Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan: October Update

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 discusses the events of “Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.”

Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan is in full swing! We opened last month with the panel discussion Gender, Islam, and the “Muslim Problem,” organized and moderated by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk, followed by the Planet Hip Hop Festival. For those of you who were unable to attend the Planet Hip Hop Festival, or for those of you who were there and wish to see if you made it into the video, you can see exciting footage here.

Earlier this month, Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan was featured on WNPR’s Where We Live with Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge joining Dr. Feryal Salem, Assistant Professor of Islamic Scriptures and Law, Co-Director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program, and Director of the Imam and Muslim Community Leadership Certificate Program at the Hartford Seminary, and Sufi fusion singer Riffat Sultana (who will perform at Wesleyan on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8pm). Click here to listen to the broadcast.

Wesleyan University’s Dance Department and Center for the Arts present "To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars" Panel Discussion and Fall Faculty Dance Concert by Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, Friday, October 24, 2014. Premiere of multimedia work in response to political changes in Crimea.
Wesleyan University’s Dance Department and Center for the Arts present “To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars” Panel Discussion and Fall Faculty Dance Concert by Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, Friday, October 24, 2014. Premiere of multimedia work in response to political changes in Crimea.

A number of exciting Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan events are on the horizon. On Friday, October 24, 2014 at 8pm in the Memorial Chapel, Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio presents the premiere performance of the multimedia work To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars, a response to recent political changes in Crimea. Featuring live music and dance in collaboration with New York Crimean Tatar Ensemble Musical Director Nariman Asanov and Yevshan Ukrainian Vocal Ensemble Conductor Alexander Kuzma, the work explores issues of historical memory, cultural narrative, and the quest for human rights, as they relate to the history of Tatars, native inhabitants of Crimea, and their complex relationships with Ukraine and Russia. A free panel discussion, “Indigenous Ukrainian Perspectives of Crimea Post Russian-Invasion, will take place before the performance, on Friday, October 24, 2014 from 6pm to 7:30pm in Fayerweather Beckham Hall.

Next week, on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 7pm in CFA Hall, Lebanese American writer, actress, and teaching artist Leila Buck ’99 explores family, memory, and politics in her free solo performance Hkeelee (Talk to Me).

This semester, Ms. Buck is teaching a course in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program Department, Beyond “the Veil”: Representations and Realities of Muslim Women in the U.S., as part of the Creative Campus Initiative. The course employs artistic methods, personal narratives, and in-person connection to research and examine the dominant representations of Muslim women in the U.S. mainstream media and the complex realities of Muslim women’s lives.

Ms. Buck will also give a free workshop performance (Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 8pm), where she will present a work-in-progress showing of a collaborative theatrical work commissioned by the Center for the Arts as part of Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan.

In the meantime, we hope you will join us for all of these upcoming talks and performances.

2014-15 Season Now On Sale! World, U.S., New England, CT Premieres

This year, we invite you to join us as we welcome the world to Wesleyan. Artists working in contemporary or traditional forms from 18 different countries will be performing or exhibiting at the CFA over the next nine months.

fall_2014_brochure_cover8-18-14A centerpiece of this year’s program is Muslim Women’s Voices at Wesleyan, which begins in September. 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. It 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. We are also inviting audiences to participate in the creative process as we give birth to a new play by Leila Buck ’99, based on stories of Muslim and Muslim-American women in our region.

We are also bringing one of the United States’ most innovative theater companies working at the intersection of text and technology, The Builders Association, for two performances in October. Their amazing production Sontag: Reborn is a portrait of the younger years of one of America’s most iconic intellectuals, Susan Sontag. In November, the Theater and Music Departments join forces to mount the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, directed by Theater’s Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento with music direction by Nadya Potemkina, director of the Wesleyan University Orchestra. The musical was the thesis production of Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Theater major who graduated in ’02, who went on to win the Tony for “Best Original Score.” The book was written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who will be a visiting faculty member at Wesleyan this year. It is sure to be an extraordinary production. And throughout the fall, the epic-scale, haunting landscape paintings of Professor of Art Tula Telfair will be on view in Zilkha Gallery. We invite you to enter into the imaginary worlds that Telfair creates in twelve large-scale paintings that are simultaneously awe-inspiring and intimate.

