History in wax: Library of Congress deems UCSB wax cylinder collection an important cultural artifact

Performing arts assistant Nadine Turner shows a wax cylinder, an early form of a phonograph record, from the UCSB Library.
Performing arts assistant Nadine Turner shows a wax cylinder, an early form of a phonograph record, from the UCSB Library.

Before the 78 rpm shellac record, there was Thomas Edison’s wax cylinder, which had one amazing advantage over the format that would supplant it: you could record as well as play.

On March 25, the Library of Congress announced that it has added the Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings collection at the UCSB Library to the National Recording Registry.

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A buffet of arts: Arts & Lectures new season welcomes new artists, many favorites

FROM TOP: "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" comes to UCSB's Campbell Hall on Oct. 12 - Tim Trumble photo David Sedaris, may 4 - UCSB Arts & Lectures W. Kamau Bell, Feb.5 - UCSB Arts & Lectures Cirque Ziva, Jan. 24 - Amitava Sarkar photo

“Schoolhouse Rock Live!” comes to UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Oct. 12 – Tim Trumble photo

David Sedaris, may 4 – UCSB Arts & Lectures

W. Kamau Bell, Feb.5 – UCSB Arts & Lectures

Cirque Ziva, Jan. 24 – Amitava Sarkar photo

The new season of Arts & Lectures is a few months away. Plenty of familiar faces return for this season — David Sedaris rounds it out in May as usual — but there are also a lot of new acts rolling through to get excited about. As UCSB’s arts series expands its venues to downtown, there’s a sort of delicate balance between campus and downtown.

“Much of our audience is community oriented, so it often makes sense to have it downtown,” says Roman Baratiak, Director Celeste Billeci’s second in command. The organization has its eyes on using The New Vic more too. And dance usually does better downtown.

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Silver Screen, Summer Nights: UCSB Arts & Lecture’s free screening series highlights Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd

"Girl Shy"
“Girl Shy”

In January, UCSB Arts&Lectures screened Harold Lloyd’s “Safety Last” at the Granada with pianist Michael Mortilla accompanying. “It was a non-stop laugh-fest the entire time,” A&L’s Roman Baratiak says. “All ages were there and it was super inspiring … People gasped.” Mr. Baratiak is referring to the infamous 20-minute sequence where Lloyd scales the outside of a building and at one point winds up hanging from a clock.

Mr. Baratiak took that inspiration and has made classic silent comedy the theme for this year’s Summer Film Series, which screens both at Campbell Hall and at the Courthouse’s Sunken Gardens. Last year’s Hitchcock series got the biggest crowds in the Summer Series and it was time to make things a bit more fun. So for the fifth annual event, A&L will be screening two films each, from Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, with extra shorts thrown in for good measure.

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BBC/Ireland Film Board documentary “The Summit” explains in detail the disastrous 2008 expedition to climb K2, the second highest peak in the world. According to experienced climbers, K2 may be shorter than Everest, but it’s harder. Despite excellent conditions — clear skies, very little wind, and decades of experience and skill among the groups of international climbers — eleven climbers lost their lives, and others lost toes to frostbite in their efforts to rescue their comrades.

“The Summit” plays out like a murder mystery of sorts. Is it K2 in the drawing room with the crampon? Or was there an accomplice? Was it bad luck or negligence? In the end, “The Summit” seems to suggest that it’s the popularity of climbing K2 itself that had a lot to do with it. One wouldn’t think there’d be a bottleneck of climbers trying to climb a vertical wall of ice, but most of us don’t run in those circles.

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Unspoken Truths — A rarely seen masterpiece screens at UCSB

DVD. Netflix. Video on Demand. Thousands of cable and satellite channels. It’s hard to believe that in this current climate, when most movies are available to us, that some films of the last 30 years remain impossible to see. It’s even more incredible when it’s a film like “City of Sadness,” one of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s greatest films, an important part of Taiwanese history, a winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and a gorgeous work of art to boot.

So film buffs will rejoice to know that a special new print of “City of Sadness” — still not on DVD, and no hope of it being so — screens this Tuesday at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. The last time it played Santa Barbara was as part of a Hou retrospective at the SBIFF in 1998. I wouldn’t recommend waiting another 12 years.

