Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Let's begin, again

August 16, 2008

 
from Achim Freyer's 1983 staging of Glass' Satyagraha
Photo: Image Entertainment
Well, it’s the second anniversary of Out West Arts and it’s time for a makeover. There has been a lot of talk over the last year in various and sundry corners about the effect music bloggers like myself have on the quality, amount, and location of writing about music and art in general. Much of this is drivel. It’s funny to me that people who are so quick to question the presence of a “crisis” in classical music as an economically viable art form, at least here in the U.S., are often all too ready to jump on the bandwagon regarding the “demise” of classical music criticism. But life goes on here at OWA, and, when I’m not busy creating more populist scribblings to destroy the careers of legitimate music critics, I like to concentrate on the visual elements of my own humble web abode. In fact, if one wants to launch a criticism of music blogs, it seems to me that the issue is not how poorly written or uninsightful they are (two qualities I pride myself in cultivating), but how crappy they look. Here’s some news – the web, unlike music, is largely a visual medium, but most of those who write regularly about music on the web seem to be content with cookie-cutter pre-fabricated templates from their various hosts. I’m not going to point fingers, but look around and take note. Visually, most music blogs lie somewhere between an ersatz corporate yawn and ‘90s throwback Dreamweaver kitsch. I suppose a Spartan approach can bolster one’s sense of ideological legitimacy, but this is Hollywood baby, and sometimes what you have to say is equally important to how you look while you're saying it.

But enough about the upcoming elections and lets get back to me, me, me - this is a blog after all. I took this anniversary to also look back on my first few blog posts to revisit why I started doing this and what I intended to write about. Little has changed in either my reasoning or intention even if I have not always lived up to my own goals. I’m still not interested in ferreting out gossip or reporting breaking news of any kind. I also am not interested in writing about my personal life, pets, family or other ancillary issues. While Photoshop is the greatest comic tool since the whoopee cushion, I'm not terribly inclined to rely on it as a source for material. I continue to primarily write reviews of what I see from a perspective that is not especially informed, but is interesting to myself and I hope others along the way. I have a minimal amount of music and theater education but I am neither a professional or an expert in either field.

I started this blog because I felt, and still feel that Los Angeles has one of the most vibrant art scenes in the world and there isn't near enough written about what goes on around this town. In fact, this is much more the case now than two year’s ago with the demise of virtually all newsprint non-film and TV arts writing outside a handful of folks at the ever-worsening Los Angeles Times. Additionally, there are still too few music and arts blogs in Southern California and the very fine ones that do exist don’t publish frequently enough to cover everything that should be in a town this size. I also started this blog to advocate for people, trends, and projects that I don’t feel get the positive attention they deserve. I’m a big fan of new and late 20th century music, especially opera. I think operatic and musical taste by the majority of people who consume these commodities in the U.S., especially in cities like Los Angeles and New York, is provincial and uninspired. I like ridiculously over-the-top productions and I want to see performers who can act as easily as they sing and I don’t think one talent should be privileged over the other, especially in opera. There seem to be so many “opera lovers” who spend their time debating minutiae of singing technique and carping over such a small range of vocalists in such a small number of roles that opera becomes little more than the equivalent of pornography - the fetishization of the unamplified voice has reached a point where a certain group of listeners get off by hearing nothing more than minor variants of the same physical acts over and over again ad nauseum. Flawless singing is nice, but in opera, it is highly overrated.

So this is Out West Arts. It may not be to anyone's taste and sometimes even I'm not so sure what it's all about either, but I imagine I'll keep going, so keep reading if the desire so moves you.

Comments:

Well designed and well said (even if aworks does use "cookie-cutter pre-fabricated templates")!
Don't like the "notebook paper" look at all, it has lines going through sentences, like they were strikeouts in Word. Oh well, BFD, I come here for your words, not visuals.

Bravo to your bit about voice fetishization. The style of singing is what kept me away from opera for years, and even now the whole "X sang X with beautiful legato" blah blah blah still bores me to tears. I'm all about composers.
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1/18/13
Kodály Háry János Suite
Eötvös DoReMi
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Los Angeles Philharmonic
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1/19/13
Reneé Fleming and Susan Graham
recital
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