We launched our new website over the summer, and we hope you’ll visit and return often to find out about all of the faculty, student, and visiting artist events and exhibitions this year. We hope you will look to us as a place of enlightenment and enjoyment in the coming months.

Pamela Tatge
Center for the Arts

SEAMUS Conference Amps Up Campus Soundscape Over Three Music-Packed Days (Mar. 27-29)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to University Professor of Music and Director of the Electronic Music and Recording Studios Ronald Kuivila and Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen about the conference of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, taking place at Wesleyan University from Thursday, March 27 through Saturday, March 29, 2014.

Experimental music composer Alvin Lucier first performed at Wesleyan in 1968, just one year before the release of his groundbreaking and world-famous sound installation, I Am Sitting in a Room. He was teaching at Brandeis University at the time, but came to Wesleyan after a group of students requested to take a class in electronic music. The class was a roaring success, and Mr. Lucier was hired to launch an electronic music program at Wesleyan.

More than four decades later, the electronic music scene on campus is alive and well, and this year Wesleyan hosts the 29th National Conference for the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS), co-hosted by University Professor of Music and Director of the Electronic Music and Recording Studios Ronald Kuivila and Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen. Over 130 people are expected to gather from the U.S. and abroad and join the Wesleyan and regional community for this important series of performances, installations, talks, and workshops. [The SEAMUS conference is being held in New England for the first time since 1998.]

The term “electro-acoustic” refers to music that depends on electronic technology for its creation and/or performance. “Electronic technology” encompasses everything from hemispherical speakers to 3D video projection, custom software to the average laptop.

That’s not to say electro-acoustic music is all high-tech. Ordinary objects frequently make their way into the musical compositions, concerts, and sound installations. Case in point: one installation work featured at this year’s SEAMUS conference, Urban Legend [by Jenny Johnson, as part of David Tudor’s Rainforest in Zelnick Pavilion], invites visitors to combine Pop Rocks candy with carbonated soda water, and then captures the sounds of the resulting chemical reaction with a small hydrophone. Rainforest will create a chorus of loudspeakers out of found objects in an immersive sound installation that melds the ordinary with the extraordinary. [Other contributors to Rainforest include Paula Matthusen, Nestor Prieto MA’14, Phil Edelstein, John Driscoll, Nayla Mehdi, Stephan Moore, Jim Moses, Doug Repetto, Jeff Snyder, and Suzanne Thorpe.]

In the upper lobby of Fayerweather Beckham Hall, the audio installation SC Tweet [by Charles Hutchins MA’05] draws information from incoming tweets [tagged with #sc140 and that contain executable code] to program elaborate musical scores.

And taking place in a public parking garage in Middletown [the Middle Oak Parking Garage at 213 Court Street], The Non-aggressive Music Deterrent will replace the light classical music that usually plays in the garage with a whole array of original electro-acoustic compositions [from Friday, March 27 at 5pm to Sunday, March 29, 2014 at 12am; contributors to The Non-aggressive Music Deterrent include Benjamin Zucker ’15, Jason Bolte, Julius Bucsis, Caroline Park, A. Campbell Payne, Sean Peuquet, Margaret Schedel, and Juan Solare.]

It’s this fusion of high-tech and low-tech that makes the field of electro-acoustic music so compelling and innovative. “There’s a fine tradition of doing things like circuit building and hacking, in which you take found objects and reconfigure them,” explains Mr. Kuivila. “It’s an approach to electro-acoustic music that dovetails with our daily experience, in that you take something familiar and redefine it so that it becomes new.”

Electro-acoustic music transforms an empty film canister into a loudspeaker, or a cigar box into the body of a new instrument. It can also transform space, an idea that has greatly influenced Mr. Kuivila and Ms. Matthusen’s vision for this year’s SEAMUS conference.

Pianist Kathleen Supové will perform during SEAMUS Concert #14 on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.
Pianist Kathleen Supové will perform during SEAMUS Concert #14 on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 8pm in Crowell Concert Hall.

In addition to the five daily concerts [for a total of fifteen concerts across the three days], the ongoing installations, four workshops, three paper sessions, and two listening rooms, there are a number of special events revolving around issues of space.

