Monica M. Tinyo ’13 interviews Noah Baerman (Nov. 2)

This Friday, renowned jazz pianist and composer, and Wesleyan University Jazz Ensemble Coach, Noah Baerman will present a free concert entitled “Jazz with a Conscience” at the Green Street Arts Center as part of Wesleyan’s year-long celebration Music & Public Life. Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talked with him about this upcoming show.

Noah Baerman

“The concert presents music without lyrics, as vehicles for social consciousness,” Mr. Baerman explains. While two pieces will have vocal accompaniment by Jessica Best ’14, “the goal is to draw attention to instrumental music as emotionally resonant and capable for social consciousness and change.”

“People see the most direct connection between music and social causes in vocal music, thinking in terms of lyrics that are political in nature. Although I do some of that as well, my primary medium is instrumental jazz. The challenge is to evoke the same [emotional resonance of a piece with lyrics] as a piece without lyrics. Although in some ways it’s a challenge, it is also an opportunity. The reason I work with instrumental jazz is not because I dislike working with singers or writing lyrics. It is that a lot of what I am trying to express is emotional substance that is difficult to articulate. To me, a big part of why doing music is important or relevant is to express emotions that have no other vehicle for expression.”

Mr. Baerman is also participating in the formation of a non-profit called Resonant Motion. He explains, “The premise behind it is to explore and nurture the relationship between music and social causes, personal transformation and other extra-musical content. Music can be a means of raising awareness and inspiring people about causes that aren’t themselves related to music, whether it be as simple as discussing the connected cause during a performance or in the liner notes of a recording, or something that is more involved or integrated.”

“I had an experience over the weekend that validated the [communicative power of music]. I was asked to play something at a memorial service for my aunt. I took on the task of composing a piece in her memory and honor for this event (I will also being playing it at the concert at Greet Street this Friday). I called it Ripples thinking about the ripple effect of acts that affected people several generations removed from those who came in direct contact with her. I was a little self conscious about how palatable it would be for those in attendance [who did not prefer modern jazz] but it came off very positively. I was surprised by how many people were moved by the piece. What that validated for me is how being sincerely and uninhibitedly emotional with what you are trying to communicate can break through barriers of what people believe their stylistic preferences to be. Although this seems counterintuitive in the assumption that the most direct way to communicate with someone is verbal, [music] has a capacity to reach people in a uniquely direct way.”

The Green Street Arts Center of Wesleyan University is an ideal setting for Noah Baerman’s Jazz with a Conscience. “Green Street offers an eclectic mix of events, exhibitions, classes, and workshops to a diverse population [in a] three-story, state-of-the-art educational facility that includes a sound recording studio, black-box theater, computer and media labs, and dance and art studios. [It] has grown from a collaborative spirit of Wesleyan University, the City of Middletown, the North End Action Team, and other stakeholders who recognized their community’s potential to rise up and become a beacon of change.”*

We invite you to become part of Green Street’s unique community and join us this Friday at 8pm to celebrate Noah Baerman and his trio partners, bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.

*Quotation from Green Street Arts Center’s website.

Noah Baerman: Jazz With a Conscience

Friday, November 2, 2012 at 8pm
Green Street Arts Center, 51 Green Street, Middletown

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 on the Fall Senior Thesis Dance Concert (Oct. 26-27)

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks with Lindsay Kosasa ’13 and Kelsey Siegel ’13 about the Fall Senior Thesis Dance Concert (Oct. 26-27).

Tonight and Saturday, Wesleyan dance majors Lindsay Kosasa ’13 and Kelsey Siegel ’13 present the first installments of their theses at the Fall Senior Thesis Dance Concert. This weekend’s performances are only a part of each student’s thesis project, which will include one choreographed work per semester and an accompanying research paper. I had the opportunity to talk with Kosasa and Siegel about their theses, and will share what I learned from them here.


