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Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, discusses the Planet Hip Hop Festival, curated by Nomadic Wax, taking place on Saturday, September 20, 2014 as part of “Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.”

This Saturday, audiences have a rare opportunity to witness performances by four international Muslim women in hip hop, including London’s spoken-word duo Poetic Pilgrimage, Montreal-based Algerian singer-songwriter and rapper Meryem Saci, and the Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter, poet, and emcee Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh.

The Planet Hip Hop Festival is an anchor event of Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan, a year-long exploration of Muslim women in performance. Each of the performers to be featured is Muslim or of Muslim heritage, has a distinct set of personal experiences, and is embedded in a particular place, society, and cultural tradition. This yearlong program is our way of inviting audiences to celebrate the complexity of Muslim women today, while at the same time exploring the historical and cultural context from which these women have emerged.

Anyone who writes poetry, raps, or sings is invited to attend three workshops this Saturday from 11am to 5pm in World Music Hall, before the evening concert in Fayerweather Beckham Hall at 9pm, where the women will be joined on stage by the Nomadic Wax Collective, a live backing band that will include bass, drums, keys, guitar, and a DJ.

Performer Meryem Saci has been on campus all week visiting classes. In preparation for her visit to Wesleyan, she worked with Professor of French and Letters Typhaine Leservot to design a module for her class Negotiating Gender in the Maghreb. Likewise, Ms. Saci collaborated with Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk on the curriculum for his course Muslim/Western Engagements in Film and Performance.

Ms. Saci will lead the first of Saturday’s workshops, Music is Medicine: Hip Hop Therapy for the Bifurcated Soul, which will unpack the therapeutic and spiritual benefits that music can provide. A refugee herself, Ms. Saci moved from Algeria to Canada at the age of thirteen where she quite literally found her voice. Drawing from her own history and life story, she will explore what it means to be a refugee, an artist, and a Muslim woman.

Meryem Saci (third from right) with members of R.A.W. (Rap Assembly at Wesleyan) at their weekly freestyle rap cipher on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Photo courtesy David Stouck '15.

Meryem Saci (third from right) with members of R.A.W. (Rap Assembly at Wesleyan) at their weekly freestyle rap cipher on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Photo courtesy David Stouck ’15.

I wish I had been at the R.A.W. (Rap Assembly at Wesleyan) weekly freestyle rap cipher on Wednesday night where Ms. Saci joined a circle of students rapping and singing together. Believe me when I say that she, like the other performers in this Saturday night’s Planet Hip Hop Festival concert, will strike a chord deep within you.

Planet Hip Hop Festival
Curated by Nomadic Wax
Afternoon workshops and evening performances by international Muslim women in hip hop, including London’s spoken-word duo Poetic Pilgrimage, the U.S. debut of Montreal-based Algerian singer-songwriter and rapper Meryem Saci as a solo artist, and the New England debut of Washington, D.C.-based and Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter, poet, and emcee Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh as a solo artist.

Meryem Saci Workshop: Music Is Medicine—Hip Hop Therapy for the Bifurcated Soul
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 11am
World Music Hall, 40 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$12 per workshop; $30 for all three workshops. FREE for Wesleyan students!

Maimouna Youssef Workshop: Freestyling through the History of American Music—Improvisation 101
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 1:45pm
World Music Hall, 40 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$12 per workshop; $30 for all three workshops. FREE for Wesleyan students!

Poetic Pilgrimage Workshop: The Art of Rhyme—Exploring Islam and Hip Hop through Verse Writing
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 3:30pm
World Music Hall, 40 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$12 per workshop; $30 for all three workshops. FREE for Wesleyan students!

Planet Hip Hop Festival Concert
Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 9pm
Fayerweather Beckham Hall, 55 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
$18 general public; $15 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Center for the Arts Story: When I arrived on campus in 1971, the Center for the Arts was still an architect’s concept, and arts/music/theater/film/dance people made do with classrooms, studios, and performance spaces, scattered all over campus. So what a miracle when the CFA doors opened, giving us access to magnificent galleries, theaters, the auditorium, studio and practice spaces. As a music major (piano), it was a thrill to practice on grand pianos in the soundproofed practice rooms. Though I never became a professional musician, Wesleyan and the CFA planted the seeds for a lifelong passion for the arts. In February, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw the work of Piero de la Francesca, Fra Angelico, and other Renaissance masters, remembering how John Paoletti’s brilliant teaching awakened my love of art of that period. Attending Wes concerts, from early music to gamelan, gave me a taste for musical adventures, and I continue to explore and relish an eclectic range of performances in New York City. A couple of years ago, I was lucky to catch Ralph Samuelson MA ’71 (Ethnomusicology), performing with Japanese shakuhachi master Kinya Sogawa at Roulette in Brooklyn.