“We wanted to come up with ways to engage with the social dimension of spatiality,” says Mr. Kuivila.

One event that poses questions about space is Rock’s Role (After Ryoanji), which draws its inspiration from a series of pieces composed by John Cage. Rock’s Role (After Ryoanji) is comprised of soundworks that embrace sound leakage and overlap – the inescapable infiltration of sound into space. Each soundwork is intended to coexist with the other soundworks in the space [the lower level of World Music Hall; soundworks for Rock’s Role (After Ryoanji) contributed by Mara Helmuth, Jason Malli, Maggi Payne, A. Campbell Payne, and Adam Vidiksis.]

From the Memorial Chapel to the underground tunnels of the Center for the Arts, SEAMUS is taking the campus by storm and by sound. “You will hear a lot of different things,” says Mr. Kuivila. “It’s a smorgasbord of sorts.”

The SEAMUS conference represents an exciting moment for the Wesleyan Music Department and the regional community, bringing to campus many world leaders in the field of electro-acoustic music. For more information, as well as a detailed listing of events, please visit the conference website.

SEAMUS Concert #9
Friday, March 28, 2014 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
Tickets: $8 general public; $6 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $5 Wesleyan students

Concert #9 will feature Meditation on Pattern and Noise, a multi-modal exploration of communication and disruption, with music and language by vocalist Jonathan Zorn ’02 MA ’07. This concert will also include guitarist Bryan Jacobs performing his Syncro-Vox and Other Cheap Animation Techniques with Natacha Diels on alto flute (reading the music off a scrolling score on a computer display); pianist Kari Johnson performing time, forward by Chin Ting Chan (with fixed sample playbacks and live processing techniques), as well as Leander’s Swim by Sam Wells (with live electronics, inspired by Cy Twombley‘s painting Hero and Leandro, Part I); pianist Shiau-uen Ding performing Composition for S#!++\/ Piano with Drum Samples, Concrete Sounds, and Processing by Christopher Bailey (a percussive piece full of funky rhythms, joyous chaos, and cacophony); Motions of Maria Makiling for four-channel fixed media by Deovides Reyes III (depicting the bodily movements of the mythical Filipino character); and cellist Jason Calloway performing Vanished into the Clouds by Jacob David Sudol (with live electronics, titled from a chapter in the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji).

SEAMUS Concert #14
Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown
Tickets: $8 general public; $6 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $5 Wesleyan students

Concert #14 will feature pianist Kathleen Supové (pictured above) performing Sonata for Piano and Tape by Todd Kitchen (based on the melody from the chorale Christ lag in Todesbanden), as well as two movements from Metal Works for piano and electronics by Nina Young (a suite of pieces inspired by scientific, poetic, and historic concepts of metal). Ms. Young is the first prize 2013 ASCAP/SEAMUS Commission Winner.

The concert will also feature the final movement of The Chamber of False Things, from The Barnum Museum (2009–2012) for fixed media by Barry Schrader (an electronic tone poem based on a short story by Steven Millhauser). The winner of the 2014 SEAMUS Award, Mr. Schrader is a founder and the first president of SEAMUS, described by Gramophone as a composer of “approachable electronic music with a distinctive individual voice to reward the adventurous.”

This concert will also include Hephaestus’ Fire: Music for Anvil and Electronics by Paul Leary (named after the Greek god of blacksmithing, metallurgy, and volcanoes, and performed with keyboards, foot pedals, a gaming joystick, an anvil, various hammers, and industrial metals); Z-77 for paper and computer by Jennifer Hill (an interpretation of Richard Wagner’s “gesamtkunstwerk” performed along with Ryan Fellhauer); and N’air sur le lit, a collaboration by pianist Jon Appleton and vocalist Paul J. Botelho with fixed media.

