Today, 6 May 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Orson Welles in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to concert pianist Beatrice Welles and inventor Richard Head Welles. Widely recognized as a child prodigy, Welles exhibited musical talent, a fascination with magic, and the ability to recite Shakespeare all before the age of ten. At age sixteen, he traveled to Ireland, where he seized the opportunity to appear on the professional stage in a production of Jew Süss at the Gate Theatre in Dublin.
The infrequency of two high-profile songsters or their representatives going all the way to trial over claims of copyright infringement means that such a case usually receives heightened public scrutiny. This is especially so when mere sampling of the plaintiff’s song is not at issue. In recent years, few cases have drawn more public attention than the dispute between the Marvin Gaye estate and singer/songwriter Robin Thicke and song producer Pharrell Williams, over whether the song “Blurred Lines” infringed Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit, “Got to Give It Up.”
May the Fourth be with you! Playing off a pun on one of the movie’s most famous quotes, May the 4th is the unofficial holiday in which Star Wars fans across the globe celebrate the beloved blockbuster series. The original Star Wars movie, now known as Star Wars IV: A New Hope, was released on 25 May 1977, but to those of us who waited in line after line to see it again and again in theaters, it will always be just Star Wars.
My first encounter with M.H. Abrams involved a bicycle. In a Beckettian scene in Goldwin Smith Hall at Cornell, I stopped a gentleman in shorts one spring morning with a bicycle. “Excuse me, do you know a Professor Abrams?” Removing a pipe from his mouth, he smiled and said “Follow me.” I did, and he stopped at an office door, asked me to hold the bike, fished out a key, and directed me to bring the bike in and sit down. “But what about Professor Abrams? I’m to be his new assistant,” I added nervously. The cyclist sat down among the piles of books, relit his pipe, and said through a grin, “Let’s get started.”
After three inconclusive rounds in the preceding days, in which nobody secured the two-thirds majority needed to win, on the morning of 31 January 2015 a fourth round of voting was held in the Italian Parliament to elect the country’s President. This time, a simple majority of the 1,009 eligible voters (the members of both Chambers of the Parliament plus some delegates from the Regions) was enough to decide the election.
The release of Brett Morgen’s documentary Montage of Heck has inspired new discussions of the legacy of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman who upended popular music before committing suicide in 1994. Few artists have straddled the line between nonconformity and commercialism like Cobain. Consider the three-album arc of his band’s life: though Nirvana boasted of producing its debut album Bleach for $600, Cobain became a Generation X icon by releasing its follow-up, Nevermind, on a major label, and by having a hit single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” that dominated MTV.
Inspired by Stanley Wells’ recent book on Great Shakespeare Actors, we asked Oxford University Pressstaff members to remember a time when a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play shocked them. We discovered that some Shakespeare plays have the ability to surprise even the hardiest of OUP employees. Grab an ice-cream on your way in, take a seat, and enjoy the descriptions of shocking Shakespeare productions.
First of all, gratitude. Gratitude to Opera Parallèle for its consistently high quality productions of contemporary works, and for their extensive educational outreach program; more specifically, for its new production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, featuring revised scoring for smaller orchestral ensembles—a revision that loses nothing and makes the piece more accessible for smaller companies.
A peppy beat and bassline. Cowbell. An ecstatic whoop in the background. Make a note, because all these elements now belong to family of Marvin Gaye. Or do they? The recent verdict against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in the ‘Blurred Lines’ case has perplexed followers of the music industry. One might think the ruling was a vindication of the rights of artists, but composers like Bonnie McKee see it differently.
Nathaniel Hawthorne famously commented that Anthony Trollope’s quintessentially English novels were written on the “strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale … these books are just as English as a beef-steak.” In like mode, Irish critic Stephen Gwynn said Trollope was “as English as John Bull.” But unlike the other great Victorian English writers, Trollope became Trollope by leaving his homeland and making his life across the water in Ireland, and achieving there his first successes there in both his post office and his literary careers.
Philosophers love thought experiments. Many of us deploy them as our version of the scientific method: They isolate some feature of our experience and evoke intuitions about it, and these revealed verdicts enable us to adjust relevant theories in light of what we find. Sometimes we appeal to these science fiction cases too quickly when there are plenty of real life cases all around us that are potentially more fruitful.
Finding Trollope is one of the great pleasures of life. Unlike other Victorian authors Trollope is little studied in schools, so every reader comes to him by a different path. It might be a recommendation by a friend, listening to a radio adaptation or watching a TV production that leads to the discovery of Trollope and his world. I stumbled across Trollope in the early 1990s. I had recently graduated, moved to London and found myself working in a bookshop.
A friend has recommended a new novel to you. You save it for the holiday and then, sitting out in the sun and feeling relaxed, you start reading. And something strange happens: the little black signs on the page before your eyes draw you into a world that has nothing to do with the sights and sounds of your surroundings, which quickly fade from your consciousness. Your thoughts are shaped by ideas that are not yours, your feelings are stirred by unfamiliar emotional currents, and your mind is populated by newly-minted images.
Music as a school subject, it so often seems, retains its apparently perilous position in the school largely as a result of the unstinting pressure of advocacy groups. The 2004 Music Manifesto that underpins much of the current drive to keep school music alive was unashamedly “a voluntary, apolitical 13-strong Partnership and Advocacy Group”.
With Greek tragedies filling major venues in London in recent months, I have been daydreaming about awarding my personal ancient Greek Oscars, to be called “Golden Nikes” (pedantic footnote: Nike was the Goddess of Victory, not of Trainers). There has been Medea at the National Theatre, Electra (Sophocles’ one) at the Old Vic, and Antigone, just opened at the Barbican. There are yet more productions lined up for The Globe, Donmar and RSC.
The date-line is 2014. An outbreak of a deadly disease in a remote region, beyond the borders of a complacent Europe. Local deaths multiply. The risk does not end with death, either, because corpses hold the highest risk of contamination and you must work to contain their threat. All this is barely even reported at first, until the health of a Western visitor, a professional man, breaks down.