Thursday, April 29, 2010
"Sgt. Pepper Live" featuring Cheap Trick, a dazzling musical experience featuring world-famous rock stars, the Sgt. Pepper Symphony Orchestra and a live interpretation of one of the most beloved rock albums in history, will take the stage for a limited engagement beginning June 11 at the Paris Las Vegas Theatre.
A celebration of The Beatles' influential album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the show is an energetic performance that features an orchestra and a captivating experience of light and sound as Cheap Trick perform the entire album live as well as select Cheap Trick songs that lend themselves to orchestral arrangements.
Geoff Emerick, the renowned engineer of The Beatles' classic 1967 album (and many others), supervises the audio production. Never performed in its entirety by The Beatles due to the complex studio technology of the day that was employed in the making of the album, "Sgt. Pepper Live" allows Cheap Trick to incorporate their brand of power-pop into the classic songs while paying tribute to music legends in an unforgettable musical experience.
"Paris Las Vegas, at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, is the perfect venue for this world-class musical experience," said Bill Edwards, CEO of Bill Edwards Presents Inc., and executive producer of the production. "Bringing the music of The Beatles together with the performance of Cheap Trick creates an unforgettable show that brings to life one of the most beloved albums in rock and roll history in a truly innovative way."
Cheap Trick is best known for its classic singles, "I Want You To Want Me" and "Surrender." The American power-pop progenitors recorded the album All Shook Up in 1980 with Sir George Martin and Geoff Emerick, producer and engineer of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Emerick will continue to oversee the audio production for "Sgt. Pepper Live." He received Grammy Awards for the engineering of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road.
Leading doctors are demanding an immediate government inquiry into “subliminal” tobacco advertising on Ferrari’s Formula One cars, and the company’s $1 billion relationship with the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, The Times has learnt.
The red, white and black bar code emblazoned on Ferrari’s racing cars and its drivers’ overalls is designed to remind viewers of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes, it is claimed. Under EU legislation it is an offence for a tobacco company to sponsor sporting events.
Yesterday a spokesman for the European Public Health Commissioner said he thought that Marlboro’s approach constituted potential subliminal marketing. He urged the Spanish and British governments to ascertain whether the world’s second-biggest tobacco company might be in breach of the law.
Formula One teams are due to fly into Spain for the European leg of the season which begins in ten days’ time. The British Grand Prix is on July 11.
Don Elgie, chief executive of Creston, which owns the advertising agency DLKW, said he thought that the bar code was subliminal advertising — where a brand is so recognisable that consumers can be reminded of a product without actually seeing it.
John Britton, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and director of its tobacco advisory group, said: “The bar code looks like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. I was stunned when I saw it. This is pushing at the limits. If you look at how the bar code has evolved over the last four years, it looks like creeping branding.”
Gerard Hastings, director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research, said: “I think this is advertising. Why a bar code? What is their explanation?”
Frank Dobson, who was Health Secretary between 1997 and 1999, also called for an inquiry. Mr Dobson, now a backbench Labour MP, said: “The tobacco firms were working out years ago how they could advertise if there was a ban on tobacco advertising.”
Spokesmen for Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, and the Department of Health refused to comment. A spokesperson for the BBC, which has a contract to broadcast Formula One, said: “We are confident that Formula One, and as a result our coverage of Formula One, is fully compliant with regulations.”
In September 2005 Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro, extended its financial backing for the Ferrari team until 2011, despite the ban on cigarette branding on cars racing in the European Union. The contract is understood to be worth $1 billion over ten years and Philip Morris said Ferraris would not carry Marlboro branding where there was a ban.
A spokesman for the Italian car maker said: “The bar code is part of the livery of the car, it is not part of a subliminal advertising campaign.”
Asked about the Philip Morris contract he said: “$100 million [a year] is not a correct figure. We do not disclose the figure — the figure you mention, it is lower.”
Ferrari is the only Formula One team with a tobacco brand in its formal title, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. Its logo also has the bar code and its drivers, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, wear overalls bearing the bar code next to the Ferrari logo on each arm.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of the social networking site which has 400 million regular users worldwide, has set his sights on beating Google.
Mr Zuckerberg described how users would be guided around the web by their connections and interests rather than a search engine.
“The web is at a really important turning point now,” Mr Zuckerberg said at a conference for web and software developers in San Francisco. “Most things aren’t social and they don’t use your real identity. This is really starting to change.”
Mr Zuckerberg called the new software platform, Open Graph, “the most transformative thing we’ve ever done for the web”.
The chief tool will be the “Like” icon. Users will be able to click on the button next to an article to share it on their Facebook profiles without leaving the other website.
The plans could backfire however if it fails to assuage privacy fears over the new service.
Greg Sterling, an internet analyst who also writes for searchengineland.com, said: “How many people are really going to want all this information about them shared? That’s the big unanswered question here.”
Mr Zuckerberg said that users would have complete control over what information is private.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Mr. Salinger, who was born on Jan. 1, 1919 in Manhattan, lived in seclusion in the small town of Cornish. N.H. for more than half a century. He was not photographed for decades.
Mr. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" caused a sensation when it was published. With its very first sentence, the book, which came out in 1951, introduced a brand-new voice in American writing, and it quickly became a cult book, a rite of passage for the brainy and disaffected. "Nine Stories," published in 1953, made Mr. Salinger a darling of the critics as well, for the way it dismantled the traditional architecture of the short story and replaced it with one in which a story could turn on a tiny shift of mood or tone.
In the 1960s, though, when he was at the peak of his fame, Mr. Salinger went silent. "Franny and Zooey," a collection of two long stories about the fictional Glass family, came out in 1961; two more long stories about the Glasses, "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" and "Seymour: An Introduction," appeared together in book form in 1963. The last work of Mr. Salinger's to appear in print was "Hapworth 16, 1924," a short story that took up most of the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker. The story, which came out in book form in 1997, continued, and perhaps even completed, the saga of the strangely dysfunctional Glass family. In the '70s Mr. Salinger stopped giving interviews, and in the late '80s he went all the way to the Supreme Court to block the British critic Ian Hamilton from quoting his letters in a biography.
Mr. Salinger sued repeatedly over the years to protect his privacy and the sanctity of his work. In the last case, a federal district judge in Manhattan on July 1, 2009, indefinitely banned publication in the United States of a book by a Swedish author containing a 76-year-old version of Holden Caulfied, the querulous, precocious protagonist of "The Catcher in the Rye." In a copyright infringement lawsuit, Mr. Salinger's lawyers called the new novel, "60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye," "a rip-off pure and simple." The book was written by Fredrick Colting, a 33-year-old humor writer who uses the pseudonym J. D. California. Mr. Colting said he would appeal the ruling.
