Arts & Culture

Strain, MacLowry ’86 Host Online Forum with Creators of Miles Davis Documentary

Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, together P’22 and a multi-award-winning team, discussed their film Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, with the Wesleyan community via Zoom.

Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, together P’22 and founders of Firelight Media, joined the Wesleyan Documentary Project co-directors Tracy Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86 for an online forum with the Wesleyan community to discuss Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, for which Nelson was director/producer and Smith was consulting producer.

Co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project and Professor of the Practice in Film Studies Tracy Strain co-hosted the forum via Zoom.

Viertel ’97 Produces The Banker, Featuring Samuel L. Jackson

The BankerA new film produced and edited by Joel Viertel ’97 centers on revolutionary entrepreneurs Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), who devise a risky plan to purchase buildings in “white only” neighborhoods during the 1960s, to help black families pursue the American dream.

Inspired by true events, The Banker premiered at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., on March 2, and is now available for viewing on on Apple TV Plus.

The New York Times featured The Banker in a March 20 article.

Viertel, a film studies major at Wesleyan, also produced Birth of the Dragon (2016), Zipper (2015), Ready or Not (2012), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), and many other films.

Grant, Naegele to Lead Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics as New Deans

Beginning May 4, 2020, Roger Mathew Grant will succeed Nicole Stanton as Dean of the Arts and Humanities division, and beginning July 1, 2020, Janice Naegele will succeed Joe Knee as Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division.

The announcement was made by Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Roger Mathew Grant

Roger Mathew Grant

Roger Mathew Grant, associate professor of music, received his undergraduate degree from Ithaca College and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. In his recent book, Peculiar Attunements: How Affect Theory Turned Musical (Fordham University Press, 2020), he considers contemporary affect theory in relation to European music theory of the 18th century. He is also the author of Beating Time & Measuring Music in the Early Modern Era (Oxford University Press, 2014), which combines music theory, music analysis, and philosophy to trace the history of meter from the 16th century to the 19th century, and for which he received the Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Music Theory.

Eliasberg ’74, P’19 on Her Debut Novel, Hannah’s War

The book cover of Jan Eliasberg's new book, Hannah's War

Debut fiction by Jan Eliasberg ’74, P’19.

Award-winning writer/director Jan Eliasberg ’74, P’19 made her debut as a novelist with Hannah’s War, a story inspired by the real-life physicist Dr. Lise Meitner, whom an article in the Aug. 6, 1945, issue of the New York Times referred to as “a female, non-Aryan physicist,” noted for helping the Americans develop the atomic bomb.

Hannah’s War was published by Little Brown on March 3.

“Jan Eliasberg knows how to open big with strong suspense and wry humor and take us for a hurtling ride through one of America’s most complex moments,” said Amy Bloom ’75, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing. “The wonderful characters of Hannah’s War bring together a moving love story, a high-stakes mystery, and a fascinating look into the moral compass of an exceptional woman.”

Eliasberg’s talk at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, originally scheduled for March 26, has been postponed.

Wesleyan University Magazine had profiled Eliasberg, focusing on her work in television and film; here she discusses her transition to being a novelist.

Q: As a screenwriter and director, what were the challenges you faced in writing a novel?

Jan Eliasberg: There were far more advantages than challenges. I would say that the biggest challenge was the idea of sitting down for almost nine months with no collaborative contact. As a director, you do not have a minute to yourself, from the moment you start the job to the moment you finish: You’re on location with eight, 10 people; you are on a set with all 60 others asking you questions. But this was nine months of going for days without really talking to anyone. I mean, how lovely in retrospect, but slightly terrifying to contemplate.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”

Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”

2. Hartford Courant: “Sen. Murphy, Aiming to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Students, Hears from Inmates at York Correctional Institution”

Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”

3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”

This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors: Alznauer ’92, Almond ’99, and Florsheim ’83, P’14

In the seventh of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Flying PaintingsAmy Alznauer ’92, Flying Paintings: The Zhou Brothers: a Story of Revolution and Art (Candlewick Press, 2020)

