Monday, April 30, 2012

Three Rivers Arts Festival Preview

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 4:45 PM

This year's fest runs June 1-10. A few highlights, as offered at a press conference festival organizers held this morning at Point State Park:

The 2012 festival will feature "more visual artists than we ever had before," said festival director Marguerite Jarrett Marks. That reflects the more than 300 vendors in the artists market. Add in the live performers, and the total number of artists tops 500. For the first time, Marks said, visual artists will set up shop in Point State Park on all 10 days of the festival, not just on weekends. Artists will also be exhibiting not only in Gateway Center, but along Penn Avenue outside Gateway.

The festival includes the world premiere of art-rock band/performance troupe

Squonk Opera's latest. On June 8, after that night's mainstage performance by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Squonk will pull up on a flatbed truck, barnstormer style, and perform Go Roadshow on Stanwix Street. Expect wild sounds and wacky props. The show will repeat on June 9 and 10.

The nonprofit Gateway to the Arts, best known for bringing the arts to schoolkids throughout Western Pennsylvania, will do the same at the festival. The fest's Creativity Zone, on the fountain side of the park's overpass, will host more than 65 performers and visual artists, plus hands-on activities, on all four of the fest's weekend days.

After its successful return to the festival last summer, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchesta will again perform, on Sun., June 3. (Last year's PSO appearance drew 10,000, organizers say.)

Also set for an encore is JazzLive International — three stages of jazz, plus, like last year, a Downtown Jazz Crawl on the first night of the festival.

Bluegrass will make its first appearance at the festival, in a special June 9 showcase headlined by top names The Del McCoury Band and Peter Rowan.

The festival's efforts to be greener will also continue. Organizers already divert more than 80 percent of potential trash through an aggressive recyling and composting program. It will also be the second year that visitors are encouraged to bring their own water bottles (and avoid plastic-bottle waste) by availaling themselves of the festival's free water stations.

The festival is all free, of course, thanks to sponors like Dollar Bank and People's Natural Gas.

For more info, check the fest web site (though it looks complete information is unavailable just yet).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The New Yinzer Marks 10th Anniversary

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 2:30 PM

And naturally, Pittsburgh's oldest online literary magazine celebrates with a reading.

Plus, it's following up with a big party on Saturday.

The publication's reading series, The New Yinzer Presents ... , goes off as usual this month: 8 p.m. at ModernFormations Gallery, BYOB encouraged, bring a potluck item to escape the $5 admission.

The reading features local talents Tessa Barber, Eric Boyd and Rose Huber.

Barber is a librarian who blogs about teen books. Boyd is an editor (Newer York, Pork & Mead magazines), Chatham graduate and second-place winner in the PEN American Center's 2012 Prison Writing contest, and his first story collection, Whiskey Sour (Chatham/Nervous Puppy), is out this month. And Huber is a Pitt science and technology writer whose work has been featured in Pear Noir, Weave and The Light Ekphrastic.

TNY's readings are casual affairs but feature local (and sometimes visiting) writers you won't necessarily see elsewhere. They're a good deal.

Saturday's party is less about the words and more about the music. It's at the New Yinzer's other East End home, Brillobox, and features sets by Ursa Major, Ash Dinosaur, Essential Machine and Moldies & Monsters, plus DJs Jordan K, Electric Slim and Miscellaneous G. The doors for this one are at 9 p.m., and the cover is also $5.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Online Voting Open in PSO Concert Competition

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has chosen eight semifinalists in its Online Concerto Competition. Voting is open to the public until April 30.

Between Feb. 9 and March 22, the PSO received 104 video submissions for the competition, which will grant one winner the opportunity to perform next season with the orchestra in a concert led by Music Director Manfred Honeck. 

The PSO allowed instrumental soloists in the U.S., unrepresented by management, to enter by uploading a clip of an original solo performance, based on a selection of concertos, to the PSO's YouTube channel.