Mr. Salinger's carefully guarded privacy was breached in 1999 by the auction of letters that Mr. Salinger wrote in the early 1970s to the writer Joyce Maynard, with whom Mr. Salinger had a nine-month romance. It began when she was an 18-year-old Yale University freshman and Mr. Salinger was a celebrated 53-year-old author who had retreated from public life to an isolated cottage in New Hampshire. The letters were bought by the California software entrepreneur and philanthropist Peter Norton, who returned them to Mr. Salinger.
One year later, in 2000, Mr. Salinger's daughter, Margaret, came out with a memoir, "Dream Catcher," that revealed previously unknown and deeply intimate aspects of her father's life. Ms. Salinger said her father was pathologically self-centered, and that nothing could interrupt his work, which he likened to a quest for enlightenment. Ms. Salinger said her father was also abusive to his second wife and her mother, Claire Douglas, keeping her a virtual prisoner in his house in Cornish, N.H., refusing to allow her to see friends and family.
Mr. Salinger pursued Scientology, homeopathy and Christian Science, according to the daughter. He also drank urine, and sat in a Reichian orgone box, Ms. Salinger wrote. He spoke in tongues, fasted until he turned greenish and as an older man had pen pal relationships with teenage girls.
Mr. Salinger was born Jerome David Salinger, the son of Miriam and Sol Salinger, who became a prosperous food merchant in New York. He grew up on the Upper West Side and Park Avenue and attended the Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania.
According to Ms. Salinger, her father always thought his parents were Jewish but when he was a teenager he discovered that they hid from him that his mother was Irish Catholic. Still, Mr. Salinger experienced anti-Semitism, from which he developed his aversion, expressed by his characters, for the Ivy League, for "phonies."
During World War II he was a counterintelligence agent assigned to the Twelfth Regiment of the Fourth Division, interrogating POW's. He served in the most brutal campaigns of the European theater, including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. In 1945 in Germany he was hospitalized for ''battle fatigue.''
In her memoir, Ms. Salinger wrote that her father arrested a young Nazi Party functionary, Sylvia, then married her. The marriage was brief, and forever after he referred to her as Saliva.
Ms. Salinger's parents met in 1950 when the English-born Ms. Douglas was about 16 and Mr. Salinger about 31. At the time Ms. Douglas and Mr. Salinger met, he abstained from sex, her mother told Ms. Salinger, because he was studying with an Indian mystic who taught that sex interfered with enlightenment.
Just months before her high school graduation, Ms. Douglas married Mr. Salinger and moved with him to Cornish. Ms. Douglas told her daughter that he demanded elaborate meals and that the sheets had to be laundered twice weekly, though there was no heat or hot water. The couple had two children, Margaret, born in 1955 and Matthew, who was born five years later and is an actor and producer in California. They divorced in 1966. Mr. Salinger then married his third wife, Colleen, a nurse, some 50 years younger than he, according to Ms. Salinger. At one point, the couple tried to have a child.
Mr. Salinger was a playful father who seemed easier in the magic world of childhood, his daughter said. Her imaginary friends were real to him, too, she said, as were the characters in his books. ''The world of fiction and reality were very blurred,'' she wrote in her memoir.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
It's not just social networking anymore; it's social domination.
Soon, everything you do on the Web may integrate with the "social graph" Facebook has created. Facebook is integrating user experiences on external sites with Facebook's news feed, effectively transforming what used to be a solitary browsing experience into a sprawling network of connectivity. It's big, it's ambitious, and it may very well change the way we use the Internet.
Facebook is evolving, something that was made clear at this week's f8 conference. Here are three developments that were highlighted there:
1. Social plug-ins: essentially the Facebook's "like" button splashed all over the Internet.
2. Open Graph: the evolution of yesteryear's Facebook Connect, a feature that simplified sharing the joys of the Internet on your news feed.
3. Open Graph API (application programming interface): designed to allow Facebook and participating sites to blend their respective user "social graphs" to customize their site experience for each individual visitor.
While most sites and companies will likely embrace Facebook's evolution, we should also expect some strong backlash, mainly from Google. Adding the "like" feature to your Web site could change the way products and services are marketed -- a direct blow to Google AdWords, the current leader of online advertising. Some posit the new platform could devastate Google.
With David Bowie-esque changes such as these, people are bound to get frightened. Indeed, with Facebook's prior problems with privacy, it's not farfetched to foresee pockmarked roads ahead. The big issue I see is how Facebook will store user data. "We've had this policy where you can't store and cache any data for more than 24 hours, and we're going to go ahead and we're going to get rid of that policy. We think that this step is going to make building with Facebook Platform a lot simpler," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. Apparently the audience cheered, but that kind of language makes me nervous.
When it comes to competition for the crown of social networking, Facebook essentially has none. MySpace is old, dead news. Google Buzz suffered far too many setbacks upon release. But before overhauling its platform, Facebook was relegated to its own (over 400 million strong) corner of the Web. Now it could be the Web.
Featuring acts such as the Beach Boys, James Brown and the Rolling Stones, The T.A.M.I. Show defined popular music for a generation.With movie attendance in a freefall in the late 1950s, Hollywood producers were trying everything to draw television viewers back into theaters. The number of moviegoers dropped roughly 70 percent in the years following World War II, from a high of 90 million a week in 1946 to 27 million a week in 1960. The producers hoped to attract teenagers through rock ‘n’ roll music: Elvis Presley starred in over 30 feature films during his career, and movies like The Girl Can't Help It boasted appearances by musicians like Little Richard, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. But most of these films were made by Hollywood veterans, who tended to look down on rock music and packed their films with established stars in hopes that they would mask the outdated production values. Their plots recycled old musical formulas, with singers lip-syncing to pre-recorded tracks instead of performing live. And the distribution system set in place often meant that performers would reach the screen months after their hits songs had faded.
A concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on October 29, 1964, not only changed Hollywood's attitude toward rock music, but helped define how rock would appear on screen and television in the future. The T.A.M.I. Show was photographed in Electronovision, a new process that enabled filmmakers to have a finished product in less than a month, and to get their prints into theaters while the acts and their material were still fresh.
Crucially, The T.A.M.I. Show was not just a vibrant cross section of Top 40 radio, it was made by industry newcomers who loved rock and its performers and understood how to capture the music on film. The associations forged during the making of the film lasted for decades. Director Steve Binder, musical arranger Jack Nitszche, choreographer David Winter and their crew members brought the T.A.M.I. Show style to television series like “Hullabaloo” and “Shindig.” The camera setups and editing schemes here were imitated in music documentaries like Monterey Pop and Woodstock. To a surprising extent, what we picture when we think about 1960s Top 40 radio came directly from The T.A.M.I. Show.
