This rumored couple couldn’t stay secret forever! The first ever pics of Leo and Rihanna together have been released, and they’re from her 27th birthday party.
Leonardo DiCaprio, 40, and Rihanna’s secret rumored romance has kept us on our toes for months. Until now. The first photos of Leo and Rihanna together show them getting cozy at Rihanna’s 27th birthday party on Feb. 20! We’ve been waiting a long time for these two to step out together, and we finally got our wish!
“If I were to say who influenced me most, I would say people like Stockhausen, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Mark Bell,” Björk told Mark Pytlik for his biography of the Icelandic musician. An intriguing, if not altogether surprising, group. It not only name-checks some of the most important musical figures of the past 70 years, but also provides a template with which to understand Björk.
I’m not just talking in musical terms. Björk may be a musician but she has a much broader aesthetic than music – to the extent that an exhibition about her is shortly opening at MoMA. At the heart of such a show is the question of where the boundaries between art and music lie.
Her influences tell us a lot about why and how this is the case with her work. German electronic music pioneer Stockhausen was most active in the 1950s and 60s. He certainly inspired Kraftwerk and Eno to redefine the confines of popular music in the 1970s. Bell, a key figure in the development of techno and house music in the UK in the 1990s, essentially fused Eno’s ambient music with Kraftwerk’s melody-driven synthesised beats.
Stockhausen (indirectly) and Bell (directly, as Björk’s producer from 1997 until his death in late 2014) can be regarded as highly influential in cultivating the Björk soundscape.
But Kraftwerk and Eno have probably had a more diverse, profound and even dynamic impact. Both have long histories of exploring the connections between music and art. They are equally at home in art spaces and galleries as they are in concert halls and recording studios. Music is only one facet of their oeuvre.
Kraftwerk collaborated with artists, Eno creates photography, installations and digital art. They both work with film and video, and have given live performances as living art. This idea of the living artwork seems to be very much at the heart of the MoMA rationale for the Björk exhibition, which it describes as:
A retrospective of the multifaceted work of composer, musician, and singer… To chronicle her career through sound, film, visuals, instruments, objects, and costumes.
This is not the first time MoMA has recognised the margins of culture inhabited by some musicians. In 2012, there was the exhibition Kraftwerk – Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. There were eight live shows, each featuring the music of a different album. Each performed to sell-out audiences. The same format was used by Tate Modern in London for another eight sell-out performances in February 2013.
Of course, there’s an argument that Kraftwerk has always defied constructs of what constitutes a popular music act or even a rock band; it has always been more of an arts collective. Its members built their own instruments. They never gave press interviews. They refused to be photographed, and used dummies for photoshoot clones. Their stage performances were carefully constructed. They collaborated with artists for album art work (Emil Shult created the iconic cover for Autobahn) and music videos (Rebecca Allen used state-of-the-art facial animation software for the film that accompanied the 1986 single Musique Non-Stop).
The art world finally took notice around the turn of the millennium when Tokyo’s Metropolitan Museum of Photography featured an exhibition on the making of Allen’s film in late 2002. This was what initiated the art world’s exploration of the interface between art and music.
Three artistic poles
Like Kraftwerk, Eno refutes the rock star cliché. The early years with Roxy Music merely established the platform from which he was able to create a variety of work. He can now be considered a composer, sound technician, session musician, musical collaborator, record producer, visual artist, social and cultural commentator.
With Kraftwerk and other electronic musicians such as Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre, he helped form the musical landscape of the 1980s and beyond. He also began creating photography and art installations in the 1970s and his work has been exhibited widely across the globe.
Any attempt to locate Brian Eno’s (art) work within an historical framework calls for a triple triangulation, whose trig points in the English tradition would seem to be Turner/Elgar/Blake; in Europe, Matisse/Satie/Bergson, and in the United States, Rothko/La Monte Young/Rorty.
This three-pointed allusion embraces artists, musicians and philosophers. At the edge of music you find a border country, as much cultivated by the visual aspect of music making, and the pop star as cultural icon, as it is to the desire to explore multiple creative forms.
From Elvis Presley forward, the performance and marketing of music has always relied on a visual aesthetic. But it is not only the record company or concert promoter, more concerned with the commercial imperative of the product on sale, who has been preoccupied with the packaging of music and musicians. Starting with the Beatles in the mid-1960s, musicians themselves became more interested with image; not just their appearance (on and offstage) but with how their broader persona was presented and what it represented.
