Monica M. Tinyo ’13 on the MiddletownRemix Festival (May 11)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 discusses the MiddletownRemix Festival, taking place on Saturday, May 11, 2013 from 2pm to 5pm. All festival events are free, and will take place rain or shine. The Festival Information Center will be located at 575 Main Street, Middletown, CT (in front of It’s Only Natural Market). Click here to download the MiddletownRemix Festival Schedule and Map (opens as a pdf).

middletownremix logo_revisedThis Saturday, MiddletownRemix: Hear More, See More – A Festival of Art and Sound will celebrate the city’s acoustic identity with four world premieres of works commissioned for the festival, three live DJ sets, two commissioned art/sound installations, a laptop orchestra, a flash mob dance, food trucks, graffiti art, improv sketches, and a gallery walk.

MiddletownRemix is part of Wesleyan’s year-long initiative Music & Public Life, as well as part of the Center for the Arts’ greater initiative to foster community engagement using the arts as a catalyst. Not since Middletown Dances in September 2005 on Main Street, and the Feet to the Fire Festival in May 2008 at Veterans Park, has there been such an opportunity for Wesleyan students and the greater Middletown community to collaborate and celebrate the space they share. Gabriela de Golia ’13 explains this collaboration is exactly why “the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s Middletown-Wesleyan Relations Committee is so excited for this festival. For a whole afternoon, students, residents, families and renowned artists will be able to experience the artistic culture of Wesleyan and Middletown, and celebrate the work of talented community members. This is a special chance for the University and town to come together and engage with one another on a more personal and interactive level than is usually possible.”

The MiddletownRemix project stemmed from the interest of Wesleyan Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen in UrbanRemix, a project created by Georgia Tech composer Jason Freeman and his collaborators. The project includes a smartphone application and website, and allows people to easily record, geographically tag and share sounds from everyday life. Over the past year, campus and community members have been uploading sounds that characterize Middletown. After monthly meetings with Middletown’s arts stakeholders group, a committee of 25 dedicated community members and members of Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, WESU 88.1 FM, and Green Street Arts Center together shaped the MiddletownRemix festival, including partnering on a successful grant proposal to the Connecticut Office of the Arts.

This Saturday’s festival will premiere a total of eight commissioned works from Middletown artists, Wesleyan students and faculty; including “MTRX” (2012) by Jason Freeman, which will be performed by Wesleyan University’s Toneburst Laptop & Electronic Arts Ensemble, directed by Paula Matthusen, at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm at the Green Street Arts Center (located at 51 Green Street).

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to listen and dance with your neighbors. There will be a flash mob dance at 2:30pm on Main Street between Liberty and Ferry Street. It’s not too late to learn the flash mob dance, which is open to all levels of dancers. Learn the dance on YouTube here and perform it as part of the flash mob on May 11 (participants should plan to arrive at the Festival Information Center, located at 575 Main Street in front of It’s Only Natural Market, at 2pm, and then perform the dance at 2:30pm).

For more information about six of the commissioned MiddletownRemix festival artists, check out these interviews from the Creative Campus blog:

Aletta Brady ’15 talks to DJ Arun Ranganathan
Michelle Agresti ’14 talks to Ronald Kuivila
Aletta Brady ’15 talks to Joe McCarthy and Peter Albano
Michelle Agresti ’14 talks to Jason Freeman
Michelle Agresti ’14 talks to Marc Pettersen
Aletta Brady ’15 talks to Kelsey Siegel ’13

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 on “Peony Pavilion” (Apr. 25-27)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talked with Director Jeffrey Sichel, S. Dylan Zwickel ’14, Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14, and graduate students Gabriel Kastelle and Huan Li about this weekend’s Theater Department production of “Peony Pavilion.”

