Monday, August 28, 2006

Harp Therapy

New York Times
August 28, 2006
Now in the Recovery Room, Music for Hearts to Heal By

MORRISTOWN, N.J., Aug. 24 — When George Moran woke up on Tuesday, he thought he had died and gone to heaven.

It was not such an outlandish idea. Mr. Moran, 39, a music teacher in Long Valley, N.J., had had a cardiac valve repaired that morning at Morristown Memorial Hospital. During the surgery, his heart had to be stopped for 90 minutes, and he was placed on a heart-lung machine. Soon after, he recalled, there was an attractive woman walking around, playing a small harp.

Luckily, these celestial aspects of the recovery room did not send Mr. Moran into palpitations. Instead, researchers suspect, the gentle arpeggios of the harpist might have helped regulate his heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, aiding his recovery.

Two hours a day, Alix Weisz, a harpist from Chester, N.J., strolls through the hospital’s Cardiac Post-Anesthesia Care Unit to test that premise. The recovery room staff monitors changes in patients’ vital signs every 15 minutes while she plays, and for an hour before and after.

Results will be collected as part of a four-week study, one of several around the country trying to measure the health benefits of music in hospitals.

One research project by a doctor at the Carle Heart Center in Urbana, Ill., has suggested that harp music in particular helped stabilize irregular heartbeats.

With the Morristown study, which is financed by a local trust and still under way, evidence that music helps patients heal there is still anecdotal. But many patients and nurses say they have looked forward to Ms. Weisz’s visits.

“When I was coming out of it, I was filled with tubes — a throat tube, an oxygen tube — and it was very hard to breathe,” Mr. Moran said. “You feel you’re going to gag. The music calmed my body and allowed me to stop thinking about what was going on. It allowed me to feel more relaxed and rested.”

Ms. Weisz has her own guidelines for playing her instrument of peace.

“I try not to play anything recognizable, because there might be an unwanted emotional response, like if I played music a guy broke up with his girlfriend in Atlantic City to,” she said. She relies on chants, lullabies, and Celtic airs and ancient standards from books like “The Healer’s Way: Soothing Music for Those in Pain.”

She plays quietly and slowly, and she said she tries not to glance over at the monitors above the beds, to see if any pulse rates are decreasing. While many of the patients in the recovery room are still anesthetized and unresponsive, she said Mr. Moran had given her the thumbs up while she played.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Wow, I had a feeling I was in a big field,’ and that’s what we want these people to do, to think about where they’re going to be, where they’re going in life, and how this is just an episode,” she said, gesturing at the ashen patients on beds surrounded by intravenous drips and beeping machines.

As part of the study, nurses are also taking note of their own stress levels when the music is playing.

One nurse, Lisa Gingerella, recalled how one of her recent patients was very confused and agitated the day after his surgery.

“Alix came, and he fell asleep, and his blood pressure and heart rate dropped dramatically — he slept all afternoon,” she said, adding that the music also has a similarly soothing effect on her.

“She calms me the heck right down,” Ms. Gingerella said. “I want to take her home, or have her playing in the car on the way home.”

The unit’s nursing manager, Lynn Emond, said she has noticed that her staff is much quieter when Ms. Weisz is playing.

Thomas Kroncke, 55, stayed in the recovery room on Monday after an aortic valve replacement and, like Mr. Moran, has graduated to a regular room. Mr. Kroncke said he noticed how the harpist soothed and quieted the post-op unit.

“You really didn’t notice the hustle and bustle,” he said. “I felt if I could just be feeling this calm and relaxed this soon after surgery, things are only going to get better.”

Saturday, August 26, 2006

YouTube guitar virtuoso Funtwo revealed

August 27, 2006
Web Guitar Wizard Revealed at Last

EIGHT months ago a mysterious image showed up on YouTube, the video-sharing site that now shows more than 100 million videos a day. A sinewy figure in a swimming-pool-blue T-shirt, his eyes obscured by a beige baseball cap, was playing electric guitar. Sun poured through the window behind him; he played in a yellow haze. The video was called simply “guitar.” A black-and-white title card gave the performer’s name as funtwo.

The piece that funtwo played with mounting dexterity was an exceedingly difficult rock arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon, the composition from the turn of the 18th century known for its solemn chord progressions and its overexposure at weddings. But this arrangement, attributed on another title card to JerryC, was anything but plodding: it required high-level mastery of a singularly demanding maneuver called sweep-picking.

Over and over the guitarist’s left hand articulated strings with barely perceptible movements, sounding and muting notes almost simultaneously, and playing complete arpeggios through a single stroke with his right hand. Funtwo’s accuracy and velocity seemed record-breaking, but his mouth and jawline — to the extent that they were visible — looked impassive, with none of the exaggerated grimaces of heavy metal guitar heroes. The contrast between the soaring bravado of the undertaking and the reticence of the guitarist gave the 5-minute, 20-second video a gorgeous solemnity.

Like a celebrity sex tape or a Virgin Mary sighting, the video drew hordes of seekers with diverse interests and attitudes. Guitar sites, MySpace pages and a Polish video site called Smog linked to it, and viewers thundered to YouTube to watch it. If individual viewings were shipped records, “guitar” would have gone gold almost instantly. Now, with nearly 7.35 million views — and a spot in the site’s 10 most-viewed videos of all time — funtwo’s performance would be platinum many times over. From the perch it’s occupied for months on YouTube’s “most discussed” list, it generates a seemingly endless stream of praise (riveting, sick, better than Hendrix), exegesis, criticism, footnotes, skepticism, anger and awe.

The most basic comment is a question: Who is this guy?

If you follow the leads, this Everest of electric-guitar virtuosity, like so many other online artifacts, turns out to be a portal into a worldwide microculture, this one involving hundreds of highly stylized solo guitar videos, of which funtwo’s is but the most famous. And though they seem esoteric, they have surprising implications: for YouTube, the dissemination of culture, online masquerade and even the future of classical music.

JOHANN PACHELBEL, the great one-hit wonder of the baroque period, originally composed his Canon in D Major for three violins, at least one chord-playing instrument (like a harpsichord or lute) and at least one bass instrument (like a cello or bassoon). With its steady walking rhythm, the piece is well suited to processionals, and the bass line is extremely easy to play, a primer on simple chords: D, A, B minor, F-sharp minor, G. A sequence of eight chords repeats about 30 times.

The exacting part is the canon itself: a counterpoint played over the bass, originally by the three violins. The first violin plays variation A, then moves on to B, while the second violin comes in with A. By the time the first violin gets to C, the second starts in with B, and the third violin comes in with A: like three people singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

With 28 variations, the piece becomes supercharged with complexity only to revert to a simpler structure as it ends. If you hadn’t heard it a thousand times before — in the movie “Ordinary People,” in commercials, at all those weddings — it might blow you away.

Last year Jerry Chang, a Taiwanese guitarist who turns 25 on Thursday, set out to create a rock version of the song, which he had been listening to since childhood. It took him two weeks. Others, like Brian Eno, had done so before him, and some listeners say his arrangement is derivative of one composed for the video game “Pump It Up.” But one way or another, his version, “Canon Rock,” rocked.

Once he had his arrangement on paper — and in his fingers, since sweeping is above all a function of motor memory — Mr. Chang decided to publish his work. In the arena of high-speed guitar heroics, though, an audio recording is not enough; the manual virtuosity is almost like a magic trick, and people have to see it to believe it. So he sat on his bed in front of a video camera, fired up his recorded backing track and played his grand, devilish rendition of “Canon Rock.” He then uploaded the video to a Web site he had already set up for his band and waited for a response.

Before long he was inundated with praise, as well as requests for what are called the “tabs,” or written music, and the backing track, or digital bass line, which fans of his work downloaded and ran on their own computers. They then hoisted up their Fenders and Les Pauls to test their skills against JerryC’s. One of these guys was funtwo.

By following a series of clues on JerryC’s message board and various “Canon Rock” videos, I was able to trace funtwo’s video to Jeong-Hyun Lim, a 23-year-old Korean who taught himself guitar over the course of the last six years. Now living in Seoul, he listens avidly to Bach and Vivaldi, and in 2000 he took a month of guitar lessons. He plays an ESP, an Alfee Custon SEC-28OTC with gold-colored detailing.

A close analysis of his playing style and a comparison of his appearance in person with that of the figure in the video, left little doubt that Mr. Lim is the elusive funtwo.

Recently he e-mailed me an account of how he came to make his YouTube video. His English is excellent, from years spent at Auckland University in New Zealand, where he plans to return in March.

“First time when I saw JerryC’s ‘Canon’ video, it was so amazing, I thought I might play it,” he wrote. “So I practiced it by myself using tab and backing track from Jerry’s homepage.” On Oct. 23, 2005, he uploaded his video to a Korean music site called Mule. From there an unknown fan calling himself guitar90 copied it and posted it on YouTube with the elegant intro: “this guy iz great!!!”

Repeatedly newcomers to the comments section on YouTube suggest that the desktop computer visible on the right side of the video is doing all the playing, and that funtwo is a fraud. They point out that there is a small gap in timing between the finger work and the sound of the video. These complaints invite derision from those in the know. (Funtwo’s use of a backing track is no secret, and as for the gap, he says he recorded the audio and video independently and then matched them inexactly.)

Guitar fanatics are perplexed: “How the hell does he gets his harmonics to sound like that?” Some praise specific components of the performance, including the distortion, the power chords or the “sweet outro.” Overall a consensus emerges: This guy iz great.

“I’m shocked at how much you rock,” one fan said. “Funtwo just pure ownz the world,” said another. “Somebody just beat JerryC at his own song,” tinFold44 said. Carrie34 gushed, “funtwo’s version makes me want to hold up my lighter and *hug* my inner child! :)”

PACHELBEL’S CANON, at its essence, dramatizes the pleasure of repetition and imitation. It should come as no surprise, then, that JerryC and funtwo have both attracted impersonators. Over the past year, as JerryC’s and funtwo’s videos have been broadly distributed on every major video-sharing site, hundreds of other guitarists have tried their hands at JerryC’s “Canon Rock.” Many copy the original mise-en-scène: they sit on beds in what look like the bedrooms of guys who still live with their parents. They make little effort to disguise their computers. And they look down, half-hiding behind hats or locks of hair.

