Welcome to Panorama, a new section of arts-centered articles, essays and interviews devoted to keeping the lamp of civilization burning. Panorama provides space for out-of-the- box ideas, critical thinking, and creative writing. We hope our readers find Panorama interesting and consider becoming contributors.
Plastic Beach album Review
by Kieran Pasco
Gorillaz’s third album, Plastic Beach, is yet another evolution of distinctive style created by the hugely successful musical act. I’ll first say that Demon Days, Gorillaz’s previous album was a masterpiece, and one of my favorite albums of all time, while the tracks on the album varied wildly, there was a familiarity between the cross-genre arrangement that worked brilliantly. Demon Days was a dark, grimy, unpredictable tour de force, Plastic Beach on the other hand is a symphonic, techno-ish, and even at times delicate offering from Gorillaz. When I listened to the first few tracks of the album, I had to remind myself that this was Gorillaz I was hearing, the first few songs were clearly lackluster, with Snoop Dogg’s collaboration being the lowlight of the album, but LP quickly heated up. The middle of the album is the highpoint, with my personal favorite “Some Kind of Nature” featuring Lou Reed, followed by a disappointing conclusion with the last few songs not being anything special. The first thing that struck me about Plastic Beach was the huge number of artists featured on the album, which was slightly disconcerting as I was a huge fan of Gorillaz’s solo songs. What I did not initially realize was that Gorillaz was a constantly changing act, and that it was not a conventional concrete band as many might think, Gorillaz is not a sideshow in their album, but a catalyst in which to create amazing music. Secondly I overcame my stubborn belief that Demon Days was “true” Gorillaz, while Plastic Beach isn’t as powerful as it predecessor, it has its own amazing style. While the build up to many of the songs maybe be slow, as some feature an orchestral piece for a significant part of the song, Plastic Beach brings a new aspect of Gorillaz, a welcome change, Plastic Beach is true Gorillaz.
Iason Togias (’12) Interviewed Former St. Albans English Teacher Mr. Benjamin Myers in May:
The Portrait of the Artist as a St. Albans Man
by Nelson Reed (’13)
Saint Albans, though many have forgotten, began as an institution revolving around the arts. Originally founded in 1909 to educate the boys who sang in the young Cathedral Choir, the school served as a means of facilitating the intellectual growth of young artists. A century later, though athletics grabs more headlines, opportunities to develop artistically are by no means running low. In, fact, all the necessary resources and programs are there, including a newly reopened Trapier Theater and fully stocked art studios—What’s lacking is the time to commit to them. When asked whether the St. Albans environment was conducive to artistic progress and development, upper school headmaster Paul Barrett commended the artistic facilities, including the reopened art studios, the “first-rate” teaching staff, and the remarkable talent and interest instilled in each student, which together create a wonderful atmosphere. Working against these assets, says Barrett, are the “busy schedules” and “substantial academic requirements” created by such an intellectually competitive school. These numerous academic and athletic requirements are frequently cited as an obstacle for artists at STA. Ben Hutto, Director of the Performing Arts at both STA and NCS, stated that while there are “exceptional opportunities” and “honors” for artists and high appreciation for boys who work hard to nurture and progress their abilities, the “arts are shoved into the corner” because of the extreme focus on studies and sports. The academic and athletic day is so fully packed that there is a general attitude that students have to take care of improving their skills on their own. Chorale, the central music group in the Upper School, is a club, not a class, which is fit neatly into a narrow, 45-to-50 minute time slot between lunch and sports. With such a small amount of time for rehearsal, it is up to each individual performer to commit to enhancing his faculties.
One such individual, Lyon Stewart, who was voted Outstanding Performing Artist of the Year by his peers, nominated for a Cappie for his lead performance in Little Shop of Horrors, and accepted into Indiana University next year to study music, believes that there are many ways to immerse yourself in the arts at St. Albans. “You have to commit to it, but there are so many opportunities,” says Stewart. In addition, the aspiring singer believes that there is a “strong contingent of artistic supporters” at the school who help to inspire participation and dedication to the arts, despite the abundance of demands already placed upon the regular student.
So just how good is St. Albans at producing and preparing artists for the real world? Historically speaking, the school has many graduates within the artistic community:
Clancy Brown is an actor who starred in The Shawshank Redemption and Highlander, and is best known for his voice as Mr. Krabs in the critically acclaimed SpongeBob SquarePants television series.
Miles Fisher is a film and television actor who played a coke dealer in the TV series Gossip Girl and appeared in an episode of Mad Men.
Jeffrey Wright is an Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor who played the American C.I.A. agent Felix Leiter in both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
The Walkmen is an indie rock band based in New York City and Philadelphia, four of whose five members attended St. Albans.
Damian Kulash is the lead vocalist and guitarist of the Grammy- winning rock band OK Go.
As made evident by the previous list, Saint Albans has succeeded at producing many fine and successful artists over the course of its existence, but there is no question that, at such a scholarly and athletic institution as this, it is extremely difficult to fit the arts into our daily lives. St. Albans does not integrate rehearsals into students’ schedules, but adds them as an extracurricular activity. Student interest, talent, and participation are consistently high, the facilities and teachers are great, but the last piece of the puzzle – the task of figuring out a fair and reasonable schedule that fully includes the arts – is something we must all consider.