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Between the Lines: BAM's best kept secret

Between the Lines, BAM’s brief, three-part series of specially curated nights of “thinkers, storytellers and drinkers from across the arts and sciences” is the kind of one night, mini-explosion of creative and intellectual power that really ought to take place more than three months a year. I went on the last night of the 2011 season, a line-up that included writers John Jeremiah Sullivan and Clancy Martin, a short film about a robot from the future by Chema Garcia, a film by Ari Kuschnir about the conductor Benjamin Zander and his attempt to lead an orchestra through Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 after just a handful of performances, followed by the Brooklyn-based string quartet, The Mahlerettes.

Mahler, who himself acted as a bridge between the traditional 19th-century Austro-German tradition of music and the modernism of the early 20th-century, was the perfect counterpart for the other artists performing that night. Clancy Martin’s essay, for starters, is a grown up, contemporary view of his father’s new-agey, pseudo-modern lifestyle and what being raised by such a man was like. In one scene, he paints his father not unlike Tom Cruise as Frank T.J. Mackey in MAGNOLIA, calling on his fellow men to ‘obey the cock.’ And John Jeremiah Sullivan’s editorial on Creation, the country’s largest Christian music festival, gave him the rare opportunity to look back on his high school years as a fervent (and then not so fervent) Evangelical. Like Mahler, each artist possessed a forward-thinking, contemporary point of view coupled with a strong understanding of the past. Ari Kuschnir’s company m ss ng p eces, for example, is “inspired by the limitless potential of the web,” but many of the videos they produce have a handmade, tactile quality that brings the disparate worlds of high and low-tech together in an approachable way. Even the Mahlerettes strayed from their namesake a few times to play contemporary songs by Arcade Fire.

This is all to say that even at the most painstakingly curated affairs, rarely does it all “come together” in such a magnetic and exponentially inspiring way. This is the kind of night that fills you up and lasts the whole week. And BAM, I don’t think it’s to late to launch a Spring series!