Peony Pavilion

I found out very quickly that Director Jeffrey Sichel is true to his word. Mr. Sichel is a specialist in Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Performance Practice and Theory who holds an M.F.A. in Directing from Columbia University and is working toward his Doctorate in Performance Studies from The Shanghai Theatre Academy. Within a couple minutes of talking with him about his collaborative, process-driven ideology, he extended our interview to include the entire ensemble, or what he calls the “brain trust,” insisting I stay for part of the rehearsal and talk with each and every ensemble member.

Two hours later, I emerged from the intimate setting of the theater and realized that I had experienced something unique, something I wouldn’t have grasped from interviewing just one member of the ensemble. The specialty of the ensemble’s work lies in the safe but energized space that it produces; the play is a product of close-knit collaboration and a genuine eagerness for new modes of acting and thinking.

Peony Pavilion is a 400 year old Chinese opera that has been transformed, seemingly by magic, into a story of love, death, and empowerment that is as simple in essence as it is aesthetically beautiful. “Part Romeo and Juliet, part Orpheus, and part Edgar Allen Poe,” the narrative is “weirdly relatable, in the way that musical theater is relatable. There are these people that are doing these things that they wouldn’t do in real life, but it makes sense why they are doing them in the context of their world,” explains S. Dylan Zwickel ’14, one of the three student dramaturges.

Mr. Sichel goes on to explain the work is “not experimental, or even particularly strange, its just the other.” The work is intercultural in theme and style, but it is not what we think of as experimental from a Western perspective; it is more formal in narrative and structure than most plays performed at Wesleyan and in contemporary professional theater, but unlike anything most people have seen before.

As part of their intercultural learning process, the ensemble learned Chinese acting methods that forced them to learn characters “from the outside in, rather than the Western method of learning characters from the inside out.” The actors learned traditional choreography as well as masculine and feminine physicalities before they learned about and developed the characters, which made them see the characters in a different light. The students were surprised that they “noticed specific physicalities in the characters, but not gender.”

The actors in the all-women ensemble explain that although it is an “all female cast, it is not a specifically feminist play; Chinese traditional culture is heteronormative and we did choose to have an all-woman cast, but gender is not important in the play. The all-woman cast allowed characters emerge in which gender doesn’t matter.” Alma Sanchez-Eppler ’14, the student dramaturge who took on the daunting task of adapting an almost 400 page manuscript, explains that the play is a story of self actualization and empowerment of a female protagonist, but is more about a character’s journey than dichotomies of gender.

With the support of her ensemble and incredible stamina, Alma narrowed the script to 40 pages, extracting the love story that follows the protagonist. Although she was not initially expecting a job of this magnitude, part of Jeffrey’s talent “is forcing a project to be everyone’s project and pushing [ensemble members] into roles that [they] would have never imagined they could do.”

The play is accompanied by a live music ensemble with original music by Gabriel Kastelle, a Wesleyan graduate student of experimental music and composition. The music was able to incorporate melodies from the score of the opera. The journey of the score is as epic as the protagonist’s journey in the play. After finding the score and receiving Wesleyan Library funding, another graduate student, Huan Li, was tasked with picking up a version of the score from China that had been poured over by scholars and meticulously translated from the ancient notation to the more legible, modern Chinese notation. He almost giddily explains, “I have fallen in love with lyrics; they are so urgent and earnest to communicate. Lyrics want to share, want to communicate and get out—I love handling that.”

His original compositions mirror the passion he and the rest of the ensemble have exhibited throughout this process. This fervor will surely be translated into the performances that run from Thursday through Saturday.

Peony Pavilion by Tang Xianzu
Directed by Jeffrey Sichel
Thursday, April 25 & Friday, April 26, 2013 at 8pm
Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2pm & 8pm
CFA Theater
$8 general public; $5 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/students, non-Wesleyan students; $4 Wesleyan students

Integrating the Local, the Continental and the International: Celebrating World-Renowned Artists at the 12th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend

This weekend Wesleyan hosts performances by the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra, directed by Adjunct Professor of Music Jay Hoggard; the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble, directed by Jazz Ensemble Coach Noah Baerman, and a much-awaited, sold-out performance by the legendary South African trumpeter, composer, producer, and activist Hugh Masekela. The weekend also features a free performance by Connecticut’s own Lee Mixashawn Rozie and his “Ghostly Trio” on Saturday night, as the final event of the 12th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend. CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talked to Mixashawn about his upcoming performance, and his personal philosophy of music and life.