Lindsay Kosasa and Kelsey Siegel

Both Kosasa and Siegel assembled teams of five “movers”—dance majors and non-majors alike—to perform their works. Both consciously chose to describe the performers as “movers” rather than “dancers”, which fits with their conceptual frame of dance. Both Kosasa’s and Siegel’s projects are interdisciplinary and focus on concept more than technique, reflecting their modern dance backgrounds. While Kosasa’s and Siegel’s projects are different in both concept and process, both were inspired by each student’s second major: Kosasa is a Dance and East Asian Studies double-major and Siegel is a Dance and Math double-major.

Kosasa’s piece is an exploration and expression of trauma through dance, and she utilized different intellectual approaches to movement in post-war (post-atomic bomb) performance art, visual art and literature for inspiration. Although Kosasa is not in her piece (standard practice for Wesleyan dance theses), she will be operating a projector during the performance that will illuminate a screen behind the movers. She will produce “textures” and imagery through live manipulation of materials like water, food coloring and cornstarch in a box that will be captured by a camera above. The imagery and textures are used as a way to extract movement qualities from the movers that evoke Kosasa’s interpretation of trauma. This projection is inspired by Kosasa’s experience at Butoh workshops in Japan in the spring of 2012.

Kosasa wanted the dance to form naturally through collaboration rather than be dictated by specificities in her research. She only shared her topic with the movers later in the process because she didn’t want to have the movement be theatrical or determined by individual movers’ unavoidably and understandably narrow notions of trauma.

Siegel, on the other hand, did give her movers direction, explaining enough about her project to guide the movers. However, like Kosasa, she limited her explanation in order to help the dance manifest organically. She directed the movers with open-ended questions: How do you create order in your own life? What is order? How do you move/orient yourself in different planes? And what does it mean to move horizontally or vertically? When performing, the movers are also directed by a grid created by Siegel as a physical manifestation of an x-y plane; the performers move in, out and through the grid throughout the performance.

In her project, Siegel illuminates and simultaneously questions how we organize ourselves in space. She has been researching concepts and formulas related to the grid, focusing on how we draw lines and curves in space. She explains that although there are no “right” directions in modern dance, certain movement styles move across a certain plane. Her research has led her to understand that many artists, especially modern choreographers, use mathematical perspective in constructing pieces without realizing it.  She is also researching chaos theory and how it applies to improvisation in dance. Siegel explains that much of her research is conducted through the actual process of creating the dance in her own examination of the spatial organization of the movers.

Kosasa and Siegel work to manifest an idea through the body in a way that is relatable to a variety of audience members. You don’t need to understand techniques of dance, chaos theory, or post-war performance art to understand the concepts that the artists are grappling with or to enjoy the performance.

Please join us at the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio, 247 Pine Street this weekend to celebrate the work of Kosasa, Siegel and their movers. Don’t hesitate; tickets are selling fast!

Monica M. Tinyo ’13 on MiddletownRemix

CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 talks about “MiddletownRemix”, which is part of “Music & Public Life”, a year-long campus and community-wide exploration celebrating and studying the sounds, words, and spirit of music.

Are we not formed, as notes of music are,
For one another, though dissimilar?

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

Technology can foster insularity and just as easily foster limitless synthesis. MiddletownRemix utilizes the synthetic faculty of technology and the internet, inviting all members of the Middletown community to share and remix the sounds of Middletown in an open, online forum. The program, part of Wesleyan’s year-long campus and community-wide exploration Music & Public Life, lets all residents express and share their experiences living in greater Middletown through one minute sound recordings that are organized by theme or location. The website brings together a perspectival spectrum of Middletown sounds to form a cohesive and collaborative record of Middletown as a place and as a creatively-charged community.

Sound bites can be posted and remixed by anyone—high school students or retirees, new residents or residents who have been in Middletown all their lives. MiddletownRemix, a subset of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s UrbanRemix program, “geo-tags,” organizes and presents every sound visually by the location of the recording as points on a map online. The creators of MiddletownRemix have made certain their website is easy to use and accessible: there is a step-by-step guide to recording and downloading sounds, a smartphone app, and by the end of this month, anyone will be able to check out an iPhone or iTouch for recording purposes from Green Street Arts Center.