Electronovision was the brainchild of H. William “Bill” Sargent Jr., a self-taught electronics wizard who held some 400 patents for tape heads, amplifiers, camera components and other devices. Born in 1927 in Oklahoma, Sargent moved to Los Angeles in 1959. There he started the Home Entertainment Company, which specialized in closed-circuit screenings both in movie theaters and on television. In 1962, he produced a boxing match shown in theaters featuring Muhammad Ali (known then as Cassius Clay) that prefigured the sports pay-per-view market.
Sargent developed Electronovision, which promised high-quality video-to-film transfers of live performances. His cameras could capture 800 lines of registration, more than double the limit for home television reception. (In later years the cameras approached 1,400 lines of registration, the equivalent to today’s high-definition capabilities.) Sargent’s first production, Richard Burton's Broadway production of Hamlet, reputedly earned millions of dollars in theaters.
Sargent met Steve Binder while working together on a benefit broadcast for the NAACP. Twenty-three at the time, Binder was already directing two television series, “The Steve Allen Show” and a series on jazz for CBS. According to Binder, musician Jack Nitzsche first approached Sargent about filming a rock concert. A producer and arranger, Nitzsche co-wrote the hit “Needles and Pins,” and worked behind the scenes with songwriters and performers. For The T.A.M.I. Show, he assembled a house band whose members would later be known as the Wrecking Crew and could be heard on singles by everyone from the Monkees to Bing Crosby.
When it was released nationally in late December 1964, The T.A.M.I. Show was a chance for suburban teenagers everywhere to see acts that characteristically were confined to limited tours, as well as R&B acts that might never appear nearby. James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” became a tremendous hit a few weeks after the film hit opened, broadening his audience immeasurably. It was also a turning point of sorts for The Supremes, under Berry Gordy’s guidance an extremely polished singing trio. They were soon to become two singers backing up Diana Ross, due in part to her remarkable connection to the camera.
T.A.M.I. stood for either Teen Age Music International or Teenage Awards Music International, depending on whom you ask, described in a souvenir pamphlet as “an international nonprofit organization” that was going to help teenagers “establish a position of respect in their communities.” In a foreshadowing of today’s “American Idol,” teens were supposed to vote for their favorite musicians who were competing for awards. But Sargent's plans for both the organization and the voting fell apart when he lost control of the project because of mounting expenses.
As Binder remembers, “Sargent and Lee Savin, who got a producing credit, didn't have a clue about rock ‘n’ roll. They didn't know one act from another.”
So it was up to Binder and Nitzsche to persuade musicians to join the project. Binder shared his manager with popular surf act Jan & Dean, who became the show’s hosts. As they did in the film, Jan & Dean would later open for the Beach Boys, arguably the most popular rock group in the country at the time (As well as the number one hit “I Get Around,” the group had five separate albums simultaneously on the charts in 1964). The Beach Boys’ performance was one of their last major public appearances with Brian Wilson; within two months of the concert, Wilson, the band’s creative force, would famously retire from the stage for almost two decades.
Detroit soul was represented by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. The first two were touring together in a Motown Records revue; Robinson had been the first artist producer that Berry Gordy had signed to the label. Already a bona fide star, Gaye, a part-time session drummer as well as a singer and composer, would blossom into one of the great talents in soul music on the strength of songs like “What's Going On.” The Supremes—Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard—were in the midst of a remarkable run of three number-one singles. On The T.A.M.I. Show, they performed two of the songs—”Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love”—as well as two numbers from earlier in their career.
Among the rest of the acts Binder grabbed were British Invasion acts Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Lesley Gore (who typified New York’s Brill Building sound), and Chuck Berry who offered a reach back to the very beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll. The icing on the cake was James Brown and His Famous Flames, and the Rolling Stones, who were making their first American tour.
Two days of rehearsal gave Binder and his crew the opportunity to work out camera angles and editing patterns, but when it came to actual filming, Binder had to work “live.” With only one machine recording video, Binder cut among his four cameras on the fly, with no possibility of retakes, and no outtakes, insert shots or other post-production tricks that directors rely on today. This seat-of-the-pants approach led to what Binder calls his favorite shot of his career: an extreme close-up of a vibrant, ecstatic Ross as she sings “Baby Love.”
It also led to some frightening creative decisions, especially with James Brown. “In his case, I had never heard the songs or seen him perform them. And he refused to rehearse. So when he came out, we just had to wing it. I took a huge risk during one number when I kept the camera tight on James's face as he headed offstage. I told the cameraman, ‘I don't care if we're shooting the edge of the stage, the lighting equipment, instrument cases, whatever—you cover the artist.’ ” We take Binder’s approach for granted today, but at the time industry executives warned Sargent that the film—with its long takes, extended close-ups, and occasional glimpses of lighting stands and cameras—was unreleasable.
Of the 12 acts in The T.A.M.I. Show, five were soul or R&B artists. At a time of racial unrest, the filmmakers' choices took real courage, but Binder’s eye for talent was prescient. About her records, Diana Ross wrote, “I didn't know who was buying the music. Even then, although unaware, we were already crossing color lines and breaking racial barriers.” And as James Brown told reporter Steven Rosen, the film was “a masterpiece and the beginning of my career in one way.” Already a legend in soul circles, Brown was having trouble breaking through to white audiences. “I’d been getting that kind of response for a long time, but white people didn't get a chance to see me because they didn't go to the venues I was playing at.”
Sargent and Binder collaborated on the order of the acts, and were responsible for placing The Rolling Stones after Brown on the bill. (Binder recalls, “Brown just smiled and said, 'No one follows me.'“). Brown was a seasoned professional who simply modified his club show for a new audience. The Stones had yet to define themselves for American viewers –they didn’t have a significant radio hit in the U.S. at the time—and were still working out their stage personalities. (They had debuted on “The Ed Sullivan Show” just a few days earlier.) One breathtaking shot from a vantage point behind the musicians captures the hysteria that greeted the group; another follows singer Mick Jagger on a runway out into the audience, later a staple of his act.
Following James Brown forced The Rolling Stones to ramp up their energy level. Guitarist Keith Richards half-jokingly called following Brown the worst decision of the group’s career. Critic Stephen Davis wrote later that the group received support from Marvin Gaye. “Just go out there and do your thing,” Gaye told them. They abandoned their announced set list to concentrate on songs like “It’s All Over Now” that hadn't been released yet. It's a sizzling performance by a band that would endure for decades.