Some imitators have gone further than that. A Malaysian guitarist claiming erroneously to be funtwo briefly set up a MySpace page, then shut it down. And this month, in Washington, a 12-year-old classical pianist named Alfonso Candra played “Canon Rock” for a small crowd at the Indonesian Embassy. He too claimed he was the guitarist in the “guitar” video. That was untrue, but Alfonso played his heart out.

This process of influence, imitation and inspiration may bedevil the those who despair at the future of copyright but is heartening to connoisseurs of classical music. Peter Robles, a composer who also manages classical musicians, points out that the process of online dissemination — players watching one another’s videos, recording their own — multiplies the channels by which musical innovation has always circulated. Baroque music, after all, was meant to be performed and enjoyed in private rooms, at close range, where others could observe the musicians’ technique. “That’s how people learned how to play Bach,” Mr. Robles said. “The music wasn’t written down. You just picked it up from other musicians.”

In this spirit, JerryC told fans on his Web site, “I don’t plan to make tabs anymore. The major reason is that it takes lots of time, and I think the best way to learn music is to cover it by ear.”

That educational imperative is a big part of the “Canon Rock” phenomenon. When guitarists upload their renditions, they often ask that viewers be blunt: What are they doing wrong? How can they improve? When I asked Mr. Lim the reason he didn’t show his face on his video, he wrote, “Main purpose of my recording is to hear the other’s suggestions about my playing.” He added, “I think play is more significant than appearance. Therefore I want the others to focus on my fingering and sound. Furthermore I know I’m not that handsome.”

Online guitar performances seem to carry a modesty clause, in the same way that hip-hop comes with a boast. Many of the guitarists, like Mr. Chang and Mr. Lim, exhibit a kind of anti-showmanship that seems distinctly Asian. They often praise other musicians, denigrate their own skills and talk about how much more they have to practice. Sometimes an element of flat-out abjection even enters into this act, as though the chief reason to play guitar is to be excoriated by others. As Mr. Lim said, “I am always thinking that I’m not that good player and must improve more than now.”

Neoclassical guitar technique has fallen largely out of favor in American popular music. It’s so demanding that many listeners conclude it has no heart and lacks the primitive charm of gut-driven punk and post-punk, which introduced minimalist sounds in a partial corrective to the bloated stylings of American heavy metal.

In the YouTube guitar videos, however, technical accomplishment itself carries a strong emotional component. Many of the new online guitarists began playing classical music — violin, piano, even clarinet — as children; they are accustomed to a highly uneven ratio of practice to praise. Mr. Lim’s fans said they watch his “Canon Rock” video daily, as it inspires them to work hard. When I watch, I feel moved by Mr. Lim’s virtuosity to do as he does: find beauty in the speed and accuracy that the new Internet world demands.

Even as they burst onto the scene as fully-formed guitar gods, they hang back from heavy self-promotion. Neither JerryC nor funtwo has a big recording contract.

At a moment in pop history when it seems to take a phalanx of staff — producers, stylists, promoters, handlers, agents — to make a music star, I asked Mr. Lim about the huge response to the video he had made in his bedroom. What did he make of the tens of thousands of YouTube commenters, most of whom treat him as though he’s the second coming of Jimi Hendrix?

Mr. Lim wrote back quickly. “Some said my vibrato is quite sloppy,” he replied. “And I agree that so these days I’m doing my best to improve my vibrato skill.”

Wynton Marsalis: The Once & Future King of Jazz at Lincoln Center

August 27, 2006
Wynton Marsalis: The Once and Future King of Jazz at Lincoln Center

OH Lord,” Wynton Marsalis cried from the stage of the Apollo Theater. “Oh Lord,” he repeated, in an unsteady but soulful voice. “What have I done?”

Hollering the blues, backed by a tambourine and twangy acoustic guitar, Mr. Marsalis was a study in contradictions. He was invoking rustic folk traditions while attired in a Brooks Brothers tuxedo and white tie. And he was sounding a note of abject despair while basking in the glow of 1,400 admirers, some of whom had paid as much as $2,500, as part of the fifth annual spring gala of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Mr. Marsalis is the only living jazz musician who can reliably generate this kind of hoopla. In the 25 years since his dramatic leap into the spotlight, he has achieved the cultural celebrity of Duke Ellington. Or, perhaps more accurately, Leonard Bernstein, since Mr. Marsalis, too, is a lovingly adopted New Yorker who serves as global emissary for the music he loves and the institution he leads.

His official title with Jazz at Lincoln Center is artistic director, but that significantly understates his role in its origins and day-to-day operations. He was the driving force behind its inception, and he has a hand in everything from corporate relations to the curriculum for WeBop, a jazz program for preschoolers. “There’s nothing he doesn’t touch,” says Lisa Schiff, chairwoman of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s board of directors. “There’s not a part of our organization he’s not involved in.”

As a result Jazz at Lincoln Center can sometimes look like a solo performance rather than an ensemble effort. Which raises a question that no one, including the effortlessly charming Mr. Marsalis, seems eager to engage: Could the institution function without him?

The question came into sharper focus this year, when a rumor spread through jazz circles that he had sustained a lip injury serious enough to end his career as a trumpeter. That’s an unthinkable prospect for Jazz at Lincoln Center, partly because of the psychological effect it could have on Mr. Marsalis, a former prodigy, and partly because of the credibility that the institution has always derived, in large part, from his musical prowess. For a moment it was possible to imagine that the entire edifice of Jazz at Lincoln Center, including its new $128 million home on Columbus Circle, was balanced, figuratively speaking, on that lip. The spring gala marked Mr. Marsalis’s public return to playing after a forced hiatus. But his most important exertion that evening had nothing to do with his horn.

At a postconcert banquet, he worked his way through a cavernous dinner tent, gliding comfortably among the 75 tables to stamp the fund-raising effort with a personal touch. Spike Lee got a collegial hug; Glenn Close, a few minutes of conversation. Many others got a walk-by shoulder squeeze. Photographers would capture Mr. Marsalis in a panoply of scenes: on a red carpet with Joe Cocker, Natalie Merchant and John Mayer. Striking a rakish pose with Bruce Lundvall, the chief executive of his label, Blue Note. Clasping hands, earnestly, with Kenneth I. Chenault, the chief executive of American Express.

IN May of 1986 Lincoln Center’s Committee for the Future issued a report that concluded in part: “No compelling case can be made for adding a new constituent in an area like jazz.” (In other words, jazz could be a visitor at Lincoln Center but not sit at the table.) The following summer Mr. Marsalis, who had already played Haydn with the Philharmonic, was tapped to organize a concert series devoted to jazz: not a permanent addition to Lincoln Center’s portfolio, but an experiment nonetheless. Its success prompted the formation of another committee, headed by the lawyer Gordon J. Davis, a board member, and including Mr. Marsalis, the scholar Albert Murray and the writer Stanley Crouch. This committee came to a rather different conclusion: Lincoln Center should establish a permanent jazz program.

“There were people on the board of Lincoln Center who thought this was nuts,” Mr. Davis recently said. “The odds were 90 to 1 that we had any chance at all. Do you have any idea how hard it was to raise money for jazz in the late 80’s?”

It was hard, but the committee had a killer app: Mr. Marsalis, with his bright charisma and unimpeachable credentials. “His being a very highly respected concert musician had a lot to do with his being taken seriously,” Mr. Crouch said.

Of Mr. Marsalis and his organization, Kurt Masur, the former musical director of the New York Philharmonic, recently said: “You cannot divide them. Wynton alone can make his career as a trumpet player, but I think everybody knows the historical point of having Jazz at Lincoln Center.”

In addition to his personal assets, Mr. Marsalis was armed with a big idea: that jazz is a model of democratic action, and a prism through which American culture can be understood. This notion, first articulated to him by Mr. Murray and Mr. Crouch, has since been advanced by Jazz at Lincoln Center with the fervor of religious dogma and the adaptability of a political agenda. It served as a central conceit of “Jazz,” the 2001 Ken Burns PBS mini-series that spotlighted Mr. Marsalis not only as a commentator but also as a savior of the tradition. To a certain extent this has become the official story of jazz in the public sphere.

Certainly it has been propagated through Jazz at Lincoln Center’s educational wing, which, working with the National Endowment for the Arts, recently developed a Web-based curriculum that places jazz at the center of a discussion of American history. (It is accessible, free of charge, at

A similar though less pedagogical message is routinely disseminated through “Jazz at Lincoln Center Radio,” a program carried weekly by more than 240 public radio affiliates with the CBS News correspondent Ed Bradley, a longtime member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center board, as host. Mr. Marsalis tapes a separate satellite radio show, “In the Swing Set,” at an XM studio in Rose Hall.

“We are preaching the gospel of jazz,” Mr. Bradley said recently, though he stopped short of comparing Mr. Marsalis to a spiritual leader. “Wynton is the face of Jazz at Lincoln Center,” he said. “But he’s also involved in the nuts and bolts of being an artistic director, presenting a year’s worth of material at a time. And I’ve always been impressed with his willingness to go almost anywhere and do almost anything if he thinks he can raise a dollar for Jazz at Lincoln Center.”

In religion (and politics), but rarely in jazz, raising money and spreading a message are often part of the same outreach, especially when a force of personality is involved. It became clear which model Jazz at Lincoln Center has adopted during a lunch interview in Midtown with Katherine E. Brown, the organization’s executive director, and Ms. Schiff, the chairwoman of the board.

Ms. Schiff recalled the conversation with Mr. Marsalis that sparked her involvement with Jazz at Lincoln Center. “Wynton spoke to me specifically about the difference this music can make in our society,” she said. “He has a way of getting under your skin.”

Ms. Brown agreed: “He feels a responsibility to bring its message to the world.” She described Mr. Marsalis as “very, very active” in fund-raising for the organization.

