Category Archives: Arts and Music

Oliver Stone on Conversations with History

8232Years ago (I won’t say how many) I was sitting on the steps of a Cinemobile truck parked near a film set (I won’t say which one), practicing “hurry up and wait.” I was chatting with a grip, a veteran of countless productions with decades in the business. At one point he sighed, looked off in the distance, and said, “Just once I’d like to work on a picture that’s about something real.” Even at that tender age I understood that desire; it’s what compelled me to become a documentarian, while my fellow film students aspired to be Spielberg or De Palma.

I recently recalled that encounter while watching an episode of Conversations with History featuring filmmaker Oliver Stone, and realized that my enthusiasm for factual filmmaking also informed my interest in Stone’s work. Beginning with his sophomore film, “Salvador,” and throughout his career, Stone has incorporated elements of documentary style in heightened narratives that are often based on real people and historical events. In his pursuit of what he’s termed “emotional truth,” as opposed to literal truth, Stone has never shied away from controversy. Stone’s detractors – and they are legion – accuse him of being “undisciplined’ and “reckless” in dealing with facts, labeling him as a “propagandist” and an “amateurish would-be historian.” In fairness Stone has never claimed to be either objective or an historian in the academic sense (though his films are heavily researched); rather, he has stated that his goal is not to provide definitive accounts but to spark debate while hopefully entertaining his audience. In this he has often succeeded, and even those self-same detractors can’t deny his prowess as a filmmaker.

Stone’s work in documentary and docudrama is just one of the many topics discussed in a wide-ranging interview with “Conversations” host Harry Kreisler. Of particular interest is Stone’s discourse on the changes that have overtaken him since his last appearance on the program some twenty years earlier. He’s an older artist who’s fallen out of favor in Hollywood, and his once-prodigious output has slowed as a consequence, but Stone remains committed to his beliefs and fearless in expressing his viewpoint.

One of the consistent themes in Oliver Stone’s work is a determination to explore the complexities of character, and in this interview Stone himself emerges as a complicated figure – by turns insightful, dogmatic, worldly, parochial, passionate, and analytical; at times exasperating, but, like his films, never dull.

Browse this program and others on Conversations with History.

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Meeting Flicka (The Incomparable Frederica von Stade)

8232A confession: I’ve been interviewing celebrities of varying renown or infamy for more years than I care to admit, and thought that I’d long ago ceased to be star-struck. Yet, when I first met celebrated mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade (known affectionately by family, colleagues and fans as “Flicka,”), I alternately gushed and stammered like a schoolboy. I doubtless made a fool of myself, but Flicka was much too gracious to point this out; instead, she immediately put me at ease.

Why was I uncharacteristically giddy? Consider that the phrases “living legend” and “national treasure” are nearly as abused and overused as the term “genius,” and may denote nothing more than exceptional longevity. Occasionally, though – just every so often – an artist comes along who is fully deserving of these accolades, by dint of both their creative achievements and an inspirational personality. Flicka is one such artist, and great fun to be around, besides.

As well as being an iconic performer in traditional operas (both her Cherubino and Octavian are considered definitive), Flicka is known for encouraging modern American composers, and one of her most fruitful and enduring creative partnerships has been with composer Jake Heggie. She was an early champion of Heggie’s work and he has written both song cycles and opera roles for her, most notably in “Dead Man Walking” and “Three Decembers.” Their most recent collaboration is “Great Scott,” which had its West Coast premiere at San Diego Opera in May 2016. During her sojourn in San Diego Flicka sat down with SDO General Director David Bennett under the auspices of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego, for a wide-ranging conversation about her life and career. As one audience member noted, Flicka proved to be as far from the popular image of the temperamental artist as one can be, displaying an easy charm and a modesty that belies her status as one of the music world’s most beloved stars.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with her resumé, which includes stints on “Prairie Home Companion” and appearances with Carol Burnett, as well as singing at the White House, the Winter Olympics, and with Monty Python’s Eric Idle, where she appeared as a Valkyrie in a winged helmet for a duet rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Not the sort of thing one would expect from a more, shall we say, conventional diva. In the course of her long career Flicka has proven to be an immensely effective advocate for the arts and arts education, and an enthusiastic popularizer of opera and art song. She continues to work to further the careers of talented young singers and composers.

