Message from the Center: Barber Shop Chronicles

The older a man gets, the faster he can run as a boy.
—Inua Ellams

It took me a while to understand why my mom would leave me alone in the Barbershop every other week. Six years old, surrounded by Black men and their conversations, all I could do was listen and hope that one day, I could add to the conversation. Being an only child raised by a single-mother, the Barbershop taught me a lot about the Black male voice. Mainly, that it matters and that it exists. Somehow, my mother knew this. She trusted that these important conversations would live with me, shape me, push me towards my own definition of Black male masculinity.

In Inua Ellams’ piece, these same conversations take wing across a variety of borders. For many Black men, his characters find a place of commune in the barbershop where joy and pain are expressed. Where questions are answered, jokes told. Heartfelt and beautifully crafted, Ellams’ Barber Shop Chronicles provides to us all a window to the scared haven that is the Barbershop. The Country Club for Black Culture. To my first barber, Mr. Jerry, I thank you for all the cuts and conversations.

On behalf of us at the Center, it is with great pleasure that we welcome and share these conversations with you.

—Theodore Bonner-Perkins

Message from the Center: Tigran Hamasyan

Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan describes his latest works, this year’s For Gyumri and its companion album, 2017’s An Ancient Observer, as being “about the world we live in now, and the weight of history we carry with us.”

What does it mean to carry history with us? I’m reminded of a quotation carved in stone above one of the entrances to Royce Hall, the words of the building’s namesake, the great Californian philosopher Josiah Royce: “The world is a progressively realized community of interpretation.”

We should keep this idea of a progressive interpretive community in mind when considering history. Despite how it is often taught, history is not just a boring list of trivial facts about some distant epoch. Rather, it is something vital that lives within us in the here and now. There is no final draft of history, it is a multiplicity of intertwined stories that we tell and retell to make sense of our lives in a constant and often agonistic process of reinterpretation.

You can see the importance of historical interpretation in many of the contentious debates we have about the past today, where questions of justice are often paramount: whose stories do we give more weight to, the oppressed or their oppressors? Which figures and events deserve monuments and which demand critical reexamination? These debates are particularly relevant for long-marginalized peoples. It is interesting to note that Hamasyan combines musical influences from two groups that were both victims of unimaginable historical injustices: African-Americans and Armenians.

In drawing from both his native folk traditions and from jazz, Hamasyan’s music fits Royce’s ideal of progressive interpretation. By finding connections between different art forms and different histories, across eons and continents, Hamasyan is able to create something new in conversation with the ever-present past, enriching that evolving interpretive community to which we all belong. As Faulkner wrote, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”

—Andrew Hartwell

Message from the Center: Emmylou Harris

Existentialist philosophers argue that a truly authentic life requires awareness of our finitude and mortality, what Martin Heidegger famously called “being-towards-death.” Perhaps this is why the best country music feels so authentic: it is infused with an awareness of death, with the hard-earned knowledge of the pain that life dishes out. What else would you expect from an artform that evolved from the experiences of the working-class rural poor, from the stories of people who live close to the earth, where the cycles of nature and the storms they bring are a part of everyday life?

Emmylou Harris knows about weathering storms. Her solo career began with the tragic death of her original duet partner, Gram Parsons, a loss that haunts much of her subsequent work. There’s an inescapable ache at the heart of great country music: the bottle that lets you down, the sweet dreams that can never come true. As Harris sang on the title track of her 2000 album Red Dirt Girl, “One thing they don’t tell you about the blues when you got ‘em, you keep on falling cause there ain’t no bottom.”

Los Angeles may seem like an odd venue for such authentic, American music. After all, we are constantly told that we aren’t the “real America,” that we are a city of fakes and frauds. But beyond the superficial glitz of Hollywood, we have our share of the blues, too. The L.A. transplant Harris sings of in “Two More Bottles of Wine” works hard, suffers heartbreak and drinks her sorrows away, just like that southern “Red Dirt Girl” who “never got any farther across the line than Meridian.”

These songs remind us that the struggles of downtrodden working folks aren’t so different, whether they are Angelenos or Alabamians. Maybe that’s why country music has fans in east Africa as well as east Texas: it reminds us that we all suffer from loss, that our pain is never just ours, that we’re all heading to the same place regardless of what patch of dirt we call home, and that our ability to live with that knowledge, to weather the storm together, is what makes us truly human.

