Tag Archive for music

6th Annual The MASH Highlights Wesleyan’s Music Scene

Inspired by Fete de la Musique (also known as World Music Day), the sixth annual The MASH festival on Sept. 9 highlighted Wesleyan’s student music scene, with multiple stages on campus featuring everything from a cappella ensembles to student, faculty and alumni bands.

Stages were set up at Foss Hill, outside Olin Library and North College. More than 20 groups and soloists performed at Wesleyan’s The Mash including Bonanza, Good Morning CT, McCleary McCleary, MEG, Saint Something, Jal, The Basukes, Smokin’ Lilies, Jess Best ’14, Prometheus, New Group, Gabe & Brien, Savannah Jeffreys ’18, Johnny Gilmore ’18, Anna Savage ’18, Quasimodal, Sloane Peterson, ethereal whoosing, The Purple Windsounds, LAZ, Cicero Presley and Tasty Desert Creatures.

The MASH was held in conjunction with the City of Middletown’s Main Street Stroll, a family-friendly celebration of Middletown’s Main Street and the new Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. The stroll featured music, street performers, specialty workshops and more.

Anna Savage '18 performed at the Olin stage.

Anna Savage ’18 performed at the Olin stage.

Faculty/Staff Band Mattabesset String Collective Performs

The Mattabesset String Collective is a five-piece Wesleyan-affiliated acoustic ensemble playing an eclectic mix of bluegrass, blues, folk, mountain, country and rock, all in a string band style.

The group’s name, Mattabesset, is the Algonquian name for the region that became Middletown. “Since our music reaches back into history, we thought it was appropriate. We were attracted to the term collective because it suggests the egalitarian nature of our enterprise,” said band member Marc Eisner, dean of the Social Sciences Division, the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in Public Policy, professor of government, professor of environmental studies.

The band performed July 29 in Higganum, Conn. Photos of the concert are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

The Mattabesset String Collective is a five-piece string band featuring dobro, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, bass, banjo or cuatro. Pictured from left is Gil Skillman, Rebecca McCallum, Kevin Wiliarty, Marc Eisner and Barry Chernoff. 

Pictured from left is Gil Skillman, Rebecca McCallum, Kevin Wiliarty, Marc Eisner and Barry Chernoff. They have about 80 songs in their repertoire, ranging from old-time traditional jug band music, to string band versions of Jimi Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses, and a few songs written by band members. “One of the pleasures of playing in this band involves reaching for, and occasionally attaining, new levels of musical cohesion,” Skillman said.

Gil Skillman is professor of economics, tutor in the College of Social Studies. He plays the banjo, cuatro and dobro with the string collective.

Gil Skillman is professor of economics, tutor in the College of Social Studies. He plays the banjo, cuatro and dobro with the string collective. Skillman taught himself guitar as a teenager. “Once you learn to play one fretted instrument, learning others is primarily a matter of varying the approach to sounding the strings, which is easier than learning to play an instrument from the ground up,” he said.

Sorey Is ‘Obliterating the Lines,’ According to New York Times Profile

Tyshawn Sorey (Photo by John Rogers)

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, assistant professor of music, is called a “preternaturally talented multi-instrumentalist who has built a career in the territory between standard definitions” in an extensive profile in The New York Times.

“In some circles, he’s thought of as a jazz drummer; in others, he fits in more as an avant-garde composer,” the article says of Sorey, who is about to release his sixth album, “Versimilitude.”

The article discusses Sorey’s background, from his modest upbringing in Newark—where his public schools offered little in the way of arts education and his father “helped foster his affinity for music”—to his study of jazz drumming at William Paterson University.

Elion ’15, Mitchell ’15 of the Overcoats Release Album

JJ Mitchell ’15 and Hana Elion ’15 have been performing since they were undergrads as the Overcoats and have released their album, Young.

JJ Mitchell ’15 and Hana Elion ’15 have been performing since they were undergrads as the Overcoats and have released their album, Young.

Only two years out of Wesleyan where they met, Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15, the duo who are Overcoats, have enjoyed several markers of success this spring. While both Elion and Mitchell describe the formation of the band as something that “just sort of happened,” Elion adds that a career in music seemed like “a faraway dream that I didn’t expect to happen in reality.” But it is.