I had the opportunity to talk with Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts Program Manager Erinn Roos-Brown about MiddletownRemix. Erinn explained that Music & Public Life, and specifically MiddletownRemix, was created as a celebration of music in Middletown and music as activism. MiddletownRemix acts as a creative solution that allows the Wesleyan campus and greater community to engage their surrounding environment through music in a more interactive way.

Erinn explained further that all participants of MiddletownRemix can become composers in their own right, either by documenting sound or creating new acoustic identities in mash-ups. The sound recordings and remixes ask the questions: what is music, what is Middletown, and how do the sounds and remixes reinforce or redefine communal and personal perspectives on Middletown?

Participants are challenged to think not only about the sounds around them, but also about four Middletown locations: Main Street, Middlesex Hospital, the North End neighborhood, and the Connecticut River. There are also monthly themes like “Elections” or “Emotions” that can be taken as literally or abstractly as one would like. While participants can be guided by these themes and locations, they have the flexibility to record whatever sounds they believe represent their city.

Music and Public Life has partnered with Middletown Public Schools, Green Street Arts Center, and Middletown’s arts stakeholders group to create the broader range of participants for MiddletownRemix. The DJs of Wesleyan radio station WESU 88.1 FM will air the sounds and remixes that they find the most interesting every month. At Wesleyan University specifically, MiddletownRemix is incorporated into the Music Department‘s curricula by Professor Ronald Kuivila and Assistant Professor Paula Matthusen. More broadly, Music and Public Life is incorporated into every aspect of campus life at Wesleyan, from classes to performances to colloquia.

MiddletownRemix’s year-long exploration will culminate with a community-wide celebration on Saturday, May 11, 2013, featuring the world premiere of a composition for laptop orchestra by Jason Freeman of UrbanRemix.
Listen to this week’s featured sounds and remixes, then start gathering your own sounds: sign-up, download the free app for your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Android phone, and start recording!

Music & Public Life
A year long campus and community-wide exploration, including concerts, lectures and discussions, symposia and colloquia.

Monica Tinyo ’13 interviews Jessica Weinstein ’02 of Anonymous Ensemble (September 22)

On Saturday, September 22, the Center for the Arts presents Liebe Love Amour!, an interactive work by Anonymous Ensemble. CFA Intern in Arts Administration Monica Tinyo ’13 interviewed Jessica Weinstein ’02, Anonymous Ensemble member and Wesleyan alum.

Did you love Hilda? If you saw Hilda in the interactive video preview or on stage in Liebe Love Amour!, you undoubtedly love her. I had the fortune of talking to the creator of Hilda (also known as Tall Hilda when on stilts), Jessica Weinstein, who is just as dynamic and charming as her alter-ego Hilda. Jessica is an actress and performance artist currently with Anonymous Ensemble, as well as a Wesleyan alum. As explained in her bio, “Jessica believes in life as theater and theater as life, has insatiable wanderlust, speaks and sings in many languages, and has a thirst to explore new forms of performance every day.”

Jessica has been creating fantastical characters since her time at Wesleyan. Her bio goes on to say that she “has a history of renegade solo missions […] She was […] part of the infamous DOUFAS. When Doofa disappeared in 2004, Dufa embarked on a worldwide quest to find her lost soulmate. Jessica’s latest partner in crime is a body double who is an exact replica of herself, who she has taken on adventures including a 30 hour Amtrak train ride from New York to the Florida Keys.” Jessica’s characters are not created for a specific performance piece but rather are born organically. Hilda first appeared on stage as the MC for the performance piece, TheBest [Weinstein’s first performance with Anonymous Ensemble], in which she walked around the stage on stilts. Hilda has been living both on and off the stage for almost a decade.