Jazz at Lincoln Center has 105 full-time staff members, at least a dozen interns and more than 400 part-time employees, not to mention the roughly three-dozen members of its powerhouse board. These are often the people who first reach out to potential donors and corporate sponsors, which include Altria, Bank of America, Cadillac, Coca-Cola and Brooks Brothers.

“Once you’ve made that decision that the Jazz at Lincoln Center brand really can work well with your brand, Wynton’s power as the spokesperson — the front man, if you will — for Jazz at Lincoln Center really kind of takes on a life,” said Michael Valerio, Cadillac’s liaison with the organization. “He has a genuine interest in what you want to try to accomplish and how the relationship works.” As for the breadth of his company’s current involvement, “It’s 95 percent a function of my feeling and respect for Wynton,” who has shot hoops with Mr. Valerio and his youngest son backstage at Rose Hall.

“It’s a dog and pony show,” said Ms. Schiff, who often brings Mr. Marsalis on fund-raising calls. “Nobody sells it better.”

ON the last day of June, Mr. Marsalis left his Columbus Circle office and walked a few blocks to his apartment on West 66th Street. He took a familiar route, skirting the southern border of Damrosch Park and then the western edge of the Lincoln Center campus. Every security guard and garage attendant he passed was ready with a salutation, which he returned. “All right now,” he called out, more than once.

Mr. Marsalis’s apartment is impressive without feeling opulent, a perch with comfortable furnishings and a view of the Hudson River. He took some tea in the living room, sitting at first on a couch under a framed illustration of Ellington. But within 10 minutes he was at the piano in a corner of the room, sifting through notebooks to locate a preparatory sketch from a recent evening-length composition, “Congo Square.”

Eventually he found it, focusing on an intricate cluster of ensemble figures, cross-voiced between different sections of the orchestra. “I always write out a form, and express it from a human standpoint,” he said. “And this ties in actually to what you have to do to deal with the running of an organization.” On the page opposite the outline, there was a list of timely questions for the Jazz at Lincoln Center board.

Mr. Marsalis is serious when he likens jazz to management. Next month he will appear at the third annual World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall, alongside Bill Clinton and Jack Welch, to present a lecture titled “Innovation and Jazz: Going Beyond Fundamentals to Create Value.” It hardly seems coincidental that the coming season of Jazz at Lincoln Center carries the theme “Innovations in Jazz,” a mandate some critics have accused him of slighting in the past. (One of his talking points at the forum is “Improvisation has its rules.”)

Eager to prove that his role in Jazz at Lincoln Center is not excessively large, Mr. Marsalis retrieved an internal document enumerating most of the staff’s responsibilities. Each task had a sequence of initials beside it, indicating all the people involved in its execution. At the top of the first page, he read off the artistic director’s obligations: “Select music. Program artists. Rehearse orchestra. Play concerts. Conduct education events. Write arrangements. Publicity obligations. Development. Oversee recordings. Write Young People’s Concerts. Interact with various departments on strategic issues. Create new ideas that invigorate our organization.” The big stuff.

Then Mr. Marsalis flipped through page after page of subsidiary obligations, the stuff that does not, presumably, require his personal involvement. But there, too, the initials W. M. appeared seemingly hundreds of times. “They have me in there more than I thought,” he mumbled, scanning the list. “I don’t remember myself being in there that much.”

He recovered quickly. “I want you to notice how many other people are on this. I’m in there, yes. But let’s say we go down those things.” He began to tick off dozens of tasks for which he has oversight but little practical involvement. “ ‘Concert marketing,’ maybe they have a meeting with me and I tell them what the concerts are. ‘Venue signage’? No. ‘Web site’? I haven’t even seen the Web site yet. One of the things I’m proud of is that I don’t know how to turn a computer on. All of this stuff goes on without me.”

Nonetheless when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra traveled to Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the Basque country of Spain last month to perform “The Vitoria Suite,” it was Mr. Marsalis, the suite’s composer, who was honored with a life-size bronze statute of his likeness.

After the concert Mr. Marsalis joined a late-night jam session in the crowded lobby of his hotel. The following morning there were video clips of this scene on, and they confirmed some good news: Mr. Marsalis’s lip is nearly back in shape. He’s wearing his glasses and a black T-shirt bearing the slogan “ReNew Orleans,” a reminder of one cause that hit close to home.

A couple of weeks later he was back in New York, and in a suit (yes, Brooks Brothers) for a staff meeting. “We are reinvigorating ourselves,” he reported afterward. “We see what we have to do, and we are rededicating ourselves to our vision and our mission. We are streamlining everything that we do, we are becoming supremely efficient, we are working overtime.”

Since the construction, against enormous odds, of Rose Hall, the group had made some financial strides. The biggest success story is Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Rose Hall’s smallest space, which was projected to operate at a deficit but began to sustain itself financially after a year. “It’s paying its own internal rental, paying the artists, paying the cost of advertising, staffing costs, the sound man,” said Todd Barkan, the club’s artistic manager. “And in the context of the institution, that’s an enormous achievement.”

But there is a sense of urgency within Jazz at Lincoln Center as it heads into its third season in its new home. “We raised $131 million for the building,” Ms. Brown said. “That was a real stretch for our organization, and it’s a testament to the strength and energy of the board, and Wynton’s effort. Now we need to shift our focus to the issue of maintaining it.” She cited the budget for this next season, $36 million. “The challenges of keeping the operation going are much, much greater than before.”

“At every board meeting it’s like a wake-up call, what you have to do,” Mr. Bradley of CBS News confirmed. This season’s effort involves the second season of the Middle School Jazz Academy; the addition of Hipsters, a jazz course for infants as young as eight months; and a season dense with concerts, including a commission by Derek Bermel for the American Composers Orchestra with its jazz counterpart.

Of course Mr. Marsalis, who for the next few days is presiding over a cultural celebration in New Orleans, will crop up often in the new season. From the looks of it he’ll be playing a lot of trumpet. But he’ll be working even harder behind the scenes: raising funds, rallying troops and perhaps even setting the changes, so to speak, for an eventual successor.

“Institutions keep going,” said Mr. Marsalis, on his living room couch, when asked what Jazz at Lincoln Center would do without him. “I’ve been a part of this one since the beginning. It’s been guided more or less on my vision. So naturally they say: ‘What are we going to do?’ ” He flashed a mischievous smile. “We’ll do something. We always do.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Industry Icon Tower Is Bankrupt (again)

A Broken Record Store
Industry Icon Tower Is Bankrupt and on the Block

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 23, 2006; D01

Tower Records, the iconic chain where generations of music lovers have gone to lose themselves in record-store reveries, is up for sale in bankruptcy court, forsaken by consumers who favor digital music and discounts at big-box superstores.

Tower represents a time when music had a different cultural status than it does today, as songs vie for attention with newer pastimes such as video games, Internet surfing and instant messaging. Its financial faltering -- this is its second bankruptcy filing since 2004 -- signals not only corporate problems but also a shift in how people shop and think about music in their lives.

Tower's operations started in the back of a California drugstore in the late 1950s, and its founder, Russ Solomon, cultivated its reputation as a communal place for hanging out to train and trade musical tastes. Its huge yellow-and-red stores became part of the record album culture. Stores hosted live concerts, and employees were hired for their knowledge of musical arcana.

But over the past decade, as such larger retailers as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best Buy Co. and Target Corp. undercut record-store prices and combined shopping for music with shopping for a variety of other consumer products, the music-focused stores started to die. Although Tower began selling music downloads on its site in June, digital music sales through such services as iTunes and have also taken a bite.

In 1991, there were roughly 9,500 chain music stores in the United States, compared with about 2,000 now, according to Billboard magazine. Although many independent stores continue to have loyal followings, those, too, are on the decline.

Tower's parent company, MTS Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday night in Delaware, putting its 89 stores on the block. The company hopes to complete a sale within 60 days. Tower's brand is used by 144 international stores, but those licensees will not be affected by the bankruptcy process.

"It's a sad day for music," said Dave DelVecchio, 20, who bought five alternative rock albums from the Tower Records store in Foggy Bottom yesterday. DelVecchio said he was on tour in Baltimore with his band. "I used to download online for free a lot, but now I just buy CDs. Being in a band myself, I know what it's like" to lose income to illegal online file-sharing.

Lisa Amore, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento-based Tower, said the company hopes to keep the brand alive. "As of today, we have no intention of closing any stores," she said. The company has two interested buyers, according to Bloomberg News.

Many other music stores have already fallen to similar financial pressures. Chains such as National Record Mart and Musicland have gone away or been acquired by conglomerates like Trans World Entertainment Corp., which now controls more than 1,100 retail stores under the Sam Goody, F.Y.E., Strawberries and Wherehouse brands.

"Tower is an icon. In my mind, it represented our whole musical culture," said Russ Crupnick, an entertainment analyst with NPD Group Inc., a consumer research firm. "The challenge has been that the whole retail environment has changed" because people shop less at specialty retail stores, he said.

Randall Henderson spends some of his lunch breaks browsing at the Foggy Bottom store, near George Washington University Hospital, where he works.

"I don't even know how to download music," said Henderson, who prefers instead to browse the selection at Tower every other week for anything from gospel to R&B records. "The selection is very good -- exceptional," he said, but if Tower were to shut down, he might be forced to shop digitally. "I would have no other choice. There aren't too many record stores."

Henderson would be following a broader music industry trend. CD sales last year totaled more than 705 million, compared with 13.6 million albums sold online, according to the most recent figures from the Recording Industry Association of America. But CD sales declined 8 percent last year, compared with online album sales growth of 199 percent.

"They're going to force you to going online now; it's like forcing you to ride the subway," said Ernest Feaster, 50, who lives in Northeast Washington and yesterday shopped at Tower for albums by Luther Vandross, Weather Report and the Dramatics. "It's the last of an icon around here," Feaster said. "At Circuit City and Best Buy, they're just throwing whatever up on the shelves. Here the selection is wide."