Teens embraced the film, perhaps because it showed their music without condescension. (It was an immediate hit, outgrossing teen-oriented competition like Beach Party.) Lesley Gore was 18 at the time, the Supremes and Mick Jagger 20, and Binder only 23.
After the stunning success of The T.A.M.I. Show, another production house, American International Pictures produced a sequel, The Big T.N.T. Show, without Binder’s involvement. The original production, however, entered a legal limbo phase that took decades to resolve. Beach Boys manager Murry Wilson (father to the three Wilson brothers in the act) demanded that the footage of his band be removed after the initial theatrical run. When Dick Clark obtained television rights, he further edited the material. A condensed version was briefly available on home video, and bootleg versions showed up sporadically, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the entire film became available on a legal DVD release. Today, there is still a palpable thrill to The T.A.M.I. Show, a sense that these now legendary musicians and filmmakers were discovering themselves.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The making of Black Sabbath’s 1970 album, Paranoid, will be the subject of a forthcoming Classic Album documentary from Eagle Rock Entertainment. Available in DVD and Blu-Ray formats, the documentary is scheduled for release on June 29. Featured material will include live performance footage, in-depth interviews with band members, and commentary from the album’s studio engineer.
Considered by many to be the greatest heavy metal album of all time, Paranoid reached the Top 10 in the U.S. in March 1971, and spawned the classic Sabbath songs “Iron Man, “War Pigs,” and the title track. Eagle Rock’s long-running Classic Album series, which tells the back-stories to landmark recordings, has previously featured such discs as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Lou Reed’s Transformer, and Deep Purple’s Machine Head.
In the coming weeks, Gibson.com will take an in-depth look at Paranoid as part of its own “Classic Album of the Month” series.
Gibson guitar icon Slash learned the licks of the trade from Ronnie Wood, at least that’s what Ronnie recalled recently on his new U.K radio show on Absolute Classic Rock.
Stones guitarist Ronnie said, "Slash, I remember him as a kid spying on me when I was playing guitar, and I'd teach him little licks. And now I'm learning licks off him. It’s really good. He's a great guy to play with, and he's great at interacting, a good weaver, you know. We can weave, like me and Womack do, and me and Keith Richards do. Slash is such a great talent, and he plays in my solo band when I take it out. He’s on my new album as well."
Wood did not elaborate on when the young Slash spied on him, but the British born ex- Guns N’Roses guitarist did live in England until he was eleven before moving to America.
Ronnie Wood's show on Absolute Classic Rock radio is broadcast in the UK on Fridays at 6pm and repeated on Absolute Radio on Saturdays at 10pm.
Ronnie’s website http://www.ronniewood.com/ states that a new website, as well as the new album, I Feel Like Playing, are coming soon.
Paul McCartney has reached an agreement to reissue his post-Beatles catalog (solo, and with Wings) through Concord Music Group. The arrangement signals McCartney’s departure from his struggling former label, EMI. The new agreement does not affect EMI’s business relationship with the Beatles.
The first reissue under the Concord imprint will be Wings’ classic 1973 album, Band on the Run. The remastered disc, scheduled to hit stores in August, will feature enhanced packaging and rare bonus tracks. According to ConcordMusicGroup.com, fans “can expect both physical and digital distribution of gems from solo offerings like McCartney, Ram, Pipes of Peace, Give My Regards to Broad Street, and Flaming Pie, as well as Wings landmarks such as Wildlife and Red Rose Speedway. In addition, the re-releases will include stuff done under McCartney's pseudonyms: Percy ‘Thrills’ Thrillington, The Fireman and Twin Freaks.”
McCartney’s 2007 album, Memory Almost Full, and his 2009 CD/DVD, Good Evening New York City, were both distributed under Concord’s Hear Music imprint.
In a statement, McCartney said: “"Since the release of Memory Almost Full in 2007, I've had a good working relationship with Concord and enjoyed our mutual love of music. I'm looking forward to continuing this relationship with the new catalog campaign. I'm always looking for new ways and opportunities to get my music to people, and Concord shares this passion."
Friday, April 16, 2010
The conception of Jesus
At that time, Mary was about sixteen years old, and Joseph had never touched her.
One night in her bedroom she heard a whisper through her window.
"Mary, do you know how beautiful you are? You are the most lovely of all women. The Lord must have favoured you especially, to be so sweet and so gracious, to have such eyes and such lips . . ."
She was confused, and said "Who are you?"
"I am an angel," said the voice. "Let me in and I shall tell you a secret that only you must know."
She opened the window and let him in. In order not to frighten her, he had assumed the appearance of a young man, just like one of the young men who spoke to her by the well.
"What is the secret?" she said.
"You are going to conceive a child," said the angel.
Mary was bewildered.
"But my husband is away," she said.
"Ah, the Lord wants this to happen at once. I have come from him especially to bring it about. Mary, you are blessed among women, that this should come to you! You must give thanks to the Lord."
And that very night she conceived a child, just as the angel foretold.
When Joseph came home from the work that had taken him away, he was dismayed beyond measure to find his wife expecting a child. He hid his head in his cloak, he threw himself to the ground, he wept bitterly, he covered himself with ashes.
"Lord," he cried, "forgive me! Forgive me! What sort of care is this? I took this child as a virgin from the temple, and look at her now! I should have kept her safe, but I left her alone just as Adam left Eve, and look, the serpent has come to her in the same way!"
He called her to him and said "Mary, my poor child, what have you done? You that were so pure and good, to have betrayed your innocence! Who is the man that did this?"
She wept bitterly, and said "I've done no wrong, I swear! I have never been touched by a man! It was an angel that came to me, because God wanted me to conceive a child!"
Joseph was troubled. If this was really God's will, it must be his duty to look after her and the child. But it would look bad all the same. Nevertheless, he said no more.
The birth of Jesus, and the coming of the shepherds
Not long afterwards there came a decree from the Roman emperor, saying that everyone should go to their ancestral town in order to be counted in a great census. Joseph lived in Nazareth in Galilee, but his family had come from Bethlehem in Judea, some days' journey to the south. He thought to himself: How shall I have them record Mary's name? I can list my sons, but what shall I do with her? Shall I call her my wife? I'd be ashamed. Should I call her my daughter? But people know that she's not my daughter, and besides, it's obvious that she's expecting a child. What can I do?
In the end he set off, with Mary riding a donkey behind him. The child was due to be born any day, and still Joseph did not know what he was going to say about his wife. When they had nearly reached Bethlehem, he turned around to see how she was, and saw her looking sad. Perhaps she's in pain, he thought. A little later he turned around again, and this time saw her laughing.