Mixashawn is “more powerful each time I hear him…” (Stanley Crouch). Internationally-acclaimed composer, performer, educator, and maritime artist Lee Mixashawn Rozie has captivated and enlightened audiences in the United States and Europe for more than three decades. His incarnation as The Wave Artist draws upon a heritage of multicultural innovation that spans four centuries, and both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In applying to his arts an ancient understanding of waves in their multiple manifestations—sonic, aquatic, percussive, and harmonic—Mixashawn expresses a reverence for the unique and universal qualities that all waves possess, and celebrates the unity of existence. Mixashawn comes to Wesleyan at the invitation of Jay Hoggard, and I had the pleasure of talking with him.

Monica Tinyo: You praise music with “hemispheric principles.” What does hemispheric principles mean exactly?

Lee Mixashawn Rozie: [American music is] music of the hemisphere. So often, when you say “music of the Americas,” people assume Latin, but I always thought [of American music as] an embodiment of the whole continent. I like Latin [music], but I also like swing, rock, funk, and country, and I don’t like to be limited by those categories. The fact that we don’t think of American music as “hemispheric music,” or music of the Americas, is one of the reasons why this hemisphere is in turmoil. We don’t look at ourselves as Americans. We are the only continental people that don’t look at ourselves as such; Europeans are Europeans, Africans are Africans, but in the Americas, American means originating from the United States, not the continent. All this does is weaken us as a people.

Do you think that hemispheric music can bring us together?

What binds us all together is the indigenous aspect of spontaneity. The Objiwae’s traditional name for themselves translates to “spontaneous beings.” Spontaneity is what all music has in common, especially all jazz music. Think about American music: all the greatest musicians come from the people. What binds all this music beyond spontaneity is another definition of spontaneity, swing. “You ain’t got a thing when you ain’t got that swing.” It’s a cliche, but it holds some truth. When you swing, it’s a high state of creativity—you are not thinking, just acting. You don’t think with your right side of your brain [and allow creativity to flow]; hemispheric music is [about] not being caught up in the right side of your brain.

What will the music this weekend be like?

I consider my music omnipop, or pop from the last 500 years. For this weekend’s concert, we will be going from “Purple Haze” [Jimi Hendrix] to southern-style indigenous music to original music.

How long have you had a relationship with Wesleyan? I assume this isn’t the first time you are playing here.

Even though I never attended here, it was very prominent in shaping me musically. I used to come down here [when at Trinity College] and hang out. I would play with a lot of the students and got to know some of the professors. [Wesleyan] always affected me.

12th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend
Thursday, April 18 through Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra
Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall

The Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra and the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble perform classic jazz compositions, including tunes by Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus, Ted Dunbar, Kenny Barron, Duke Ellington, and Charles Lloyd.

Hugh Masekela
Friday, April 19, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
Pre-concert talk at 7:15pm by Professor of Music Eric Charry

The concert will open with a performance by students of West African Drumming at Wesleyan, directed by Master Drummer and Adjunct Professor of Music Abraham Adzenyah.

A Conversation with Hugh Masekela
Music and Public Life: The Role of the Artist as Activist

Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 11am
Crowell Concert Hall

A conversation with Hugh Masekela, moderated by Professor of Music Eric Charry.

Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra and Mixashawn’s “Ghostly Trio”
Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall

The Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra performs classic jazz compositions by Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron & Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Charles Mingus, and Oliver Nelson. Special guest flutist, saxophonist, percussionist, vocalist and mandolin player Mixashawn brings his “Ghostly Trio,” featuring Wesleyan Private Lessons Teacher Pheeroan akLaff on drums and Bill Arnold on percussion, plus special guest Jay Hoggard on vibraphone.