—Andrew Hartwell

Message from the Center: Fran Lebowitz

This summer when my husband was visiting family in Kansas, I got a text from him with this picture.

“Look,” he wrote, “Fran Lebowitz in Kansas!”

“Wow,” I wrote back, “Where are you?”

“I’m in a cool bookstore, and they have good iced coffee!”

My brain had never put the words, “Fran Lebowitz,” “Kansas” and “good iced coffee” in the same sentence. I looked more closely at the picture.

“Think before you speak. Read before you think.”
—Fran Lebowitz

The words were hand painted on what looked like old newsprint, the edges were curling, it was torn, but somebody had cared enough to frame it, and hang it on a wall. Being a native New Yorker (something I share with Fran), I will admit to having a few preconceived notions about what I think people are reading and thinking in other parts of the country. So, this was a bit of a surprise. It looked like the kind of thing you would see in San Francisco, or in downtown New York, but not in a small town in the middle of Kansas.

I texted back, “Who, in Kansas, even knows who Fran Lebowitz is?” Ooops. My cultural bias was raging. Think before you speak. Read before you think.

The woman who said these words has over 10,000 books in her apartment, and has read many more. For 60 plus years Fran Lebowitz has been thinking and reading. She has been called a literary icon, a social critic, a New York snob, a big mouth, a wit, a curmudgeon, a genius, a satirist and the heir to Dorothy Parker. She is all of these things, and none of these things. But she is a reader. She believes in books, printed on paper. The kind with pages that you turn, and fold, and write in the margins, and spill iced coffee on, and give to a friend, or pile in stacks or cram into crowded bookshelves, desks, nightstands. In the essay, Fran Lebowitz On Reading, she writes:

I would rather read than have any kind of real life, like working, or being responsible. Reading prepares you for other reading, and possibly for writing…All the things that I never did because I was reading, so what? If someone said to me, how did you spend your life? I’d have to say, lying on the sofa reading.

Books are our crucial connectors — whether in libraries, archives, classrooms, or small, scruffy bookstores in the middle of Kansas. I failed to imagine that someone in a tiny town could love what I love, value what I value, or—gasp—read what I read. Think before you speak. Read before you think. Sometimes we need our great readers to remind us to think differently.

—Meryl Friedman
Director of Education & Special Initiatives

Message from the Center: DakhaBrakha

What is ethno-chaos? That’s how tonight’s band, DakhaBrakha, describes their aesthetic. The term is provocative, bringing to mind the anarchic attitude of punk rock, but chaos is not merely destructive: it can be essential for new creation, the explosive combustion powering an engine of renewal.

DakhaBrakha means “give/take,” and that’s what their brand of ethno-chaos is all about. Philosophically, they embrace a poststructuralist approach: breaking down styles, reterritorializing foreign timbres into their own vernacular, freely taking from the old and giving us something new. They are experimental cartographers remixing the map of world music, spreading Ukrainian folklore while absorbing and metabolizing new ideas, asserting the uniqueness of their traditional culture while championing progressive ideals, boldly exploring the transcendent power of primal rhythms and cosmic drones.

We know a thing or two about ethno-chaos here in Los Angeles, the postmodern metropolis that gave the world Korean tacos, the place where the French Dip sandwich was invented in Chinatown. The perpetual swirling deconstruction and recombination of cultures and styles is a source of vitality for our city, just as it is for DakhaBrakha.

By joining us here tonight, you have become a part of this symbiotic process of giving and taking. That’s what live performance is all about: the energy shared between artists and audience. The creativity presented on stage should serve as a reminder that humanity always has the potential to grow in unexpected ways, giving and taking, forming new networks without regard for the barriers that separate us.

Maybe we could use a little more ethno-chaos in our world.

We hope you enjoy the show.