Spring Events Include New England Premieres and Connecticut Debuts

PrintAs winter sets in, the Center for the Arts heats up with many events and experiences designed to inspire, entertain, provoke and delight. We are welcoming two groups who, like the CFA, are also celebrating their 40th anniversary. The first is Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s premier dance companies that will perform the New England premiere of Times Bones, an enthralling work that features music by Paul Dresher and poetry by Michael Palmer. Jenkins is one of this country’s master choreographers with an astonishing body of work and we are delighted to be bringing her company to Connecticut. We are also bringing members of Sweet Honey in the Rock to Wesleyan. For four decades, this Grammy Award-winning all female African American a cappella group has brought joy to audiences around the world. Three members of Sweet Honey will be teaching workshops that will culminate in a showing on April 17. This is an extraordinary opportunity for both singers and non-singers to enter into their creation and performance practice. Other highlights of the spring include the first major solo exhibition in the U.S. by Paris-based American artist Evan Roth, whose work lives at the intersection of viral media and art, graffiti and technology. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear Ukranian Vadym Kholodenko, winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, play a program that includes Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, and Nikolai Medtner. Wesleyan’s Music Department will host the 28th conference of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, which will feature a series of concerts where you can immerse yourself in new music by American composers. And Associate Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will premiere the work Threshold Sites: Feast, which explores how we experience and enact our own corporeality, and how that impacts the way we experience our communities and our environments. At the end of the semester, you’ll have the chance to see the culminating works created by Wesleyan students, and be able to put your finger on the pulse of the current generation of art makers. Highlights include a production of Slawomir Mrozek’s Vatzlav, directed by Lily Whitsitt ’06; thesis performances in music and dance; and three weeks of thesis exhibitions by studio art majors. We have a rich and expansive spring planned for you. Please join us as often as you can.

Pamela Tatge
Center for the Arts

Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Nadya Potemkina (Dec. 4)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 talks to Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina about directing the Wesleyan Concert Choir, who will perform a free concert on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 7pm in Memorial Chapel, located at 221 High Street in Middletown.  The concert will feature works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Richard Genée, Eric Whitacre, Ernst Toch, René Clausen, and Jay Althouse, performed in collaboration with members of the Wesleyan University Orchestra.

Can you tell me a little bit about where you’re from and how you ended up at Wesleyan?

I come from St. Petersburg, Russia.  I grew up there and received my bachelor’s degree in viola pedagogy, double majoring in choral conducting, and then I came to the United States in 2002 to the University of Northern Iowa  on an exchange program with a string quartet from St. Petersburg.  We came to study chamber music and to work on our masters’ degrees in performance.  We did a few tours around the country and some outreach activities in the area. At UNI, I started taking conducting lessons and decided to continue my studies in conducting, but I couldn’t get into a doctoral program with a master’s in viola, so I went to Ball State University in Indiana to get my master’s in conducting and then moved to Memphis.  I currently am an A.B.D. and working on my dissertation.

What is the focus of your dissertation?

I’m trying to find ways to promote contemporary orchestral music and to make it more accessible for unprepared audiences, hopefully by bringing forth certain associative symbols that composers may have had in mind or connections to other art forms—paintings that may have inspired a certain piece of music, sculptures, sources of light, program notes that may help people process sounds that at times are too confusing and hard to understand, or just too far away from the western tradition that we are so used to.

Can you tell me about the program for the Wesleyan Orchestra fall concert that happened last month?

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina directed the Wesleyan University Orchestra for the first time on November 16, 2013. Photo by Lucy Guiliano.
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina directed the Wesleyan University Orchestra for the first time on November 16, 2013. Photo by Lucy Guiliano.

The program was very significant for me personally.  First of all, we are celebrating Tchaikovsky’s creative life this year, since it’s the 120th anniversary of his death.  This particular symphony [Symphony No. 4] is very special to me.  It was the first piece I ever conducted with a full symphony orchestra.  I was barely able to get through the first five pages of it because the sound, the quality of sound, that you experience standing on the podium just—I don’t know, it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I was so overwhelmed.  So, we have Tchaikovsky with this very special piece, and we opened the concert with an overture by a composer who had profound influence on Tchaikovsky’s work. In his letters Tchaikovsky writes a lot about Mozart and how much he admires his music and how much it changed his life, his creative process, so I decided to feature an overture by Mozart to precede Tchaikovsky’s piece.          

And where was it that you first perform this symphony?

It was part of my final test for a conducting class at University of Northern Iowa.  It was a life changing experience for me.  It was when I decided that I most definitely wanted to experience this kind of music making again, so I decided to continue my studies in conducting.

Do you view conducting as a type of music making, even if you yourself are not playing one of the instruments?