Tower's popularity extends beyond its customer base, said Geoff Mayfield, an analyst with Billboard.

"The industry wants it to survive," he said. It got a standing ovation from the crowd when it recently won retailer of the year from the major recording merchandisers' trade group, he said.

Perhaps, like some other stores, it could diversify by selling shoes, posters, games and other goods that would appeal to its audience, Mayfield said. "It needs to become a destination," he said. "Otherwise, people will just pass it by."

Staff researcher Richard Drezen and staff writer Chris Kirkham contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Monday, August 21, 2006

Now the Music Industry Wants Guitarists to Stop Sharing

New York Times
August 21, 2006
E-Commerce Report
Now the Music Industry Wants Guitarists to Stop Sharing

The Internet put the music industry and many of its listeners at odds thanks to the popularity of services like Napster and Grokster. Now the industry is squaring off against a surprising new opponent: musicians.

In the last few months, trade groups representing music publishers have used the threat of copyright lawsuits to shut down guitar tablature sites, where users exchange tips on how to play songs like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Highway to Hell” and thousands of others.

The battle shares many similarities with the war between Napster and the music recording industry, but this time it involves free sites like, and and even discussion boards on the Google Groups service like and, where amateur musicians trade “tabs” — music notation especially for guitar — for songs they have figured out or have copied from music books.

On the other side are music publishers like Sony/ATV, which holds the rights to the songs of John Mayer, and EMI, which publishes Christina Aguilera’s music.

“People can get it for free on the Internet, and it’s hurting the songwriters,” said Lauren Keiser, who is president of the Music Publishers’ Association and chief executive of Carl Fischer, a music publisher in New York.

So far, the Music Publishers’ Association and the National Music Publishers’ Association have shut down several Web sites, or have pressured them to remove all of their tabs, but users have quickly migrated to other sites. According to comScore Media Metrix, an Internet statistics service, had 1.4 million visitors in July, twice the number from a year earlier.

The publishers, who share royalties with composers each time customers buy sheet music or books of guitar tablature, maintain that tablature postings, even inaccurate ones, are protected by copyright laws because the postings represent “derivative works” related to the original compositions, to use the industry jargon.

The publishers told the sites that if they did not remove the tablatures, they could face legal action or their Internet service providers would be pressured to shut down their sites. All of the sites have taken down their tabs voluntarily, but grudgingly.

The tablature sites argue that they are merely conduits for an online discussion about guitar techniques, and that their services help the industry.

“The publishers can’t dispute the fact that the popularity of playing guitar has exploded because of sites like mine,” said Robert Balch, the publisher of Guitar Tab Universe (, in Los Angeles. “And any person that buys a guitar book during their lifetime, that money goes to the publishers.”

Mr. Balch, who took down guitar tabs from his site in late July at the behest of the music publishers, added that, “I’d think the music publishers would be happy to have sites that get people interested in becoming one of their customers.”

Cathal Woods, who manages, one of the pioneer free tablature sites, said he had run the site for 14 years with the help of a systems administrator, “and we’ve never taken a penny.” Mr. Woods, who teaches philosophy at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, said had earned an undisclosed amount of money by posting ads on Google’s behalf, but he said that money had paid for bandwidth and a legal defense fund.

Anthony DeGidio, a lawyer for, said he was still formulating a legal strategy, while also helping decide whether the site could pay licensing fees “in the event that that’s required.” For now, though, the site remains unavailable to users.

Because the music tablature sites are privately held, they do not disclose sales figures, and because industry analysts generally do not closely follow tablature sites, it is unclear how much revenue they generate. But with the Internet advertising market surging, almost any Web site with significant traffic can generate revenue.

Google also dabbles in tablature through its Google Groups discussion board service, in which guitar players trade tabs they have figured out by listening to the songs, or by copying tabs found elsewhere. A Google spokesman, Steve Langdon, said Google would take down music tablature from its Groups service if publishers claimed the materials violated copyright agreements and if Google determined that infringement was likely. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Web hosts may review, case by case, a publisher’s claims regarding instances of copyright infringement.

To hear music publishers tell it, though, the tablature sites are getting away with mass theft. Mr. Keiser, of the Music Publishers’ Association, said that before these sites started operating in the early ‘90s, the most popular printed tablatures typically sold 25,000 copies in a year. Now the most popular sell 5,000 copies at most.

But Mike Happoldt, who was a member of the ’90’s band Sublime and whose music is sold in sheet music books, said he sympathized with the tablature sites.

“I think this is greed on the publishers’ parts,” said Mr. Happoldt, who played guitar on Sublime’s hit “What I Got.”

“I guess in a way I might be losing money from these sites, but as a musician I look at it more as a service,” said Mr. Happoldt, who now owns an independent record company, Skunk Records. “And really, those books just don’t sell that much for most people.”

Assuming a tablature site musters the legal resources to challenge the publishers in court, some legal scholars say they believe publishers may have difficulty arguing their complaints successfully. Jonathan Zittrain, the professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, said “it isn’t at all clear” that the publishers’ claim would succeed because no court doctrine has been written on guitar tablature.

Mr. Zittrain said the tablature sites could well have a free speech defense. But because the Supreme Court, in a 2003 case involving the extension of copyright terms, declined to determine when overenforcement or interpretation of copyright might raise a free speech problem, the success of that argument was questionable. “It’s possible, though, that this is one reason why guitar tabs generated by people would be found to fit fair use,” Mr. Zittrain said, “or would be found not to be a derivative work to begin with.”

Doug Osborn, an executive vice president with said his site violated no laws because its headquarters were in Russia, and the site’s practices complied with Russian laws.

Jacqueline C. Charlesworth, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Music Publishers’ Association, would not comment on the legality of specific sites, including Ultimate-Guitar, but she said she had seen no international licensing agreements that might make free United States distribution of guitar tablature legal.

Online discussion boards have been thick with comments from guitar tablature fans, looking for sites that are still operating and lamenting the fate of sites they frequented. One user of the forums, who calls himself “the dali lima,” said he had no doubt that the music publishers would win the battle.

“Hopefully we will get to a place where the sheet music/tab will be available online just like music — $0.99 a song. The ironic thing might be that a service like that — with fully licensed music/tab offered at a low per song rate — might actually benefit guitar players by providing the correct music/tab and not the garbage that we currently sift through.”

A small handful of sheet music sites now sell guitar tablature. Mr. Keiser, of the Music Publishers’ Association, estimated that, including overhead costs, tablature could cost about $800 per song to produce, license and format for downloading.

Musicnotes, an online sheet music business based in Madison, Wis., is considering a deeper push into guitar tablature, said Tim Reiland, the company’s chairman and chief financial officer. The site has a limited array of tablature available now for about $5 a song, and it also offers tablature as part of $10 downloadable guitar lessons.

But Mr. Reiland said that with the music publishers “dealing with the free sites,” and a stronger ad market, his business might be able to lower the cost of its guitar tabs.

“Maybe we could sell some of the riffs to Jimmy Page’s solo in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for a buck, since that’s really what the kids want to learn anyway,” Mr. Reiland said.

Low prices are only part of the battle, though, Mr. Reiland said. The free tablature sites often host vibrant communities of musicians, who rate each other’s tablature and trade ideas and commentary, and Musicnotes would have to find a way to replicate that environment on its site. Furthermore, these communities often create tablature for songs that have little or no commercial value, he said.

“Less than 25 percent of the music out there ends up in sheet music because sometimes it just doesn’t pay to do it,” Mr. Reiland said. “So the fact that someone comes up with a transcription themselves just because they love that song and want to share it with people, there’s some value to that.”

“I don’t have an answer for that,” Mr. Reiland added. “But I think the industry needs to play around with it, because it could be a nice source of revenue for songwriters, and for the community it could be a really good thing.”

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cuban Conga Master Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz Dies at 45

The conga world is stunned by the early death of this master musician. To get an idea of how interesting Angá was besdies being a virtuoso congero, check out his last album.

Cuban Conga Master Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz Dies at 45
08/10/2006 09:04PM
Contributed by: WMC_News_Dept.

ObituariesUK - British label World Circuit announced today the death of Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz. "World Circuit are shocked and saddened to announce the death of the great Cuban conga player Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz who died unexpectedly at his home in Barcelona on 9th August 2006, he was 45."

With his explosive soloing and inventive five conga patterns, Angá’ was widely regarded as one of the world’s great congueros. He was committed to the development of the conga drum, breaking down traditional percussion barriers to perform traditional Latin rhythms, jazz, jungle and hip-hop, whilst retaining his distinctly Cuban roots.

Angá began playing prodigiously early, performing and recording professionally whilst still at college. He made his name as part of the pioneering Latin jazz group Irakere and it was with them he perfected his five drum technique. Emerging in the mid-nineties as an independent musician Angá was free to diversify and pursue a variety of different projects – from the experimental jazz of Steve Coleman and Roy Hargrove, to hip hop with Orishas, to his tours with Omar Sosa, and numerous side projects with musicians from all over the globe, Angá’s musical journey was a personal quest to explore and create new sounds and rhythmic fusions.

More than just a performer, Angá further demonstrated his commitment to the development of his instrument by teaching master classes at various schools and universities across North America and Europe. Angá produced a tuition video in 2000 which explained many of his techniques and his philosophy behind playing, it won Percussion Video of the Year from Drum Magazine. Angá would continue to teach on a regular basis and built up a network of students from his base outside of Barcelona.

Angá’s first project with World Circuit was the hugely influential Afro Cuban All Stars album, A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, recorded in 1996 which showcased the depth and vitality within Cuban music. Angá became an integral part of World Circuit’s extended Buena Vista Social Club family adding his trademark sound to albums from Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Guajiro Mirabal, and the second Afro Cuban All Stars record. Angá’s own musical vision would emerge with the release of the album ‘Cachaíto’ an inspired union of Afro-Cuban jazz, reggae, hip hop and funk which he recorded with the Cuban bass legend Cachaíto López.