—Andrew Hartwell

Message From The Artists: Vijay Iyer and Teju Cole on Blind Spot

I’m fortunate to have called Teju a friend since long before he became the household name he is today. Our collaborations have emerged slowly and organically from a camaraderie established in the early 2000s. This particular one was born in 2016 as a kind of stunt, using Teju’s photographs and writings as our stimulus. Faced with a run of six performances, I thought, “What if we actually create the piece live from scratch each time, using Teju’s riveting text and images as our score? What if the music had no permanence, but rather consisted of a set of guiding principles, orienting forces, and emotional stimuli?” If the project’s music used the vulnerability and fragility of real-time creation and dispensed with any presumption of fixity, what’s left instead of a “piece” is an aggregate of very careful listeners — a band — with a compact network of social relations: ways of listening, sounding, building, and coexisting. As Ornette Coleman summarized once when rehearsing with his band: “If you cut loose the method, what’s left is stone presence.” Teju’s collection of texts and images gives us a way to be collectively present with some unadorned, harsh truths about the world at this moment; our ritual patterns and emergent unisons offer a slowly evolving emotional correlate to his work.

We’re excited to share this project with CAP UCLA audiences. We’ve performed this project more than a dozen times, but this will be a special version of Blind Spot with guest artist Ambrose Akinmusire, a trumpet superstar and another longtime collaborator of mine who will be no stranger to listeners.

—Vijay Iyer

I know of no artist more alert to improvisation’s inextricability from composition than Vijay Iyer. I was an avid listener of his for many years, and during that time I became a friend. Then a collaborative phase began a few years ago, and that has been such a joy. We first did the Open City suite, composed for a big band in which all the members were virtuosi. A kind of super band. And now there’s Blind Spot which brings together images, words, and music in a more elusive way. Blind Spot is different each time we do it. When the lights go down, I don’t know what the opening notes are going to be, and when we get to the end of the piece, I don’t know whether we are going to end with a feeling of peace or sorrow. What I do know is that there are a five of us on stage, listening intently to each other, using a sequence of photographs I’ve taken around the world as a kind of score. A multipartite co-creation happens. The audience is part of that too: the intensity of the audience’s listening amplifies the emotional precision of the musicians.

This is the magic of live performance. Questions of scenography and sound quality aside, sitting at home watching something on your computer couldn’t begin to capture the high wire emotion that results from seeing something unfold in real time and in actual space. Of the many different ways I present my work, doing Blind Spot with this band is for me the most moving and most satisfying.

—Teju Cole

Message from the Center: Lucinda Childs

With the contemporary dance program this year, we have put a focus on three singular choreographers whose early start came from the now legendary Judson Church movement. Deborah Hay, Lucinda Childs and Trisha Brown along with other contemporaries founded Judson Dance Theater in the late 1960’s. It was a space where they all forged their early explorations, developed their choreographic practices and were able to perform regularly for the audiences that were largely comprised of their artist peers. The “downtown” NY art scene was a hotbed, and in the emerging post-modern dance movement, these three women generated material that continues to influence artists to this day.

Lucinda Childs, Andy Warhol 16mm Film Still (1964)
Lucinda Childs, Andy Warhol 16mm Film Still (1964)

These choreographers went on to pursue different paths over their evolving and accomplished careers. While their dance work and lifelong contributions to the form is individualistic and distinct, they each share the sustained commitment to the internal and externally facing architectures of movement. From the infinite possibilities, they shape their practices on an axis that reaches the sublime, and breaks convention. There is wit and irreverence, and an unmistakable joy in liberty that never strays from an intense focus on the choreographic intention.

Lucinda Childs Dance Company, Photo by Nathaniel Tileston (1979)
Lucinda Childs Dance Company, Photo by Nathaniel Tileston (1979)

Lucinda Childs: A Portrait (1963 -2016) offers us a an arc across her evolving sensibilities and explorations through a selection of choreographies in a chronological order. Pastime (1963) through several choreographies from the 1970’s to her world premiere this evening of Into View (2016). A rare experience to survey time and process through a truly masterful artist.

Lucinda Childs, Photo by Lucie Jansch (2012)
Lucinda Childs, Photo by Lucie Jansch (2012)

We would like to thank the Board and our progressive supporters whose contributions enabled the Center to contribute to Lucinda Child’s latest choreography, Into View. As a co-commissioner, we are proud to also be hosting the World Premiere in Los Angeles. The company, designers and creative team has been here working with our production team for the final rehearsals and production development leading up to this auspicious occasion in Royce Hall.