The trend began with album covers as genuine works of art (Peter Blake’s 1967 collage for the Sgt Pepper’s album) and soon evolved into elaborate stage costumes (Arthur Brown), and ultimately, into exotic alter egos (David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, whose costumes featured among the exhibits at last year’s V&A retrospective of Bowie’s stage creations).
Some musicians even insisted on fashioning their own album covers, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell chief among them. Dylan has exhibited his paintings and sculptures in galleries worldwide, including the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Film was also used to cultivate and enhance image: look at the proto-videos for Dylan’s 1965 single Subterranean Homesick Blues or, a decade later, Queen’s global phenomenon Bohemian Rhapsody. Videos themselves were the main drivers of sales throughout the 1980s, initiating the MTV age, before digital technologies enabled a more holistic multimedia approach, particularly in terms of live performance.
Björk seems to embody all of this. The four musicians she mentioned to Pytlik are surely just one aspect of her inspiration and ambition. As the New York show will no doubt prove, with its showcasing of music as well as album covers, videos and costumes, Björk’s work references Bowie’s performance art and Eno’s extending of aesthetics, just as much as German electronic music. What will happen next in these borderlands, we’ll have to see – but it’s an extremely exciting prospect.
Alicia Keys has finally given her fans a glimpse of her baby son Genesis. Two months after the little boy made his way into the world at the end of last year, the 34-year-old Fallin’ singer posted a picture of her family looking lovingly at its youngest member.
“Blessings and love!! #GenesisAliDean,” Alicia wrote alongside the Instagram picture, which her husband Swizz Beatz also shared with the caption “#GenesisAliDean”.
The sweet black-and-white image shows 36-year-old Swizz’s six-year-old son Kasseem Dean Jr, and his and Alicia’s four-year-old son Egypt Daoud both smartly dressed in tuxedos. (Read More)
Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.
His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Read More)
So, Madonna fell over at the Brit Awards. If you weren’t watching last night (and if you were, why?) then no doubt you know by now. The tumble has been gleefully reported from all quarters – something that says a lot about how dull the Brits Awards are. The other option is to talk about how Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran won accolades. Who cares? The answer will always be, the UK music industry, because this is their celebration.
The 2015 Brit Awards is a significant event in the UK music calendar. But probably only if you are in the industry. As we all know, such awards ceremonies are simply marketing exercises – with the Oscars as their template, they draw media attention to the successes produced by a particular industry.
The problem is that word “industry”. Musicians need companies to consolidate and increase their own efforts in establishing (and monetising) fan-bases. Because they do, they work on the terms and conditions of the companies whose investment they need. On this basis, the Brit Awards are a celebration of the type of person and the type of music that companies make successful. So the exercise is always a self-congratulatory one – and that often makes for difficult watching.
The Brit Awards always plays safe, to the extent that one year blurs into another – a procession of lairy rock lads swagger up, giving and receiving laddish banter as they tuck away another endorsement for their safe, essentially middle-of-the road music. Occasionally a female face, and less often a black face (rarely a female one) makes an appearance, but all are bound by the strict rules of “celebrity” culture. Along the way, music gets lost.
So where do you find the music that is musically innovative and distinctive in any one year? It could be argued that the Mercury Awards is the arena for evaluating and celebrating musicality, yet the flaw to that argument is that the acts that tend to come to the attention of the Mercury judges are industry successes in the first place, albeit they come from across a wider range of genres than Brit Awards nominees tend to be derived from.
It was frustration with the Brits that provoked the creation of the MOBO awards. The MOBOs celebrate black talent and artistry. It would take an article longer than this one to identify just why the Brits finds it so hard to engage intelligently with all of the music that generates interest and excitement in the UK but perhaps switching to a formula that tracks downloads and streams might help to open up the Brits to genres beyond the safe and familiar ones they are preoccupied by.
Yet, somehow, this narrow preoccupation is just as it should be. What music industry produces is a symbolic good, a commodity. Music at its core, but it is sold as a composite of the way a musician sounds and the way that he or she looks and behaves, and articulates and inserts themselves in contemporary value-sets. Musicians act as lightning rods for popular culture and, if popular culture goes on being expressed through soaps and reality TV shows and football and gossip and scandal, then the Brit Awards is about celebrating which musicians are most efficient at producing the soundtrack for such a culture.