When Shaoli and Shaoning Zhou are growing up and first learning to paint, their grandmother Po Po tells them, “To become an artist, you must possess the highest spirit.” But when officials from Mao’s republic come to the Zhou family bookstore and burn all of the art and writing they can find, this high spirit of the Zhous’ is strictly regulated, and the brothers can no longer paint freely. It is in this authoritarian political reality that the brothers learn that art can both be beautiful and have terrible consequences, as can the practices of resistance and perseverance. Through a fictionalized depiction of the trials and triumphs that the real-life Zhou brothers faced on their path to becoming art studio owners in Bridgeport, Chicago, author Amy Alznauer crafts an inspiring story for all ages about the importance of collaboration and fighting for artistic freedom. With beautiful illustrations from ShanZuo Zhou and DaHuang Zhou themselves, The Zhou Brothers features and celebrates art that, in its ability to fly off the page, surely exemplifies the highest spirit.

Best of Wes: Campus Exhibits

Wesleyan boasts several exhibits on display this month that are open to the public and are free of charge. View a collection of architect Henry Bacon’s campus plans and building designs, student artwork, professional photographs, a cardboard-art installation, an experimental musical commemoration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, and more!

Be sure to check out the following exhibits as they are the best of Wes! (Photos by Olivia Drake)

RING FAMILY LOBBY DISPLAY CASE:

usdan cases

The Ring Family Lobby display case, located on the first floor of Usdan University Center, features artwork by students in the Printmaking I (ARST 237) and Beginning Japanese Printmaking Woodblock Technique (ARST 261) classes. The classes were taught during the fall 2019 semester by Alexander Osborn, visiting assistant professor of art, and Keiji Shinohara, artist-in-residence.

artwork

Nicole Rizutto ’20 created this artwork in the Japanese Printmaking class.

OLIN LIBRARY:

Olin Library is celebrating Black History Month with several book displays, and the Wesleyan Music Department community is commemorating the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) with an inspired, diverse mix of traditional and experimental tributes. Stop by to browse books about Ludwig van Beethoven, view his musical scores, and experience Leif Inge’s sound installation 9 Beet Stretch (2002), which stretches Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony into a 24-hour recording.

Materials sourced from Wesleyan's Henry Bacon Collection are displayed in Olin Library's new display cases located in the basement. Architect Henry Bacon, best known for designing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., also helped shape the Wesleyan campus. He designed Wesleyan's Eclectic Society building (1907); the Skull and Serpent Society building (1914); Clark Hall (1916); the Van Vleck Observatory (1916); and provided the initial designs for Hall Laboratory (1927, now raised) and Olin Library (1928). The exhibit showcases Bacon's work on the Lincoln Memorial, correspondence letters, and work on Wesleyan's campus.

Materials sourced from Wesleyan’s Henry Bacon Collection are displayed in Olin Library’s new display cases, located in the basement. Architect Henry Bacon, best known for designing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., also helped shape the Wesleyan campus. He designed Wesleyan’s Eclectic Society building (1907); the Skull and Serpent Society building (1914); Clark Hall (1916); and the Van Vleck Observatory (1916), pictured; and provided the initial designs for Hall Laboratory (1927, no longer standing); and Olin Library (1928).

Graduate Student McNeill Speaks on the Social, Cultural Aspects of the Black New Orleans Brass Band

graduate student speaker

As part of Wesleyan’s Graduate Speaker Series, Marvin McNeill, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology, spoke about “Structures of Feeling and the Significance of Affectivity in the Social and Cultural Survivals of the Black New Orleans Brass Band,” on Feb. 7 in Exley Science Center.

McNeil explained how the institution of the Black New Orleans brass band represents a genealogic continuum that extends back to the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the Louisiana Territory. "This continuum connects a violent past, marked by physical abuse of black bodies in the form of institutionalized slavery, to a violent present confounded by systemic poverty, social injustice, and police brutality," he said. In spite of extreme oppression, the brass band community continues to enrich and enliven both local communities through their iconic musical offerings.