I think it most definitely is a process of music making.  People say often that conductors are not musicians, that they’re artists, implying we’re sort of standing up there on the podium looking cool.  But I do believe that the things we say and our facial expressions and gestures communicate all sorts of musical ideas on very different levels to the people who surround us.  It changes the way they play.  I see it often when I go to conducting workshops, and you have ten students conducting the same group of people in the same music.  If saying that conductors do nothing special were true, then the piece would sound the same ten times, but it’s never the same.  Somehow the quality of sound, the tempo, phrasing—it changes from person to person.

Do you then develop a very personal relationship with the group that you are conducting?

Oh yes, of course.  You must.

How has this relationship evolved over the course of the fall semester?

I certainly know my musicians better now because I have been able to watch them play and see what their technical advantages and difficulties are, what they may need to work on; what is their characteristic way of moving the bow, let’s say, or for winds maybe some unique sound quality in certain registers, the tuning specifics, something that’s very characteristic of the person.  Knowing that allows me to find ways to help them improve in areas that need attention.

Do you expect to have many of the same students in the spring semester?

I sure hope so.

How many students are in the orchestra this semester?

I have about 23 people registered for the class, but I’m also so fortunate to have such strong support from the faculty and also from the musicians of the Middletown community.  Without their help we wouldn’t be able to produce the quality of music we have been able to play.  I think we had about 50 people on stage for the concert last month.

So many of those people were local musicians?

Yes, and they’re just kindly donating their time to the group.

Do they come to class periodically?

Yes.  Also, students who wish to play in the orchestra but have scheduling conflicts are welcome to volunteer and come as often as they can.  We’ve had a couple of faculty members playing.  It’s been fun.

How is the experience of working with the concert choir different from that of working with the orchestra?

The conducting style we use for singers differs from how one should conduct an orchestra.  With singing we have a single type of instrument—it’s a human voice, and it’s also strongly connected to text, to lyrics.  So choral conducting is a lot more abstract.  It sort of paints the pictures in the air.  But with orchestra you have so many different parts and different instruments that produce the sound in very different ways, so you cannot be as free as with singers.  It has to be more strict and precise. We will be singing a colorful variety of pieces, both a cappella and accompanied, with the assistance of members of Wesleyan University Orchestra.

How many instruments do you personally play?

I started at the age of five as a violinist but switched to viola at the age of twelve.  I just like the sound of the viola better.  I play some piano, guitar a bit.

Is it fair to say that you are more interested in how all these sounds can marry and come together?

Yeah, it’s magic.

Free concert by Hartford Steel Symphony in Memorial Chapel (July 2)

Hartford Steel Symphony Hartford Steel Symphony
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 7pm
Memorial Chapel
, 221 High Street, Middletown

Dance to the island rhythms of the Hartford Steel Symphony! Founded in 1989, this premier Connecticut steel pan group performs calypso, reggae, pop, classical, and jazz tunes under the musical direction of Kelvin Griffith and Curtis Greenidge, and has shared the stage with artists such as the great panist Len “Boogsie” Sharpe of Trinidad.

This Weekend: Puppetry, Funk, Grateful Dead music, and more!

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 surveys this week’s offerings at the Center for the Arts.

What are you doing this weekend? Are you rocking out to the music of the Grateful Dead? Watching an outdoor puppet show? Maybe you are listening to an orchestra of laptops, or expanding your idea of art. If you aren’t, you should be. This weekend holds a ton of exciting performances, exhibitions, and lectures that are as diverse in subject as they are in medium.

On Friday at 1:30pm, get your dance fix with a free studio showing by the Philadelphia-based choreographer Moncell Durden, President and Founder of Dance Educators of Funk and Hip Hop.

Time Stands Still: Notation in Musical Practice Festival-Conference, April 5 & 6

If music is more your thing, there are a number of senior and graduate recitals, like Henry Robertson’s tribute to the Grateful Dead, “Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds” (Thursday at 9pm). You could also explore musical notation with international experts at the Time Stands Still festival-conference this weekend (starting Friday at 1:30pm). Along with symposium sessions and roundtables, there will be two concerts (Friday and Saturday at 8pm), including the U.S. premiere of London’s Vocal Constructivists, alongside Wesleyan students in the Toneburst Laptop & Electronic Arts Ensemble.