On April 11, the PSO announced that eight semifinalists had been chosen by the orchestra's musicians and a team of conductors, including Honeck.

All semifinalists are between the ages of 19 and 29, from places like California, Puerto Rico and New York. Their videos were posted April 13 on the PSO's YouTube Channel. Voting is open to the international community until 8 p.m. EDT Mon., April 30.

Up to four finalists will receive round-trip tickets to attend a final audition with Honeck on June 11. The winner will be announced June 12. He or she will receive $10,000 as well as a chance to perform alongside the PSO at Heinz Hall in BNY Mellon Grand Classics concerts on Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.

The competition is supported by the PPG Industries Foundation.

For more information, visit

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Two Wheels Earth Day Bike Parade

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 2:40 PM

Get outdoors, recreate and celebrate Earth Day, all without fossil fuels, with this short, easy city ride culminating in a festival.

The 4.6-mile group ride starts at 1 p.m. this Sunday at Chatham University’s Eastside Campus, at 6568 Penn Ave. (near the corner of Fifth Avenue, in East Liberty). It heads through Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park to Phipps Conservatory for an afternoon of live music, a bike/fashion show and more.

Find the route at

The event is a collaboration btween Chatham’s Rachel Carson Institute, Bike PGH, ModCloth, Flock of Cycles, the MGR Foundatoin and other area student and environmental groups.

The ride in part commemorates the 50th anniversary of Carson’s classic book Silent Spring.

Performers include Mike Stout ( and the Newlanders There’ll also be an open mic for poetry and spoken-word performers.

The event continues until 5 p.m.

For more information, contact Corey Escoto at

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Lost Boy" Film Subject to be Honored at Screening

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Word came in past CP's deadline that Point Park University tonight honors one of its more notable recent graduates: Panther Bior, the Sudanese refugee who was among the main subjects of the 2006 documentary God Grew Tired of Us. 

The film profiles Bior and two other youths who were orphaned by civil war and survived a barefoot journey across the sub-Saharan desert to a UN refugee camp in Kenya. There were 25,000 Lost Boys, about 3,800 of whom ultimately settled in the U.S.

Bior's the one who got his undergraduate degree in accounting from Point Park and is poised to receive his master's in organization leadership there next month. According to a university release, "His dream is to open a school for more than 2,000 school-aged children in his hometown in Southern Sudan."

God Grew Tired of Us is the film that first brought the Lost Boys to a wider U.S. audience. The film, by Christopher Quinn, was a prize-winner at the Sundance Film Festival. Nicole Kidman narrates.

The free screening starts at 6:30 p.m. tonight, in 212 University Center on the school's Downtown campus. It will be followed by a reception honoring Bior.

The event is part of Point Park's Spotlight on Africa series.

Spotlight on Africa continues on Sunday, with filmmaker Kimi Takesue presenting Where Are You Taking Me?, an acclaimed 2010 documentary set in Uganda.

On Tue., April 24, director Deron Abright and writer Yao B. Nunnoo present their 2011 drama The Destiny of Lesser Animals from Ghana. And on Sat., April 28, The West Wing actor Melissa Fitzgerald presents the 2011 film Staging Hope: Actors of Peace in Northern Uganda. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cross-Country Electric-Bike Tour Hits Pittsburgh Tomorrow

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 3:00 PM


If you want to know more about electric bicycles, here's the perfect opportunity to ask two people who are becoming intimately acquainted with theirs.

Boris Mordkovich, 26, and Anna Mostovetsky, 25, mounted their electric-motor-bearing two-wheelers on April 7, in Brooklyn, and headed south for Washington, D.C. Ultimately, by mid-June they plan to arrive in San Francisco — a 4,000-mile journey without a drop of gasoline consumed, but accomplished with notably more ease than under pure pedal power.

And they say they can do the whole trip for less than $20 in electricity each, or the equivalent of 1,000 miles for the cost of a gallon of gas.