I was star-struck so you don’t have to be. Watch Flicka’s conversation with David Bennett and I think you’ll learn, as I did, that all of the exceptional things said about her – about her talent, her integrity, her generosity, and her sweetness – are true.

Watch A Conversation with Frederica von Stade.

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Contributed by Producer, John Menier

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Are You Serious About Movies?

8232If you are someone that enjoys going behind the scenes with filmmakers, directors, screenwriters and others involved in the film industry, check out the amazing line-up from the Carsey-Wolf Center at UC Santa Barbara.

From the blockbuster to the independent film, you will be treated to fascinating stories and insights into the process of making films from those actually doing it.

Carl Gottlieb – Jaws
Don Hertzfeldt – Two time Oscar-nominated independent filmmaker
Sherief Elkatsha – Cairo Drive
Michael Miner – Robocop
Josh Singer – Spotlight
Iva Radivojevic – Evaporating Borders

and coming soon:

David Gerrold – Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles

Browse Carsey-Wolf Center’s Script to Screen to find the writers of your favorite movies.

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The Art of Nature

8232Renowned musician Steven Schick and award-winning environmentalist/author Barry Lopez may seem like an unlikely pairing until you consider the long history of nature’s influence on art, including music. From Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” through Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony and Debussy’s “La Mer” to the works of Vaughan Williams, Olivier Messiaen, and John Cage (to name but a few), contemplation of the natural environment has provided inspiration to generations of composers.

In Music and Nature, musician Schick and environmentalist Lopez consider the myriad ways our shared natural milieu has shaped the arts, and how the arts may in turn heighten awareness of environmental issues. They reference as an example John Luther Adams, a contemporary American composer whose works routinely incorporate natural sounds and/or allude to the environment. (His Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral composition “Become Ocean” is based on the premise that if sea levels continue to rise, we will inevitably and quite literally “become ocean.”)

In the course of their talk the two men are able to cross the interstice that lays between their backgrounds – Schick’s as an Iowa farm boy and Lopez’s as the product of a New York upbringing – to find common ground in a philosophy that rejects an elitist or isolationist view of art, instead placing it firmly in the context of broader worldly concerns (e.g., climate change). This philosophy is reflected in the movement in educational circles from STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – to STEAM, the previous disciplines combined with Art/Design. It also plays a role in the renewed recognition that a liberal arts education has advantages in today’s workplace.

An hour in the company of Steven Schick and Barry Lopez will stimulate ideas and conversations of your own – and that’s an hour well-spent.

Watch Music and Nature with Barry Lopez and Steve Schick

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Contributed by Arts & Humanities Producer, John Menier

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New Programs from UCLA’s Distinguished Scholars

8232The biannual Faculty Research Lecture at UCLA presents the work of the university’s most distinguished scholars. Its purpose is to recognize their superb achievements, and give the campus and the greater community an opportunity to gain a new perspective on scholarly achievements and the viewpoints of the faculty honored.

Enjoy these new programs from UCLA:

8232Dead Man Talking: Lenin’s Body and Russian Politics
“Arch Getty explores details surrounding Lenin’s body which has been on public display since shortly after his death in 1924.”

8232Jorge Luis Borges on War
“Efrain Kristal explores the significance of war in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges who introduced the Spanish-speaking world to German expressionist poetry and later observed the rise of Nazism.”

8232Oncogene, Metabolism of Development, Cancer and the Little Fruit Fly That Could
“The amazing advances made in mapping the human genome don’t alter one longstanding fact: when it comes to unlocking the scientific secrets of life, fruit flies rule.”

The first UCLA Faculty Research Lecture was presented in 1925. In 1986, the program was expanded to two lectures each year: one from the natural sciences or engineering, the other from humanities, social disciplines or creative arts.

The Faculty Research Lectures have spanned the scope of new knowledge created at UCLA, including the functions of the brain, the evolution of the earth and nature, innovations in the exploration of literature and the arts, global security, landmarks in archaeological discovery, discoveries in the molecular realm, the core of our galaxy, fundamental constructs of human morality, and the Supreme Court and constitutional law.

Browse more programs from UCLA’s Faculty Research Lectures.

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