10/10/10: Ten cultural masterpieces for the decaphilic


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It’s technically not a holiday, but Oct. 10, 2010 (10/10/10) is a day to remember for numerology enthusiasts and almanac buffs alike.

In observance of this non-holiday, Culture Monster has put together a list of cultural masterpieces that somehow incorporate ‘ten’ into their titles. The entries range from classical music to painting to ballet to theater. As always, feel free to leave your own contributions in the comments section.


1. Frédéric Chopin’s Op. 10, Nos. 1-12

This group of études by the 19th century Polish composer contains some of the most beautiful compositions ever written for the solo piano. The technical virtuosity they require makes them a favorite for top pianists around the world. Chopin published the pieces when he was in his early 20s, dedicating them to composer Franz Liszt. The études have been excerpted and adapted for numerous movie soundtracks over the years. Here’s the first étude, performed by the pianist Maurizio Pollini.


2. Diego Velázquez’s ‘Portrait of Pope Innocent X’ / Francis Bacon’s ‘Study After Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Here’s a fascinating art-history instance of one genius imitating, or deconstructing, the work of another. The 17th century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez was commissioned to create the portrait of Pope Innocent X. The regal portrait, which is believed to have been completed around 1650, shows the reigning pope in beatific repose, swathed in his opulent robes. Three centuries later, Irish rabble-rouser Francis Bacon radically reinterpreted Velázquez’s painting in a series of works informally known as ‘The Screaming Popes.’


3. George Balanchine’s ‘Slaughter on Tenth Avenue

A streetwise ballet with a sly sense of humor, Balanchine’s ‘Slaughter on Tenth Avenue’ debuted in 1936 in the Broadway musical ‘On Your Toes.’ The piece, which is performed to music by Richard Rodgers, has entered the repertory of the New York City Ballet and is still performed by dance companies around the world. (It shouldn’t be confused with the 1957 film of the same name.) Here’s a clip of the ballet, featuring Gene Kelly, from the 1948 movie ‘Words and Music.’


4. Agatha Christie’s ‘Ten Little Indians

Christie adapted her own bestselling novel for the stage in 1943. The following year, it debuted on Broadway, running for more than 400 regular performances. The story -- which has inspired many movies and television shows -- follows 10 individuals who are invited to a secluded location where they are mysteriously killed off one by one.


5. William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 10


Not the Bard’s best-known sonnet by any means, this curt critique of a youth’s indifference toward love is nonetheless a miniature masterpiece that any singleton can relate to. Here it is in its entirety:

For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,
Who for thyself art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lovest is most evident;
For thou art so possess’d with murderous hate
That ‘gainst thyself thou stick’st not to conspire.
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O, change thy thought, that I may change my mind!
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:
Make thee another self, for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.


6. Steve Reich’s ‘2 x 5

The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer merges his minimalist sensibility with rock instruments to create a wholly unique and sometimes strange piece that defies categorization. Nonesuch released ‘2 x 5’ in September in an album that also features Reich’s award-winning ‘Double Sextet.’


7. ‘Dance 10, Looks 3’ from ‘A Chorus Line’

The funniest song in ‘A Chorus Line’ has a famous refrain that we can’t print here because it contains adult language. This much we can say: an aspiring Broadway performer who is as cynical as she is curvacious breaks into song to explain how the casting process really works in showbiz. Songwriters Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban deserve the kudos.


8. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos, KV 365

Mozart penned this work for two pianos and orchestra in 1779, when he was just 23. The third movement of the piece was featured prominently in the Oscar-winning movie ‘Amadeus.’ Listen for it in the scene when Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) leafs through a folder of Mozart’s compositions that was secretly brought to him by the latter composer’s wife. Here’s a sample of it:


9. Andy Warhol’s ‘Ten-Foot Flowers’ (1967)

The postmodern artist created a series of floral-themed silkscreen paintings with varying colors and shadings. This version is in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.



10. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 10

Fooled you! Beethoven, who died in 1827, never wrote a 10th Symphony. However, in 1988, a researcher named Barry Cooper pulled together fragments of music and fashioned a kind of posthumous symphonic work. Recordings were made and debates raged. The whole endeavor remains somewhat controversial and some people balk at attributing the work to Beethoven.

-- David Ng

MORE 10/10/10

Photos: Ten films with ‘10’ in the title

Hero Complex: The Top 10 sidekicks of all-time

Photos: Ten stars by the age of 10


24 Frames: The 10 best movies of 2010 (so far) that you might have missed

Show Tracker: TV’s top 10 moments of the first 10 months of 2010

Pop & Hiss: Ten great songs about drinking (and five others about sobering up)

Ministry of Gossip: Celebrity scandals from a spicy year so far

Jacket Copy: The 10 best ‘Best of’ books of 2010

Photo credits: (top) Wikimedia Commons; (bottom) handout