Building from the foundations laid by Cachaíto’s record, and incorporating elements of his own Santeria religion, Angá would finally fulfil his dream in 2005 with the release of his critically acclaimed album Echu Mingua, an exciting fusion of styles blended together the ‘Cuban way’ and is a fitting testament to the career of one of the great musical innovators.

"Angá was an irrepressible character with a larger than life personality, whose beaming grin and booming laugh were matched by a warmth and humility that touched all of those lucky enough to know him. He will be sorely missed," said a World Circuit press release.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Niche Satellite Radio Channel Comic

Is Copying Music You Purchase a Crime?

From the Los Angeles Times,0,5791738,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Is Copying a Crime? Well…
Many young people say that duplicating CDs or DVDs they own is legal. The industries disagree.
By Charles Duhigg
Times Staff Writer

August 9, 2006

A few years ago, when a friend offered 15-year-old Evan Collins a compact disc of illegally downloaded music, Collins turned him down flat.

"Me and my parents used to download music for free," said Collins, who lives in Bloomington, Minn. "But we decided it was like stealing from musicians. So I don't take stolen music from friends, either."

But later that year, when Collins met a girl he liked, he made her a CD filled with songs by Linkin Park, Blue Man Group and Eiffel 65. Why was his CD OK, while his friends' were verboten? Because Collins paid for his music in the first place, he said.

"I think you're allowed to make, like, two or three copies of a CD you bought and give them to friends," said Collins. "It's only once you make five copies, or copy a CD of stolen music, that it's illegal."

Actually, attorneys say, copying a purchased CD for even one friend violates the federal copyright code most of the time.

But Collins' attitude — that copying purchased CDs or DVDs is legal, while copying stolen music or movies is a crime — is pervasive among young people ages 12 to 24, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

Among teens ages 12 to 17 who were polled, 69% said they believed it was legal to copy a CD from a friend who purchased the original. By comparison, only 21% said it was legal to copy a CD if a friend got the music free. Similarly, 58% thought it was legal to copy a friend's purchased DVD or videotape, but only 19% thought copying was legal if the movie wasn't purchased.

Those figures are a big problem for the Recording Industry Assn. of America and the Motion Picture Assn. of America, both of which have spent millions of dollars to deter copying of any kind. The music industry now considers "schoolyard" piracy — copies of physical discs given to friends and classmates — a greater threat than illegal peer-to-peer downloading, according to the RIAA.

Similarly, an MPAA spokesperson said that, in the U.S., copying and reproducing DVDs is a bigger problem than illegal downloading of movies.

"We've made substantial progress educating people that downloading copyrighted music for free is illegal," said RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol. "But we still confront a significant challenge educating kids that copying a CD for a friend is also a crime. This is a major focus for the entire industry."

Indeed, years of anti-downloading campaigns seem to be working: 80% of teens surveyed in the poll said downloading free music from unauthorized computer networks was a crime. Much of that might stem from highly publicized crackdowns on online music sharing. A 2004 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that close to 6 million Americans said they had stopped downloading unauthorized tunes because of lawsuits filed by the RIAA.

But when it comes to stopping people from copying physical CDs, high-profile lawsuits are much less likely to occur. Prosecutors say it would be next to impossible to get one teen to testify in court that another had slipped him or her a copied disc at lunchtime. And besides, isn't sharing music a time-honored part of teen friendship?

"It's pretty confusing," said Collins, who was interviewed after participating in the poll.

Even lawyers say the law is hard to understand. Distributing free copies of a purchased CD or DVD is only a federal copyright crime if the value of the copied discs exceeds $1,000, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Elena Duarte.

But giving away even one copied disc may be a civil violation or break a state law.

"A strict interpretation of the law says that if making a copy robs the marketplace of a sale, it is prohibited," said attorney Mark Radcliffe, a copyright expert at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. "So anyone giving a copy to a friend could technically be sued. But there is some sentiment that as long as people are only giving copies to families and a few friends, it's probably OK. But how many friends should one person have?"

In the last decade, copyright activists and entertainment companies have battled over that very question. Courts have generally avoided commenting on the appropriateness of copying CDs for friends or how many friends constitutes a copyright violation. But music and film companies have argued that any sharing violates the copyright code.

However, free-speech advocates say the copyright laws were never intended to stop kids from giving mix-CDs to friends. In fact, some say, because music is as much about personal expression as listening pleasure, sharing is integral to why songs have value in the first place.

"At my wedding I handed out about 150 mix-CDs," said Siva Vaidhyanathan, an associate professor at New York University and author of "Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity."

"I was freeloading on songs by Louis Armstrong and others, but I think that's why they became musicians in the first place," Vaidhyanathan said. "Music has worth because it lets us communicate in ways we can't manage on our own. But to communicate, we have to be able to share."

Some of those polled agree. While 97% of teens and adults polled said they considered shoplifting an item worth less than $20 a crime, fewer of them (83% of teens, 76% of young adults) considered it a crime to buy a bootlegged CD. (In fact, according to Duarte, although selling a bootleg violates the law, purchasing it is not prohibited by the federal copyright code.)

"I rely on my instinct to determine what's right and wrong about sharing music," said Annette Cook, a 21-year-old senior at San Diego State University who participated in the poll. "If my friend makes me a copy of a CD they purchased, it's not really stealing, it's spreading interest in a band. That's how I learn about music I end up buying."

The RIAA and MPAA hopes that attitude will wane. To that end, the recording industry association is sponsoring school programs to convince students that any kind of copying — what they call "songlifting" — is a crime. "Songlifting is like shoplifting, and that means it's wrong," reads a lesson plan the group sent to middle school teachers. The motion picture industry's trade association is also sponsoring school programs to discourage piracy.

Their efforts may be working. Younger poll respondents were more likely than older peers to believe that copying CDs and DVDs breaks the law, and only 25% of teens said they had a friend who illegally downloaded music, compared with 33% of young adults.

"One of my friends always gives me a blank CD for my birthday, and then I go to her house and pick out songs to burn on it," said Charlie Letson, 14, a poll respondent in Hampton, Conn. "But we always download new copies of the songs, so that we're not breaking the law."

Even Evan Collins, the 15-year-old from Minnesota, is beginning to reconsider his position. After the mix-CD he made to woo a classmate failed to impress ("She said 'thanks,' but that was about it," he said), he started rethinking his attitude about copying CDs.

"I used to make two copies of each CD I bought for friends, but I think I'm going to stop doing that," said Collins, who was speaking within earshot of his mother. "I play the piano and the trumpet, so I understand what it's like to be a musician. I don't think it's right to gyp anyone out of making money."

That, says Collins' mother, is music to her ears.

"We've tried to use CD copying to teach bigger lessons about morality," said Jill Collins, 47. "Things are so different now. The Internet makes the world a lot more complicated. If we can get right and wrong down on small things like copying music, hopefully bigger things will be clearer down the road."



Is it stealing?

Younger consumers see strong differences between copying and outright stealing.

Proportion of young people who thought the following would be committing a crime: (Combined minor and serious crime)
Ages12-14 15-17 18-20 21-24
Copying a CD from
a friend who paid for it 27% 35% 33% 38%
Copying a DVD/videotape
from friend who paid for it 39% 44% 40% 41%
Downloading free music
from an unauthorized
file-sharing server 79% 81% 70% 79%
Downloading free movies
from an unauthorized
file-sharing server 83% 83% 74% 79%
Buying a bootlegged CD 82% 84% 76% 76%
Buying a bootlegged
DVD/videotape 83% 84% 80% 77%
Shoplifting an item
worth less than $20 97% 97% 98% 96%
Shoplifting an item
worth more than $20 99% 99% 99% 97%

Q: Where or how did you first find out about the music you most

recently acquired? (Multiple answers allowed, selected answers shown.)
Ages 12-17 Ages 18-24
Heard a song or interview on
the radio 57% 57%
A friend recommended /
played it for me / lent it
to me 47% 40%
Saw a music video or
advertisement on TV 33% 30%
Music website: MTV, iTunes,
Yahoo Music, etc. 23% 13%
Brother or sister 20% 14%
My parents 15% 4%
Heard it on a TV show
(such as "The O.C.") 15% 8%
Heard about it on an online
social site, such as MySpace, etc. 12% 5%
Read a review in a magazine or
Newspaper 5% 6%

Q: How would you describe the type of music you are most passionate about? (One answer, selected answers shown.)


Ages 12-14

Rock: 23%

Pop: 6%

Rap/hip-hop: 25%

Country: 3%

My music tastes range across genres: 27%



Ages 15-17

Rock: 23%

Pop: 1%

Rap/hip-hop: 27%

Country: 6%

My music tastes range across genres: 29%



Ages 18-20

Rock: 21%

Pop: 1%

Rap/hip-hop: 23%

Country: 12%

My music tastes range across genres: 34%



Ages 21-24

Rock: 21%

Pop: 0%

Rap/hip-hop: 21%

Country: 11%

My music tastes range across genres: 31%



Ages 12-14

Rock: 12%

Pop: 14%

Rap/hip-hop: 21%

Country: 4%

My music tastes range across genres: 31%



Ages 15-17

Rock: 13%

Pop: 8%

Rap/hip-hop: 28%

Country: 6%

My music tastes range across genres: 33%



Ages 18-20

Rock: 16%

Pop: 4%

Rap/hip-hop: 19%

Country: 7%

My music tastes range across genres: 42%



Ages 21-24

Rock: 12%

Pop: 5%

Rap/hip-hop: 18%

Country: 10%

My music tastes range across genres: 39%


Note: More information on this poll can be found at:


How the poll was conducted

The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll was conducted from June 23 to July 3 using the Knowledge Networks' Web-enabled panel, which provides a representative nationwide sample of U.S. households. Of the 4,466 minors and young adults invited to participate in the survey, 1,904 (43%) responded to the survey, with 1,650 qualifying. The 1,650 qualified respondents included 839 minors (ages 12 to 17) and 811 young adults (ages 18 to 24). The margin of sampling error for both groups is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In order to provide as representative a sample as possible, the survey results were weighted to U.S. census figures for 12- to 24-year-olds in the United States in terms of age, race or ethnicity, gender and region, and for urban or rural residence and Internet access.

