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Short List: Week of September 30 - October 7

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It's not the sound of Jem Finer's Longplayer that makes it notable, really: A series of tones created by a computer replicating the sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, it suggests a piece of Cagean indeterminacy, or change ringing. It's the idea that's somewhat overwhelming. London-based Finer concocted a way to create a composition that, while based on a set of six short, determinate pieces, can continue for a thousand years without ever repeating precisely. It's a complex algorithm that tests our concepts of music, time and presence: Longplayer began over 10 years ago, but no one living will see it through to the end. At Wood Street Galleries tonight, during the Gallery Crawl, a Longplayer listening station -- the first ever between San Francisco and London -- opens with a performance of "Shortplayer," which Finer composed to bring the Longplayer down to scale. Finer (who co-founded The Pogues, way back when) leads a group of local avant-garde notables organized by David Bernabo. The October crawl's cornucopia also includes art, music and other live performance at two dozen Downtown venues, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. There's dance by The Pillow Project; short films by local artists at the Harris Theater; Shaw Galleries' It's a Warholian World, featuring vintage photos of Andy himself; "drag gospel" (who knew?) at 937 Liberty Ave.; and belly-dance by Moquettte Volante, outdoors at Katz Plaza. It's also the first night of the Pittsburgh Festival of Lights. Highlights of the fest's fourth annual incarnation (continuing through Oct. 17) are large outdoor installations by U.K.-based artist Ross Ashton, including a tribute to the Carnegie Museum's dinosaur collection called "Old Bones," at 713 Penn Ave., and one on Heinz Hall, titled "Cascade." Andy Mulkerin & Bill O'Driscoll 5:30-9 p.m. Fri., Oct. 1. Downtown. Free. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org

 

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Thu., Sept. 30 -- Art 

Artist Michael Sherwin's multimedia exhibit Divided Sky seeks to redefine distance and place. Pittsburgh Filmmakers Gallery features two Sherwin works exploring our relationship to nature as mediated by technology. "It's All Relative" is a 50-channel composite video of a lunar and solar eclipse, with images appropriated from YouTube. And "World Wide Web" tells the story of distance in a viral world: Webcam images are placed on a map according to the longitudinal/latitudinal coordinates they reflect. Tonight's opening reception features an artist talk. Weenta Girmay 6 p.m. Show continues through Oct. 17. 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland. Free. 412-361-8338 or www.pghfilmmakers.org

 

Thu., Sept. 30 -- Country

Growing up in Michigan, plenty of my neighbors had some serious twang -- the legacy of a wave of people who left Kentucky to work in the auto plants. Perhaps something similar is at work with Whitey Morgan & The 78's, a band that hails from hard-luck Flint, Mich., but hews closely to outlaw country and lusty honky-tonk. "If this drankin' don't kill me, I guess I'll just go on home," Morgan sings on the new self-titled record, recorded in Levon Helm's studio. Tonight, he and the band are at Thunderbird Café. Aaron Jentzen 8 p.m. 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $8 ($10 at the door). 412-682-0177 or www.thunderbirdcafe.net

 

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Thu., Sept. 30 -- Comedy

In 1995, Patrick Combs received, and deposited, a junk-mail check for $95,093.35. The bank accepted it ... then loudly demanded return of a cashier's check Combs had taken out for the same amount. Thereby hangs Man 1, Bank 0, the critically acclaimed monologue Combs has been performing ever since, in sold-out theaters off-Broadway and at performance festivals around the world. Combs (a motivational speaker by day) performs here tonight only, late-night at The Cabaret at Theater Square. Bill O'Driscoll 10:30 p.m. 655 Penn Ave., Downtown. $16. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org

 

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Sat., Oct. 2 -- Exhibit

Lately, the Catholic Church has taken its lumps. But name a religion that's inspired (and acquired) more gorgeous stuff. Proof arrives at the Sen. John Heinz History Center with Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art. Pittsburgh is one of just three North American cities to host this exhibit of more than 270 artifacts, many never before seen outside the Vatican. Artists include Michelangelo (a first-generation cast of the Pietà; signed documents from work on the Sistine Chapel); Bernini (carved and gilded 17th-century angels); and Gercino (whose ca. 1622 "Portrait of Christ with Crown of Thorns" is considered the first modern depiction of Jesus). Today's opening ceremony includes an early-morning procession (priests, monks, parishioners) down Smallman Street. BO 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Exhibit continues through Jan. 9). 1212 Smallman St., Strip District. $13-20 (free for children under 5). 412-454-6000 or www.heinzhistorycenter.org

