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  • Originally published 07/26/2013

    Bruce: Every Historian's Favorite Rock Star

    Where this summer can you see a man just dumped by his girlfriend receiving a consoling ovation from 20,000 people? Or where can you find video footage of a street musician jamming with an international rock star? And where can you eavesdrop on a working class couple dancing to a CD in their kitchen, possessing few creature comforts but happy in each other’s arms?Only in the just released documentary film Springsteen and I, directed by Baillie Walsh and produced by Ridley Scott.

  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Smithsonian searches for Berry Gordy portrait

    Detroit— The Smithsonian Institution has been on a two-year hunt for a fabled oil painting of legendary Detroit business tycoon Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records. The portrait: Gordy dressed as Napoleon.The painting, created by a Detroit artist, is just as it sounds. Gordy, the brilliant, autocratic founder of one of the most iconic music labels ever, is depicted in early-19th-century military garb of the French emperor who tried to conquer the world.“Berry said, ‘Damn, I like that,’” the artist, DeVon Cunningham, recalled Gordy commenting when he first saw the portrait that had been commissioned by Gordy’s sister.That was in 1969 at Gordy’s former Boston-Edison home in Detroit. And that was the last time Cunningham saw the portrait....

  • Originally published 05/31/2013

    Why MOOCs are Like the Music Industry

    Every year, I have students in my media history class break into two teams. One side has to argue that the media in America have become more homogenous and monopolized by a small handful of corporate interests -- the Viacoms and Murdochs of the world, and possibly the Koch brothers (if they can get their hands on the Los Angeles Times).The other team argues the counterpoint -- that despite the consolidation of radio stations, newspapers, and other traditional media by a few big corporations, the media have actually grown more open and diverse over the last thirty years, with the proliferation of cable, video, blogs, tweets and texts and so forth. Consumers have more options, not less.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    One man's memoir of 9/11 becomes another's symphony

    Mohammed Fairouz has never been shy about using his musical platform to explore political and social issues. Nor is the young New York-based composer allergic to popular culture in its most colorful forms. So for his latest work, "Symphony No. 4, In the Shadow of No Towers," which will make its world premiere Tuesday at Carnegie Hall, he is grappling with the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by adapting the 2004 graphic novel "In the Shadow of No Towers" by Art Spiegelman.Mr. Fairouz, who is 27 and grew up in New York and London, said he was initially attracted both to the book's structure and to its contemplative treatment of the events. "Graphic novels have a kind of architecture that is musical," he said. "I thought the way that it dealt with the event and its aftermath wasn't overly sentimental, but at the same time was respectful."But when he pitched the "No Towers" idea to Mr. Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and illustrator of "Maus" was hesitant. A previous effort by another composer to create a multimedia production had yielded mixed results, so the artist's expectations were tempered. After hearing Mr. Fairouz's completed symphony, though, he was moved....

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