For those of you here tonight, you will become a valued part of the history of the work as it moves to BAM in New York and on to many of the world’s most revered stages in Europe and beyond. We would also like to express our appreciation for Pomegranate Arts, whose work as one of the nation’s most esteemed Producers, and Lucinda herself, for entrusting us with the work. We could not be more proud.

Thank you all for being here.

Support Design for Sharing

DFS

The Design for Sharing program at CAP UCLA has transformed the lives of over half a million Los Angeles students and their teachers since it was founded 47 years ago in 1969. To give you an idea of what Design for Sharing means to the students and teachers of LA, here are their own words:

I had lots of fun because we got to build a violin. Thank you for letting us go to your school. I loved it when we got to learn about the instruments around the world.
– Amy, Catskill Avenue Elementary School

When I finish high school, I am going to UCLA, and I am joining the dance program. I was planning to quit dance and start swimming, but seeing you guys I decided to carry on with my passion for dance. Thank you for inspiring me and encouraging me to keep dancing!
– Destiny, Southeast Middle School

I really enjoyed the creativeness and originality of the play. This performance showed me that anything is possible and that everyone has the right to share their story and be themselves. […] Never stop doing what you love.
– Tess, San Pedro High School

What an immensely powerful performance and a valuable experience for students to be on a college campus: many students said things like, “Can’t you see yourself being a college student now?” THANK YOU!
– The 8th Grade Faculty, Camino Nuevo Middle School

Composing the Body:
Portrait of a Score

Deborah Hay, photo Sarah Granholm
Deborah Hay, photo by Sarah Granholm

In March of 2010, Deborah Hay performed her first solo in six years at Dancespace Project in New York City. This piece, No Time To Fly, became the foundation of a number of subsequent works. In early 2011, Bill Forsythe’s Motion Bank invited the performers Jeanine Durning, Juliette Mapp and Ros Warby to adapt this score — first as an individual solo and then into a new trio. This new piece, now called As Holy Sites Go was performed in 2012 at Motion Bank’s Frankfurt Lab.

Jeanine Durning and Ros Warby
Jeanine Durning and Ros Warby, As Holy Sites Go / duet

The trio adaptation of As Holy Sites Go, has been adapted yet again, but now as a duet, by two of the original performers, Ros and Jeanine. The digital score of the Motion Bank process, was set by Deborah on the twenty-one dancers of Cullberg Ballet in a new iteration called Figure A Sea. Both of these new works make up this weekend’s program.

Cullberg Ballet
Cullberg Ballet, Figure a Sea, photo by Urban Jörén

The process of this series of adaptations (which encompassed both live performance and digital transcription/performance), is documented on the Motion Bank website, and two of the resulting films are being shown on the large screens in front of the courtyard.

The evolution of this score, from the printed word though many modalities of performance and point of view is a sublime portrait of how bodies compose themselves. The written score of No Time To Fly reads like a prose poem, with interjections of notes, drawings, footnotes, instructions. It is a way of capturing space, and then presenting that space for others to capture, or re-capture, depending on your point of view. Deborah’s works have been described as being “more like rituals than concerts,” her scores give dancers an individual agency that is not as prevalent in more traditional choreography.

From No Time To Fly:
Note: My head is free to look down or away or to turn. It is not fixed.
Note: There is no repetition in live performance.
Note: I neither hurry nor linger.

Deborah’s scores are frequently framed in the form of “What if” questions, many of which are on display in the courtyard. Deborah wrote in 2014, “For as long as I can remember I struggled with whether the questions that are applied in the performance of my work be included in the program notes. My dances would not exist without them. The conflict about identifying the question in the program is that I do not want audiences to be looking for what might either satisfy or not satisfy their beliefs about what they are seeing.”

We also struggled with how much to reveal of the questions and the score before the lights dim and the dance begins. In the end, our wonder and fascination with the score and all it offers won the day. We couldn’t help but share some of it with you: not so that it would provide you with answers, but so that it might encourage you to consider your own questions.

this empty space
a song
an ocean
a figure moves
an ocean
the figure a sea
weaving her destiny
repeatedly
dh, 2012

Our “jolly good fellows”

As the start of the new season draws closer, we’re giving you a sneak peek into some of the delights of the 2016-2017 spread. The CAP UCLA Fellows Program is dedicated to celebrating masters of their craft through multi-year presentation commitments. We hope you join us in our celebration!

