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'Democratizing' classics: La Folle Journee au Japon director hopes to bring classical music to everyone
Kumi Matsumaru / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
(Apr. 13, 2006)
Rene Martin says he is pleased to see that an upcoming annual Tokyo event he launched last year to familiarize the public with classical music has already begun to put down roots, especially as he himself did not know the splendor of such music until he encountered the work of Bartok at the age of 16.
La Folle Journee au Japon, which means "Exciting Days in Japan," will be held from May 3 to 6 at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, Tokyo. It is the Japan version of an annual classical music festival Martin has organized since 1995 in Nantes, France, with the aim of bringing classical music to everyone by offering concerts at reasonable prices.
During the Tokyo event, most concerts will last for about 45 minutes and will be priced at about 1,500 yen each. A total of 200 concerts, including 57 free ones, are expected to be held.
According to the event organizer, 110,000 tickets have already been sold as of April 11, although 60,000 more tickets still are available. "We are now worried about whether we can provide enough seats for visitors," the French music producer and artistic director of the event said in a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.
The 2006 theme of the event is "Mozart et ses Amis" (Mozart and his Friends) as this year marks the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. Last year, the festival's inaugural version took Beethoven as its theme, selling more than 116,000 tickets for 120 paid concerts during three days.
'Revelation,' thanks to U2
Martin said he came up with the idea to found the unique project when he went to a concert of the rock group U2.
"In 1993, I went to a U2 concert and found 35,000 people were there, enjoying the music," Martin said. "I realized, although I had done many music festivals [over the previous] 15 years by then, I was not able to draw such a number."
To attract people to classics, Martin thought, the most important factor would be ridding such concerts of their elitist image. "It led me to come up with the concept of La Folle Journee--cutting prices and playing times. I also found it was necessary to provide concerts where children can enjoy classics along with adults."
Martin said the idea struck him like a "revelation" as a way to "modernize classics."
"Every one of us is made to enjoy artistic expression, and that is triggered by artistic works themselves," he said.
While introducing novel ideas, however, Martin sticks to a very basic policy--providing quality performances. "Thus I always need to gain the support of artists to lower their fees to make less expensive tickets possible," he said.
His idea seems to have struck gold. Back in Nantes, the festival drew 120,000 people in 2004, about 60 percent of whom said in response to a questionnaire that they had never been to a classical concert before. The Tokyo version drew 130,000 visitors, including 17,000 children, last year.
Martin said working in Japan has given him a new experience, making his works in France even more productive. "Holding an event in a city with a population of 13 million required a new approach," he said. "The experience in Tokyo may also be useful for things I may do seven or eight years later."
The classical music events pro confided he was not interested in classics until he was "awakened" when he was 16.
"I grew up just like an ordinary boy, listening to rock music. I used to play percussion in jazz and rock bands," said Martin, whose favorite group is Pink Floyd. "By the time I became 16, I had gotten into jazz bassist Charles Mingus, who later died of cancer. One day I read his biography, which says Mingus thought he finally found what he had been looking for throughout his life when listening to the radio in his hospital bed. And the music was a piece of Bartok."
A classical 'awakening'
Strongly moved by this story, the young Martin hurried to a shop the following day and bought a "whole collection of Bartok albums."
"It was the moment of awakening. Deeply moved by the music, I bought Beethoven's whole collection the next day."
This classical "awakening" led Martin to enter the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Nantes two years later. "I took all classes about musical theory. I wanted to learn everything about music as quickly as possible," said Martin, who studied business administration afterward.
The Nantes festival is now considered one of Europe's major classical music festivals, and a huge source of publicity for the city. La Folle Journee has also been held in Lisbon since 2000, and Bilbao, Spain, since 2002.
Martin said he was determined to establish a fourth one in Tokyo. "Why? It is because of the importance of culture in Japan," he said.
"Japan is one of the countries with the deepest understanding in Western music. The reaction of the audience, for example, is just the same as that in Vienna or Paris," Martin said.
Speaking of this year's theme composer, Martin said the way Mozart contains emotions in his music is applicable to Japanese culture.
"When expressing emotions, Mozart does so in a sort of modest tone. When he cries [in his music], he does not do so with big drops of tears," Martin said. "In his piano concerto, for example, you can find sorrow and other emotions expressed elegantly. But [subtlety] doesn't mean the expression is weak. In that respect, I find Japanese people share the same attitude."
