Arts & Culture

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.

Pearl Creates MILTON, a Performance, Community Engagement Experience

miltonFrom Wisconsin to Massachusetts, Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl has visited five small American towns named Milton and developed a series of performances, each focused on (and performed in) a particular Milton.

Since 2012, Pearl and Lisa D’Amour—known collectively as PearlDamour—have led the performance and community engagement experiment.

In November 2019, PearlDamour released MILTON, a book that includes the full text of PearlDamour’s North Carolina performance, along with photos and excerpts from performances in Oregon and Massachusetts, and essay reflections on the process and practice of community-based art-making.

For more than 20 years, Obie-Award winning PearlDamour has pushed the boundaries of theatrical experience both inside and outside traditional theater spaces. PearlDamour’s work also includes the 8-hour performance installation How to Build a Forestinspired by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and devised for traditional theatre stages; and Lost in the Meadow, created for a 40-acre hillside at Longwood Botanical Gardens outside Philadelphia, exploring the short-sightedness of humans. They were honored with the Lee Reynolds Award in 2011 for How to Build a Forest, and with an Obie Award in 2003 for Nita and Zita.

This spring, Pearl is teaching the THEA 381 course Directing II.

Davison Art Center Offers Museum-Quality Art Reproductions

Breton Women at a Fence (Bretonnes à la Barrière) BuyPaul Gauguin

“Breton Women at a Fence” (“Bretonnes à la Barrière”) by Paul Gauguin is available for reproduction in Art Authority’s Davison Art Center collection.

Art enthusiasts can now enjoy Wesleyan’s Davison Art Center (DAC) collections on their own living room walls.

The DAC has partnered with Art Authority and 1000 Museums to offer the public high-quality reproductions of select holdings from the DAC collection. Currently, the DAC store includes works by Albrecht Dürer, Paul Gauguin, and all 80 prints in Francisco de Goya’s series, Los Caprichos.

Each reproduction is made using a professionally photographed digital image and printed on archival fine art paper. A variety of sizes and framing options are available for each print.

The DAC is working to make reproductions of additional DAC holdings available over time.

To see what’s available now, visit wesleyan.edu/dacprint.

art

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. NPR: “Book Review: ‘The Movie Musical!’ Is a Symphony in Praise of the ‘Razzmatazz’ of the Genre”

“Encyclopedic in scope, but thankfully not in structure, The Movie Musicals! is a downright delightful read,” this NPR review of Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, Jeanine Basinger’s new book proclaims. The Movie Musicals! truly “dazzles” for its insight into the roles these films have played over the 20th century and into the 21st, the review states, noting, “And throughout the hefty volume, Basinger addresses—both directly and indirectly—the essential question at the heart of musicals: What compels us to suspend disbelief and accept, if not wholly enjoy, the fantastical idea of people spontaneously breaking into song? What does this sorcery say about the immersiveness of film, and the power of song, and the mechanism of the human imagination?”

2. BBC: “Galileo’s Lost Letter”

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein is interviewed on “Discovery” from the BBC about the historical conflict between religion and science. “The notion that religion is somehow a backward, authoritarian, anti-rational opponent to science really comes at the end of the 19th century,” she says. There is a misperception that science and religious belief have to always be in conflict, but in actuality, Rubenstein says, it is “a battle between Protestants and Catholics that gets grafted onto and renewed as some sort of dispute between the secular and the religious.” Rubenstein comes in around 15:44 minutes.

3. PBS Newshour: “Why Haitians Say They Won’t Stop Protesting”

Krishnan Authors New Book on Tamil Cinema, Bharatanatyam Dance

Krishnan book Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, is the author of a new book, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, published by Wesleyan University Press in August 2019.

According to the publisher:

Celluloid Classicism provides a rich and detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil Cinema and Bharatanatyam dance. It addresses representations of dance in the cinema from an interdisciplinary, critical-historical perspective. The intertwined and symbiotic histories of these forms have never received serious scholarly attention. For the most part, historians of South Indian cinema have noted the presence of song and dance sequences in films, but have not historicized them with reference to the simultaneous revival of dance culture among the middle-class in this region. In a parallel manner, historians of dance have excluded deliberations on the influence of cinema in the making of the “classical” forms of modern India. Although the book primarily focuses on the period between the late 1920s and 1950s, it also addresses the persistence of these mid-twentieth century cultural developments into the present. The book rethinks the history of Bharatanatyam in the 20th century from an interdisciplinary, transmedia standpoint and features 130 archival images.

Paintings by Schechter ’17 on Exhibit in NYC

Sarah Schechter, Walrus at Night, 2019, oil and mixed media on canvas, 36" x 48"

Sarah Schechter, Walrus at Night, 2019, oil and mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 48″

Sarah Schechter ’17 is exhibiting her first solo show, “Kasual Bagel,” at the Shrine Gallery in New York City. Her paintings will be on display through Jan. 5.

Shrine is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and is located at 179 East Broadway.

Schechter, who majored in history at Wesleyan, lives and works in Harlem, and is completing an art education certification program at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Gaby Giangola ’17 Is Goth Girlfriend

Along with other musicians around the world this week, Goth Girlfriend (Gaby Giangola ’17) posted her “2019 Spotify Wrapped” overview to Instagram. Accompanied by the caption “gotta start somewhere, eh?,” the photo summarizes the number of streams and listeners who tuned in to Goth Girlfriend’s music on the streaming service this year. The caption encapsulates Goth Girlfriend’s tireless ambition.

Two years after graduation, Gaby Giangola ’17 aka Goth Girlfriend, is pursuing a career in music. (Photo by Blaise Bayno)

The up-and-coming artist’s music is self-described as banshee rap or alternative rock; her sound is raw and meticulous at the same time. The five tracks on her recent EP, Sex Sprain, mix guitar chords and hip-hop beats with punk vocals, and touch on themes of isolation, mental illness, sexism, and the hedonism of a “sympathetic nervous system surging for kicks.” By night, Goth Girlfriend is a singer-songwriter, bassist, and DJ. By day, she is Gaby Giangola, an administrative assistant at an entertainment law firm in New York City. This dichotomous identity defines not only her working week, but her artistic expression as well.

Tucker in The Conversation: From Their Balloons, the First Aeronauts Transformed Our View of the World

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” On the release date of the new film The Aeronauts, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker writes about how the first hot-air balloon trips in the 19th century transformed our views of the world and opened up a new “laboratory for discovery” for scientists interested in studying the atmosphere and meteorology.

From their balloons, the first aeronauts transformed our view of the world

A lithograph from Gaston Tissandier’s balloon travels depicts falling stars. Archive.org

A lithograph from Gaston Tissandier’s balloon travels depicts falling stars. Archive.org

Near the beginning of the new film “The Aeronauts,” a giant gas-filled balloon called the “Mammoth” departs from London’s Vauxhall Gardens and ascends into the clouds, revealing a bird’s eye view of London.

To some moviegoers, these breathtaking views might seem like nothing special: Modern air travel has made many of us take for granted what we can see from the sky. But during the 19th century, the vast “ocean of air” above our heads was a mystery.

These first balloon trips changed all that.