Category Archives: Arts and Music

La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest: Evolution in Music

8232An anonymous wag once dubbed chamber music “Short Attention Span Classical Music.” Clever, perhaps, but grossly simplistic. What the best chamber pieces lack in length compared to, say, a symphony or an opera is more than compensated by their complexity and depth.

Chamber music originated as divertimenti for the aristocracy, but over its four hundred-year history the genre has adapted to encompass new schools of thought as music itself evolved. From its inception composers have considered chamber music as fertile ground for exploration and experimentation in both form and instrumentation, refining existing styles while creating new ones. Many of these composers, such as Beethoven and Brahms, would employ the lessons learned creating chamber pieces to great effect in their larger works, and chamber music remains an excellent means for young composers to find their voice and for musicians to hone their chops.

All of which is by way of noting that La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, now in its 29th year, epitomizes the afore-mentioned history, breadth and diversity of chamber music, as evidenced by the three UCSD-TV programs which represent this year’s festival. The first, “Viennese Masters,” presents works by three fabled citizens of that “City of Musicians” writing in the recognizably “classical” forms they helped to define. The second, “In Memory,” features early 20th and 21st-century composers who stretch and, at times, gently subvert the old forms in their quest for new expressions of melodicism. The third program, “Music of Our Time,” showcases four renowned contemporary composers premiering adventurous works of great melodic and rhythmic complexity that are nevertheless accessible.

If you’re a fan of chamber music you’ll find much here to delight, and if new to the genre there is no better introduction than La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest.


Pay Attention – New Documentary Features UCSD’s Stuart Collection


An eternal question: What is “public art?”

The definition of public art continues to evolve, but at its most basic level public art can be defined as “work created by artists for places accessible to and used by the public.” In other words, there’s no velvet rope ‘twixt the art and the patron. It’s worth noting that the art/public art field distinguishes between “public art” and “art in public places.” The former term implies a contextual, often collaborative approach to the creation of art that takes the site and other local factors into account, while the focus of the latter is on the art itself, not where it will be sited. Put another way, “public art” is site-specific, or designed for a particular environment – for instance, a university campus.

“UCSD may not have a football team, but it does have the Stuart Collection.”
– A UC San Diego student

Established in 1982 by retired businessman James Stuart DeSilva, the Stuart Collection of public art at UC San Diego is unique in several respects:

Commissioned Works

Whereas other collections – for example, UCLAs Murphy Sculpture Garden – consist of acquisitions, all works in the Stuart Collection are commissioned; prominent contemporary artists are invited to survey the campus and develop proposals based on their site selection. Proposals are reviewed and approved by an Advisory Board, and most of the works are constructed on-site rather than in a studio.


The Collection also differs in its funding model. Other collections, such as the J. Michael Bishop Art Collection at UCSF Mission Bay, typically rely on a percentage of construction budgets (1% is common) allocated for public art, but the Stuart Collection is entirely self-funded by grants and donations.

Variety of Forms

An unusual emphasis on variety is another hallmark of the Stuart Collection. Unlike a conventional sculpture garden the works span a variety of forms, materials, genres, etc., and are often “one of a kind” in relation to the artist’s body of work. As the pieces are varied, so too are the artists themselves, ranging from painters (Elizabeth Murray) to installation artists (Nam June Paik) to composers (John Luther Adams). Several of the artists who’ve created pieces for the Collection are not otherwise known for public art (John Baldessari, William Wegman, Terry Allen).

However varied in their form and function, all of the pieces in the Stuart Collection share a common goal. They don’t proselytize or attempt to define “good art” but, in the words of artist Bruce Nauman, they do ask the viewer to “pay attention,” to regard their familiar environment in a different way and, in the process, perhaps see themselves in a new way as well.

Watch Pay Attention: The Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, then browse more programs that explore UCSD’S Stuart Collection.


Jazz is Alive

“Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.”
– J.J. Johnson

8232Along with baseball and barbecue, jazz is considered one of America’s greatest cultural exports, and one of its most adaptable. Since its inception in New Orleans in the early 20th century jazz has spread around the world, drawing on different regional, national and ethnic cultures for inspiration and spawning a bewildering variety of styles: New Orleans jazz, Kansas City jazz, Gypsy jazz, Dixieland, big band, ragtime, swing, be-bop, free jazz, modal jazz, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, cool jazz, smooth jazz, jazz-rock, etc., etc. As a result jazz, though ubiquitous, is difficult to define; Louis Armstrong remarked, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”

UC San Diego’s Jazz Camp, an annual intensive summer program inaugurated in 2003, reflects the diversity of the jazz idiom in its faculty, student body, and repertoire. Jazz musicians ages 14-adult work in a variety of styles with professional jazz artists, honing their compositional, performance and improvisational skills. The goal of the Camp is to prepare students for life as a musician through immersion in jazz history, theory, techniques and genres.

