The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The event will include the world premier of Tom Thurman’s new KET Kentucky Muse documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Crossing Mulholland, at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2, and a question and answer session with Hunter Carson, Stanton’s co-star in Paris, Texas, following a screening of the film at 7 p.m. Feb. 3. Feb. 4 will include screenings of two Stanton classics – Cool Hand Luke and Repo Man (everyone: “The life of a repo man is always intense”).
Stanton, 84, was born in West Irvine, graduated from Lafayette High School and attended the University of Kentucky. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he went on to a distinguished film career acting in a wide variety of movies from mainstream classics such as The Godfather, Part II, generational favorites like Pretty in Pink and cult hits such as Escape from New York.
The Facebook page for the event promises more announcements regarding the festival.
We tend to blow out the anniversaries of composers. Can anyone forget all the Mozart 250th hoo-ha a few years ago?
But what about the instrument many of those icons have composed on.
The piano, at least from this vantage point, has had a fairly quiet 300th birthday. Kentucky Wesleyan College music professor Diane Earle is celebrating, however, and KET’s Kentucky Muse takes viewers on a tour of the instrument from her perspective at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The moment Earle appears on the screen leaning in and talking about her instrument, it is obvious producer Tom Bickel came up with the perfect advocate for the piano.
By the time she says, “Since I was 6 years old and my fingers first touched the keys, I have been absolutely in love with the piano,” that’s obvious. It’s no surprise the vanity plate on her little red sports car is “KEYS 88.”
Earle’s world revolves around those keys as a teacher, performer and even in hobbies such as collecting piano memorabilia.
She says the piano is her best friend. It has been a great relationship: Earle has played in seven countries and 27 states at venues including Carnegie Hall in New York and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The Owensboro professor’s story is a nice basis for the larger story of the piano, which she appreciates for its wide range of expressive possibilities. It was originally named a pianoforte, “Italian for soft loud,” she points out, in recognition of that dynamic range.
In a quick half hour, Earle talks us through the instrument’s history in interviews and classroom sessions.
Most importantly, she plays through some of the great works for those 88 keys, sometimes accompanied by the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra. The works from W.A. Mozart to Claude Debussy to Henry Cowell remind us why the piano’s 300th should be celebrated.
“Watching him work, it’s like an extravaganza of the five senses,” Centre College professor Mark Lucas says at the opening of a documentary on Centre College art professor and glassmaker Stephen Powell.
While Lucas’ words do set a stage, Tom Thurman’s film about Powell proves that, yes, Powell’s does need to be seen at work to be fully appreciated. And since most of us won’t get to go down to Centre to see him create one of his masterpieces — and you get the impression that if too many of us showed up at once, we’d be in the way — this film gives us an invaluable look at a unique artist in our midst.
PBS used to have an advertising slogan, “If PBS doesn’t do it, who will?” You could substitute KET for PBS and have just as pointed a question. In television, KET is unmatched in chronicling the diverse and unique culture of the Bluegrass State, and Thursday night’s episode of Kentucky Muse illustrates why.
This episode, Fire and Motion, is made of two films, Thurman’s Stephen Powell: Master of Color and Light and Frank Simkonis’ The Automata Art of Steve Armstrong.
There is a sense of contrasts here. Powell’s craft is very physical work, so much so that in most of his interview footage, he is stretching to get ready to make a new creation. It’s group oriented, with a basketball team-sized crew needed to bring a new piece to fruition. And like basketball, which Powell originally came to Centre to play in the early 1970s, the last few minutes of the process are critical in determining whether the piece will be a winner or not so much.
Armstrong, on the other hand, often works in the solitude of his basement late at night, creating mechanical sculptures that fascinate gallery viewers as if they were kids walking into FAO Schwarz. Intimate relations including Armstrong’s wife and brother talk about how teachers would just tell Armstrong to go create, and they’d give him an A.
And that’s where these stories come together.
The unifying theme of Fire and Motion is artists who found their own paths to following their passions, and here in Kentucky, they create work that dazzles people around the world.
These are great Kentucky stories, and it is great to have KET to tell them.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich