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Teens Walk Out, School Their Elders During NYC Climate Strike

(Photo: Jae Thomas)

Over 250,000 people took to the streets of downtown Manhattan Friday in support of the New York City Climate Strike. Many of these protesters were high school students, using their DoE-approved ditch day to march from Foley Square to Battery Park, demand climate reform and listen to activists plead their cases for the planet.  More →

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Philip Glass Is Touring ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ and Working On a New Project With Its Director

Reggio and Glass as ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ plays.

The single most elucidating moment of my very expensive liberal arts education was the time my sociology professor popped a VHS in the VCR. He didn’t do a word of teaching that day; whether he was hungover, hadn’t prepared a lesson that day, or just wanted to watch us trip out, the film he played blew my mind. It was Koyaanisqatsi. 

Some 36 years after its release, Philip Glass, who created the film’s soundtrack in collaboration with director Godfrey Reggio, is playing the score alongside the film, tonight in Boston, Sunday in Amherst, Monday in Vermont, and eventually in Paris, where the entire qatsi trilogy will be played live. 

Though Glass is touring with this decades-old film, he isn’t resting on his laurels. Last night, during a conversation at WBUR CitySpace in Boston, he and Reggio, whose last collaboration was 2014’s The Visitorsannounced that they’re working on a new project. 

“I can say that we’re involved in a movie,” Glass told the crowd of nearly 300 people. 

“Well, an opera,” Reggio corrected. “An opera which would be made into a movie…”

“It could be an opera,” Glass allowed. “We even wanted a friend of ours [Glass’s Einstein on the Beach collaborator Robert Wilson] to work with us on it. And he likes the idea of the opera, but I actually like the idea of the film. But it doesn’t really– actually, we’ll end up doing both, I think.” 

Without going into further detail, Glass said Reggio has already given him “two or three generations of ideas”; the problem, as usual, is raising money. It took several years to raise funds for each qatsi installment, Glass noted; as popular as they are, they’re unlike any other films. 

And there lies the conundrum. Koyaanisqatsi isn’t for everyone. The film is almost completely wordless, except for an incantation of the title, a Hopi word for “life out of balance.” Not everyone can get behind the slow-motion and time-lapse imagery of placid landscape scenes giving way to urban, technological frenzy, paired with the alternately ominous and breakneck music of the Philip Glass Ensemble. There’s a reason Glass’s music got skewered on South Park. (“What the hell is this?” blurts Ms. Broflovski.) 

If reactions to the film are varied (though, to be fair, it retains a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes), Reggio attributes it to the need for active participation and interpretation from each audience member. “The film is autodidactic, which means the person sitting next to you could either be asleep, bored to death, or having a big experience.”

“I always sit in the back of the theater when the film is playing,” he went on to say. “And you can tell when the audience is in: if they look like they’re all dead, if they don’t move. If everyone’s moving around, I can tell they’re ready to hit the road.” 

The key, of course, is to appreciate the oft-hairaising interplay between music and imagery. Unlike with most movies, Reggio said, music here is the “emotive narration of the film,” and is “one with the film” rather than an occasional embellishment. At the same time, it doesn’t merely mimic the imagery. “When the music was too close to the picture,” Glass recalled, “We said, ‘We’re putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.'”

“There are only about six or eight moments when you have an exact synchronization,” Glass noted as he described the experience of playing the score live. “The rest of it, the images and the music are flowing together; they’re like two rivers that are flowing next to each other.” 

One of the most memorable instances of interplay between sound and vision is “The Grid,” a segment where, at first, what sounds like a minimalist take on Gershwin is paired with luminous images of midtown skyscrapers at night; as the full moon disappears behind a building, the music ratchets up in accompaniment to time-lapse photography of an infinite streak of cars zipping across the urban grid. 

Reggio explained the inspiration behind the sequence; “The idea– if there’s such a thing– is that we’re on speed in rush hour, out-running the future.”

The phrase “if there is such a thing” betrays Reggio’s reluctance to spell out the film’s message. “Try asking him what the movie means,” Glass said. “He won’t tell you. He’ll talk a lot, but he won’t tell you what it means. You’re supposed to figure that out yourself.”

Still, Reggio did offer some clues when he discussed the “deliberate delineation” of the qatsi trilogy. “The first film is about the hyper-industrial northern system of living… We were looking at the hyper-industrial, technological grid. The second film [Powaqqatsi] deliberately was, of course, about people; people who live a handmade life, whose virtues are being predated upon by our thirst for technological happiness. So: the price we pay for the pursuit of our happiness is the destruction, from this point of view, of the southern world, because that’s where all the goodies are. And the third film [Nagoyqatsi] was not about the North or the South but about the homogenization of the planet into the globalized world.”

Interestingly enough, an early version of Koyaanisqatsi had to be scrapped. “The first version had to be completely thrown away,” Reggio recalled. “It wasn’t working. His music was working, but we couldn’t get the image.” 

Once the visuals fell into place, there were some snafus with the audio. Originally, Reggio said, the iconic “koyaanisqatsi” chanting that begins the film was recorded by a choral group, The Western Winds, in a more alto register. “That sent me through the roof,” recalled Reggio, who wanted something more along the lines of the basso profundo he employed during his time as a monk. Enter Albert de Ruiter, who had “the lowest voice on two planets.” 

The original mix, by the film’s music director Michael Honig, also had to be scrapped after Glass’s conductor Michael Reisman and producer Kurt Munkacsi heard it. As Reggio remembers it, “They went ballistic because they said, ‘You got all the notes right, but in the wrong language. Philip’s music is not orchestral in that way. It’s just the opposite of what the business does, trying to give you something synthetic that sounds orchestral. He gives you something orchestral that has a huge sound to it.’ They were so pissed off about everything that we could’ve lost the film then, because of how upset the crew was.” 