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks to playwright Christina Anderson (Apr. 12)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks to playwright Christina Anderson, who will be giving the free talk “The Theater as Apparatus: Why This Play? Why Now?” on Friday, April 12, 2013 at 4:15pm in CFA Hall.


Christina Anderson

When asked in an interview “why theater?”, Christina Anderson answered “I love the fact that adults are willing to pretend for 90 minutes.” Christina fell in love with the play and power of theater as a child and hasn’t stopped writing since. Lucky for me, she did put down her keyboard for a few minutes to chat with me about her work, process and upcoming talk.

Monica Tinyo: What will you be talking about this Friday?

Christina Anderson: The goal of the speech is to talk about my background and relationship with theater and [how to have it] be a part of my life, rather than it be my life. I want to look at different ways that social responsibility can play a part in the stories we tell and the importance of using theater as an apparatus because, in all honesty, we can’t compete with television or film, but on the flip side, they can’t compete with us, either. Its really about finding these ways that theater is unique and necessary, and using the apparatus of theater in celebrating live performance.

I love theater. There are things that frustrate me about the business, but there are things about it that I love. I just hope that my day [at Wesleyan] will offer some insight into the early stages of making a career out of [playwriting and a love of theater].

Can you talk a little about your recent projects? Maybe Hollow Roots (performed in January as part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival in New York City) and this idea of the neutral narrative?

Hollow Roots is about a female protagonist who goes on a quest to find a person of color with a neutral narrative—neutral narrative being a narrative by someone who is not affected by their race or gender; she is in this fictitious New York-like city on a quest to find this person and it ends up being her.

I was just really interested in this [solo performance] structure, and as I was starting to do research, I noticed that a lot of solo shows featured people of color who embodied various characters—the theatricality being that all these different people live in this one body. On the other hand, solo performances by white men were usually solo narratives—sitting for an hour and telling a story. I was really fascinated by that. I wanted to challenge myself to create a lone [“neutral”] narrator, who we would visually identify as a black person.

Is this indicative of how you normally create a work? What is your process as a playwright?

With all my plays, it starts from a series of questions. The purpose of writing isn’t about finding a single solution or answer. It’s about exploration and discovering possibilities. For Hollow Roots, it was “what is it like to live as a person of color in a society that considers itself post-racial?”

I do a ton of research before I start any play; I usually come in to it with a theme and read a ton of books, essays, analytical writing, music, art, blogs, plays by playwrights I admire. I just get a big pot of information, stir it up, and start thinking about the theatrical world that I am trying to create. I always try to challenge myself when I write—a two character play, or a solo play, and then I develop a character or a few characters and figure out what the relationships between them are. I make an outline of all this and then I just write.

Christina is a rare talent who is equally a teacher and a story-teller, making us question all the certainties we take for granted. Her openness and curiosity are infectious. I will leave you today with a few wise words from Christina:

Be present. Don’t bother posting a picture of the meal you cooked. Don’t post the song you just danced to. Don’t tag the friend you just hung out with. Just do it. Be present. Let the experience, the memory live in your muscles, your limbs—not on Facebook. Nourish is a verb. Give yourself the things you need to grow, to be healthy, to be your ideal self.

For more, visit this post and come hear her speak this Friday at 4:15pm in the Center for the Arts Hall. An Outside the Box Theater Series event presented by the Theater Department and the Center for the Arts, co-sponsored by the Center for African American Studies and the Wesleyan Writing Programs.

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!

Senior Thesis Exhibitions Start This Week (through April 21)

“figures” by Ilyana Schwartz ’13

For the next four weeks, Wesleyan will celebrate the talents of seniors in the Art Studio Program of the Department of Art and Art History.  There’s a new exhibition every week, with opening receptions every Wednesday from 4pm to 6pm. This week (through Sunday, March 31) features theses by Allison Kalt, Tiffany Unno, Ilyana Schwartz, Anna Shimshak and Christina You. CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talked to Tiffany Unno and Anna Simshak about their work in the exhibition.

