NEW YORK -- David Bowie has been a rock god, a philosopher of the pop avant-garde, an actor, a talent scout. But he has a little trouble taking seriously the job description for his new gig: curator of the first High Line Festival.
"I love that word 'curate,'" he said with a slight sarcastic chuckle. "One of the definitions is someone who oversees a zoo."
To put together the High Line, an 11-day series of music, film, comedy and art that begins on Wednesday with a performance by Arcade Fire at Radio City Music Hall, Bowie said he followed his own tastes, booking old and new friends like Laurie Anderson, TV on the Radio and the British comedian Ricky Gervais. He also included curiosities like Ken Nordine, the octogenarian "word jazz" artist, and the Australian "kamikaze cabaret" performer Meow Meow.
"The point of the festival," Bowie said during a phone interview, "is not to dig out as many obscure and unknown acts as possible. It's to put on what I would go and see. There are certain artists you just never miss; when they come into town, you go and see them."
Bowie's programming has led to criticism that the festival is somewhat conservative. For a man known as a champion of new music, he has invited many groups that are not exactly uncommon sights in New York, like Deerhoof and the Secret Machines.