According to Martin, there is no plan at the moment to expand La Folle Journee to other parts of the world, although it may spread to other cities in Japan in the form of smaller projects.
Martin, who loves Japanese films and literature--he boasts a video collection including complete DVD sets of films by legendary Japanese directors Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa--says he hopes to work in the future with young filmmakers in Japan.
"I recently watched the film Nobody Knows [directed by Hirokazu Koreeda]. It would be interesting to work with people like him to make a film on the [Folle Journee] event from a different viewpoint."
Along with the concerts, there will be a number of related events around the time La Folle Journee au Japon is held. They include an exhibition of a Mozart expert's collection of manuscripts and a number of side concerts to be held at nearby facilities.
"I believe the event will work like a theme park of classical music where even people who have never been to classical concerts will enjoy the music in a casual manner," Martin said. "Through La Folle Journee au Japon, I wanted to share with thousands of people the experience I had when I was 16."
Next year, the event is expected to be held with the theme of ethnic harmony.
La Folle Journee au Japon events will be held May 3-6 at the Tokyo International Forumin Yurakucho, Tokyo, (03) 5221-9100.
More musical events, just slightly offstage
Kumi Matsumaru / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Concerts, exhibitions and various other projects tied in with La Folle Journee au Japon will be held in Yurakucho, Tokyo, and the nearby areas of Otemachi, Marunouchi and Ginza from April 29 to May 6 to contribute to the festive mood of the May 3-6 classical music festival at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho.
One of the events will be an exhibition of historical artifacts related to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the composer whose work is the theme of this year's festival. From May 3 to 7, the collection, including Mozart's musical notes, his portrait and other items, will be shown on the seventh floor of the Marunouchi Building.
A women's choir, most of whose members are office workers in Marunouchi, will sing Mozart numbers under the baton of Hikaru Ebihara at the Marunouchi Oazo building May 3-4.
Photographer Akira Kinoshita, known for his portraits of musicians, will exhibit his works at Wako Hall, on the sixth floor of the Wako building in Ginza, under the title Dear Maestros. The works will include a photograph of Leonard Bernstein, bearing his autograph.
At Tokyo International Forum, Mozart-related films--Amadeus and Trollflojten--will be shown May 3-6, free for anyone with a ticket to an official La Folle Journee au Japan event.
Such ticket holders also can enjoy a free concert to be held all day long during the same period in the forum's exhibition hall. Various workshops designed for children also will be open to ticket holders during the period.
In the plaza in front of the forum building, food stalls will sell dishes from around the world, while showing ongoing performances from the exhibition hall on a gigantic screen.
Visitors will be able to buy Mozart-related products, including those imported from Vienna and Salzburg, in Exhibition Room A at the forum building.
For those coming from outside Tokyo to enjoy the event while staying in the city, the Imperial Hotel, the Palace Hotel and Hotel Okura are offering special accommodation plans that come with concert tickets.
To support the festive mood gastronomically, special menus will be offered by various bars and restaurants in the Marunouchi area from April 29 to May 6.
Music lovers with a sweet tooth will be especially glad to know that Wako Tea Salon at the Wako annex building in Ginza and the Chianti confectionery in Marunouchi will serve desserts specially created for the event from April 29 to May 6.
In Marunouchi, domestic and international street performers will compete at showing off their skills on April 29, while the streets will be decorated with flowers arranged in containers until May 7.
The Los Angeles Times
A blessing in disguise?
April 27, 2006
IN THE WORLD OF SECULAR POLITICS, it would be called a trial balloon. Last week, Cardinal Carlo Martini, a Jesuit theologian and runner-up in the last papal election, told an Italian newspaper that condoms were the "lesser evil" when used to stop the transmission of AIDS.
The cardinal's comments, which elicited praise from inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church, were followed up a few days later by reports that the Vatican was taking a new look at the issue of condoms and AIDS. A pronouncement from Pope Benedict XVI agreeing with Martini would be a blessing.
The church still teaches that the use of birth control by married couples is a violation of natural law and morally wrong. According to "Humane Vitae," a controversial 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI, "each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life."
This teaching is honored in the breach by many Catholic couples in Western Europe and the United States, with the tacit approval of some local pastors. But it has stood as an obstacle to an endorsement by the Vatican of the use of condoms to help contain the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. Individual cardinals have differed on the matter.
