer, and her uncle a playwright.

Film

The 5th Nitrate Picture Show at the George Eastman Museum, May 3 – 5, 2019, a Preview with a Retrospective of the 4th.

In planning the Nitrate Picture Show, the richest opportunity to view vintage prints of films on nitrate stock in the world today, the organizers at the George Eastman House adopted the policy of not announcing the screening schedule in advance. One comes to the festival and views what is offered. This idea didn’t come from nowhere, since the founder and first curator of the film department at Eastman, James Card, implemented it at the Telluride Festival, which he co-founded in 1974. I was thrilled with this concept when I first attended the Festival in 2017, and it continues to hold its fascination.

HHA

A Peculiar Paradise: Florida Photographs by Nathan Benn, a Book and an Exhibition at the HistoryMiami Museum, closing Sunday, April 4th, 2019

The subject of this interview, Nathan Benn, was very much a creature of the new generation. He was 22 when The National Geographic hired him in 1972 and 31 in 1981, when his editors sent him back to his native Florida to illustrate a feature article about its current condition in a troubled time, when the legal system was strained by drug trafficking and local citizens were challenged by a influx of refugees from the Caribbean. When he set to work, Mr. Benn began to push the Geographic’s envelope, both artistically and journalistically. His occasionally satirical social observations and gritty record of crime and law enforcement activity thrilled one of his editors but appalled another one, who was especially set in the magazine's anodyne values of the Midwest and the 1950’s.

Music

Piano Recitals in New York, Autumn 2018—a Retrospective

I have been on something of a musical diet this season, and the concerts I have attended have been few, including piano recitals, which have proven nonetheless wide in range, with newcomers to the city as well as the quintessential New Yorker, Richard Goode, and the continuation of Angela Hewitt’s transcendent Bach Odyssey, which has been the lodestar of my musical life for some years now. All have had something memorable to offer, especially Ms. Hewitt, and I have very little to grumble about, unless it is the smartphone-addicted audience at Daniel Ciobanu’s recital, who seemed to have no idea of what a classical concert entails in terms of how to enjoy the music and how to allow others to enjoy it as well.
Music

A New York Orchestral Retrospective, mostly Autumn 2018

Not so long ago I read a note by a European string player who was a young student in the 1890s. He observed that gut strings were universal before the First World War. When they began to appear in the first decade of the twentieth century, they were considered functional but inferior, and mainly used by students. Wartime shortages then made them a regrettable necessity for working professionals and orchestras. I haven't had a chance to investigate this properly, but the source is unquestionable. Wind instruments constantly evolved and were "improved" over the course of the nineteenth century, with its genius for mechanical inventions. This gives us an idea of when and how this crucial divide separated modern musicians and audiences from the techniques and sounds of earlier composers—meaning Mahler, not Mozart. There is still some general idea in the mind of the public that historical instruments and performance practices concern primarily music of the Baroque and Classical periods, but musicians have been applying the fruits of performance history to Romantic music for over twenty years—with gratifying results.
Theater

Real, a Masterpiece by Rodrigo Nogueira, at the Tank, closing January 20th.

Rodrigo Nogueira, who is already well-established in his native Brazil as a major playwright, also active in cinema and television, introduced himself to New York audiences last spring with his play, The Ideal Obituary, which I reviewed enthusiastically. Now, just at the beginning of the new year, he is back, with another offbeat and absorbing creation, Real. In The Ideal Obituary Mr. Nogueira explored the stranger workings of the human mind. He showed us how the well-intentioned efforts of a loving husband to cure his wife’s severe depression  ironically led the couple to a more functional and seemingly happier situation which eventually passed through the most basic laws of morality up to a life or death decision. The human mind and soul follow their own irrational logic.
Architecture | Urban Design

Artist Pamela Talese talks to Michael Miller about her recent exhibition, The Third Rome: Allegorical Landscapes of the Modern City, at the Robert Simon Fine Art, Nov.-Dec. 2018

The distinguished old master dealer, Robert Simon, held his first exhibition of a contemporary artist this past November and December. Entitled The Third Rome : Allegorical Landscapes of the Modern City, it was devoted to the current work of Pamela Talese, a Brooklyn-based painter known for her haunting views of gritty industrial sites around the Navy Yard and Red Hook. Brought to Rome for the first time in twenty-two years by a fellowship at the American Academy and following up a suggestion by an architectural historian she met there, she began to explore more recent neighborhoods outside the historical center. By “more recent,” I mean areas developed in the 1920s and 1930s, that is, the Fascist Era. Exploring the neighborhoods on her bicycle with her painting box and folding easel strapped on, Ms. Talese felt attracted to certain buildings that stood out for their clean, simple lines and elegant design. These were prime examples of Fascist architecture—modest, functional residential edifices, utilitarian civic structures, and a few public buildings. Virtually none of these appear in the surveys of Fascist architecture—with one notable exception, the Foro Italico (formerly called the Foro Mussolini).
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