Favorite Course: Italian Renaissance art

Favorite Professor: John Paoletti

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 writes about the Toneburst Laptop and Electronic Arts Ensemble and its upcoming performance on Friday, May 9, 2014.

Last spring Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen founded Wesleyan’s Toneburst Laptop and Electronic Arts Ensemble.  This Friday, May 9 at 8pm in World Music Hall the group will have their final performance of the year.  They’re calling it an “electroextravaganza.”

Most of us don’t think of our laptop computers as instruments, so what then is a Laptop Ensemble?

Each member in the ensemble performs with a laptop that’s connected to a hemispherical speaker.  Fourteen members strong, Toneburst projects sound out of an equal number of hemispherical speakers.  Members draw from pre-existing programs and ones that they create themselves in order to generate remarkably inventive musical scores, each one a unique interaction between laptop and musician.

Highly interactive, it’s as much about the ensemble as it is about the technology.  Just like any instrumental ensemble, the members assume different roles depending on the score and constantly engage with one another.

“This is a different way of recognizing the laptop as instrument but also as social interaction,” says Ms. Matthusen.  “It takes its inputs in a way that we have to interact with each other.”

One work in this Friday’s concert has ensemble members connected to their computers and clapping hands, so that each time two members clap a musical note sounds.  The original score, composed by graduate student Christopher Ramos Flores, transforms the ensemble into a circuit system.

“They are essentially acting like a large keyboard,” explains Ms. Matthusen.

Another piece derives its material from OKCupid, an online dating site. Composed by graduate student Daniel Fishkin, the score utilizes text-to-speech software to transform the OKCupid profiles into sound.

“Daniel’s piece recognizes the laptop as an interface to this entire other world,” comments Ms. Matthusen—the world of online dating and social networks.

This Friday’s concert is particularly momentous for Toneburst because it is comprised primarily of new works written by the ensemble members.

The scores are imaginative and engaging, technical and compelling.  Each one is carefully crafted and then rehearsed again and again.  Yet the laptop ensemble leaves a lot of room for improvisation and play.

“Learning the program is the first part of it and then you can figure out how to actually express yourself using the restrictions of the score,” explains Toneburst member Mark Frick ’14. “You’re taking a technology that hasn’t been exploited for something particularly expressive before and using it for an expressive means.”

“There’s a shared spirit of exploration that has evolved through the group as part of this way of making music,” reflects Ms. Matthusen.  “They are working together to realize these scores, and there’s a power about that.”

The Toneburst Electroextravaganza concert is Friday, May 9, 2014  at 8pm in the CFA’s World Music Hall. Admission is free.

 

 

Daniel Gold '75

Daniel Gold ’75

Center for the Arts Story: When the new cinema opened at the Center for the Arts I had the privilege of being chosen as one of the student projectionists. I took the job very seriously as I believed there was a real art to presenting a film professionally. I remember going to the cinema late one night to set up the film reels for the next day’s screening. It was dark and quiet. I was the only one in the theater. The movie was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. In those days a feature length film came on many separate reels and we had two projectors. It took considerable skill for the projectionist to watch the corner of the screen for the small cue marks near the end of one reel, then start rolling and switch over to the next reel on the other projector without the audience ever noticing the change-over. I was checking out the cue marks and practicing the change-over between two reels when I looked out the port in the projection booth just as Martin Balsam, playing the investigator Arbogast, was nearing the top of the stairs inside Norman Bates’ house. From an overhead shot, the bedroom door swings open and Anthony Perkins, dressed as Norman Bates’ mother, charges Martin Balsam and plunges a kitchen knife into his chest several times. The Bernard Herman score screams with strident violin chords and Arbogast floats eerily through space in a nightmare fall down the staircase. Though I had seen the film many times I was frozen with fear. I completely missed the cue marks and never made the change over. When the horror eased a little and I snapped out of it, I quickly shut down the projectors, ran from the booth and out of the cinema never looking back. I would return in the light of day to complete my preparations and project the film in the safety and comfort of a theater full of people.