McNeill explained how the institution of the Black New Orleans brass band represents a genealogic continuum that extends back to the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the Louisiana Territory. “This continuum connects a violent past, marked by physical abuse of black bodies in the form of institutionalized slavery, to a violent present confounded by systemic poverty, social injustice, and police brutality,” he said. “In spite of extreme oppression, the brass band community continues to enrich and enliven both local communities through their iconic musical offerings.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Hartford Courant: “Jeanine Basinger, the ‘Professor of Hollywood,’ Is Wesleyan University’s Homegrown Screen Legend”

Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita Jeanine Basinger, whom this article notes has been dubbed “the professor of Hollywood” and “an iconic figure in American cinema, one of the most beloved and respected film history professors in the history of film studies” by The Hollywood Reporter, is interviewed on the occasion of her 60th year at Wesleyan, and the 50th since she created its film program. She talks about her next book on American film comedy, shares some of her favorite things, and muses on which actress would play her in a movie of her life.

2. Los Angeles Review of Books: “‘We Need More Vigorous Debate’: A Conversation with Michael S. Roth”

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, managing editor of Modern Intellectual History, interviews President Michael Roth in connection with his latest book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Roth discusses his career path from intellectual historian to university administrator and professor, and offers his unique perspective on debates surrounding freedom of speech and political correctness.

3. Los Angeles Times: “Kirk Douglas Dead at 103; ‘Spartacus’ Star Helped End Hollywood Blacklist”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, comments on Kirk Douglas’s legacy following the film icon’s death at 103. Recalling when she first saw him on-screen in the 1940s, she said, “He wasn’t a traditional leading man, really, in looks, and yet he had an unmistakable charisma and power on screen—not just the glamour of the movie star, though he did have that, but real acting chops. So you knew he was going to be a star.” She added, “He was a very modern American antihero type, but he could also play anything, really.”

Slowik in The Conversation: Oscar-worthy Scores Unlock a Film’s Emotional Heart

Michael Slowik '03

Assistant Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik ’03

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Assistant Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik ’03 writes about how film scores can “convey and amplify a film’s emotional landscape” by considering two films nominated for 2020 Oscars for best score.

The secret to the success of two Oscar-nominated scores

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards an Oscar to the film with the best original score.

The best scores—like those from Lawrence of Arabia and Black Panther—convey and amplify a film’s emotional landscape.

How do composers pull this off?

Back in 2014, I wrote a book examining the musical methods of early sound films. Ninety years later, some of the basic techniques developed during that era remain relevant. They include what industry professionals call “spotting,” which refers to when music appears in the film, and decisions about which musical styles to incorporate.

This year, two very different Oscar-nominated scores—those from Marriage Story and Joker—show how style and spotting can have major effects on a viewer’s engagement and emotional experience with a film.

Sounding out the breakdown of a marriage

Marriage Story tells the story of a married couple whose separation leads to an increasingly bitter and contentious divorce.

The film’s score, composed by Randy Newman, uses music in a classical style—but mainly during moments of kindness and human connection.

In the film’s lengthy opening, for example, we hear Charlie and his wife Nicole describe what they love about each other. During this sequence, the audience hears strings, flute, harp and piano. Perhaps Newman chose classical music because, for many listeners, its sounds can evoke the perfection of a past era. He splices these sounds with dialogue reflecting what most people want from their romantic relationships: warmth, trust and mutual support.

Hidden Volumes Explored in Olin Library’s Stacks (with videos)

hidden volumes

The performative exhibit Hidden Volumes was held in Olin Library on Feb. 1.

In celebration of Olin Library’s recent acquisition of virtuoso Jin Hi Kim’s scores for Living Tones, the Music Library and Music Department hosted a day of musical and sonic exploration on Feb. 1 titled Hidden Volumes and Living Tones.

Jin Hi Kim, adjunct assistant professor of music, is known for introducing the kŏmungo (a six-stringed Korean zither) into the American contemporary music scene. The Guggenheim Fellow composed a series of compositions for chamber ensemble and orchestra using her “Living Tones” philosophy, which holds that each tone generated is treated with abiding respect.

Wesleyan currently owns 16 of her scores, written for both instrumental and vocal performances.

“It’s not only important to showcase our faculty’s work, but also her scores are part of our circulating collection so that students, researchers, and musicians can actively play from and study them,” said Jennifer Hadley, library assistant for World Music Archives. “Jin’s compositions particularly suit the collection because of her combination of experimental and traditional Western and Korean musical elements.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.