A little overwhelmed? Take a break and have some quiet contemplation with artwork at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. There you can see the brilliant art studio thesis work (Noon to 5pm). The students featured are so talented, you won’t believe that not one of them has yet lived a quarter of a century. You can also see artists taking action in a collection of protest posters at the Davison Art Center (Noon to 4pm).

Last but definitely not least is the outdoor puppet show (Thursday through Saturday at 9pm), with handmade puppets and complimentary tea. You really don’t want to miss Frog’s journey to prevent Tokyo’s destruction by enlisting the help of a lowly collections officer, Katagiri!

Instead of your normal weekend routine, come to an event at the Center for the Arts. I promise it will be more fun, valuable and out of the ordinary than anything you were planning!

The earliest singer-songwriters: Medieval music brought into the modern era (Feb. 28)

On Thursday, February 28 at 7pm, the Music Department has the honor of hosting one of the most established early music performing groups, the Orlando Consort, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary. CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 spoke with Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department Jane Alden about the Orlando Consort and pre-modern (western European Medieval) music.  

Monica Tinyo: How do you give pre-modern a longevity; what are the limitations of pre-modern music in a modern era? Although you have original manuscripts, can you be certain how the music was originally presented?

Jane Alden: Whats really frustrating about Medieval [pre-modern] music is that we have no idea how it was performed. It can also be very liberating; we can be very creative in our interpretations. For the earliest Medieval music, the secular music of the troubadours and the trouvères, all we really have is the descriptions in the autobiographies. These biographies are usually more fantastic than documentary. We also have iconographic images of troubadours playing instruments. If they seem to be singing while playing an instrument, we glean from those that the music was accompanied [by instruments]. This is generally the [archeological] process we go through. The problem, however, is how do we know those that aren’t holding instruments to indicate that they are musicians—someone with their mouth open is only gleaned to be a singer if they are also holding an instrument. Can we be certain then that those pieces were accompanied?

Unfortunately, we can’t travel back in time, so we don’t really know anything for certain, [however] I am much more in favor of the liberation of not knowing. In presenting this music now, we are already placing it in the modern era, so we might as well do what we want to make it meaningful to us. I have no problem with playing pre-modern music on modern instruments. For example, I love hearing this music on the piano which historically is completely anachronistic.

Tell me a little about the group we will be hearing on Thursday [the Orlando Consort].

The Orlando Consort

There is a strong a cappella tradition—it is a very blended sound. As part of the British choral tradition, the group prioritizes [a very blended sound] but more so than that, the musicians have been singing together for so long. Their music is all about the interaction of voices.

It is incredibly complex music. If you hear a solitary voice or instrument, you can follow that one melodic line. When you hear a full orchestra, there is a wash of color—you hear the complexity and all these different instruments. In some ways, your brain has to work even harder when it hears four male voices, because they all have the same timbre to some extent, although there are obviously subtleties, but you can actually follow four different lines. In fact, studies show that [four different melodic lines] is the most the brain can recognize. The sound will fill the chapel—with an aural complexity that is very engaging.

[Professor Alden explained that the Orlando Consort has received a commission to do the first complete works of Guillaume de Machaut, an immensely influential French Medieval composer and poet who was very ahead of his time. Although arguably as important as Ludwig van Beethoven, Machaut is not as widely known because because the recording industry is relatively new, and unlike Beethoven, he is a pre-modern musician.]

Machaut was the last of a long tradition of poet-musicans. The Medieval poet-musicans were the earliest singer-songwriters. [Many don’t know that] the contemporary tradition of the singer-songwriter has a history dating back to the twelfth century. If you ask people in French Studies about Machaut, they explain that he was an incredibly important poet, but they could have no idea that he was also a composer. He is so important for literature, but he was also a phenomenally important composer. He was so far ahead of his time. Thinking of a modern day symphony, there are four movements that all come together in organic unity. We have all grown up hearing organic unity in music, and understanding it to be incredibly important (whether it is or not is a different issue). Machaut wrote the first piece that works like that with the movements of the Mass. In the fourteenth century, the idea of something that was through-composed was unheard-of. He linked the music between the musical parts that were separated by texts, which had never been unified before. It was epic for religious music—it was so ahead of his time that no one tried to do it for another hundred years.