Favorite Course: The Western

Favorite Professor: John Fraser

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to graduate student Samuel Dickey ’14, and seniors Daniel Light ’14 and Emmie Finckel ‘14 about their capstone projects.  

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts offers undergraduate programs in Art & Art History, Dance, Music, and Theater, and graduate programs in Music.  In every department, students have the opportunity to create a capstone project in their final year.  These projects take myriad forms, each one a reflection of the student’s unique interests and creative voice.

On Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 9pm in Crowell Concert Hall, graduate student in music Samuel Dickey ’14 will present his thesis concert. After graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mr. Dickey came to Wesleyan in pursuit of a Master of Arts degree in Ethnomusicology.

The two-year program does not require that students produce a concert, as not all ethnomusicologists play an instrument.  Mr. Dickey, however, picked up his first guitar at the age of ten and hasn’t stopped playing since.  In 2010 he learned to play the Jeli Ngoni, a string instrument from West Africa.

His thesis concert brings together musicians from the Wesleyan community and beyond, including a couple of his bandmates from New York City. Half of the performers are Wesleyan students.

In addition to the recital, Mr. Dickey’s thesis includes a written component of 75 pages.  His essay examines the role of the guitar in West African music, and how this once foreign instrument became integrated into the performance of traditional songs.  He is looking specifically at music produced on either side of the border between Mali and Guinea.

“Guitars have become a vehicle for translating traditional music into a more popular sphere,” he explains.  “But more than the music being westernized by the guitar; the guitar has been Africanized by the music.”

Together, the essay and his recital mark the culmination of his studies at Wesleyan.

“The master’s program has been great,” says Mr. Dickey.  “I think it will allow me to pursue the sort of foothold I’ve been after in the music world.”

After graduation Mr. Dickey hopes to attain an ensemble coaching position or become an artist-in-residence.

In addition to graduate students, many undergraduates in the Music Department produce recitals as their senior capstone projects.  One such undergraduate is Daniel Light ’14, whose senior recital Resonance took place on Friday, April 18, 2014 in World Music Hall.

The Music Department grants its undergraduate majors a lot of flexibility in designing their senior projects.  One student may choose to record an album, while another opts for making a musical.

Mr. Light began with a couple of songs that he had written and ultimately developed a set list of seven original numbers.  He performed four of the songs with a full band, one with a string trio, one with a choral group, and one as a solo.

“It felt like a launching point,” reflects Mr. Light.  “I remember thinking that I would like to do this again at some point, to use my own material to fuel a concert.”

Much like students in the Music Department, those majoring in Theater have the leeway to design a senior capstone project tailored to their interests.  This past November, as part of her thesis, Emmie Finckel ‘14 designed the set for the Theater Department’s production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

Theater Department production of "The Seagull." Directed by Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky.  Photo by Jack Carr.

Theater Department production of “The Seagull.” Directed by Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky. Set design by Emeline Finckel ’14. Photo by Professor of Theater Jack Carr.

Envisioned as a theater prop house gone to ruin, the set filled the enormous stage in the CFA Theater with furniture and other objects.  The audience watched the performance from the stage, immersed in the set alongside the actors.

The hands-on work that Ms. Finckel did for The Seagull comprised the first part of her thesis.  The second part is an essay of 30 to 40 pages, in which she examines audience agency in immersive theater design.

Ms. Finckel’s thesis gave her the opportunity to work closely with faculty members, including Associate Professor of Theater Yuri Kordonsky, who directed the production, and Assistant Professor of Theater Marcela Oteíza, who has become a mentor to Ms. Finckel in her time at Wesleyan.

“It was wonderful to feel like they respected me enough to want me to be involved [in The Seagull] as their collaborator,” recalls Ms. Finckel.

Dramatically different in approach and content, these three examples of capstone projects speak to the wide-reaching interests of Wesleyan students and their impulse to innovate and create.  The capstone programs provide students an opportunity to synthesize the experiences that they’ve had at Wesleyan, reflecting both on where they’ve been and where they can go.