"What is it?" he said. "A moment ago you were looking sad, and now you're laughing."
"I saw two men," she said, "and one of them was weeping and crying, and the other was laughing and rejoicing."
There was no one in sight. He thought: How can this be?
But he said no more, and soon they came to the town. Every inn was full, and Mary was crying and trembling, for the child was about to be born.
"There's no room," said the last innkeeper they asked. "But you can sleep in the stable – the beasts will keep you warm."
Joseph spread their bedding on the straw and made Mary comfortable, and ran to find a midwife. When he came back the child was already born, but the midwife said "There's another to come. She is having twins."
And sure enough, a second child was born soon afterwards. They were both boys, and the first was strong and healthy, but the second was small, weak, and sickly. Mary wrapped the strong boy in cloth and laid him in the feeding trough, and suckled the other first, because she felt sorry for him.
That night there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks on the hills outside the town. An angel appeared to them glowing with light, and the shepherds were terrified until the angel said "Don't be afraid. Tonight a child has been born in the town, and he will be the Messiah. You will know him by this sign: you will find him wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a feeding trough."
The shepherds were pious Jews, and they knew what the Messiah meant. The prophets had foretold that the Messiah, the Anointed One, would come to rescue the Israelites from their oppression. The Jews had had many oppressors over the centuries; the latest were the Romans, who had occupied Palestine for some years now. Many people expected the Messiah to lead the Jewish people in battle and free them from the power of Rome.
So they set off to the town to find him. Hearing the sound of a baby's cry, they made their way to the stable beside the inn, where they found an elderly man watching over a young woman who was nursing a new-born baby. Beside them in the feeding trough lay another baby wrapped in bands of cloth, and this was the one that was crying. And it was the second child, the sickly one, because Mary had nursed him first and set him to lie down while she nursed the other.
"We have come to see the Messiah," said the shepherds, and explained about the angel and how he had told them where to find the baby.
"This one?" said Joseph.
"That is what we were told. That is how we knew him. Who would have thought to look for a child in a feeding trough? It must be him. He must be the one sent from God."
Mary heard this without surprise. Hadn't she been told something similar by the angel who came to her bedroom? However, she was proud and happy that her little helpless son was receiving such tribute and praise. The other didn't need it; he was strong and quiet and calm, like Joseph. One for Joseph, and one for me, thought Mary, and kept this idea in her heart, and said nothing of it.
The visit to Jerusalem
When the twins were twelve years old, Joseph and Mary took them to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. They travelled down in a company of other families, and there were many adults to keep an eye on the children. After the festival, when they were gathering everyone together to leave, Mary made sure that Christ was with her, and said "Where is Jesus? I can't see him anywhere."
"I think he's with the family of Zachaeus," said Christ. "He was playing with Simon and Jude. He told me he was going to travel home with them."
So they set off, and Mary and Joseph thought no more about him, imagining him safe with the other family. But when it was time for the evening meal, Mary sent Christ to Zachaeus's family to call Jesus, and he came back excited and anxious.
"He's not with them! He told me he was going to play with them, but he never did! They haven't seen him anywhere!"
Mary and Joseph searched among their relatives and friends, and asked every group of travellers if they had seen Jesus, but none of them knew where he was. This one said they had last seen him playing outside the temple, that one said they had heard him say he was going to the market-place, another said they were sure he was with Thomas, or Saul, or Jacob. In the end Joseph and Mary had to accept that he had been left behind, and they packed their things away and turned back towards Jerusalem. Christ rode on the donkey, because Mary was worried that he might be tired.
They searched through the city for three days, but Jesus was nowhere to be found. Finally Christ said "Mama, should we go to the temple and pray for him?"
Since they had looked everywhere else, they thought they would try that. And as soon as they entered the temple grounds, they heard a commotion.
"That'll be him," said Joseph. Sure enough, it was. The priests had found Jesus daubing his name on the wall with clay, and were deciding how to punish him.
"It's only clay!" he was saying, brushing the dirt off his hands. "As soon as it rains, it'll come off again! I wouldn't dream of damaging the temple. I was writing my name there in the hope that God would see it and remember me."
"Blasphemer!" said a priest.
And he would have struck Jesus, but Christ stepped forward and spoke. "Please, sir," he said, "my brother is not a blasphemer. He was writing his name in clay so as to express the words of Job, 'Remember that you fashioned me like clay; and will you turn me to dust again?'"
"That may be," said another, "but he knows full well he's done wrong. Look – he's tried to wash his hands and conceal the evidence."
"Well, of course he has," said Christ. "He has done it to fulfil the words of Jeremiah, 'Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before you.'"
"But to run away from your family!" Mary said to Jesus. "We've been terrified! Anything could have happened to you. But you're so selfish, you don't know what it means to think of others. Your family means nothing to you!"
Jesus hung his head. But Christ said: "No, Mama, I'm sure he means well. And this too was foretold. He's done this so that the psalm can come true, 'I have borne reproach, and shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother's children.'"
The priests and teachers of the temple were amazed at the knowledge of the little Christ, and praised his learning and quickness of mind. Since he had pleaded so well, they allowed Jesus to go unpunished.
But on the way back to Nazareth, Joseph said privately to Jesus "What were you thinking of, to upset your mother like that? You know how tender-hearted she is. She was worried sick about you."
"And you, Father, were you worried?"
"I was worried for her, and I was worried for you."
"You didn't need to worry for me. I was safe enough."
Joseph said no more.
A stranger came to Christ and spoke to him privately.
"I'm interested in you," he said. "Your brother is attracting all the attention, but I think you are the one I should speak to."
"Who are you?" said Christ. "And how do you know about me? I have never spoken in public, unlike Jesus."
"I heard a story about your birth. Some shepherds saw a vision that led them to you, and some magicians from the East brought you gifts. Isn't that so?"
"Why, yes," said Christ.
"And I spoke to your mother yesterday, and she told me of what happened when John baptised Jesus. You heard a voice speaking from a cloud."
"My mother should not have spoken of that," said Christ modestly.
"And some years ago, you confounded the priests in the temple at Jerusalem when your brother got into trouble. People remember these things."
"But – who are you? And what do you want?"
"I want to make sure that you have your rightful reward. I want the world to know your name as well as that of Jesus. In fact I want your name to shine with even greater splendour. He is a man, and only a man, but you are the word of God."
"I don't know that expression, the word of God. What does it mean? And again, sir – who are you?"