600x600_1617_Fellows

Anne Bogart & SITI Company

New York-based SITI Company, co-founded by acclaimed American theater and opera director Anne Bogart with Leon Ingulsrud and Ellen Lauren is known worldwide as a constantly evolving collective of artists whose collaborative spirit results in the creation of new theater that straddles performing arts disciplines and challenges norms. The Center will work closely with Anne Bogart and other members of the company to explore projects, educational programs and performances unique to our campus and immediate community.

In this 2016-2017 season we are delighted to team up with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to present Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s Lost in the Stars featuring SITI Company, with direction from Anne Bogart and musical direction from Jeffrey Kahane. An adaptation of Alan Paton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country, this 1949 Broadway musical was the last score Kurt Weill wrote for the stage before his passing.

In the 2015-2016 season we presented Steel Hammer, a collaboration among SITI Company, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe and esteemed music collective Bang on A Can All-Stars. SITI Company thrilled CAP UCLA audiences in the 2014-2015 season with their adventurous collaboration with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company for the dance-theater work A Rite, inspired by Stravinsky’s iconic Rite of Spring.

Robert Wilson

Robert Wilson is among the most important visual and theater artists in the world. His work uses different artistic techniques integrating movement, dance, painting, light, design, sculpture, music and drama.

In our 2016-2017 season, we will feature a Mikhail Baryshnikov and Robert Wilson collaboration—their second for CAP UCLA. Letter to a Man is based on autobiographical texts by Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950), one of the most celebrated dancers and choreographers of his time who danced in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and created seminal choreographies himself. His diaries, written in less than six weeks in 1919, document the young man’s descent into madness. They were first published in 1936.

We presented another collaboration of Wilson and Baryshnikov in the 2014-2015 season. Developed with, and starring, the legendary Baryshnikov, and co-starring Oscar-nominated actor Willem Dafoe, The Old Woman is an adaptation of the eponymous work by recently rediscovered Russian avant-garde author Daniil Kharms. A brilliant, obscure and slyly political novella from the 1930s, The Old Woman loosely follows the story of a struggling writer who cannot find peace with himself.

In our 2013-2014 season, we featured a solo act from Wilson. As an homage to revolutionary composer John Cage, Robert Wilson performed Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, one of the central texts of twentieth-century experimental literature. The production has been described as being an “acoustically and visually inspiring approach to the philosophical and poetic text” which Cage based on a complex time length scheme similar to some of his music.

Kronos Quartet

Through our Artist Fellow initiative, we celebrate Kronos Quartet as one of the most influential contemporary ensembles of our time and a driving force in the performing arts. For 40 years, the Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet has redefined the string quartet experience through thousands of concerts, more than 50 recordings, collaborations with composers and performers from around the globe, and more than 800 commissioned works.

CAP UCLA is delighted to present a new multimedia work featuring the Kronos Quartet for the 2016-2017 season entitled Beyond Zero, which commemorates the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War.  Dubbed “the war to end all wars” World War I ushered in a century of conflict that continues into this millennium. Kronos Quartet will perform compositions by influential composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, and in conjunction with films and archival footage from filmmaker Bill Morrison.

The Beyond Zero event will feature performances of works co-commissioned by CAP UCLA for the Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association initiative Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire.

Beginning in the 2015-2016 season, Fifty for the Future commissioned 50 new works – 10 per year for five years – devoted to contemporary approaches to the quartet and designed expressly for the training of students and emerging professionals. The works are being created by an eclectic group of composers – 25 men and 25 women. Kronos will premiere each piece and create companion digital materials, including scores, recordings, and performance notes, which will be distributed online for free. Fifty for the Future will present string quartet music as a living art form.

In the 2013-2014 season, CAP UCLA celebrated the longevity and far-reaching influence of Kronos Quartet in a double-performance presentation, which included a special 40th Anniversary concert and the Los Angeles debut of Kronos’ first-ever collaboration with CAP UCLA Fellow Laurie Anderson.

CAP UCLA Fellows program is supported in part by the generous support of Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy.

Thoughts from the staff of CAP UCLA