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Rufus Wainwright Aims High With New Album, 'Release the Stars'

Also: A listener in Burma asks about the election process in the United States.  And we explore the newest extension of the Denver Art Museum. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We listen to some music from Rufus Wainwright …

Answer a question about American elections …

And report about the Denver Art Museum.

Denver Art Museum


Today we explore the collections of the Denver Art Museum in Colorado. The two main buildings of the museum contain art from many periods and places. The newest extension of the museum opened last year. The tall, silver-colored building was designed by the internationally famous American architect Daniel Libeskind. Faith Lapidus tells us about this interesting museum.


When you first walk toward the Denver Art Museum, you might not realize the building you are looking at is a museum. The tall North Building looks like a defensive structure built long ago. It was actually built in nineteen seventy-one by the architect Gio Ponti. He once said that “art is a treasure and these thin but jealous walls defend it.” The surface of the building is covered in over one million glass tiles that shine in the bright Colorado sun.

Next to this building is Daniel Libeskind’s bold creation. Its sharp angles and tall extensions are covered in silver-colored titanium metal. Mister Libeskind says the building was influenced by the light and environment of the nearby Rocky Mountains.

The inside of the Denver Art Museum is as interesting as its outside. There are rich collections of modern and ancient art as well as art from Asia, Africa, America and Europe. The American Indian collection includes a finely-made face covering by the Kwakwaka’wakw tribe artist George Walkus. This bold mask has four bird faces painted in red, white and black. It was worn as part of a special dance ceremony.

In its main entry, the new building has an unusual piece of art by the Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima. It is made up of eighty mirrored glass circles placed on the walls in different areas. Each circle has a lighted number in its center. The numbers count up and down at different speeds between the numbers one through nine.

The Denver Art Museum recently had an exhibition of works by the abstract expressionist painter Clyfford Still. When he died in nineteen eighty, he gave his collection of work to a city that would build a museum to protect and present his art. The Clyfford Still museum will be built next door to the Denver Art Museum. But we will have to wait until two thousand ten to explore its collections.

American Elections


Our listener question this week comes from Burma. Ko Maw Gyi wants to know about the United States election process and who will win the two thousand eight presidential election.

National elections are held in the United States every two years. Each time, voters elect all members of the House of Representatives for a two-year term, and one-third of Senate members for a six-year term. Many states also choose governors and state legislatures in national elections. Citizens may also vote on different questions of state or local interest.

Two thousand eight is a presidential election year, as well. The Constitution requires the president and vice president be elected every four years. By law, voting is to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Although many Americans may have an opinion about who will win the presidential election next year, it is too early to make any predictions. Presidential candidates have more than one year left to campaign.

The two major parties in the United States are the Democrats and the Republicans. Every four years, the parties hold national conventions to officially choose their nominees for president and vice president. Many states hold special primary elections to choose delegates to the national conventions. Each presidential candidate lists on state primary ballots a group of delegates who have promised to support the candidate at their party’s convention. Citizens show their choice for the presidential nomination by voting for the group of delegates committed to that candidate.

Off-year elections in American politics are considered general elections held during odd-numbered years. The next off-year election is November sixth. Voters will select mayors, city council members, school board officials and many other local offices. A few states will also hold elections for governor and state legislators on Tuesday.

Rufus Wainwright


Rufus Wainwright is a musician who comes from a family of folk singers. His fifth album, “Release the Stars,” is musically rich and complex. With his emotional voice, Wainwright sings about deeply personal stories. Some songs are playful, while others are more serious. Barbara Klein has more.


Rufus Wainwright recorded “Release the Stars” last summer in Germany. He wanted to create a musically straightforward and simple record. Instead, he ended up writing rich and complex musical arrangements that include fourteen string and horn instruments. The album combines the sounds of popular music with those of opera, classical and cabaret music. Here is the song “Rules and Regulations.”


Rufus Wainwright made this album for his mother, the musician Kate McGarrigle. While he was recording the songs, she had to have a serious medical operation. He said her sickness gave him a sense of urgency about the record he wanted to create.

Last year, Rufus Wainwright gave a bold performance at the famous Carnegie Hall in New York City. He recreated the songs from a historic concert given by the American singer Judy Garland in nineteen sixty-one. His performance received great critical praise. But one of his close friends did not attend. Wainwright wrote this song about his friends. “Release the Stars” tells about the old days of movie production studios in Hollywood, California. But Wainwright says the larger message is about letting everything go and being the best person you can be.


Rufus Wainwright has also written many songs for movies such as “Shrek”, “Moulin Rouge” and “Brokeback Mountain.” The Metropolitan Opera in New York City has even asked him to write an opera. We leave you now with his song “Slideshow.”



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange and Jill Moss. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.