First and foremost, jazz is about live performance. The five-day workshop culminates in a free Finale Concert featuring student ensembles presenting a program of standards and new compositions under the direction of faculty musicians. Several of the Camp’s alumni have gone on to pursue studies at such prestigious institutions as Yale, Juilliard, and the Berklee College of Music, and the Finale Concert affords the public the rare opportunity to hear future jazz luminaries at the start of their career.

Watch the UC San Diego Jazz Camp: Finale Concert Highlights 2015.

Browse other programs from past seasons of Jazz Camp.


Roll over, Tennessee Williams, and tell Erskine Caldwell the news.

8232Yes, it’s true: as a general rule we video types will happily shoot anything that moves. That said, I believe there are few things as satisfying as shooting and editing dance, and if comes in the form of dance theatre, so much the better.

“Dance theatre,” much in vogue in the dance world these days, may be defined as the theatrical representation of a story that is set to music and performed by trained dancers. In much the same way that opera is drama expressed through music, dance theatre (also known as “concert dance” and “dance drama”) uses movement and gesture to define characters and propel the narrative.

29782John Malashock, Artistic Director of San Diego’s Malashock Dance, is an accomplished practitioner of dance theatre whose past work in the genre includes two collaborations with UCSD-TV (and Your Humble Correspondent), “Soul of Saturday Night” and “Love & Murder.” In “Snakeskin” Malashock has teamed with Krishan Oberoi, Artistic Director for the acclaimed choral ensemble SACRA/PROFANA, to present a piece inspired by the work of Tennessee Williams, in particular Williams’ 1957 play “Orpheus Descending.” “Snakeskin” tells the story of a small Southern town whose surface placidity is disrupted by the arrival of a drifter in a snakeskin jacket. His presence arouses (ahem) unseemly passions in several of the town’s womenfolk, and as you might expect the tale unfolds in the best Southern Gothic tradition.

29781All of the members of SACRA/PROFANA are singers as well as instrumentalists, and Oberoi’s original music and lyrics range through a variety of influences, from neo-baroque to folk-rock to Stravinsky. Malashock’s choreography is equally diverse, by turns lyrical, combative, and athletic. The Forum Theatre at UC San Diego proved to be the ideal setting for a work that relies on intimacy for its impact (and it’s an excellent video venue in the bargain).

“Snakeskin” is a cogent illustration of the artistic maxim that “there is universality in specificity.” Though the inspiration, costumes and stage design speak of a distinct period and setting, this oft-told story achieves freshness through the interplay of sound and kinetics, and acquires a near-mythic status as it plumbs themes of bigotry, class, small-town isolation, chauvinism, and sexual jealousy. Tennessee Williams would be so proud.

Watch Snakeskin – Malashock Dance + SACRA/PROFANA and browse more programs from Malashock Dance.


Contributed by John Menier, Arts & Humanities Producer


Fourth Season of Script to Screen a Big Success

8232The UCSB Script to Screen series just completed its fourth and most successful season to date. We hosted three special Academy screenings (Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, and The Grand Budapest Hotel) where we connected Oscar nominees with students and the Santa Barbara Academy/Guild community. We also expanded our series to include a focus on television with our 10th Anniversary of Lost with Executive Producer/Director Jack Bender. This season our guests of honor shared key lessons about the importance of personally connecting to the material as well as having a family-esque support system to help bring the script to the screen.

Here are some special quotes from our guest artists:

29040The Theory of Everything with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten:

“In 2004, that was the real catalyzing moment for me when I read Jane Hawking’s auto-biography. Everything I thought I knew about Stephen Hawking was displaced by everything I didn’t know. This was a unique, emotional insight into his private life. This incredible love story, very much one of a kind, unprecedented in some ways, challenging, heartbreaking, triumphant. I thought if I can get the rights to that book and marry it with the public world and what we know of Stephen and his public story, you know we would really have something special.”

29315Whiplash with Oscar-nominated writer/director Damien Chazelle:

“I was a drummer when I was in high school, and I had a teacher that was very much in this mold. It was the sort of thing where drumming had been this sort of hobby for myself that I did not take that seriously. As soon as I got in the orbit of this conductor/this teacher and his big band that he ran, he suddenly felt like life or death everyday. I felt the worse thing possible would be to screw up a hit or a beat. I just remember the daily dose of dread that I would feel during that time. I don’t play that much anymore, but you get a lot of fodder from that sort of emotional experience. It occurred to me that there might be a subject for a movie there.”

28922500 Days of Summer with screenwriter Scott Neustadter:

“This was very much a cathartic thing. I’d been broken up with, didn’t understand why, could not accept that it was just that she didn’t feel the same and then a minute later she got engaged, and I was like, What in the world? I was writing to put it all out there.”

The UCSB Script to Screen series returns in October 2015 for its 5th season. This coming year we will be expanding to include more actors on the stage with the screenwriter. Plus, we are currently planning a major event with a frontrunner to the 2016 Best Picture nominee and with a very special guest.

Browse all programs in the Script to Screen series.