Jessica’s current company reflects her creativity. Anonymous Ensemble describes themselves as “the intrepid pioneers of stage and screen.”  They “manifest the extraordinary by refusing to be daunted by boundaries between genres, barriers between cultures, discrepancies in budgets or the limits of what is possible. […] When approaching a new project AnEn starts out with an insane premise: a narrative dance party, an opera imagined by a computer, a cinematic love affair with an audience, or a piece of children’s theatre that is actually cool!” Jessica explains that anything can happen in live spaces with real bodies [both the audience’s and artists’ bodies]. In Wanderlust, another piece by Anonymous Ensemble, the audience was moved through multiple spaces in a massive circus tent. Audience members played the non-speaking roles, which enables a distinctly different experience every time. Jessica describes a nervous energy when using non-actors that always adds a layer of excitement. Although it was scripted, the audience was intrinsically part of the narrative: “AnEn [always] creates audience-based work and considers the audience to be the co-creators of each event.”

With each new piece, Anonymous Ensemble continues to conceive structures that involve the audience and act as a platform for flexibility and spontaneity. In Liebe Love Amour!, the ensemble toys with the idea of how to create a “live film” and how to bring in the audience even more so than in the past. The ensemble combines the most magical aspects of film, the intimate gaze into someone’s soul, with the real time and space of the theatre. “AnEn accepts the pervasive power of the Screen in our current times but demands that the screen be transfigured by the unpredictable, the human, the never-to-be-repeated possibilities of the Stage.”

Although Jessica wasn’t with the company when the title was created, the title of the company always made sense to her in terms of their performance practice. When asked how the company came up with the name “Anonymous Ensemble,” Jessica explained the project always seemed more important than the “ensemble;” whatever project Anonymous Ensemble is doing is the focus rather than a manifestation or showcase of the company. She talked about the fact that the company is always changing; everyone who has been part of the ensemble at some point is and will always be part of the ensemble. The common thread between the projects that are seemingly so different is that there is always a quest. In Liebe Love Amour!, the audience goes on a quest for love with the insatiable Hilda. At the Wesleyan performance, the audience was seamlessly, lovingly, and humorously incorporated into the quest; the audience, as “co-creators of [the] event,” were so enveloped in the narrative that magical “Old Hollywood” notions of love seemed plausible.

We hope you enjoyed the performance Liebe Love Amour! on Saturday and will return to see Jessica in Lee Breuer’s Glass Guignol on February 16, 2013!

(Quotations are from Anonymous Ensemble’s website.)

A scene from "Liebe Love Amour!"
A scene from “Liebe Love Amour!”

Anonymous Ensemble: Liebe Love Amour!

New England Premiere

Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 8pm

CFA Theater

$23 general public, $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty & staff, non-Wesleyan students, $6 Wesleyan students


“Behind all the frenetic and seemingly spontaneous activity is a very cleverly constructed ‘performance script,’ with the audience expertly managed to suit the show’s needs.”
—Circus Sideshow Magazine


Liebe Love Amour! is a theatricalized “live film” of an epic search for love. In this latest work of interactive theater, Anonymous Ensemble creates Hollywood magic using cameras, a green-screen, live video processing software, and the opulent imagery of silent film director Erich von Stroheim. The show unveils a panoply of love affairs between Tall Hilda and a string of paramours including a fictionalized Erich von Stroheim, a devout Gloria Swanson, and the audience in the theater. Throughout the narrative, the audience is drawn into and onto the silver screen as their own stories become part of the fabric of the piece. The show is a tryst between cinema and live performance that invites the audience to voyeuristically participate in the artifice of cinema and the magic of theater simultaneously. With its lush, cinematic orchestration and rapid, real-time editing, Liebe Love Amour! spins layers of romance and reality as it reels towards its inevitable Hollywood finish.

Tickets are available online or by phone (860-685-3355) or in person at the Wesleyan University Box Office in the Usdan Center at 45 Wyllys Avenue.


To learn more about Anonymous Ensemble, click here:


And for Jessica Weinstein’s blog, click here: