Wesleyan University Creates Madhu Reddy Endowed Fund for Indian Music and Dance

Pictured (left to right): Wesleyan University Music Artist in Residence David Nelson, Wesleyan University Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge, and Madhu Reddy. Photo by Olivia Drake.

Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts announces the creation of the Madhu Reddy Endowed Fund for Indian Music and Dance at Wesleyan University. Mr. Reddy, a real estate agent with William Raveis based in Glastonbury, Connecticut, established the fund with a pledge of $100,000 and presented a check for $50,000 to Pamela Tatge, Director of the Center for the Arts, at a brief ceremony on Friday, December 14. “For over fifty years, Wesleyan’s Music and Dance Departments and the Center for the Arts have been presenting the music and dance of India to the campus and the region. The Reddy Fund will sustain Wesleyan’s annual Navaratri Festival of music and dance, as well as provide much needed support for faculty research and performance,” said Ms. Tatge. “We are all so moved by Madhu’s generosity and passion for the arts of India, and look forward to working with him to grow the Fund in the coming years.”

Wesleyan’s program in Indian music and dance was founded by T. Viswanathan, who earned his Ph.D. at Wesleyan in 1975 and then began teaching South Indian music together with his brother T. Ranganathan. Their sister was the renowned dancer Balasaraswati, who also taught at Wesleyan. Today, Wesleyan’s Indian music and dance faculty includes Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music B. Balasubrahmaniyan, Assistant Professor Dance Hari Krishnan, and Music Artist in Residence David Nelson.

Navaratri, one of India’s major festival celebrations, is a time to see family and friends, enjoy music and dance and seek blessings for new endeavors. The annual Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan celebrates traditional Indian music and dance. The 36th annual Navaratri Festival, which took place in October and November 2012, included a concert by Mr. Balasubrahmaniyan and Mr. Nelson, along with performances by singer T.V. Sankaranarayanan and dancer Rama Vaidyanathan in Crowell Concert Hall. The 37th annual Navaratri Festival will take place in October 2013.

About the Music Department
The Wesleyan University Music Department provides a unique and pioneering environment for advanced exploration committed to the study, performance, and composition of music from a perspective that recognizes and engages the breadth and diversity of the world’s musics and technologies. As an integral part of one of the nation’s leading liberal arts institutions, the department has enjoyed an international reputation for innovation and excellence, attracting students from around the globe since the inception of its visionary program in World Music four decades ago.

A recording studio, a computer and experimental music studio, the Center for the Arts media lab and digital video facility, the World Instrument Collection (which includes the David Tudor Collection of electronic musical instruments and instrumentation) and the Scores and Recordings Collection of Olin Library (which includes the World Music Archives) offer many learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

For more information about the Music Department, please click here.

About the Dance Department
The Dance Department at Wesleyan University is a contemporary program with a global perspective. The curriculum, faculty research and pedagogy all center on the relationships between theory and practice, embodied learning, and the potential dance making has to be a catalyst for social change.  Within that rigorous context, students encounter a diversity of approaches to making, practicing and analyzing dance in an intimate learning atmosphere. The program embraces classical forms from Ballet, Bharata Natyam, Javanese, and Ghanaian, to experimental practices that fuse tradition and experimentation into new, contemporary forms.

For more information about the Dance Department, please click here.

About the Center for the Arts
Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts is an eleven-building complex on the Wesleyan campus that houses the departments of Art and Art History, Dance, Film Studies, Music, and Theater. Opened in 1973, the CFA serves as a cultural center for the region, the state and New England. The Center includes the 400-seat Theater, the 260-seat Hall, the World Music Hall (a non-Western performance space), the 414-seat Crowell Concert Hall and the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.

The Center for the Arts gratefully acknowledges the support of its many generous funders and collaborators, including the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New England Foundation for the Arts, the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of the Arts, as well as media sponsors the Hartford and New Haven Advocates, Shore Publishing, WESU 88.1FM, and WNPR.

For more information about Center for the Arts, please call (860) 685-3355, or click here.

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

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 on “John Cage & Public Life” (Dec. 7-8)


John Cage at Wesleyan, 1988

John Cage turns one hundred this year, and Wesleyan is celebrating his life and work via John Cage & Public Life, which focuses on Cage’s understanding of music as a social process, and includes a lecture this afternoon by Richard Kostelanetz, the noted literary artist and author of the first biography of John Cage; performances of Cage’s work tonight and Saturday; and the “John Cage Writes” exhibition in Olin Memorial Library, which focuses on the five books by Cage that were published by Wesleyan University Press. CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 spoke with some of the people involved in the celebration.

Cage was as profound as he was prolific, never following the normal course of action or thought. Critics explain that Cage was “not a composer but an inventor of genius”  (Cage’s mentor and prolific composer, Arnold Schoenberg). He was “a master of several arts, a slave to none” (Richard Kostelanetz, The New York Times Book Review). “No American has caused more disturbances or astonishments than John Cage” (Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker).

Rather than try to summarize Cage’s artistic and personal character, here’s a statement from the man himself:

“I once asked Aragon, the historian, how history was written. He said, ‘You have to invent it.’ When I wish as now to tell of critical incidents, persons, and events that have influenced my life and work, the true answer is all of the incidents were critical, all of the people influenced me, everything that happened and that is still happening influences me” (Autobiography, 1990).

Neely Bruce, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music and American Studies at Wesleyan, and a composer and close friend of Cage, explains that, “other composers I have known personally have had a great impact on me. But the influence of my friends and mentors is not so pervasive as the influence of Cage.”

The events this weekend focus on the composer’s understanding of music as a social process and are part of Music & Public Life, a year-long campus and community-wide exploration. Ronald Kuivila, University Professor of Music at Wesleyan, explains:

“This cycle of performances began at the Shasha Seminar with a performance of Lecture on the Weather (1975). The introduction of that piece shares his understanding of the social import of his work. He comments, ‘We have lost confidence in one another. We could regain it tomorrow by simply changing our minds.’ He concludes with ‘More than anything else we need communion with everyone’. Thoreau said: ‘The best communion men have is in silence.’ Of course ‘silence’ for Cage means a silencing of the ego that can occur by giving oneself over to sound.  In his thinking, that devotion of attention is the most fundamental musical act.”

Etcetera, HPSCHD, and Song Books provide a wonderful cross-section of the varied nature of the ‘communions’ Cage composed.  Etcetera is a reconfiguration of the social authority of the orchestra. The piece creates an orchestra power, effaced in favor of obligation and commitment, where the need for organization is recognized but not allowed to be a virtue in itself.”

HPSCHD was co-composed with Lejaren Hiller, one of the great pioneers of computer music (as well as one of Neely Bruce’s principal teachers).  The piece consists of a super-abundance of musical material. It was composed as an embrace of this ‘wastefulness’ by creating a situation of such profusion that every participant’s experience would be unique.”

Etcetera and HPSCHD are ‘utopian’ in their presentation of an alternative social order and can be regarded as almost a kind of ‘sacred music.’ Song Books, in contrast, is as often profane as sacred.  Songs are sung, food is cooked, games are played—hawks cry, fire burns—Cage himself described the piece as almost a bordello that you would be afraid to call art.”

Presented in conjunction with the John Cage & Public Life events this weekend, Special Collections & Archives at Olin Memorial Library has organized an exhibition, John Cage Writes, which includes selections from Cage’s papers related to the five books he wrote that were published by Wesleyan University Press and examples of artists’ books influenced by Cage’s work.

Wesleyan University Press had a long and fruitful relationship with Cage. Neely Bruce recalls that Jose de la Torre Bueno, the senior editor of Wesleyan University Press, worked very closely with Cage as editor of Silence and all of the other wonderful Wesleyan University Press books by Cage. Cage went so far as to say, “I wrote the words but Bill Bueno made the books.”

Suzanna Tamminen, Director of Wesleyan University Press, explains:

“Wesleyan University Press was interested in Cage even before he arrived here. When Cage wrote to the press proposing a book that would be printed, in part, on transparent sheets, the director sent a memo to the editor asking whether or not one could take this proposal seriously. The editor sagely responded, ‘This is John Cage, and I think we should take everything he proposes quite seriously.’ I think this encapsulates the open-mindedness that, even then, distinguished Wesleyan University Press from other presses and stood out to Cage in the first place.”

Please join us this weekend in celebrating John Cage, whose influence echoes across the campus and the globe. After this weekend, continue to be inspired by Cage through the free John Cage Prepared Piano smartphone app [created by musician Jack Freudenheim ’79, working in conjunction with Larson Associates and the John Cage Trust], downloadable here.

Richard Kostelanetz Lecture: John Cage’s Greatest Hits!

Friday, December 7 at 4:30pm
CFA Hall

Etcetera & HPSCHD
Friday, December 7 at 8pm
A progressive concert beginning in Crowell Concert Hall and continuing in Fayerweather Beckham Hall
$4 Wesleyan students, $5 all others

Song Books by John Cage

Saturday, December 8 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall

John Cage Writes
Now through Sunday, March 10, 2013
Olin Library, 252 Church Street, Middletown
Click here for library hours

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks to Nicholas Orvis ’13 about “The Tempest” (Dec. 6-8)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 spoke with Nicholas Orvis ’13, a Theater major with a concentration in directing, who is in the midst of his honors thesis, a production alongside a paper focusing on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (Dec. 6-8) and what it means “to die well” on and off stage in Western Europe during the Renaissance.

The TempestWhat enticed you about Shakespeare’s The Tempest?