The Orlando Consort will present a 200 year tour of Western European music. The first half of the concert will consist of songs from a poem Machaut wrote called “Le Voir Dit,” or “The True Saying,” the (possibly fictional) romance between a Machaut in his late 60s and the 19 year old noble woman, Peronne; the second half of the concert will be devoted to later English and Franco-Flemish music, which can be understood as the logical extension of Machaut [the sacred works of John Dunstaple, Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem, Josquin des Prez, and Nicolas Gombert].

Orlando Consort
Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 7pm
Memorial Chapel, 221 High Street, Middletown
$12 general public; $9 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students

Co-sponsored by the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund, Department of Romance Languages and Literature, Medieval Studies, College of Letters, Music Department, and the Center for the Arts.

Spring Events include World, U.S. & New England Premieres

Gallim Dance performs February 8 & 9, 2013 as part of the Performing Arts Series.

This spring at the Center for the Arts we bring you work that is of today: innovative, inquisitive and sure to surprise and engage you. Continuing our exploration of Music & Public Life, we bring you a concert of music from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello–what you might have heard both in the mansion and in the slaves’ quarters–where audiences will have the chance to experience the first glass harmonica on the Crowell Concert Hall stage. The great activist and trumpeter Hugh Masekela will bring his band to Wesleyan, and our own West African Drumming ensemble will have the chance to open for him. In dance, we bring back Andrea Miller’s Gallim Dance after their performance at the DanceMasters Weekend Showcase in 2011 brought audiences to their feet. Her piece Mama Call investigates her Spanish-Sephardic heritage, and the reprise of Pupil features the spirited music of Balkan Beat Box. In theater, we bring the master innovator Lee Breuer to campus with his newest work Glass Guignol, a compilation of texts from Tennessee Williams’ women, performed by the indomitable Maude Mitchell.

In Zilkha Gallery, Lucy and Jorge Orta’s Food-Water-Life will be on view. This is the first-ever solo show in the U.S. of work by these Paris-based artists, who stage performative events to bring attention to some of the world’s most urgent environmental and social issues. The colorful sculptural works, including a large canoe, and three parachutes, will take advantage of Zilkha’s scale, and a series of food events is being staged to more deeply connect you to the themes of the show.

Spring is also when you have the chance to put your finger on the pulse of the next generation of contemporary artists: an evening of work by seniors in dance, three theater thesis productions, four weeks of thesis exhibitions in Zilkha, and two solid months of music recitals will give audiences an overview of the art that is being generated at Wesleyan.

So please join us! We look forward to welcoming you.

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts

Fall Events include World, New England & Connecticut Premieres, Navaratri Festival

Rama Vaidyanathan performs on October 21, 2012 as part of the 36th annual Navaratri Festival

Over the course of the next year, a campus-wide steering committee has put together a far-reaching series of global performances, talks and participatory projects, all with the intention of bringing us into an examination of the role of Music & Public Life. We will celebrate and study the sounds, words and spirit of music in public at the local, national and transnational levels, all designed to cross disciplines and to engage the campus and community-at-large. From performances by Middletown’s own Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem to the legendary Hugh Masekela; showcasing student research in the role of music in the current political campaigns; to the creation of MiddletownRemix–there are points of entry for everyone.

In September, we feature dance and theater companies who are exploring the role of the audience as actively engaged in the live creative process of the theatrical event. In ZviDance’s Zoom, patrons use their smartphones to integrate their own photos and text into the work; in Anonymous Ensemble’s Liebe Love Amour!, the audience is engaged in constructing the “performance script.”

October and November bring the return of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women in a stunning work she co-created with Nora Chipaumire (visible) that features an international cast of all-star dancers; as well as the CFA’s commission of a work by the fiercely interdisciplinary writer/director Rinde Eckert (this year’s winner of an inaugural Duke Performing Artist Award). The Last Days of the Old Wild Boy has been developed with students and faculty in Music, Animal Studies and Neuroscience and is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Creative Campus Initiative.

It’s a robust fall, rich with work that brings us into new conversations with art and its possibilities. We hope you’ll join us!

Best regards,

Pamela Tatge
Director, Center for the Arts