“This is one of the great, great masterpieces of cinema,” says Michael Berry, the East Asian Studies professor who will be introducing Hou’s work on Tuesday. “It’s the kind of film that you can walk away from and the images haunt you.”

“City of Sadness” follows the Lin family through four years of life in Taiwan. The decade was tumultuous, and not well-known in the West. From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was colonized by the Japanese. But when Japan lost World War II, Taiwan was ceded back to Chinese rule, only to be colonized by the mainland Chinese, who were engaged in a civil war with what turned out to be Mao’s army. When Chang Kai-Shek fled the mainland, Taiwan became their domain and the Taiwanese felt betrayed. At the same time, America and the West recognized Taiwan as the “free” China, compared to “Red” China.

“This created a huge cultural tension for the Taiwanese people,” says Berry. “Some of the major political and cultural hurdles that have haunted Taiwan since that period have its roots then.”

The film’s emotional core is the 228 Incident — February 28, 1947 — a small, violent episode that exploded into riots, thousands dead, and then led to martial law and political oppression. The spark that started the fire — the beating death of a street vendor by authorities — features in “City of Sadness” and is witnessed by a member of the apolitical Lin family. By the end of the film, the once-close-knit family unit will be tragically changed forever.

One of Asia’s best-known leading men, Tony Leung (“In the Mood for Love,” “Hero”) plays one of the Lin’s four brothers, a deaf-mute photographer — possibly a stand-in for the director, and one of Hou’s main metaphors for the country’s inability to talk about the events up until his film. Hou’s mastery of space, light and shadow, and camera movement, assisted by his cinematographer Huai-en Chen, came into its own here, the film he’d been preparing to make for the first part of his career.

Despite being picked up by the same distributor as Zhang Yimou’s “Raise the Red Lantern,” the film lay neglected, and now rights issues, dissolved production companies and endless legalities mean that it’s rarely seen. With redone subtitles and a clean print, the film has a chance to find a new audience. For one night only.

“City of Sadness”
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Yi Fang Wou, Nakamura Ikuyo, and Jack Kao
Length: 157 minutes
Playing: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at UCSB’s Campbell Hall
Cost: $6 general, $5 UCSB students



“The inspiration for this piece came from not really knowing what I wanted to do.”

Choreographer Kenneth Kvarnström is talking on the phone from his San Francisco hotel room about “Fragile,” the hour-long work from 2001 that his dance company is bringing to UCSB Campbell Hall on Wednesday.

“Fragile is how I felt,” he says. Since 1987, the Finnish-born but Stockholm-based Kvarnström has made it his company’s mission to produce one long work per year, and then tour the world with it.

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Three Steps Forward, One Back: Twyla Tharp Dance Delivers in the End, But Is Cute on the Way

©David Bazemore

A sold-out Campbell Hall crowd on Friday night got a heady dose of Twyla Tharp’s choreography as her recently regrouped (in 1999) Twyla Tharp Dance performed four works that brought Santa Barbara crowds up to date on Tharp’s most recent work, while delving back briefly for a look at Tharp’s beginnings. For relative newcomers it was a night of contrasts; for longtime aficionados, it was a confirmation of the changes Tharp has brought to modern dance.

The company is a talented, well chosen collection of dancers, all very strong by themselves, and the evening’s program introduced them to us two or three at a time, culminating with almost the entire company participating in the rousing finale. But more of that later.

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Edge of the Known World: Dancer Peggy Baker sets out for uncharted territory

“I never expected I would be dancing solo. I expected I would just be dancing with companies. I had no idea that this would grab me by the roots. One project moves me in unexpected directions, and from there the next project arises.”

Dancer, choreographer, and teacher Peggy Baker still expresses amazement at her career and where she now finds herself, despite being someone who has never settled for anything less than what she wants.

She also has never let–and is still not letting–age determine what she can do. At 51, Baker–past member of the Lar Lubovitch Company, original member of the White Oak Project, and now solo performer–is pushing the boundaries and expanding the repertoire for mature dancers. She will be performing as part of the UCSB Dance Department Faculty Concert on October 10.

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