Skip to the Lou, my darling
by Roberto Friedman
Lou Harrison: A World of Music, an intimate portrait of an extraordinary American composer who followed his dreams with original gay style, had its premiere at the Castro Theatre this past Tuesday night, and Out There was in the full house. Trading a fast-paced New York career for a remote cabin in the woods to recover from a nervous breakdown, Lou Harrison (1917-2003) confronted his demons by writing beautiful music. Combining Western, Eastern and custom-made instruments built by his life partner William Colvig , Harrison's artistic courage produced one of the great musical legacies of the 20th century.
Harrison could make a symphony orchestra or a gamelan orchestra sound pitch-perfect, and his melodic music is heard throughout director Eva Soltes' film. Over 60 years of archival imagery help to paint a comprehensive yet lyrical portrait of the man, his times and his legacy. All proceeds from the premiere benefit Harrison House Music & Arts, an artist residency/performance program located in the innovative straw-bale house that Harrison completed in Joshua Tree, CA, one year before his death. Preceding the film at its premiere was a musical prelude performed by legendary composer/musician Terry Riley on the Castro's mighty Wurlitzer organ, followed by Soltes' short video illuminating the history of artists and events at the Harrison House. Honorary event co-chairs were choreographer Mark Morris and San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas, both of whom have been key supporters of Harrison's work when it was decidedly out of fashion.
Lou Harrison: A World of Music will play the Roxie Theater in SF from Friday, March 9 through Thursday, March 15. Harrison's Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra will be performed by the SF Symphony conducted by Tilson Thomas as part of the American Mavericks series beginning March 8-9 at Davies Symphony Hall. So lovely that Lou is finally getting his due.
The photography exhibit Arthur Tress : San Francisco 1964, which opened last week at the de Young Museum, will be reviewed in next week's issue, so don't miss it. Meantime we've been paging through the show's excellent catalog and finding lots of old San Francisco to entice us. Fine Arts Museums of SF curator James A. Ganz writes in a catalog essay, "The San Francisco photographs were set aside and all but forgotten. The work did not figure into the traveling retrospective of Tress' photographs organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 2001. The death of his sister Madeleine in September 2009 led the artist back to SF to organize her estate; in the process he rediscovered a cache of his vintage prints and youthful letters. The collection forms a veritable time capsule in crisp black-and-white that retains the astonishing clarity of Northern California sunlight as filtered through Tress' unique artistic sensibility."
He developed and printed these negatives in a communal darkroom in the Castro before leaving SF in 1964. More about Tress and his work to come next week.
Four media moments
1. Last week Vulture.com writer Kyle Buchanan reported that actor "Leonardo DiCaprio is a friend of Dorothy with a passion for women's shoes – but there's more to the story, we assure you. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced today that DiCaprio led a group of angel donors (including Steven Spielberg) to purchase a pristine set of ruby slippers used in The Wizard of Oz, which will be put on display at the Academy's new Los Angeles museum." For a minute there we thought Leo was "dropping a hat-pin," but it's just more Oz cultdom. A Sing-Along Wizard of Oz, hosted by Laurie Bushman and David Hawkins , is coming to the Castro Theatre, March 23-25 and March 30-April 1.
2. A headline in last Sunday's Home and Garden section on SF Gate declared, "Poufs Punch Up a Room." "Well, of course," commented Savvy Sam. "Are they just finding out that we've always been interior decorators? They actually mean those foot-rest things." But Out There was busy picturing a bunch of beefy sisters putting their fists through the walls, ottomans be damned. See where our mind goes?
3. The Stranger media site from Seattle asked Metropolitan Life author Fran Lebowitz, "What, right now, is the biggest scourge in terms of manners?"
"Well, it seems to me, at least in New York, that every person on the street imagines themselves in a world of one, you know?" Lebowitz replied. "They come toward you, they're not looking for you, you're supposed to go around them, because they, of course, they're not looking. Because they're looking at that little thing in their hand – whatever it is – the iPhone or the Blackberry, or whatever the thing is. And if you actually do bang into them, which you sometimes do deliberately, they seem startled. They act like they're in their house."
4. Best New York Times correction of the week: "An article on Feb. 19 about Margaret Edson, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, referred incorrectly to one of several interests that occupy her days now that she no longer focuses on playwriting. She does not read Dante in Italian every day, although she once did." Slacker!
Endnote: Mosaic artist Michael J. Kruzich will be feted at an opening party for a show that, in fact, has been hanging for about a month now. The small cafe Tartine Talbot, 244 Gough St. in Hayes Valley, is getting their beer and wine license, and wants to have an art opening to celebrate. So their "grand opening" art and wine party will take place on Friday, March 23, from 6-10 p.m. We're there!