Ann Dallas '75

Ann Dallas ’75

Favorite Course:

Typography

Favorite Professor:

David Schorr

Center for the Arts Story:

The CFA was my first “real” job! Working for the galleries with Dick Wood and Art Shail, then events and publicity with Jean Shaw and Jon Higgins. The best of times!

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton about her commissioned work “Threshold Sites: Feast.” This Spring Faculty Dance Event will take place on Friday, April 25 at 7pm, and Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 2pm and 7pm in the new Cross Street Dance Studio, located at 160 Cross Street in Middletown.

Social media such as YouTube and Facebook have all but eliminated formerly unbridgeable distances between people and communities across the world.  We are more connected today than ever before.

Coupled with growing concern for the environment, our increased connectivity demands that we reconsider our understanding of community.  What does it mean to be part of a community?  How can we foster local communities in an increasingly globalized world?  How can human communities exist in harmony with nature?

The notion of community is central to this year’s Spring Faculty Dance Event. Created and directed by Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton, Threshold Sites: Feast explores the relationships between bodies, communities, and environments through the lens of food.

“Something about the way you live in and experience your body is related to the way you live in and relate to your community and your environment,” says Ms. Stanton.

Food relates to it all.  We eat to nourish our bodies, come together to break bread, and depend on the earth for our food.  Food sustains every life, family, and community.

In recent years, food has become a hot topic of debate and conversation.

“There is so much controversy surrounding food production and food security right now,” says Stanton.  “So much talk about what diet is good for you and for the planet.”

Threshold Sites: Feast is the culmination of Ms. Stanton’s engagement in the College of the Environment’s 2013-2014 Think Tank: Re-Envisioning the Commons. Over the course of this school year, the Think Tank has made efforts to expand discourse between economists, scientists, ecologists, and ethicists by bringing the humanities and performing arts into the conversation.

Rehearsal of "Threshold Sites: Feast" on March 22, 2014 in the Cross Street Dance Studio. Photo by Sandy Aldieri.

Rehearsal of “Threshold Sites: Feast” on March 22, 2014 in the Cross Street Dance Studio. Photo by Sandy Aldieri.

Ms. Stanton will perform in the work alongside Rachel Boggia, Deborah Goffe, Nik Owens ’12, and Wesleyan Artist in Residence in West African Dance Iddi Saaka. They are a diverse group, with backgrounds in myriad dance forms and roots across the globe.

“It was an extremely collaborative process,” says Ms. Stanton.  “The question being how do all these different bodies come together in a process that feels full and rich and challenging to everyone.”

As part of the rehearsal process, Ms. Stanton prompted all of her dancers to reflect on their personal and shared experiences with food.  They collected stories about memorable meals and songs about feasting — weaving many voices together into one rich sound score that backgrounds the event.

Some of the foods discussed in the sound score, many of them cherished family recipes, will be served to the audience.  Yes, there will be literal feasting.

Ms. Stanton intends to source some of the food from Wesleyan’s own Long Lane Farm. Greg Foley ’16 has been collaborating with Ms. Stanton on a documentary, which parallels the rehearsal process for Threshold Sites: Feast with the process of getting the farm up and running.

Threshold Sites: Feast will be the first performance to take place in the Wesleyan Dance Department’s new studio on Cross Street. Formerly the A.M.E. Zion Church, the building has been remodeled into a beautiful dance studio that can also be converted into a black box theater.

Spring Faculty Dance Event
Threshold Sites: Feast
Friday, April 25, 2014 at 7pm
Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 2pm & 7pm
Cross Street Dance Studio
$3 Wesleyan students, $5 all others.

Supported by the Dance Department, the Center for the Arts’ Creative Campus Initiative with leadership funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the College of the Environment.

Harold Sogard '74

Harold Sogard ’74

Center for the Arts Story: I was a senior theater major when the Center for the Arts opened in 1973. I’ve never put much stock in things supernatural, but there was always something freaky to me about the fact that the stage of the new theater was located on the exact spot where my grandparents had once had their house and where my mother had been born. I spent hundreds of fantastic, life-changing hours in the CFA. Before it even opened, I earned some much needed cash during the summer of ’73 working as a carpenter there, building things like the speakers in the new cinema and the cabinets in the design studio of the new theater. As a theater major, I took classes there, ran the (then revolutionary) new computer light board for the first play in the new theater, and I played the Referee in Fritz DeBoer’s production of Sam Shepard’s The Tooth of Crime. As President of WESU-FM, I produced a series of broadcasts of inaugural concerts from various venues, including an all-night-long gamelan concert and shadow puppet performance from the World Music Hall. And as a typical student attending CFA concerts, performances, exhibitions, and lectures, I had my eyes and ears and mind opened for a lifetime to a broad range of artistic expressions.