Source: Times/Bloomberg poll


The Entertainment Poll


A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll finds that a large majority of 12- to 24-year-olds are bored with their entertainment choices. Their solution? Even more options. Plus: Busting myths about teens and young adults.



The old Hollywood movie model doesn't interest younger audiences. They want to see films as soon as they come out at home — whether on TV, computer or the next new gadget.



Within the music industry, copied CDs are considered a greater threat than illegal peer-to-peer downloading. But young people are confused about where sharing ends and piracy begins in the era of iTunes.



Is new technology the answer for TV and video? Teens and young adults — the generation most likely to be the early adopters of this new technology — have yet to fully embrace it.



A day in the life of a typical plugged-in tween. Plus: Does multi-tasking hurt homework?


On the Web

Readers weigh in: How has the entertainment industry failed today's young people? Plus, read previous installments of this series. All at

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Punk Rock in China

Punks and Posers in China
A Muted Rebel Yell Emerges in Nation Where Dissent Is Suppressed, Fads Rule

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 9, 2006; A01

BEIJING -- Shortly after midnight, in a smoky bar in a western Beijing neighborhood, a lanky 33-year-old in blue jeans and thick, black-rimmed glasses took the stage, looking every bit like an engineering student.

But as the guitarists on either side of Yang Haisong began thrashing out minor chords, he left little doubt about his credentials. He contorted his face, uttered an anguished cry and jerked his head to the frenetic rhythm that is universally recognizable to fans of punk rock.

"At the moment when blood flows out," Yang sang, "make a V sign, and scream loud!"

For Chinese punks today, it might take screaming to be heard. They make up a small slice of the music industry here, and they play to a largely underground scene. But their struggle to gain attention provides a glimpse of what it's like to be a rebel in a country that suppresses dissent and individuality, and an artist in a culture that worships money and Western fads.

"Most bands are into punk because it's fashionable. They are more like copy bands, cover bands that copy the lifestyle. Punk rock should be more dangerous, more deep. You should establish your own style," said Yang, the lead singer of P.K. 14, which has a sizable following and performed Saturday night at a bar in Beijing's Wudaokou district.

"We want to be a dangerous band, like Fugazi or The Clash or Bob Dylan. Woody Guthrie's folk music influenced me a lot," Yang said. "But because the government doesn't care about us, we are not forbidden from playing. Maybe we are not dangerous. It's sad."

In the West, punk rock is about annoying your parents and confronting the establishment at every turn. In theory, it's the same in China.

Punks here believe they can say whatever they want. They are pierced and sullen, with spiderweb tattoos on their elbows and cheap dye in their hair. Band slogans include "No future" and "Revolution for your life." Their lyrics urge fans to "never forget the lessons from Orwell" and to fight the police "until dead."

But in China, bands can't publicly turn the national anthem into a rock statement, as Jimi Hendrix did at Woodstock. Artists can't publish anti-government songs in Chinese. Just last month, the Culture Ministry announced a plan to help prevent the spread in karaoke bars of "unhealthy or obscene" music, or songs that have inappropriate sexual or political content.

As a result of these limitations, would-be anarchists in China have to be flexible. Chinese punks may admire Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, but their methods are different.

One popular band sings sarcastically about its destructive need for Zhongnanhai cigarettes, a brand that happens to share its name with the residential compound for China's top leaders. Another band sings about "the square of hopelessness," without ever mentioning Tiananmen.

Still, some punk rockers say they don't shy away from making a statement.

"You can confront the government," insisted Lei Jun, 31, lead singer for Misando, a band named after a sweet traditional Chinese dessert.

Lei said he started listening to bootleg tapes of punk music in 1996. He and his friends attended their first live show a year later, more than two decades after punks began shocking audiences in New York and London.

"First, we liked the music. We felt excited," said Misando's drummer, Guo Yang, 20. "The characters. The personality. Sid Vicious. The power of 'Anarchy in the UK' and 'God Save the Queen.' We liked the energy and the fact that they could say what they were saying on stage."

Today, Lei wears combat boots, black T-shirts and white suspenders, and he shaves his head. It's a look, he said, meant to connect with the working class. He speaks of a "stress between the people and the government."

"Of course the government tells you what to do. It tells Americans what to do," he said. "The politics everywhere are ugly. It looks different here, but the nature of it is the same."

Li Yang, 23, is the lead singer for a band called Demerit. He spent $3 to dye a chunk of his black hair blond. He gave a tailor another $3 to narrow a pair of black pants and add huge zippers and chains. A button on his jacket said, "No Life, No Future."

At a recent day-long punk festival at a drive-in movie theater, where even the resident dog had a mohawk, Li argued that Chinese punks have rejected the drugs and violence of some of the punks who gave rise to the genre in Europe and the United States.

"They were troublemakers," said Li, who is also known as Spike. "We are trying to change the image of punk rockers. We just want to tell the audience that the music is pure and that we are nice and not violent."

Many punk rockers in China are long on style and short on substance, critics say. Few of them can articulate what they stand for or explain what their songs mean. Some claim to be voices for the downtrodden but aren't familiar with true poverty.

Critics point out that most of the punks are members of a generation born in the 1980s, and the first to be raised in the one- child-only families mandated by the government. Their parents are seen as more indulgent, willing to let their only children lead the lives that they want.

"They don't know what they want because they want so many things," said Lu Bo, chief executive of Scream Records and owner of a now-defunct club that helped popularize punk music in Beijing eight years ago. "Those born in the '60s and '70s were told by their teachers and parents, 'This is the way you should lead your lives.' No one told this group. They're free to follow new trends."

Some analysts say that, in a way, China's punks can afford to be a little aimless. Many of them are more well-off than their parents.

"We have a lot of anger, but because of the high speed of the economic growth, it has covered the anger, the injustice," said Guan Kai, a sociologist who was among the protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Back then, a subversive song called "A Piece of Red Cloth" by Cui Jian, the father of Chinese rock-and-roll, became an anthem for the students:

That day you used a piece of red cloth

To blindfold my eyes and cover up the sky

You asked me what I had seen

I said I saw happiness

The feeling really made me comfortable

Made me forget I had no place to live

You asked where I wanted to go

I said I want to follow your road

The new generation of musicians don't have the same sense of mission, Guan said.

Even as they claim the freedom to say whatever they want, punks admit there are lines they cannot cross.

"When we were younger we believed in politics, but we found it to be useless," said Lei, Misando's lead singer, listening to a mix of The Pogues and Madness on his bassist's home computer. "We used to have a song about police injustice, called 'The Soul of Chinese Cops.' But we're not politicians or the president. We can't change the system."

The obstacles to China's music, filmmaking and painting are not always from government censors. China's pressure-cooker university system has been criticized for destroying creativity and preparing students only for exams. Much of the most interesting art is found underground. Often, it is society that is unsupportive.

"If a filmmaker shows the dark side of society, for example, homosexual life, even if the government doesn't stop you, people will not come out to see the film," Lu said. "If you are a singer and you have your own style of music and only five people come to see you, can you survive?"

At a recent concert, a Chinese punk rocker was "just following the script for punkness" and attacking President Bush, said Michael Pettis, owner of the club where P.K. 14 performed. "Chinese punks should be attacking Hu Jintao, but that's not the way it works in China. That's dangerous."

Cui Jian, an icon for some punks in China, said cooperating with government censors doesn't necessarily mean you have to change the meaning of a song. "Chinese punks want to show they're angry. That's enough. They don't have to make a big statement," he said in an interview. "The most important thing is don't lose yourself."

Yang Haisong, the lead singer of P.K. 14, said Chinese are looking for meaning in a country that is changing so drastically. "The average man has to look for support, something to live for," he said. "The government told people you should live for money, a house, a car, a bigger house. So more people get rich and more people get poor. It's a bad situation. Some foreigners say China has a bright future, but I say there's no future.

"I try to sing about this, express this in our music," Yang said. "I am not a fighter, a protester, a politician. Music is what I do, I can only do that."

Researcher Jiang Fei contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Ballet as a Dance Form Some Just Love to Hate

Ballet as a Dance Form Some Just Love to Hate

New York Times
August 8, 2006
Critic’s Notebook

Lewis Segal, a longtime sportswriter for The Los Angeles Times, has written a diatribe against professional football titled “Five Things I Hate About Football.” It deplores a “sport” in which steroid-driven behemoths bash one another about, with no apparent purpose, social relevance, aesthetic pleasure or moral uplift.

Just kidding. Actually, Lewis Segal, a longtime dance critic for The Los Angeles Times, published an article on Sunday titled “Five Things I Hate About Ballet.” Among its sins, he asserted, are that it commandeers a disproportionate amount of dance resources and respect, that it relies on mindless athleticism, that it has lost touch with “the realities of the moment” and wallows in “flatulent nostalgia,” and that it survives because it “has cultivated an intimidation factor that acts like a computer firewall.”

Ballet “ignores the present, but it also falsifies its past,” he went on, since it claims a venerable heritage, but opera is far older, and most ballet classics have been altered beyond recognition. Nineteenth-century story ballets are politically incorrect, he writes. Ballet infantilizes its dancers. Mere prettiness has replaced beauty as an ideal for ballerinas. Dance lovers should focus their psychic energies on the proscenium arch during ballet performances and pray, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, for it to “Fall. Fall and crush.”

Mr. Segal is the first to point out that his view of ballet is colored by its absence on any significant scale in the Los Angeles area. Hence my linkage of ballet with football, since Los Angeles is also without a National Football League team. Had he written 20 years ago, Lewis Segal, a noted music critic for The Los Angeles Times, might have made a similar diatribe about the irrelevance of opera, since Los Angeles did not have a major opera company then, either.

(For the record Mr. Segal succeeded me as Martin Bernheimer’s dance-oriented assistant at The Los Angeles Times when I decamped for New York in 1972, and I have barely seen him in the intervening years.)