But this week, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the head of the Vatican office for healthcare, told Vatican Radio that "we are conducting a very profound scientific, technical and moral study" on how to deal with married couples when one is infected with HIV. Coming after Martini's comments, that statement seems to indicate that the Vatican is engaged in a genuine reassessment of the condom issue, at least where married couples are concerned. (An unmarried couple that had sexual relations would be violating church teaching whether or not they used contraceptives.)
There is a precedent in Catholic teaching for allowing the use of condoms to prevent disease. A doctrine known in moral theology as the "double effect" says that an individual may engage in an act that has both good and bad effects if the good effect compensates for the bad effect and the act itself is "morally good or at least indifferent."
The use of condoms to contain the spread of AIDS seems to fit squarely into that doctrine. If birth control is an evil (a proposition that even many Catholics question), it is certainly a lesser one than contributing to the scourge of AIDS.
Abstinence and AIDS
April 29, 2006
THE INCREASING availability of AIDS drugs in Africa, where the disease has taken its greatest toll, is welcome. But the infection will continue to spread and outpace the ability of health officials to treat it with the drugs if there are not better efforts at prevention. There is a consensus among organizations fighting the disease in support of an ABC strategy of abstinence, being faithful, and using condoms in certain circumstances, but getting the right balance of the three has led to unproductive disputes.
Two recent developments offer hope that barriers between organizations fighting AIDS might be breaking down. One is the report from the Vatican that a papal specialist on health affairs is preparing a paper on the question of whether the Roman Catholic Church should ease its prohibition on condoms to make an exception in the case of married couples in which one person is infected with the virus and the other is not.
A less publicized event was a meeting organized by Physicians for Human Rights last week in Washington of about 15 evangelical health professionals who have worked on AIDS both in the United States and overseas. The group, which also included a Roman Catholic bishop from South Africa, agreed that a moral approach to dealing with the disease should be based on science and include condoms. Those at the meeting then spoke with members of Congress or their staffers about a more comprehensive approach to prevention. Congress has required that one-third of all US funds for HIV prevention be earmarked solely for abstinence education. In the programs it supports, the United States forbids discussion of condoms in school settings with children younger than 15.
Frustration with that rule and other restrictions on AIDS prevention measures has kept some health organizations in Africa from competing for US funds, leaving the field in many cases to doctrinaire religious groups. That approach to abstinence undoubtedly works for some young people, but it would be helpful if children, especially girls, were hearing a pro-abstinence message that relied not just on appeals to religion or maintaining chastity until marriage but also focused on education, self-esteem, and empowering women in their relations with men. Health organizations that work to communicate this to young people should compete for a role in US programs, even if they cannot advocate condom use.
AIDS presents such a threat to Africa and the world that the US government and non-government health organizations should do whatever it takes to prevent it. The Physicians for Human Rights' meeting of evangelical health professionals and their effort to have a voice in US policy are steps in the right direction.
行政文書からの性別記載欄削除 結果報告 [大阪府]
Los Angeles Times Magazine
Between Us Women
As they shopped for her first bra, Stephanie Waxman realized her mother understood about 'it.'
By Stephanie Waxman, Stephanie Waxman teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program.
April 30, 2006
"Tall women never become old ladies," my mother told me as we drove to the Broadway department store in Hollywood to buy my first bra. We were discussing the pros and cons of being tall.
I, a tall, awkward girl of 14, saw no pros. So when mother made her pronouncement, I just snickered.
Undaunted, she continued, "All the old ladies you see are short. The tall ones remain elegant and regal." I looked at her sitting erect behind the wheel, her black hair cascading in waves to her shoulders. She was indeed elegant and regal. She carried her height with pride.
One of her stories was about the time a short man had asked, "How's the weather up there?" She spat, aiming just to the side of his startled face, and then quipped: "It's raining!"
In buying me a bra, my mother was humoring me. The two bumps on my chest hardly needed containment. Yet there was another reason to own a bra. His name was Jeff Garrison.
Jeff possessed that elusive quality of sexual potency; you could actually feel it coming off his skin. Even my mother had remarked that Jeff had "it," and I understood immediately what "it" was. I knew he didn't see me as a real woman. (I wasn't, of course, but I had the feelings of a real woman.) I thought wearing a bra would somehow change that. And though I hadn't told her about my crush on Jeff, it seemed my mother had intuited that a bra would boost my self-confidence.