"There is time, and there is what is beyond time. There is darkness, and there is light. There is the world and the flesh, and there is God. These things are separated by a gulf deeper than any man can measure, and no man can cross it; but the word of God can come from God to the world and the flesh, from light to darkness, from what is beyond time into time. Now I must go away, and you must watch and wait, but I shall come to you again."
And he left. Christ had not found out his name, but the stranger had spoken with such knowledge and clarity that Christ knew, without having to ask, that he was an important teacher, no doubt a priest, perhaps from Jerusalem itself. After all, he had mentioned the incident in the temple, and how else would he have heard about it?
The stranger talks of truth and history
Christ never knew when the stranger would come to him. The next time he appeared it was late at night, and the stranger's voice spoke quietly through his window:
"Christ, come and tell me what has been happening."
Christ gathered his scrolls together and left the house on tiptoe. The stranger beckoned him away from the town and up on to the dark hillside where they could talk without being overheard. The stranger listened without interrupting while Christ told him everything Jesus had done since the sermon on the mountain.
"Well done," said the stranger. "This is excellent work. How did you hear about the events in Tyre and Sidon? You did not go there, I think."
"I asked one of his disciples to keep me informed," said Christ. "Without letting Jesus know, of course. I hope that was permitted?"
"You have a real talent for this task."
"Thank you, sir. There is one thing that would help me do it better, though. If I knew the reason for your enquiries I could look more purposefully. Are you from the Sanhedrin?"
"Is that what you think? And what do you understand of the function of the Sanhedrin?"
"Why, it's the body that determines great matters of law and doctrine. And of course it deals with taxes and administrative business, and – and so on. Naturally I don't mean to imply that it's a mere bureaucracy, although such things are, of course, necessary in human affairs . . ."
"What did you tell the disciple who is your informant?"
"I told him that I was writing the history of the Kingdom of God, and that he would be helping in that great task."
"A very good answer. You could do worse than apply it to your own question. In helping me, you are helping to write that history. But there is more, and this is not for everyone to know: in writing about what has gone past, we help to shape what will come. There are dark days approaching, turbulent times; if the way to the Kingdom of God is to be opened, we who know must be prepared to make history the handmaid of posterity and not its governor. What should have been is a better servant of the Kingdom than what was. I am sure you understand me."
"I do," said Christ. "And, sir, if you read my scrolls –"
"I shall read them with close attention, and with gratitude for your unselfish and courageous work."
The stranger took the bundle of scrolls under his cloak, and stood up to leave.
"Remember what I told you when we first met," he said. "There is time, and there is what is beyond time. History belongs to time, but truth belongs to what is beyond time. In writing of things as they should have been, you are letting truth into history. You are the word of God."
"When will you come again?" said Christ.
"I shall come when I am needed. And when I come again, we shall talk about your brother."
A moment later, the stranger had disappeared in the darkness of the hillside. Christ sat for a long time in the cold wind, pondering on what the stranger had said. The words "we who know" were some of the most thrilling he had ever heard. And he began to wonder if he had been right to think that the stranger came from the Sanhedrin; the man hadn't exactly denied it, but he seemed to have a range of knowledge and a point of view that was quite unlike those of any lawyer or rabbi Christ had ever heard.
In fact, now that he thought about it, Christ realised that the stranger was unlike anyone he had ever come across. What he said was so strikingly different from anything Christ had read in the Torah, or heard in the synagogue, that he began to wonder whether the stranger was a Jew at all. He spoke Aramaic perfectly, but it was much more likely, given all the circumstances, that he was a Gentile, perhaps a Greek philosopher from Athens or Alexandria.
And Christ went home to his bed, full of humble joy at his own prescience; for hadn't he spoken to Jesus in the wilderness about the need to include the Gentiles in the great organisation that would embody the Kingdom of God?
Christ and the prostitute
On the few occasions when Christ came close to Jesus, he did his best to avoid contact with him, but from time to time someone would ask him who he was, what he was doing, whether he was one of Jesus's followers, and so on. He managed to deal with questions of this kind quite easily by adopting a manner of mild courtesy and friendliness, and by making himself inconspicuous. In truth, he attracted little attention and kept to himself, but like any other man he sometimes longed for company.
Once, in a town Jesus had not visited before and where his followers were little known, Christ got into conversation with a woman. She was one of the prostitutes Jesus made welcome, but she had not gone in to dinner with the rest of them. When she saw Christ on his own, she said "Would you like to come to my house?"
Knowing what sort of woman she was, and realising that no one would see them, he agreed.
He followed her to her house, and went in after her, and waited while she looked in the inner room to see that her children were asleep.
When she lit the lamp and looked at him she was startled, and said "Master, forgive me! The street was dark, and I couldn't see your face."
"I'm not Jesus," said Christ. "I'm his brother."
"You look so like him. Have you come to me for business?"
He could say nothing, but she understood, and invited him to lie on the bed with her. The business was concluded rapidly, and afterwards Christ felt moved to explain why he had accepted her invitation.
"My brother maintains that sinners will be forgiven more readily than those who are righteous," he said. "I have not sinned very much; perhaps I have not sinned enough to earn the forgiveness of God."
"You came to me not because I tempted you, then, but out of piety? I wouldn't earn much if that was the case with every man."
"Of course I was tempted. Otherwise I would not have been able to lie with you."
"Will you tell your brother about this?"
"I don't talk much to my brother. He has never listened to me."
"You sound bitter."
"I don't feel bitter. I love my brother. He has a great task, and I wish I could serve him better than I do. If I sound downcast, it's perhaps because I'm conscious of the depth of my failure to be like him."
"Do you want to be like him?"
"More than anything. He does things out of passion, and I do them out of calculation. I can see further than he can; I can see the consequences of things he doesn't think twice about. But he acts with the whole of himself at every moment, and I'm always holding something back out of caution, or prudence, or because I want to watch and record rather than participate."
"If you let go of your caution, you might be carried away by passion as he is."
"No," said Christ. "There are some who live by every rule and cling tightly to their rectitude because they fear being swept away by a tempest of passion, and there are others who cling to the rules because they fear that there is no passion there at all, and that if they let go they would simply remain where they are, foolish and unmoved; and they could bear that least of all. Living a life of iron control lets them pretend to themselves that only by the mightiest effort of will can they hold great passions at bay. I am one of those. I know it, and I can do nothing about it."
"It's something to know it, at least."
"If my brother wanted to talk about it, he would make it into a story that was unforgettable. All I can do is describe it."
"And describing it is something, at least."
"Yes, it is something, but not much."
"Do you envy your brother, then?"