Mr. Segal’s low regard for ballet is not new. He made many of the same points in a more closely argued, plausibly toned response to an invitation in 2002 from Ballet Magazine to discuss ballet in the 21st century. (He unleashed a few zingers there too, however, as in his crack about ballet’s being the purview of “dancing snowflakes and jumpers with padded crotches.”) So one explanation for his recent rant — that he was egged into it by a journalistic culture that prizes provocation over reasoned discussion — may not be entirely off the mark. He believes this stuff, but not necessarily always with the mocking, strident tone of the Los Angeles Times article.

Although I disagree with him on almost every count, there is something salutary about his position. There are so many ballet magazines and ballet Web sites out there now that simply assume the superiority of ballet to all other forms of dance that it is nice to have a corrective.

To take just one example, there was Jennifer Homans’s denunciation in The New Republic a few months ago of Downtown Manhattan dance as amateurish and childish, largely, it seemed, because it was not ballet. Ms. Homans might paraphrase her argument somewhat more subtly, and her own extremism could have been encouraged by the journalistic culture of The New Republic. But her disdain for those who profess to be dancers without having submitted themselves to ballet training was palpable.

Mr. Segal’s rant also has historical resonance. When George Balanchine was establishing himself in the United States in the 1930’s, he encountered resistance from those who felt that truly American dance was modern dance in the Fuller-Duncan-Denishawn-Graham tradition, and that ballet was an outmoded European import. Effete too, though the politically correct Mr. Segal does not go there. John Martins, chief dance critic of The New York Times in those years, was one who advanced that argument. Although he later modified his position to embrace Balanchine’s modernism, some balletomanes still disparage him for not immediately recognizing Balanchine’s genius.

Despite the absence of major ballet company in the Los Angeles basin, Mr. Segal has seen a lot of ballet over the decades. He surely knows that ballet is indeed trying to adjust to the modern world, to find new thematic and choreographic relevance without abandoning its technique and traditions, however shallow and distorted in Mr. Segal’s view. He could have made the same arguments about traditional ballet’s failings in a context supportive of contemporary ballet. Perhaps he has been soured by the hackneyed touring programs the big ballet companies take into Los Angeles.

“Does any star these days lobby artistic directors for better choreography or dare to say, ‘I just don’t want to be seen in that ‘Swan Lake’ ”? Well, yes. Carlos Acosta, the Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theater star, is only the latest to call for modernization and for a de-emphasis on 19th century story ballets. Sylvie Guillem has done the same.

Dancers in Europe (as with the Kirov Ballet’s William Forsythe program) and the United States yearn for exciting new choreography, and artistic directors do their best to provide it. Mikhail Baryshnikov stands as a one-man symbol of ballet’s (and dance’s) quest for renewal. When it comes to new work (as opposed to fancily modernized new productions of old work), ballet is far more contemporary than opera. Ballet masters and administrators spend half their time searching for the new. Which is not to say that all new ballet is good ballet, but they try.

Fanatic balletomanes resist such change on the very grounds Mr. Segal uses to chide all of ballet. For them anything but classroom ballet technique degrades the form, and a search for relevance is a descent into gimmickry and perversion.

One last thing Mr. Segal overlooks or denies is that ballet at its not infrequent best can still be beautiful and can still move the receptive soul as deeply as any other art. Even its hoariest traditions give pleasure, as in the delighted faces of audiences young and old at a good account of “The Nutcracker.” Ballet technique can speak to us today, and not just in Balanchine’s stripped-down modernist exercises, now themselves a half-century old.

Maybe if Mr. Segal weren’t the “sun-kissed Hollywood barbarian” that he self-mockingly called himself in 2002, if he had a homegrown ballet company he cared about with dancers whose progress he could trace, he might feel more sanguine about ballet as an art. With the N.F.L.’s blessings, he might even come to love professional football.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Bed that floats in midair

Way cool.

Designer creates floating bed

Mon Aug 7, 8:31 AM ET

A young Dutch architect has created a floating bed which hovers above the ground through magnetic force and comes with a price tag of 1.2 million euros ($1.54 million).

Janjaap Ruijssenaars took inspiration for the bed -- a sleek black platform, which took six years to develop and can double as a dining table or a plinth -- from the mysterious monolith in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 cult film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"No matter where you live all architecture is dictated by gravity. I wondered whether you could make an object, a building or a piece of furniture where this is not the case -- where another power actually dictates the image," Ruijssenaars said.

Magnets built into the floor and into the bed itself repel each other, pushing the bed up into the air. Thin steel cables tether the bed in place.

"It is not comfortable at the moment," admits Ruijssenaars, adding it needs cushions and bedclothes before use.

Although people with piercings should have no problem sleeping on the bed, Ruijssenaars advises them against entering the magnetic field between the bed and the floor.

They could find their piercing suddenly tugged toward one of the magnets.

Degrading messages influence sexual behavior, study finds

Dirty song lyrics can prompt early teen sex
Degrading messages influence sexual behavior, study finds
The Associated Press

Updated: 7:44 p.m. MT Aug 7, 2006

Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.

Whether it’s hip-hop, rap, pop or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.

Songs depicting men as “sex-driven studs,” women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

Among heavy listeners, 51 percent started having sex within two years, versus 29 percent of those who said they listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

'Cool thing to do'
Exposure to lots of sexually degrading music “gives them a specific message about sex,” said lead author Steven Martino, a researcher for Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects, he said.

“We think that really lowers kids’ inhibitions and makes them less thoughtful” about sexual decisions and may influence them to make decisions they regret, he said.

The study, based on telephone interviews with 1,461 participants aged 12 to 17, appears in the August issue of Pediatrics, being released Monday.

Most participants were virgins when they were first questioned in 2001. Follow-up interviews were done in 2002 and 2004 to see if music choice had influenced subsequent behavior.

Natasha Ramsey, a 17-year-old from New Brunswick, N.J., said she and other teens sometimes listen to sexually explicit songs because they like the beat.

“I won’t really realize that the person is talking about having sex or raping a girl,” she said. Even so, the message “is being beaten into the teens’ heads,” she said. “We don’t even really realize how much.”

“A lot of teens think that’s the way they’re supposed to be, they think that’s the cool thing to do. Because it’s so common, it’s accepted,” said Ramsey, a teen editor for, a teen sexual health Web site produced at Rutgers University.

“Teens will try to deny it, they’ll say ‘No, it’s not the music,’ but it IS the music. That has one of the biggest impacts on our lives,” Ramsey said.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the U.S. recording industry, declined to comment on the findings.

Benjamin Chavis, chief executive officer of the Hip-Hip Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip-hop musicians and recording industry executives, said explicit music lyrics are a cultural expression that reflect “social and economic realities.”

“We caution rushing to judgment that music more than any other factor is a causative factor” for teens initiating sex, Chavis said.

Healthy home atmosphere
Martino said the researchers tried to account for other factors that could affect teens’ sexual behavior, including parental permissiveness, and still found explicit lyrics had a strong influence.

However, Yvonne K. Fulbright, a New York-based sex researcher and author, said factors including peer pressure, self-esteem and home environment are probably more influential than the research suggests.

“It’s a little dangerous to just pinpoint one thing. You have to look at everything that’s going on in a young person’s life,” she said. “When somebody has a healthy sense of themselves, they don’t take these lyrics too seriously.”

David Walsh, a psychologist who heads the National Institute on Media and the Family, said the results make sense, and echo research on the influence of videos and other visual media.

The brain’s impulse-control center undergoes “major construction” during the teen years at the same time that an interest in sex starts to blossom, he said.

Add sexually arousing lyrics and “it’s not that surprising that a kid with a heavier diet of that ... would be at greater risk for sexual behavior,” Walsh said.

Martino said parents, educators and teens themselves need to think more critically about messages in music lyrics.

Fulbright agreed.

“A healthy home atmosphere is one that allows a child to investigate what pop culture has to offer and at the same time say ‘I know this is a fun song but you know that it’s not right to treat women this way or this isn’t a good person to have as a role model,”’ she said.
© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Remembering Ota Benga: The Scandal at the Zoo

August 6, 2006

WHEN New Yorkers went to the Bronx Zoo on Saturday, Sept. 8, 1906, they were treated to something novel at the Monkey House.

At first, some people weren’t sure what it was. It — he — seemed much less a monkey than a man, though a very small, dark one with grotesquely pointed teeth. He wore modern clothing but no shoes. He was proficient with bow and arrow, and entertained the crowd by shooting at a target. He displayed skill at weaving with twine, made amusing faces and drank soda.

The new resident of the Monkey House was, indeed, a man, a Congolese pygmy named Ota Benga. The next day, a sign was posted that gave Ota Benga’s height as 4 feet 11 inches, his weight as 103 pounds and his age as 23. The sign concluded, “Exhibited each afternoon during September.”

Visitors to the Monkey House that second day got an even better show. Ota Benga and an orangutan frolicked together, hugging and wrestling and playing tricks on each other. The crowd loved it. To enhance the jungle effect, a parrot was put in the cage and bones had been strewn around it. The crowd laughed as the pygmy sat staring at a pair of canvas shoes he had been given. “Few expressed audible objection to the sight of a human being in a cage with monkeys as companions,” The New York Times wrote the next day, “and there could be no doubt that to the majority the joint man-and-monkey exhibition was the most interesting sight in Bronx Park.”

But the Ota Benga “exhibit” did not last. A scandal flared up almost immediately, fueled by the indignation of black clergymen like the Rev. James H. Gordon, superintendent of the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn. “Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes,” Mr. Gordon said. “We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.”

One hundred years later, the Ota Benga episode remains a perfect illustration of the racism that pervaded New York at the time. Mayor George McClellan, for example, refused to meet with the clergymen or to support their cause. For this he was congratulated by the zoo’s director, William Temple Hornaday, a major figure not only in the zoo’s history but also in the history of American conservation, who wrote to him, “When the history of the Zoological Park is written, this incident will form its most amusing passage.”