If there is a lack of diversity in the types of musicians celebrated it is because the types of music made by those musicians are the ones that fit most readily with the expectations of general audiences. Or, perhaps more accurately, the musicians awarded are the ones who help people negotiate a way of life they do not control by providing an escapist, celebratory soundtrack for an idealised escape from daily life – which raises the question of why the need to escape is felt so strongly by so many.
“Control” is the key word here, earlier popular music scenes – folk, rock, punk rock, the rave scene – were very much about young people expressing and embodying “alternative” values. As opportunities to enjoy careers have contracted, so too, in a perplexing way, has the belief that there are other ways of existing; other ways of realising the self – and pop music was always particularly good at articulating and focusing this.
“Daily life” for many people in the UK is an increasing struggle: the collapse of community attendant on the collapse of manufacturing industries has forced individuals to become “self-marketers”. It should be little wonder, then, that singers who sing wistful ballads of vulnerability and self-struggle – among them Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran – should prove so popular. And when community is recomposed at the level of football and partying then nominees such as Mark Ronson and Duke Dumont provide the EDM and House soundtrack for those “mad for it” collective occasions.
The Brit Awards is about celebrating music’s contribution to popular culture. Its lack of diversity reflects a lack of diversity in the experiences for the majority of, especially young, people in a “free-market” economy.
Wearable technology means Google Glass or Apple Watch to most. But for a few designers and fashionistas — including Katy Perry — it sometimes refers to skirts, dresses, handbags and suits. Perry became a client of a brand called CuteCircuit after her stylist saw an exhibit featuring its LED-illuminated Galaxy Dress at the Museum of Science… Continue reading →
Philip Pickett, a very prominent conductor in the early music world, has been jailed for 11 years for sexually attacking two pupils and a young woman. He carried out the assaults in sound-proofed practise rooms in the 1970s and 1980s.
Abuse in music education is an issue that also currently features in a very different sphere – the Oscars race. Whiplash, nominated for Best Picture at this year’s awards, is is set in the fictional New York Schaffer Conservatory, the setting of which is undoubtedly based upon the Juilliard School (and where the classroom scene is shot). We follow a student jazz drummer, Andrew Neiman, as he is driven to the edge by tyrannical teacher Terence Fletcher.
Despite relying on two-dimensional characterisation and implausible scenarios, the film makes some very pertinent points about bullying and the pervasive power games that conservatoires promote.
Abuse of students by teachers is a real problem in music education. The Venezuelan massive music education project El Sistema, once hailed as a social program, has since been described as “a model of tyranny”. In March 2013 Michael Brewer, a former music teacher at Chetham’s school of music was jailed for 6 years after abusing a student who took her own life during the trial; a further teacher at the school (my own conducting teacher there) was jailed for 8 months in September 2014 after admitting to sexually assaulting a student when she was a child.
Various other cases involving teachers from the school await trial at the time of writing. A series of women have come forward to attest to their abuse at the hands of former Director of Music at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the late Marcel Gazelle, while many men came forward too with horrifying stories about the late Alan Doggett, the major conductor for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and former music director at Colet Court School, following investigations by myself and The Times.
I have been involved in as a campaigner and researcher on the subject of abuse in music education for several years. I have chronicled many cases coming to light both before and after the Michael Brewer trial. I am aware of many other allegations, sometimes against very prominent musicians, throughout UK music education but also in the US, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Russia and elsewhere.
What I have seen, overwhelmingly, from having gone through an elite musical training, working as a professional musician, and also from a large amount of information disclosed privately to me, is a systematic pattern of domination, cruelty, dehumanisation, bullying and emotional manipulation from unscrupulous musicians in positions of unchecked power, of which sexual abuse is one of several manifestations.
Compare Whiplash. Terence Fletcher is very much a cartoon villain. He physically assaults and publicly humiliates his students, and fires off homophobic and anti-semitic insults like an unintentional parody of Joe Pesci in a Martin Scorsese film, or anything scripted by David Mamet.
All of which he justifies (at least outwardly) by the old lie that he is pushing students to get the best results. Any individual acting in such a blatant manner in a US or UK conservatory today would almost certainly face severe disciplinary action very quickly (in Russia or China it might be a different matter).
