Notes on the Culture

1221584257Every Tuesday, Matthew Reed Baker will offer his thoughts on the arts and culture scene. This week: The MFA rakes in a ton of cash; Berklee grads rule the Emmys. Plus: German for beginners.

Yesterday afternoon, the Museum of Fine Arts had its annual meeting and officially concluded its “Building the New MFA” campaign. It’s worth taking a summary look at these staggering final numbers: the MFA raised $504 million dollars over seven years, with $93 million in the last fiscal year alone.

Of course, the Federal Election Commission wasn’t overseeing the MFA’s fundraising, so the museum could raise this massive amount from just 25,674 people. That’s a lot of people, but it also averages out to about $20,000 raised per person—give or take a corporation or foundation, or two.

In addition to the sweet, sweet cash, the already jampacked museum ran a “Gifts of Art” campaign which netted some 10,000 pieces worth a total of $140 million, plus another $25 million to buy even more art, most likely to fill the stocks of the new American Wing the MFA is feverishly building. This huge new hoard covers the full timeline of human creativity, from Peruvian ceramics dating back to 400 B.C. to Japanese Meiji-era paintings to Antonio López García‘s2008 sculpture El día y la noche (2008).

You have probably seen or heard about the last item: those colossal baby heads that greeted visitors from the Huntington Avenue side, but now they’re positioned outside the Fenway entrance, which just opened in June for the first time since the 1970’s. It’s been renamed the State Street Corporation Fenway Entrance, because—well, because that’s what $10 million gets you.

If this all seems a bit gargantuan, consider this: In June, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York raised $1.3 million in one day. It was from a corporate event, but still, competition for the philanthropic dollar is greater than ever—especially in the arts—so we should applaud the major player in our town for being a major player, period.

Root, root root for the Mingi: Ech, the Emmys. Not being a rabid TV-biz follower, I couldn’t care less. But for the folks at Berklee, they’ll be pulling for seven of their alumni this weekend.

If one name should sound familiar but you’re not sure why, it’s Alf Clausen. That’s because you see his name regularly fly by during the credits of The Simpsons. (Yes, Simpsons freaks, Danny Elfman wrote the show’s main theme, but Clausen has scored many of the episodes. Just break out your copy of Songs in the Key of Springfield and check the credits.)

A 1966 Berklee grad and former instructor at the school, mighty Alf has already won two Emmys for The Simpsons, and is up again for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series, specifically for the show’s“Treehouse of Horror XVIII” episode. His credits also include films like The Naked Gun and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as well as—no joke—ALF, that alien-so-kooky-he’s-a-puppet sitcom from the late ’80s. Damn, I wish I could forget that puppet.

Berklee has alumni from different decades pulling their weight in nominations for music composition (Joey Newman ’98 for TLC’s Little People, Big World), sound editing (David Van Slyke ’82 for CSI, Stephen Parise ’97 for the History Channel’s Life After People), and sound mixing (Elmo Ponsdomenech ’83 for Showtime’s Dexter, Brian Riordan ’95 for American Idol, Pablo Mungia ’97 for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show).

Sure, the “Creative Arts” Emmys won’t be given out during the red-carpet “Primetime” Emmy Awards show this Sunday night—that’ll be the venue for sucking up to Two and a Half Men, various Desperate Housewives, and rosters of hacks who play doctors on TV. But at least these technical (and just as artistic) awards are being televised the night before: If you want to root for our locally trained talent, tune into E! on Saturday at 8 p.m.

(And in case you’re wondering, “Mingi” is my cod-Latin plural of “Mingus,” Berklee’s official mascot since 2004. Named after the late jazz bassist/composer/all-around music god Charles Mingus, the mascot is literally a jazz cat…though “cool cat” is debatable.)

By jiminy, German is fun: All joking aside, I love Germany. I’m of German descent and I’ve traveled around the country a bit, so I’ve been wanting to learn the language for quite some time now. Fear of Deutsch’s notorious difficulty and my busy schedule have kept me from taking classes, but a multimedia show hosted by Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School is at least taking aim at the first problem.

Sponsored by our local branch of the Goethe-Institut, “Deutsch-Tour” is making its first American inroads here in the Bay State, with the goal of showing that “learning German is lots of fun.” A German team of music producers have been working with local students to write and perform pop songs in the language, while a film producer is helping them document the experience. It all culminates this weekend with performances by the students and a special appearance by singer Sebastian Krumbiegel of German pop band Die Prinzen.

(Speaking of jokes: please, no more snide remarks about how “Germans love David Hasselhoff“—it’s getting kinda old. Besides, they like Miley Cyrus now.)

So if you’re interested in seeing our local kids in a zweisprachig version of High School Musical (Die Mittelschule Singspiel, perhaps?), it’s open to the public, with a dress rehearsal on Friday, September 19, and the final performance on Saturday the 20th. Both shows are at 7:30 p.m. Wunderbar!

Image from the MFA’s website