Week one of the Senior Thesis Exhibitions includes diverse media, from process-focused wood blocking to conceptual photography. Earlier this week, Tiffany Unno and Anna Simshak took a break from installing and chatted with me about their work. Ms. Unno’s  “Excavations” disintegrates the boundaries between drawing, print-making and sculpture, and Ms. Shimshak’s “Translatio Corporis” is a photographic thesis that provides an intimate examination of Catholicism in a modern world.

Tiffany Unno’s work pushes the boundaries of what one can do with paper. When you first look at it, it seems so certain of itself; beautifully organized chaos. Ms. Unno managed to successfully create work that is conceptual without being intimidating. It is fascinating to hear that there was so much difficulty and irritation in her process this year. Ms Unno explains that her work “came out of irritation—a frustration that turned into something more.” After many trials in which she hated the outcome, she explains, “I decided to not think of my thesis as a thesis with deadline [and] to undo my critical learning and questioning everything I do. I was at a point where I need to fix how I make art now instead of 20 years from now. Thesis is a time to intensely explore and not lock yourself in.” She began to think of her work as “an extension of creating” that “unravels what I learned [formally].”

Ms. Shimshak’s work delicately investigates Catholicism in her own life and in the lives of others. “This photographic body of work was inspired by my upbringing. I was brought up Catholic, not strictly traditionally Catholic, but I grew up religiously. It was something that I grew apart from as I got older, and I began to realize, especially through art, that it did affect how I grew and how I saw the world. I was interested in what Catholicism meant with regards to modernity. How do you reconcile a 2000 year old institution with a modern society that really wasn’t conceived of when the religion was created? I have been spending the majority of my time with members of the church, mainly clergy members and nuns, to figure out how the individual is influenced by religion, especially living so thoroughly in religion (after taking vows). How does [clergy life] affect your perception of self and God?”

Ms. Shimshak focused on capturing the sentiment of individuals that she spent time with; she never spent less that a full day shadowing an individual before photographing them. The photographs are “not documentary but metaphorical—[there is a] heavy stint towards gesture. I think [gesture] is the best way to convey both a sentiment and an action, and to capture the psychology of a situation.”

Senior Thesis Exhibitions
Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, 283 Washington Terrace, Middletown
Tuesday, March 26 through Sunday, April 21, 2013 from Noon to 5pm
All receptions are from 4pm to 6pm

Tuesday, March 26 through Sunday, March 31, 2013
Reception: Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Allison Kalt, Tiffany Unno, Ilyana Schwartz, Anna Shimshak, Christina You

Tuesday, April 2 through Sunday, April 7, 2013
Reception: Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Piers Gelly, Zoé Albert, Ally Bernstein, Ryu Hirahata, Charles Ellis, Nicholas Kokkinis

Tuesday, April 9 through Sunday, April 14, 2013
Reception: Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Melissa Arroyo, Christian Lalonde, Emily Schubert, Kerry Klemmer, Ethan Cohen, Marissa Napolitano

Tuesday, April 16 through Sunday, April 21, 2013
Reception: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Alahna Watson, Adam Forbes, Caitlin Palmer, Arin Dineen, Jessica Wilson, Kevin Brisco

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.

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.

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks to Mark Slobin about “Music & Public Life” (Nov. 8-9)

The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns annually tackles subjects as diverse as the course catalogue at Wesleyan, from the politics of oil to issues of race in the 18th century.  This year, the Shasha Seminar explores current trends in the role of music in public life, locally, nationally and internationally. CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talked with Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan, who is leading the seminar this year (November 8-9). 