 

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Sat., Oct. 2 -- Dance

Pittsburgh becomes a new stomping ground for Philadelphia-based Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble, as part of Sweetwater Center for the Arts' annual Mavuno Festival. The ensemble has traveled as far as Ghana and Cuba to present its amalgam of dances from across the African Diaspora. Mavuno ("first fruit" in Swahili), coincides with harvest season and celebrates African-American cultures and traditions. The ensemble performs today at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. WG 2 p.m., 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Free. 412-741-4405

 

Sun., Oct. 3 -- Rock

After the band's stunning chamber-pop debut, The Rhumb Line, Ra Ra Riot recently released its second album for Barsuk. Entitled The Orchard, the band wrote many of the literate songs in a peach orchard, on a break from tour. While it's fun to remember when Ra Ra Riot was relatively unknown and playing Garfield Artworks, it's great to see them take off. The band headlined last year's "Rock the Block" party for WYEP, and the station is co-presenting tonight's show at Diesel, with openers Chikita Violenta and We Barbarians. AJ 7 p.m. 1601 E. Carson St., South Side. $15 ($18 day of show). All ages. 412-431-8800 or www.dieselpgh.com

 

Mon., Oct. 4 -- Words

Talk about a life worth writing about: She escaped the blade of her mother's butcher knife, made many a half-hearted suicide attempt, had a baby, and like some other good writers, subsequently drank herself into oblivion. Readers last left Mary Karr after she'd dropped the Jack Daniels for Christ in her 2009 memoir Lit -- the latest in her series of bestselling memoirs including her most famous, The Liars' Club, and its sequel, Cherry. Karr, known for her dark humor and candor, visits the Drue Heinz Lectures Series tonight. WG 7:30 p.m. Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave. Oakland. $15-25. 412-622-8866

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF SYLVIA PLACHY
  • Photo courtesy of Sylvia Plachy

Tue., Oct. 5 -- Words

What'll Mark Kurlansky talk about tonight? The acclaimed journalist and author has written of the sea, its human culture and dwindling bounty, in Cod and The Last Fish Tale. He's explored history through a close-up lens in Salt, The Basque History of the World and Non-Violence: The History of a Dangerous Idea. Perhaps he'll draw from books on the Caribbean, and post-war European Jewry. But tonight, we bet, he'll cover his latest: The Eastern Stars:  How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macorís (Riverhead Books). As part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series, the insatiably curious Kurlansky (this year's William S. Block Sr. Writer) speaks at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium. BO 8:30 p.m. Schenley Drive, Oakland. Free. 412-624-6508

 

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Tuesday Oct. 5 – Country

The faces will be young but the music old-timey tonight at Belvedere's as a tour featuring Jayke Orvis, Rachel Brooke and James Hunnicutt arrives. Orvis may be a familiar name -- a member of crusty country-punk outfit The Goddamn Gallows, he calls Pittsburgh home. Brooke hails from Michigan and plays tunes that sound straight out of the '40s -- right down to the production choices. Expect acoustic guitars, yodels and probably a good bit of whiskey. Andy Mulkerin 9 p.m. 4016 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412-687-2555

 

Thu., Oct. 7 -- Stage

A do-gooder physician confronts a health-care conglomerate looking to cash in on sex addiction, gambling and face transplants. It's not today's headline -- but tonight's Off the Record X: Malpractice Blues! is brought to you by Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America and Pittsburgh AFTRA. The annual musical satire of Pittsburgh people and politics features local media and theater types, special guests (this year, Dan Onorato) and more. Proceeds from the Byham Theater show benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. BO 8 p.m. 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $20-60. 412-456-6666 or www.offtherecordpgh.com

 

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Thu., Oct. 7 – Words 

Nearly everyone studies a language these days, and some people know a few. But Arika Okrent is into languages that are a bit less common than French and Mandarin. She's the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a book about intentionally created languages like Esperanto (the "universal language") and Klingon (the "universal language of nerds"). The author of the smart, fun look into linguistics and psychology appears at the Green Tree Public Library this evening. AM 7 p.m. 10 W. Manilla Ave., Green Tree. Free. 412-921-9292 or greentreelibrary.org

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