"I admire him, I love him, I long for his approval. But he cares little for his family; he's often said so. If I vanished he wouldn't notice, if I died he wouldn't care. I think of him all the time, and he thinks of me not at all. I love him, and my love torments me. There are times when I feel like a ghost beside him; as if he alone is real, and I'm just a daydream. But envy him? Do I begrudge him the love and the admiration that so many give him so freely? No. I truly believe that he deserves it all, and more. I want to serve him . . . No, I believe that I am serving him, in ways he will never know about."
"Was it like that when you were young?"
"He would get into trouble, and I would get him out of it, or plead for him, or distract the grown-ups' attention by a clever trick or a winning remark. He was never grateful; he took it for granted that I would rescue him. And I didn't mind. I was happy to serve him. I am happy to serve him."
"If you were more like him, you could not serve him so well."
"I could serve others better."
Then the woman said "Sir, am I a sinner?"
"Yes. But my brother would say your sins are forgiven."
"Do you say that?"
"I believe it to be true."
"Then, sir, would you do something for me?"
And the woman opened her robe and showed him her breast. It was ravaged with an ulcerating cancer.
"If you believe my sins are forgiven," she said, "please heal me."
Christ turned his head away, and then looked back at her and said "Your sins are forgiven."
"Must I believe that too?"
"Yes. I must believe it, and you must believe it."
"Tell me again."
"Your sins are forgiven. Truly."
"How will I know?"
"You must have faith."
"If I have faith, will I be healed?"
"I will have faith, if you do, sir."
"Tell me once more."
"I have said it . . . Very well: your sins are forgiven."
"And yet I'm not healed," she said.
She closed her robe.
Christ said "And I am not my brother. Didn't I tell you that? Why did you ask me to heal you, if you knew I was not Jesus? Did I ever claim to be able to heal you? I said to you 'Your sins are forgiven.' If you don't have sufficient faith after you've heard that, the fault is yours."
The woman turned away and faced the wall, and drew her robe over her head.
Christ left her house. He was ashamed, and he went out of the town and climbed to a quiet place among the rocks, and prayed that his own sins might be forgiven. He wept a little. He was afraid the angel might come to him, and he hid all night.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
How Does Music Affect Your Brain?
“Organised sound” might strike you as a pretty neat definition of music. But the phrase was coined by the French-born avant-garde composer Edgar Varèse, who wrote music in the early 20th century that many of his contemporaries would not have accepted as “music” at all. And Varèse wasn’t seeking a catchy general definition that could be applied to anything from Monteverdi to Lead Belly; rather, he used the description to distinguish his bold sonic explorations from conventional music. His compositions called for howling sirens, the ghostly electronic wail of the theremin, and electronically taped ambient noises: rumbling, scraping, jangling, honking and the churning of machines. He gave these works pseudoscientific names: Intégrales, Ionisation, Density 21.5. “I decided,” he said, “to call my music ‘organised sound’ and myself, not a musician, but a ‘worker in rhythms, frequencies and intensities’.” If that was meant to apply to Mozart too, it would make him something like a cross between a laboratory technician and an industrial labourer.
I suspect many people feel disheartened, even appalled, when music is seemingly reduced to a matter of mere acoustics, of the physics and biology of sound and audition. But the mathematics, physics and physiology of acoustic science is not merely an unavoidable introduction to the raw materials of music. It is much more interesting than that.
The building blocks of most music are notes: pitches with particular acoustic frequencies. Each of these is manipulated or sequenced to create melody, harmony, timbre and rhythm. With these ingredients, musicians compile “global” structures: songs and symphonies, jingles and operas, compositions that typically belong to a certain form, style and genre.
note a musical sound (tone) of definite frequency or pitch
pitch the auditory property of a note (key) that is conditioned by its frequency
frequency the number of times that a note or vibration repeats itself in a specified time. Frequency defines whether notes have melody or harmony
melody a group of notes forming a distinctive sequence or structure, ie, a tune
harmony any combination of notes sounded simultaneously, eg, chords
timbre the distinguishing quality of a sound
rhythm the arrangement of the relative durations and stresses of the notes of a melody
We Go Together
When it comes to our vocal cords at least, it seems that men and women are in perfect harmony
We can hear frequencies down to 20Hz (20 vibrations per second), below which we feel rather than hear them. These are called infrasound and are produced by natural processes such as surf, earthquakes and storms. The upper frequency limit of human hearing is typically about 20,000Hz. Higher frequencies than this (ultrasound) are inaudible to humans, but are detected by many other animals.
The human male speaking voice has a typical frequency of around 110Hz, and the female voice an octave higher, 220Hz; so when men and women sing together “in unison”, they are actually singing in octave harmony.
Mind Blowing Decisions
Music is so engaging that the whole human brain wants to join in
Technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are enabling neuroscientists to see exactly what the brain is up to when it processes music and to investigate whether there is any overlap with other mental functions.
As far as music is concerned, MRI studies are something of a mixed blessing. For whereas many cognitive tasks, such as vision or language, have fairly well-localised centres of brain activation, music does not. To put it crudely, when we listen to music, all the lights are apt to come on at once. Pretty much the whole brain may become active: motor centres that govern movement, the “primal” emotion centres, the language modules that seem to process syntax and semantics, the auditory highways…
Unlike language, say, music has no dedicated mental circuitry localised in one or a few particular areas: it is a “whole brain” phenomenon. On the one hand this makes it very challenging to understand what is going on. On the other, it shows why music is so fundamentally important: no other stimulus comparably engages all the cogs of our mental apparatus, and compels them to speak with one another: left to right hemisphere, logic to emotion. It is quite simply a gymnasium for the mind.
Twitter users are to see advertising on the site for the first time, as the microblogging service unveils a much-anticipated plan to transform itself into a profitable business.
The four-year-old company will today announce a new service called Promoted Tweets, which will allow businesses to buy keywords. “Tweets” written by the company will then appear at the top of the page when a user has searched for that word, much like on Google.
The adverts, which will be limited to 140 characters like all messages on the site, will only show up in search results. This means users who do not search for something will not see them in their regular Twitter streams. Over time, they may appear in the stream of posts users see when they log on.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said: “It’s non-traditional, it’s easy, and it makes a ton of sense for Twitter.”
Starting today, Twitter will reveal the first adverts to around 10 per cent of users. They will include “tweets” from companies such as Starbucks, Virgin America and Best Buy, the electronics retailer.
The move comes a day ahead of Chirp, Twitter’s developers conference in San Francisco.