In the dressing room, mother watched while I tried on the first bra. Fumbling with the hooks in back was a thrill. The saleswoman told me to bend over so my breasts (oh, how generous she was!) could "fall" into the cups. I felt that I had truly been initiated into womanhood.
When we got home I wanted to shout with joy, to share my exuberance with my father. But some things are only between us women.
Which is why my father called last week and told me that mother needed a new brassiere, and asked if I'd take her shopping.
Shrunken and bent, she leaned on her cane as we slowly made our way through the Glendale Galleria to Macy's. I deposited her in a dressing room and searched the rows of bras until I found size 36E, something that could accommodate the large, round hump that once had been her straight back.
Her naked, pendulous breasts hung heavily. Trying on the bra was hard; lifting her arms, agony. Finally, she chose one.
As we approached the store's exit, a young man held the door for us. He was tall with rugged good looks. After the door closed behind us, mother looked at me and said with a twinkle, "He's got it." Then, relying on bones made of chalk, she inched her way to the car.
Milestone for gay rights as Indonesia gets first pink guidebook
John Aglionby, south-east Asia correspondent
Friday April 28, 2006
For decades, gay venues in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore were forced to operate secretly because of official disapprobation and cultural-religious sensitivities.
But now the acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle in the region has passed a major milestone with the publication of the first gay guidebook to the three countries.
The Utopia Guide to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia seeks to "shine a light on an aspect of society that exists in every country around the globe, but has been mostly in the shadows here in Asia", according to its publisher, John Goss.
The book features everything from gay bars in Indonesia to bathhouses in Malaysia and an array of clubs, massage parlours and cultural attractions.
Gay activists are confident there will be little backlash. "In recent years we've been more and more open," Dede Oetomo, an Indonesian gay activist, told the Guardian.
"Conservative religious groups know where to find us and they leave us alone. I think, if anything, the bigger problem will be cultural because many families still don't accept a gay lifestyle."
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Japan cabinet approves patriotism for schools plan
By Linda Sieg
Fri Apr 28, 12:46 AM ET
Japan's cabinet approved a bill on Friday to make nurturing "love of country" an aim of education, a change sought by conservatives who want patriotism in schools but opposed by those who see parallels with militarism.
The revisions -- which would be the first to the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education since it was enacted during the U.S.-led occupation -- are unlikely to be welcomed by China and South Korea, locked in disputes with Japan stemming from the legacy of Japanese military occupation and colonization.
The revisions would make it a goal of education policy to cultivate "an attitude that respects tradition and culture, loves the nation and the homeland that have fostered them, respects other nations, and contributes to peace and development of international society."
Education Minister Kenji Kosaka told reporters: "We want to make efforts to enact this bill and to gain the people's understanding."
Among those keen on the change is Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the current front-runner in the race to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi when he steps down in September.
Conservatives have long been unhappy with the U.S.-drafted law, which they say eroded the pride of Japanese in their culture and history, and undermined legitimate patriotic sentiment.
"It's a very important symbol of a strengthening of nationalism in the political class and the will of the political class to educate people toward stronger nationalism," said Sven Saaler, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo.
Feuds have already erupted with Beijing and Seoul over textbooks that critics say whitewash Tokyo's past aggression.
Japan's relations with its two neighbors are also frigid because of Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni shrine for war dead, where some convicted war criminals are honored.
Critics of the proposed new education law fear for freedom of speech and thought.
"This revision would turn back the clock to the pre-war era," Communist Party lawmaker Ikuko Ishii told a gathering of opponents to the changes this week.
"It is a serious violation of freedom of thought."
Some conservatives, though, are disappointed that the changes do not go further to include cultivating a "patriotic spirit" as well a "religious attitude."
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Buddhist-backed junior coalition partner, New Komeito, had been wary of revisions and worked to water down more strongly worded proposals.
Many members of the lay Buddhist group that supports the New Komeito had suffered under the wartime state Shinto religion and were wary of anything hinting at a revival of similar ideology.
Whether the bill will be enacted in the current session of parliament ending June 18 is unclear, although the ruling camp has a majority in both houses.