Luckily, disaster was averted. “Kurt Munkacsi mixed it in half the time and it’s the score you hear today.” 

You can hear that score live tonight in Boston; Sunday in Amherst, Mass.; and Monday in Burlington, Vermont.

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Watch Bowery Slam Poets ‘Going to War’ in ‘Don’t Be Nice’ Doc

When an octopus gets too stressed out, it eats itself,” begins poet Ashley August in Don’t Be Nice, the feature documentary debut from filmmaker Max Powers. At this moment in the film, August is performing a poem about the (gendered, racialized) expectation that she be less intense, in direct address to the camera. “When you see me with my literal foot in my actual mouth, you can call that dramatic.” More →

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Performance Picks: Slumber Parties and Riverdale Burlesque

THURSDAY

(image via Arti G. / Facebook)

Boys I’ve Kissed and Hated: Slumber Party
Thursday, September 19 at Max Fish, 7 pm: $10

Sure, 7 pm is a little early for a slumber party, but this isn’t any ordinary slumber party. It commemorates comedian and writer Arti Gollapudi’s new book of poetry, Boys I’ve Kissed and Hated. Don your coziest outfit (it’s getting to be that time of year, after all) and enjoy some snacks and drinks as well as tarot readings and a photo booth, so you can capture the current moment and find out what’s in store for your future. And of course, this is a show, so there will also be performance by Gollapudi and Sadie Dupuis (of the bands Speedy Ortiz and sad13). Just try not to actually fall asleep there once the fun has wrapped up.

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Amid the Funnel Cakes, San Gennaro Not So Sweet For Some in Little Italy

Samir Ghosh’s gift shop, as (un)seen from the street. (Photo: Kai Burkhardt)

As much as many New Yorkers love the annual San Gennaro feast for its endless amounts of sausage and peppers, meatballs and just about anything that can be deep fried, it’s a huge dolore al collo for some local businesses. Last year, a whopping 945,000 pounds of trash were collected over the 11-day feast, according to Mort Berkowitz, who runs the festival. And the pizza-stained plates and discarded piña colada cups are just the start of the headaches. More →

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With a New Cafe, Devoción Wants To Get You Devoted to Cascara

Photo: Liz Clayman

If you’re starting to grow weary of constant cold brew, and your typical drip or oat milk latte just doesn’t hit like it used to, perhaps a caffeinated change is in order. And that change could be cascara, a drink made from brewing a part of a coffee bean seen as both a superfood and literal garbage. Today, Colombian coffee shop Devoción officially opens their first cafe focused on cascara, located in Manhattan’s Nomad neighborhood.

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Art This Week: Downtown Luminaries and Iridescent Sculpture

Martin Wong
TV Party, 1988 
Acrylic on canvas
34 x 47.5 in. (86.4 x 120.6 cm)
Private Collection
Courtesy of the Estate of Martin Wong and PPOW, New York

Glenn O’Brien: Center Stage
Opening Tuesday, September 17 at Off Paradise, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through November 2.

Off Paradise, a loft located on Soho’s Walker Street, is both a new and old space. As a gallery, it’s brand new, and the exhibition opening Tuesday it its first. As a more general space, it’s been around quite a while—the show’s curator, Natacha Polaert, has been there for the past ten years. Off Paradise’s gallery debut celebrates the life and legacy of Glenn O’Brien, a producer, writer, and creative director who worked with Andy Warhol at Interview magazine, among other projects. The show features work by Warhol, as well as contributions by luminaries like Eileen Myles, Rene Ricard, and Richard Prince.

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Love Letter to a Dive: Cherry Tavern and the Gentrification of Drinking

(Photo: Konstantin Sergeyev for NY Mag)

The door to Cherry Tavern on 6th Street doesn’t close. If someone forgets to pull it tight behind them, a long reach fashioned from a decommissioned pool cue that sits behind the bar is put to use, allowing the door to be shut from the keep’s station. This happenstance solutioning seems to encapsulate everything about the Cherry. It sits just slightly ajar from everything else around it, and there doesn’t appear to be any plans to close the gap. More →

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Performance Picks: Drag Competition Finale and a Journey Through the West Village

THURSDAY

(image via The Nobodies / Facebook)

The Mx. Nobody Pageant Grand Finale
Thursday, September 12 at Brooklyn Bazaar, 7 pm: FREE

You may have heard of The Mx. Nobody Pageant before (it’s certainly appeared in past editions of this listing), or maybe you’ve even witnessed a round or two. For the uninformed, it’s a drag competition helmed by The Nobodies collective. Sure, there are a lot of drag competitions out there—and not just the kind on TV—but Mx. Nobody takes extra care to be inclusive to all genders and styles of drag, which means it’s going to get weird in the best way. Tonight is the finale of the competition, where finalists Shella Malaprop, Sue Baroux, Brenda, Angelique, and Richard DiCocko face off against each other as well as “wild cards” Glitter Baby, Uncle Freak, Iodine Quartz, and Alyse DaBeast. Plus, it’s free.

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Clothing Brand Everlane is Ever-Expanding With Williamsburg Store

(photo: Guillermo Cano)

Clothing store Everlane understands how to expand. What started as a website offering a single type of sustainably-made t-shirt and a disinterest in brick-and-mortar retail has become a big, buzzy operation consisting of a robust online shop and three storefronts in New York and Los Angeles. But come Thursday, those three stores will become four with the opening of Everlane’s latest physical shop on Williamsburg’s North 6th Street.

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