The Trans-American Electric Bike Tour is the brainchild of Boston-based Mordkovich, a co-founder of New York's EVELO Electric Bicycles. He's trying to promote electric bikes for both commuting and recreational purposes. Joining him is Mostovetsky, an old friend and cycling partner from Washington state. (That's them in the photo.)

Along the way they've planned some 50 stops in bike-friendly cities, for speaking engagements and other events. While they weren't able to arrange anything formal in Pittsburgh, they're open to impromptu coffees or group rides; interested parties can contact them through their website.

The bikes they're riding are EVELOs. You can power them with your legs, with straight electric power or some combination of the two.

While the two experienced cyclists are pedaling the whole way, says Mordkovich, the motor-assist comes in handy on hills.

The logistics for what Mordkovich calls "the first coast-to-coast self-supported journey on two electric bicycles" are pretty simple. Traveling alone (without support vehicles), the pair plan to average 80 miles a day, said Mordkovich, speaking by phone last week from a rest stop just outside of D.C.

Each is towing a trailer full of gear (55 pounds for Mostovetsky, 75 for Mordkovich). Mapping the route is also straightforward. "We do what the GPS tells us," quips Mordkovich, though they avoid major highways in favor of back roads. Each cyclist carries a second lithium-polymer battery to extend their range, and all the batteries are recharged at night.

The cyclists find accomodations via tour sponsor Airbnb, a web-based outfit that arranges rentable accomodations for travelers.

Mordkovich says that while electric bikes are popular in Europe, Americans either confuse them with motorcycles or lump them with fitness gear, rather than regarding them as everyday transport. (Electric bikes also don't come cheap; new EVELOs, for instnace, start at $1,695.)

But Mordkovich says the trip's raising awareness. "People are really receptive to it," he says.

At the moment, Mordkovich and Mostevetsky are probably somewhere on the Great Allegheny Passage that runs from D.C. to Pittsburgh.

After they traverse Pittsburgh tomorrow, it's on to Ohio and points west, including Ann Arbor, Mich., and Chicago.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Carnegie Mellon Laptop Ochestra to Jam Online

Posted By on Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 11:05 AM


The Orchestra joins six other universities in the U.S. and U.K. for a video-chat concert on Mon., April 16.

During the joint performance, orchestras in each location will use online audio and video links to hear and respond to their counterparts from thousands of miles away.

The Federation of Laptop Orchestras will be directed by Carnegie Mellon's Roger Dannenberg, associate research professor of computer science, music and art. He will direct the concert from Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, host of the first Symposium on Laptop Ensembles and Orchestras, April 15-17.

Dannenberg says the Laptop Orchestra's music consists of a variety of samples, ranging from acoustic instruments to electronic and even environmental sounds, all activated via keyboard and layered in one harmonious melody.

"Some of the orchestras are using their own sounds," he says. "From the conducting standpoint, I ask for sound qualities and texture, but the specific sound choices are left to the performers."

Students in Dannenberg's course titled Computer Music Systems and Information Processing are currently developing the software that made possible this collaboration.

About 18 students from the university's Laptop Orchestra will play at the University Center's McConomy Auditorium at 8:30 p.m. Monday. The performance is open to the public.

The performances will also, of course, be streamed online; information will be available prior to the performances on the SLEO website.

Increasingly, laptop computers, smartphones and tablets are providing artists and researchers with an opportunity to generate music and manipulate sounds in new ways, with input devices that even respond to finger, hand and body movements. One example is the iPhone's accelerometer sensor, which lets you alter beats by simply tilting the device.

Although the new research in the field of computer music is opening doors, it also comes with its limitations. According to Dannenberg, trying to synchronize musicians with sound and video over the Internet presents one major challenge: compensating for the speed of light.

"We're sending sound and video between computers over the Internet," he says. "It takes light about a tenth of a second to travel from California to the U.K. and back, which is a long time in musical terms. It's nearly impossible to synchronize musicians with delays this large."

To compensate, Dannenberg says he will give cues for the orchestras to play with different textures or sounds. 