The Bronx Zoo, which opened in 1899, was a young institution during the Ota Benga scandal. Those at the zoo today look back at the episode with a mixture of regret and resignation. “It was a mistake,” said John Calvelli, senior vice president for public affairs of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which owns and runs the zoo. “When you reflect on it, you realize that it was a moment in time. You have to look at the time in which it happened, and you try to understand why this would occur.”

That understanding may deepen with a recent spike in interest in Ota Benga, who died in March 1916 when he shot himself in the heart. His story has inspired writers, artists and musicians, and there is even an effort to exhume his remains from a cemetery in Lynchburg, Va., where he spent the last six years of his life, and return them to Congo.

“This was his wish,” said Dibinga wa Said, a Congolese involved in the exhumation campaign. “He wanted to go home.”

From the Bush to the Bronx

Ota Benga had already lived an eventful life by the time he arrived in the Bronx. According to the 1992 book “Ota Benga: The Pygmy in the Zoo,” by Phillips Verner Bradford and Harvey Blume, he was a survivor of a pygmy slaughter carried out by the Force Publique, a vicious armed force in service to Leopold II, the king of Belgium and the ruler of what was then called Congo Free State. Among the dead were Ota Benga’s wife and two children.

The killers sold him into slavery to a tribe called the Baschilele. He was in the slave market when his deliverance appeared one day in the form of Samuel Phillips Verner, 30, an Africa-obsessed explorer, anthropologist and missionary from South Carolina (and a grandfather of Dr. Bradford, the author).

Mr. Verner had been hired to take some pygmies and other Africans back to St. Louis for the extensive “anthropology exhibit” at the 1904 World’s Fair. There, for the edification of American fairgoers, they and representatives of other aboriginal peoples, like Eskimos, American Indians and Filipino tribesmen, would live in replicas of their traditional dwellings and villages.

After examining Ota Benga and being particularly pleased by his teeth, which had been filed to sharp points in the manner common among his people, Mr. Verner bought him from his captors and, along with several other pygmies and a few other Africans, took him to St. Louis. When the fair was over, he took them all back to Africa as promised.

Ota Benga was unable to make a successful transition to his original way of life, and continued to spend a lot of time with Mr. Verner as the anthropologist pursued his interests in Africa, which included the collection of artifacts and animal specimens. Their friendship grew, and Ota Benga asked Mr. Verner to return with him to “the land of the muzungu” — the land of the white man. The blond South Carolinian and the pygmy arrived back in New York in August 1906.

Their first stop, as Dr. Bradford and Mr. Blume recount in their book, was the American Museum of Natural History, whose director, Hermon Bumpus, agreed to store not just Mr. Verner’s cargo of collectibles, including a couple of chimpanzees, but — temporarily, at least — Ota Benga himself. Mr. Verner, who was broke, left for the South to try to raise some money, and the pygmy’s residency in the Museum of Natural History began. He was given a place to sleep and seems to have been free to roam the museum. Mr. Bumpus bought him a white duck suit.

Before long, though, the African became difficult to control. Among other things, he threw a chair at Florence Guggenheim, the philanthropist, and almost hit her in the head. Fed up, Mr. Bumpus suggested that Mr. Verner explore the possibilities at the zoo. Hornaday, the zoo’s director, was receptive, agreeing to lodge not just Mr. Verner’s animals but Ota Benga, too. Toward the end of August, the defining chapter in the pygmy’s strange life had begun.

Degradation and Darwin

Ota Benga was free to wander the zoo as he pleased. Sometimes he helped the animal keepers with their jobs. In fact, Hornaday described the African as being “employed” by the zoo, though there is no record he was ever paid. He spent a lot of time at the Monkey House, caring for Mr. Verner’s one surviving chimp and bonding as well with an orangutan named Dohong.

Contrary to common belief, Ota Benga was not simply placed in a cage that second weekend in September and put on display. As Dr. Bradford and Mr. Blume point out, the process was far subtler. Since he was already spending much time inside the Monkey House, where he was free to come and go, it was but a small step to encourage him to hang his hammock in an empty cage and start spending even more time there. It was but another small step to give him his bow and arrows, set up a target and encourage him to start shooting. This was the scene that zoogoers found at the Monkey House on the first day of the Ota Benga “exhibit.”

The next day, word was out. The headline in The New York Times read: “Bushman Shares a Cage With Bronx Park Apes.” Thousands went to the zoo that day to see the new attraction, to watch him carry on so amusingly, often arm in arm, with Dohong the orangutan.

But the end came quickly. Confronted with the protests of the Colored Baptist Ministers’ Conference, Mr. Hornaday suspended the exhibit that Monday afternoon.

To the black ministers and their allies, the message of the exhibit was clear: The African was meant to be seen as falling somewhere on the evolutionary scale between the apes with which he was housed and the people in the overwhelmingly white crowds who found him so entertaining.

“The person responsible for this exhibition,” said the Rev. R. S. MacArthur, a white man who was pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, “degrades himself as much as he does the African. Instead of making a beast of this little fellow, we should be putting him in school for the development of such powers as God gave him.”

It was not just racism that offended the clergymen. As Christians, they did not believe in Darwin, and the Ota Benga exhibit, as Mr. Gordon of the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum said, “evidently aims to be a demonstration of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

“The Darwinian theory is absolutely opposed to Christianity, and a public demonstration in its favor should not be permitted,” Mr. Gordon said.

As for the press, The Evening Post reported that Ota Benga, according to the zoo’s animal keepers, “has a great influence with the beasts — even with the larger kind, including the orang-outang with whom he plays as though one of them, rolling around the floor of the cages in wild wrestling matches and chattering to them in his own guttural tongue, which they seem to understand.”

The New York Times wrote in an editorial: “Not feeling particularly vehement excitement ourselves over the exhibition of an African ‘pigmy’ in the Primate House of the Zoological Park, we do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter. Still, the show is not exactly a pleasant one, and we do wonder that the Director did not foresee and avoid the scoldings now aimed in his direction.” The editorial added, “As for Benga himself, he is probably enjoying himself as well as he could anywhere in his country, and it is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation he is suffering.”

The New York Globe printed a letter from a reader that said: “I lived in the south several years, and consequently am not overfond of the negro, but believe him human. I think it a shame that the authorities of this great city should allow such a sight as that witnessed at the Bronx Park — a negro boy on exhibition in a monkey cage.”

And The New York Daily Tribune, evincing little interest in facts, wrote of Ota Benga’s past: “His first wife excited the hunger of the rest of the tribe, and one day when Ota returned from hunting he learned that she had passed quietly away just before luncheon and that there was not so much as a sparerib for him.”

Hornaday remained unapologetic, insisting that his only intention was to put on an “ethnological exhibit.” In a letter to the mayor, he defended “my action in placing Dr. Verner’s very interesting little African where the people of New York may see him without annoyance or discomfort to him.” In another letter, he said that he and Madison Grant, the secretary of the New York Zoological Society — who 10 years later would publish the racialist tract “The Passing of the Great Race” — considered it “imperative that the society should not even seem to be dictated to” by the black clergymen.

The public, at any rate, had not yet had its fill of Ota Benga, whose name was now a household one. Though no longer on official display, the African was still living at the zoo and spending time with his primate friends in the Monkey House. On Sunday, Sept. 16, 40,000 people went to the zoo, and everywhere Ota Benga went that day, The Times reported, the crowds pursued him, “howling, jeering and yelling.”

The newspaper reported, “Some of them poked him in the ribs, others tripped him up, all laughed at him.”

Suicide, and MySpace

Toward the end of September, arrangements were made for Ota Benga to live at the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum. Eventually he was sent to the asylum’s facility in eastern Long Island. Then, in January 1910, Mr. Gordon arranged for the pygmy to move to Lynchburg, where he had already spent a semester at a Baptist seminary.

In Lynchburg, Ota Benga had his teeth capped and became known as Otto Bingo. He spent a lot of time in the woods, hunting with bow and arrow, and gathering plants and herbs. He did odd jobs and worked in a tobacco factory. He became friendly with the poet Anne Spencer, who lived in Lynchburg, and through her met both W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.

No one can be absolutely sure why Ota Benga killed himself that afternoon in March 1916. Dr. Dibinga, the Congolese who wants to return the pygmy’s remains to Congo, agrees with the view expressed in a Lynchburg newspaper report of the time: “For a long time the young negro pined for his African relations, and grew morose when he realized that such a trip was out of the question because of the lack of resources.” Mr. Verner himself wrote that Ota Benga “probably succumbed only after the feeling of utter inassimilability overwhelmed his brave little heart.”

Dr. Bradford, the author, would like to see the zoo erect a statue or some other sort of memorial to Ota Benga, but Mr. Calvelli of the Wildlife Conservation Society says he does not think that is necessary. He argues that the best way for the zoo to remember Ota Benga is for the wildlife society to keep at its efforts to preserve wild places in Congo.

“Congo is a very important area for us, and we’ve been there for many, many years,” he said. “The way we memorialize the Ota Benga experience is by making sure that the place where Ota Benga came from remains a place where his people can continue to live.”

After 100 years, Ota Benga seems to be having the last word. His name has been adopted by the Ota Benga Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity in Congo and by a Houston-based collective of African-American artists called Otabenga Jones and Associates. This spring he was the subject of a three-day conference in Lynchburg that included lectures, readings and an ecumenical service. Dr. Dibinga and other participants in that conference are hoping to have an even bigger one next year, with Congolese pygmies in attendance.

In 2001, “Ode to Ota Benga,” a “historical lecture with piano improvisations” by the performer and composer Lester Allyson Knibbs, was presented at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance. In 2003, the Brooklyn-based alternative band Piñataland recorded the song “Ota Benga’s Name,” drawing many of the lyrics from a poem that appeared in The New York Times on Sept. 19, 1906: “In this land of foremost progress/ In this wisdom’s ripest age/ We have placed him in high honor in a monkey’s cage.”

To make the return of Ota Benga complete, he even has a page at www.myspace .com. The “About Me” section quotes the sign that hung briefly at the Monkey House, including its final phrase, “Exhibited each afternoon during September.”