Favorite Course: Directing for the Stage

Favorite Professor: Ralph Pendleton

Thesis Title: “An Exploration of Simultaneity as a Form for the Theatre”

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Claire Marshall ’17, Trouve Ivo ’15, Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14, and CFA Programming Intern Francesca Miller ’14 about the “Living in Song” residency workshops. Participants from the workshops will perform song, movement, and sign language in a free celebratory concert on Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 7pm in Crowell Concert Hall.  

Three members of the Grammy Award-winning African American female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock® [currently celebrating their 40th anniversary season] have been in residence at Wesleyan over the past month.  They’ve been teaching three different workshops for 65 Wesleyan students and Connecticut residents. The workshops have been held at the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church, the Green Street Arts Center, and in the Fayerweather Dance Studio on campus.

Dr. Shirley Mary Childress

Dr. Shirley Mary Childress

In “The Vocal Movement Experience” workshops, Dr. Nitanju Bolade Casel shows participants how movement and breath can serve as a catalyst for sound.  Dr. M. Louise Robinson leads “The Rhythm Ring,” workshops designed to spark musical conversation in the oral tradition of call and response.  Those in Dr. Shirley Mary Childress’ “Songs in the Way of Hand” workshops learn to understand and communicate songs visually using the vocabulary of American Sign Language.

Although each of the “Living in Song” workshops has a unique focus, they all center on ideas of community. Part of the mission of Sweet Honey in the Rock® is to engage with and empower its diverse audience. Dr. Casel, Dr. Robinson, and Dr. Childress have achieved just that with their “Living in Song” workshops.

“Looking around the room and recognizing our different backgrounds has been really empowering to me,” says Claire Marshall ’17.  “It’s been a chance to drop into a world where people don’t all come from the same place.”

The workshops provide a unique opportunity for Wesleyan students to learn alongside Middletown residents.  There are participants commuting from other parts of Connecticut as well, including a few women who sing in a choir in Hartford.

“It’s a lot more about the community than about us Wesleyan students,” says Trouve Ivo ’15.

“The group is incredibly diverse and it has been wonderful to play in this way,” comments Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14.

A couple adults are participating alongside their home-schooled children, further broadening the age range of the workshops.  “The children are super enthusiastic,” says CFA Programming Intern Francesca Miller ’14.

Playful and enthusiastic seem to describe the general mood of the workshops.  “Everyone is always super excited to be there,” describes Mr. Ivo.

The energy cultivated in the workshops is radiant, and participants are bringing what they’ve learned into the community.  Two Wesleyan students are taking the “Songs in the Way of Hand” workshops as a way to become familiar with deaf culture in anticipation of living in Sign House next year.

The “Living in Song” workshops speak to the power of song to foster community, all the while honoring the voice of the individual.

“I’ve grown to be more comfortable with using my own voice and using song to bring a group together,” reflects Mr. Ivo.  “Vocal expression should be more present in creative communities because it’s a really incredible, uniting thing.”

Living in Song Showing
Thursday April 17, 2014 at 7pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
FREE!

Made possible by Wesleyan’s Office of Equity and Inclusion.

John Spike '73

John Spike ’73

Favorite Course: Art History 101

Favorite Professors: Samuel Green & Heinrich Schwarz

Center for the Arts Story: Work began on the Center for the Arts while I was an undergrad. We never saw any part of it finished, but, in keeping with Wesleyan’s penchant for the exotic and barely practical, we felt proud that it was projected to have an entire building dedicated to just the gamelan orchestra. My professor and advisor in Art History was the beloved Sam Green, who painted in a traditional realism style but favored all things modern. Sam was instrumental in securing approval for Kevin Roche’s modernist-brutalist plan for the CFA. We all had some concern about what we had wrought as the massive monolithic temple blocks were lined up in the woods, and the joke on campus was, “It looks like something designed for the Mayans but rejected by them.”

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