“My paper is about the act of dying well on Medieval and Renaissance stages. I started with the realization that the language in The Tempest is similar to [that used by contemporary] long-care terminal patients. Beginning with the language, I started exploring what it means to die on stage in Shakespeare’s time. Part of the paper is arguing that The Tempest mirrors what Shakespeare and his audience would have considered the correct way to die.”

“The concept of dying well has changed tremendously since the Renaissance. The paper starts with the morality plays in the Middle Ages which were very prescriptive, allegorical descriptions of how to die well. There is then a major shift, that I think Shakespeare and his culture are in the middle of negotiating between the old, universalist Catholicism and newer, rigorous Protestantism. The debates over predestination caused panic. [People wondered,] ‘How can we ensure that when we are dying, we are going to Heaven and leaving a good legacy on Earth?’ It was a time of social and religious upheaval. Instead of the universalism previously accepted, the question was then how does an individual person ensure a good end? Because of the Protestant shift, the two realms of social afterlife and literal afterlife were beginning to blur.”

Officially England was Protestant during Shakespeare’s life but Nicholas explains, “many argue that Shakespeare was a closet Catholic; no one is sure what Shakespeare was personally.” What is clear is that religious debates manifest in Shakespeare’s plays.

“Current theater and culture at large has seen an interesting shift where we are no longer willing, at least publicly, to make judgment on what is a good or bad end. I am thinking of the [contemporary] play Wit, which is inevitably about the process of dying but refuses to make any qualitative judgments on whether the protagonist is dying in a good way or a bad way. The focus is on the struggle to stay alive rather than the negotiation with death.” This is because “as a whole, we live a more pluralistic, religiously divided society…[so there is] less room for people to make dogmatic statements [about how to live life and how to die well].”

Why do you think Shakespeare can still resonate with a contemporary audience while still being so specific to his time?

“Think of Shakespeare’s Tempest like a spider web; it has all these different strands. One is religion. There is also politics, pop culture, the new world, colonialism. What we are doing [in our production] is just pulling at one strand of that web and looking at it very closely. I think [Shakespeare] is universal because he always has all these strands going on simultaneously.”

“Our production of The Tempest is using [only] four actors, all of whom are masked except Prospero.” Nicholas and his cast are focusing on the “negotiation between Prospero securing a future for his daughter with Ferdinand and reconciling the war within himself and with his brother, the King of Naples and all these other people who have done him wrong. We have not added anything; everything in the production is Shakespeare’s words but we removed minor lords that have only a few lines, knowing we could either have someone else say the lines or it could be ignored all together.”

If those characters and subplots were able to be cut without hindering Shakespeare’s ideas, why are they even there? Shakespeare was so deliberate; how could something be extraneous?

“First of all, we are focusing on one strand in The Tempest. The Tempest has many subplots about power and usurping power which are all very interesting, but they are not crucial to this question of how the individual comes to terms with other people and himself. Also the way in which the play is written reflects the traditions of Shakespeare’s time—the Shakespearean audience expected that if there was a king on stage, even if he was shipwrecked, he would be accompanied by well dressed servants and such. Our modern audience doesn’t miss these markers of status.”

The Tempest is usually very lavish and exotic. Our production is stripped down. Our magic is usually a very small moment instead of fireworks and people flying through the air.”

You keep using the term “we”—would you say this production is a collaboration?

“I tend to be democratic as a director. Also this is the first time that I am working on a script as a director that I am also editing myself so [the team] has been very useful in rehearsals. We have spent a lot of time questioning what lines are needed. The five of us really worked together to make it as precise as possible.”

Minimalism seems to be trending recently in traditional modes of performance like opera. Do you think this is true in theater?

“There seems to be a general shift in modern theater away from the old, early twentieth century theater in which there is one scene, the curtain comes down, then the curtain lifts onto another scene, and so on. We have shifted towards the even older tradition of continuous action; there is less theater with long episodic moments. In our production, four blocks, a cloth and the props that the actors carry are the only entities that set the scene—the actors change the scene by moving the blocks around the stage. I wanted to keep with continuous action rather than episodic moments. I firmly believe that, particularly with Shakespeare, one must let the audience focus on action, language and characters rather than setting.”

Don’t miss Nicholas’ thesis production of the timeless—yet always contemporary—Shakespeare’s The Tempest!

The Tempest by Shakespeare
A Senior Thesis Production by Nicholas Orvis ’13
Presented by the Theater Department
Thursday, December 6 through
 Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 9pm
Patricelli ’92 Theater
, 213 High Street

FREE! Tickets required. Tickets will be made available on the day of each performance at the Wesleyan University Box Office. Off-campus guests may call the box office at 860-685-3355 after 10am to reserve tickets to be held in their names until fifteen minutes prior to curtain. On-campus guests must pick up their tickets at the box office. There is a two-ticket limit per person for free ticketed events.