The Shasha Seminar this year begins with a keynote address by Anthony Seeger on Thursday, November 8, entitled “Can We Safeguard Disappearing Musical Traditions? And if We Can, Should We?” Mr. Seeger, a renowned author and professor at UCLA, has acted as Executive Producer of Smithsonian Folkways label, and comes from a long line of prolific folk musicians. He has also worked for forty years with the Suya people in the Amazon rainforest. His wide-ranging experience informs a singular knowledge of music and its impact.  Beyond his work in Amazonian music and record production, he has participated in international frameworks including committees of UNESCO.

Thursday evening’s keynote address will be followed by two lively performances that represent the many facets of the Middletown community: the contemporary gospel group, the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church‘s Unity Choir [under the direction of Wesleyan University Adjunct Professor of Music and vibraphonist Jay Hoggard], and the well-established string-band, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem [featuring Rani Arbo on fiddle and guitar, Andrew Kinsey on bass, banjo, and ukulele, Anand Nayak ’96 on electric and acoustic guitars, and Scott Kessel ’88 on percussion].

On Friday, November 9, Ethel Raim, the Artistic Director of New York City’s Center for Traditional Music and Dance, will be speaking. Professor Slobin explains “the Center has been helping communities develop their own musical and artistic representation on stage for over forty years. They are not concert managers, but rather community developers. They produce these extraordinary groups out of collaborations with communities.” The musical groups showcased Friday night in Fayerweather Beckham Hall will be Merita Halili & The Raif Hyseni Orchestra, an Albanian music ensemble led by Raif Hyseni, and La Cumbiamba eNeYé, a Colombian ensemble led by Martin Vejarano. The Friday events also include two panels with members of the Middletown and Wesleyan communities, as well as other experts in the field.

The unique structure of this year’s seminar, unlike seminars in other years, incorporates panels and discussions along with workshops and concerts because, as Professor Slobin explains, “if you are going to get involved and engage with music, you have to do it yourself.”

The Shasha Seminar is an extension of Wesleyan’s year-long initiative Music & Public Life. Professor Slobin explains, “Music and Public Life is a program that was initiated by Wesleyan Vice President and Provost Rob Rosenthal, who thought that the large and impressive music offerings and faculty, along with the immense amount of music on campus, would be a great focus for a year-long exploration. This year-long initiative, and more specifically the Shasha Seminar, is organized around the idea that music engages on so many different levels. Music works on the local level, showcased in the concerts of Wesleyan and Middletown groups, [while simultaneously] working on a more national scale.” This is exemplified in local venues blending into the larger American music umbrella. “Music is also transnational. There is an undeniable transnational flow of capital, people and music. More than anything really, music cuts across boundaries of race, class, gender and national identity.”

Music & Public Life provides a year-long exploration of music through many lenses. Please join us for the Shasha Seminar events today and Friday, and mark your calendar for next Wednesday’s talk by New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff [November 14].

The 11th Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns

Keynote Address at 7:30pm by Anthony Seeger—“Can We Safeguard Disappearing Musical Traditions? And if We Can, Should We?”

Performances following the keynote address by Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, and the Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church’s Unity Choir 

Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 7:30pm

Crowell Concert Hall
, 50 Wyllys Avenue

Before the keynote address, there will be a welcome by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rob Rosenthal, as well as a musical invocation by the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble, directed by Professor of Music Sumarsam and Artist in Residence I.M. Harjito.

Merita Halili & The Raif Hyseni Orchestra & La Cumbiamba eNeYé
Friday, November 9, 2012 at 8:30pm

Fayerweather Beckham Hall
, 45 Wyllys Avenue
FREE! Tickets required.
Call 860-685-3355 or visit the Wesleyan University Box Office for free tickets.

A Talk by Ben Ratliff of The New York Times

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 4:15pm

Daltry Room (Music Rehearsal Hall 003)
, 60 Wyllys Avenue

Ben Ratliff has been a jazz and pop critic for The New York Times since 1996. He has written three books: The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music (2008); Coltrane: The Story of a Sound (2007) a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Jazz: A Critic’s Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings (2002).