Although Twitter was recently valued at $1 billion (£650.8 million) and has around 45 million regular users, it made almost no revenue until it began selling real-time search results to Google in December. The promoted tweets system has the potential of creating profits for the company and its investors, who have pumped $160 million into the company over the past four years. The number of elite venture capitalists including Union Square Ventures, Institutional Ventures Partners, Benchmark Capital and Spark Capital have significant stakes in the firm.
In contrast, Facebook is predicted by some analysts to make around $1 billion in revenue this year.
Facebook has 400 million users and already has demographically targeted advertising, based on information from the user’s profile
Twitter has been testing the new advertising system for months. Dependent on the system’s success, it hopes to build a model based on “resonance” — where an ad will stay in Twitter’s system as long as other users click on the link and pass it around the site. This way it hopes only relevant advertising will appear prominently.
Analysts welcomed the move, but warned that if the new advertising was implemented poorly, it would risk alienating users. The technology commentator John Battelle said: “Twitter’s new ad platform will mark the first time, ever, that users of the service will see a tweet from someone they have not explicitly decided to follow. And that marks an important departure for the young service. One that I think is both defensible, and, if done well, could be seminal to both Twitter and to its partners.”
Britain's online child protection agency attacked Facebook yesterday for its continued refusal to install a panic button on its site.
Richard Allan, head of policy for the social networking site in Europe, said it had agreed a series of measures allowing users in the UK to report concerns about child safety directly to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (Ceop).
The new system flags up Ceop after users have already gone through Facebook's own reporting procedure.
But Jim Gamble, the chief executive of Ceop, said that by rejecting a visible panic button, a measure supported by the police, the operators of the website had shown that they did not understand deterrence.
“Putting the button in a safety centre is liking putting a burglar alarm inside your house,” he said.
“People still break in because they don’t realise you are in there and at the end of the day your family is still traumatised.”
Mr Gamble met the heads of Facebook in Washington DC to try to persuade them to install the button, which would allow users to report inappropriate behaviour on the site directly to Ceop.
Other networking sites, including Bebo, have introduced the button but Facebook has agreed only to a link to Ceop after users have made an initial report on the site itself.
“Each website has taken the concept of the panic button and done it in a way that fits their environment,” Mr Allan said.
“That’s precisely what we are doing... If you click on the report link that is there today you get a screen right in your face to say you can report this to Ceop as well.”
The button has cross-party political support in Britain and is also backed by leading child and anti-bullying charities.
Chief constables from across England and Wales, including Sir Paul Stephenson, the Scotland Yard Commissioner, have signed a letter supporting the move.
Mr Gamble said: “If they don’t adopt the button we are simply not going to go away.
“We need to protect the children of the UK.”
Monday, April 12, 2010
Starting this morning for the next five weeks, a cast of six will perform the Bard’s romance in real time via the micro-blogging site Twitter.
The audience is potentially global, but it will have nothing like the thrilling physicality of Sir Laurence Olivier’s 1935 Romeo or the richly nuanced diction of the future Dame Judi Dench’s Juliet in 1960 to latch on to.
Instead, they will discover this latest pair of star-cross’d lovers through a stream of postings 140 characters or less, relayed to their computers from the actors’ mobile phones.
Michael Boyd, RSC artistic director, believes mobile phones “don’t need to be the Antichrist for theatre”. The RSC’s aim was always “to bring actors and audiences closer together”, he said. “We look forward to seeing how people engage with this new way of playing.”
The agonisingly named Such Tweet Sorrow is a co-production with Mudlark, which produces entertainment on mobile phones, TV and the internet, with funding from 4iP, Channel 4’s digital investment fund. Auditions were “virtual”. Charles Hunter, from Mudlark, said actors were e-mailed a one-page character brief, a two-page scene broken down minute by minute, and a Twitter identity. They wanted performers who could improvise the right tone within a structured storyline and bring the outside world into the story, just as a real person would.
Three of the cast are fresh from Neil Bartlett’s touring production of Romeo and Juliet for the RSC. Two others have been in other plays with the company.
Roxana Silbert, the RSC associate director who is directing Such Tweet Sorrow, emphasised that it was a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s play and “was not very reverential”. The original dialogue is lost to more contemporary language so there will be no posts like “@romeoM: R,R, wr4 rT thou R?”
Actors will improvise around a prepared story “grid” to ensure key plot developments happen at the right time. The aim is to make it immediate, convincing and involving.
Tybalt is an “arsey teenager on the verge of being expelled from private school”. Romeo is “an avid PS3-playing, drum’n’bass lover”, Juliet is as obsessed with Robert Pattinson and the Twilight vampire saga as any of today’s 15-year-old girls and the friar runs an internet café.
The audience will be able to post their own thoughts on the characters’ Twitter feeds and possibly become sounding boards for their dilemmas (as long as they don’t give away details such as “she’s not really dead”).
Ms Silbert said: “There’s an economy in the language that’s potentially creative and poetic.” Because most of the characters are teenagers it is natural they should vent frustration at “feeling misunderstood, being kept in by their parents and needing to make themselves heard”, she said.
Charlotte Wakefield, 19, who plays Juliet and has 1,000 Twitter followers in real life, will modify her style: “I’m nearly 20 so I would type in a more sophisticated way, but a 15-year-old in 2010 will use a lot of text speak.”
Will it work? Mr Hunter said: “If you see a good production in the theatre you come away feeling moved. I don’t know what the emotional engagement with Twitter will be. I am hoping it will be quite profound.”
The play is available @Such_Tweet.
Measure for measure
- The Bard has a Twitter following on Shakespeare Says, a spin-off from Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s Talk Like Shakespeare Day (sample: “Alas, the storm is come again! Methinks an umbrella would have been handy”)
- Umpteen Twitter users have attempted Shakespeare’s plays (sample: “AYLI: Exiled rich people live in the forest and fall in love with each other. Later, the deposed duke gets his dukedom back as he likes it”)
- Times Online Labs presented the original Romeo and Juliet at one line every 15 minutes over a month
- The Royal Opera House mounted a Twitter opera last year
Click here to read The Times' Twitter performance of Romeo & Juliet, March 2009
RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.
The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.
Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.
They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action.
The lawyers believe they can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court.
Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.”
Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, said: “This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment."
Last year pro-Palestinian activists persuaded a British judge to issue an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, the Israeli politician, for offences allegedly committed during the 2008-09 conflict in Gaza. The warrant was withdrawn after Livni cancelled her planned trip to the UK.
“There is every possibility of legal action against the Pope occurring,” said Stephens. “Geoffrey and I have both come to the view that the Vatican is not actually a state in international law. It is not recognised by the UN, it does not have borders that are policed and its relations are not of a full diplomatic nature.”