Few could deny that Fletcher is a vicious bully. The fact that he is a jazz rather than classical teacher, and as such less bound by conventions of bourgeois respectability, may make him superficially more plausible, but I have found that bullying musicians are often more subtle and insidious.
A more devastatingly incisive rendition – the most realistic rendition of the culture of the conservatory I have yet seen on film – is Isabelle Huppert’s portrayal of the monstrous Erika in The Piano Teacher. Erika is a bitter and twisted woman utterly unfit for teaching. She uses the language and rhetoric of musical discernment and sophistication to undermine the confidence and sense of self of those she resents and envies.
Despite being somewhat caricature-like, the nature of Fletcher’s power is portrayed with insight. Although his methods might be exaggerated, such abuse of power does regularly occur and the film should not be dismissed as entirely fictional.
It is important to note that the conservatory environment portrayed here belongs historically to classical musicians. While jazz has occasionally been taught in such institutions ever since the first course in Frankfurt in 1928, it has remained marginal until quite recently. Juilliard, for example, first offered jazz courses in 2001 and few big names in jazz – such as Charlie Parker or Buddy Rich, both mentioned in the film – had this type of musical education.
Conservatories are still strongly weighted towards classical music, and a large amount of bullying is found in this field, though it is often less obvious than that of Fletcher. Fewer volleying barrages of insults. Instead, I have found that frequently students’ inferiority is insinuated through assertions about their perceived emotional maturity or even level of sexual prowess, on the basis of their playing.
Some use personality stereotypes, based on just a few tawdry attributes, to demean and humiliate the student and flaunt their own power. In earlier times these might be overtly based upon the student’s ethnicity or social background; the difference now is simply that this is implicit rather than clearly stated.
Whiplash’s Fletcher knows just how vulnerable and desperate fledgling musicians are. He exploits this situation. Relationships, friendships or other trappings of a normal life disappear under the weight of naked ambition; other humans matter only to the extent they can further one’s career. The pressure to act in such a manner is very real in advanced musical education.
Those who lose out
The rather hollow “victory” achieved at the end of the film by Neiman (in a tour de force of filming as well as playing) could be argued to have legitimised Fletcher’s treatment of him. But the lasting message is not optimistic.
We find out that a former student, Sean Casey, likely hanged himself in response to his treatment by Fletcher. This is far more striking than some of the other implausible and melodramatic plot devices. But Casey was successful, at least in the terms set out here, having found a place playing in Marsalis’s museum-piece concerts.
More important, and ignored in most portrayals of musical education, is the fate of those who do not find success. These people have sacrificed everything else in their lives. Institutions teach significantly more students than could ever find available work. And so alongside the rosters of starry names brandished in conservatories’ publicity material, their legacy is equally to be found in the other alumni who are left bereft and disillusioned.
I know of many cases, some involving those I knew at school or college, in which the legacy of such study has been chronic depression, difficulties with relationships, drink and drug abuse. This is often prompted by the terror and paranoia engendered by repeated psychological, physical or sexual abuse, as well as the cripplingly low self-esteem that can result.
For those of us lucky few who have been able to devote our professional lives to music, many factors beyond supposed talent or natural selection are involved, often beyond one’s personal control.
This throws light on the real inadequacies of both the teachers and the institutional culture. Better results, both personal and musical, could be achieved by a teaching culture founded upon co-operation and mutual support rather than aggressive competition. The learning needs of students must be prioritised above the reputations of teachers. Educational breadth is needed to enable students to flourish as whole people, not just performing machines.
But this will only happen when the musical professions take real steps to reform a brutalising and dehumanising range of practices and attitudes, the justifications for which are no more convincing than those of Fletcher.
At the star-studded Academy Awards, remember that the essence of what is portrayed in Whiplash is very real and has profound effects upon many young musicians.
If you’ve seen The Theory of Everything, you know that Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of iconic physicist Stephen Hawking was worthy of an Oscar, and last night the Academy came through with a best actor trophy. But, perhaps, the real award came after the Oscar telecast when Hawking left a message on Redmayne’s Facebook page.
POPSUGAR will be live at the Oscars this Sunday, Feb. 22! Tune in as our hosts report on red carpet arrivals, examine the beauty and fashion highlights, and recap the most viral moments of the night. You can even join in on the conversation on our Facebook page and via Twitter using our hashtag #POPSUGAROscars. Catch… Continue reading →