"If we emphasize sonic texture over rhythm and synchronization, that helps to deal with the long time delays," he said.

Acoustic soloists at each location will also provide contrast to the electronic sounds generated by the laptops, as they play through external speaker systems for the live audiences.          

Dannenberg played an essential role in the development of the Piano Tutor, interactive software that enables a student to obtain first-year piano proficiency in less than 20 hours. He is also co-designer of the Audacity audio editor and recording application, which won the 2007 and 2009 Community Choice Award for Best Project for Multimedia.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Filmmaker Stephen Frears To Visit with "The Queen"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 12:01 PM

It's a rare Pittsburgh appearance for the veteran, much-acclaimed British director of My Beautiful Laundrette, The Grifters and High Fidelity.

He's in town with one of his more recent hits.

The Queen (2006), starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth, is a drama about the public-relations fiasco that followed the 1997 death of Princess Diana.

The film garnered Frears a slew of best-director nominations, including an Oscar nomination.

Frears fans might go back as far as 1985's Laundrette, the edgy drama set in a multicultural U.K. that introduced a young Daniel Day-Lewis to many U.S. audiences.

On Saturday, the University of Pittsburgh's Film Studies Program hosts Frears at Oakland's Alumni Hall. He will introduce the film; Pitt professor Colin MacCabe, who's also head of research at the British Film Institute, in London, will moderate a Q&A after the screening.

The free screening is at 6 p.m. Alumni Hall is located at 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last Weekend for Big Teenie Harris Show

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2012 at 3:05 PM


Teenie Harris: Photographer — An American Story closes on Sat., April 7, at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

It's a vast show, featuring nearly 1,000 images shot by the iconic, Hill District-based photographer, most of them for the Pittsburgh Courier, and most in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. (On this page is a picture of Harris, by an unknown photographer circa 1938, titled “Charles ‘Teenie' Harris, holding camera and standing on sidewalk,” © 2006 Carnegie Museum of Art).

And it's imaginatively presented, the images viewable as traditional prints (organized chronologically), as thematic slideshows with an original jazz soundtrack, and interactively, on computer screens.

One way visitors are meant to use the latter, especially, is as a research tool. In fact, on my visit last Saturday, I overheard people at a computer screen discussing folks they knew in one of the pictures Harris shot decades ago.

A bigger screen in a space in the rear of the gallery runs short videos exploring different aspects of Harris' work.

So the exhibit can be very personal, or it can serve as a window into the history of Pittsburgh, of black America and of other cultural byways, from fashion to jazz and sports.

Another nice touch: a display case featuring a big stack of the boxes in which Harris stored some of his tens of thousands of negatives. (Kodak and Agfa were among his film preferences.)

As Chris Potter points out in his review of the show for CP, Harris' images are so popular that there will be plenty more chances to see them, probably in the not too distant future.

Still, you're unlikely to see a show of this magnitude about Harris anytime soon. Leave at least 90 minutes to take it in.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Comedy Improv Rock Concert in Town

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Area native Missy Moreno returns home from Chicago with a current venture, Reset List — a rock band that makes it up as it goes along

Just like regular improv comedy, the band — drums, guitar, keyboards — starts with a suggestion from the audience. Then, on the spot, it creates a whole song from that suggestion. And they do a whole concert-length show like that.

If the promo video is any guide, it’s pretty funny stuff — somewhere in that sweet spot between homage and parody.

Moreno, a Point Park grad, co-founded the show while she and the other band members were training at the Second City Conservatory of Musical Improvisation. The group’s played two years running at both the Chicago Improv Festival and the New York City Music Improv fest

Reset List is doing two show on this, its first visit to Pittsburgh

Tonight’s is at Sing Sing Dueling Piano Bar, at the Waterfront, in West Homestead, at 8 p.m. (It’s right around the corner from where Moreno, a Steel Valley High grad, grew up.) Tickets are $10.

Moreno says the group will also play tomorrow night, at the Beerhive, in the Strip District.


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