Martyrs, a new work by the American video artist Bill Viola, is difficult to take as seriously as it takes itself. It is being shown as a permanent exhibit in St Paul’s Cathedral in London, just a few feet from the high altar, and is designed as a kind of altarpiece. Four plasma screens are arranged in a row on a sleek metal stand by the architect Norman Foster. Each screen shows a silent video, a little over seven minutes long, of a person undergoing a highly aestheticized ordeal involving, respectively, earth, air, fire, and water—all captured with sumptuous visual effects and all withstood in serene and saintly forbearance.
When Johnny Cash died in September 2003, he was in the midst of a career renaissance that had begun nearly a decade earlier, when he recorded a series of albums with the producer Rick Rubin. The extraordinary popularity of those albums helps explain the release of Out Among The Stars, a new album consisting of songs from “lost” recording sessions that took place mostly in 1984. Yet these sessions, in tone and sound, are nearly the opposite of the pared-down records in the earlier series.
“I draw a lot of weird doodles on scraps of paper,” says the Canadian cartoonist Jesse Jacobs—true of most cartoonists, no doubt. But few cartoonists’ work is as suffused with the spirit of the doodle as Jacobs’s. The familiar forms are there on almost every page: a profusion of cubes and spheres, wiggly organic textures, vast fields of invented vegetation. They are more elegantly drawn than your average doodles, of course, cleaned-up and colored and carefully arranged, but the doodler’s mix of repetition and improvisation is unmistakable in each of his books.
There are certain composers whose music we can recognize and identify immediately. It is unnecessary to listen to more than a few moments of any mature work by Olivier Messiaen, Elliott Carter, or Philip Glass (to name three dissimilar artists) to realize who was responsible for its creation. But there are others whose music may change radically from piece to piece—or, for that matter, from measure to measure. The German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen falls into this camp.
Lee Friedlander arrived in New Orleans at a high point in the jazz revivalist movement, when fans of jazz as it was originally played in New Orleans in the first two decades of the twentieth century (before the perceived corruptions of swing and bebop) descended on the city with tape recorders and notepads and cameras, hoping to catch some of the old magic and document it for posterity.