Their debut album, Young, released on April 21, 2017, is what they consider work-in-progress since their graduation, The title, they say, reflects the album’s emotional content: the confusion and wonder of the recent college graduate. The out-in-front vulnerability has a purpose: “By sharing these feelings through music,  it will make you stronger: you can create a community and connection around these hard feelings, which everyone has but doesn’t talk about.” One of the issues that Young explores is the newfound adult perspective on childhood— rediscovering the significance of “the tough love that our fathers would give us,” as well as  “what our mothers went through, as we come into the world as women and experience what it means to be an adult.”

In Young, the two connect the personal nature of their lyrics with different musical influences than they’d previous explored—from folk-like harmonies to pop and synth beats—allowing Overcoats an expanded vocabulary in which to reach their audience. “A good dance beat makes you heal faster,” is how they describe the eureka moment of embracing mainstream instruments in pop music.

In an earlier highlight this spring, National Public Radio invited them to give a Tiny Desk Concert, the intimate video concerts that are recorded live at the desk of “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen. “To actually do a Tiny Desk Concert and sing the music we had written and be totally ourselves—It’s something we will never forget,” says Mitchell.

On tour across the United States, with several venues in Canada this summer, the Overcoats say that the nomadic life of a musician has required them “to find a home in each other on the stage.” Now, with the release of Young. Overcoats offers their fans the opportunity to share in the sound of this home that Elion and Mitchell have created for each other, through the journey of their music.

Hecht ’04 Finds the Irresistible Music for Commercial Clients

Jonathan Hecht ’04, whose company, Venn Art, finds the perfect music for commercial clients, was photographed at the premiere of a snowboarding documentary he worked on for Red Bull, The Art of Flight.

Jonathan Hecht ’04, whose company, Venn Arts, finds the perfect music for commercial clients, was photographed at the premiere of a snowboarding documentary, The Fourth Phase, which he worked on for Red Bull.

“Wait, turn that up! What is that song?”

If you’ve ever watched a commercial that became more significant the second you heard a song you just had to hear again, chances are Jonathan Hecht ’04—founder of Venn Arts—was behind its discovery.

His interest in pairing music with picture was inspired by the Paul Thomas Anderson film Boogie Nights: “I realized how different some of the musical selections were, but how they all fit together to create a sound and musical character for the film.”

He began to wonder if he could create a career out of this observation—which became Venn Arts, the music supervision company specializing in curating and procuring licensed music for commercial projects. Hecht took the name from a Venn diagram, with its “intersection or coming together of two things to make something unique,” he said. For Hecht, one of those “things” is always music: “There are so many nuanced emotions that can be inflected when you find the right music.”

Now, collaborating with brands such as Under Armour, Free People, Mercedes, and most recently, supervising the music for Subaru’s phenomenally effective “Love” ad campaign, he is gaining attention: Forbes recently wrote about his work as a music supervisor to Subaru’s marketing and rapid sales growth. “I’ve been working with Subaru’s ad agency, Carmichael Lynch, since 2011 and have placed more than 30 songs into national TV ads for the brand,” he says.  The campaign was also highlighted as “Ad of the Day” on Adweek.

Lawrence-Riddell ’98 Brings Hip-Hop To Classrooms As Mr. El-Are

Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98, a middle school language arts teacher, composes hip-hop songs to teach literature and history. (photo: Lauren Lawrence-Riddell)

Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98, a middle school language arts teacher, composes hip-hop songs to teach literature and history. (Photo by Lauren Lawrence-Riddell)

It turns out that Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 is not the only Wesleyan alumnus presenting history through the sounds of hip-hop. Just upstream from Wesleyan, in Amherst, Mass., Michael Lawrence-Riddell ’98 has worked to bring hip-hop music from the stage into the classroom with the help of several other Wesleyan alumni.

So far, this middle school language arts teacher has written and recorded more than a dozen original songs, each intended to engage students while offering context and analysis of literature and history. Some historical topics mentioned in his work include the Harlem Renaissance, Hurricane Katrina and the Stono Rebellion. His songs also tackle American literary classics like The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. One song “Descendants of Cain,” about John Steinbeck’s famous novella Of Mice and Men, focuses on the many allusions found throughout the work, as well as its central theme of solitude. For many of these 15 songs, Lawrence-Riddell also offers unique lesson plans intended for use by other teachers.

Lawrence-Riddell has received plenty of support for his project, called Mind Your Music, including the skills of Wesleyan friends Kimani Rogers ’97, Tarik Holder ’98 and Keith Witty ’99, as well as financial backing from a Kickstarter campaign.

Cover copyAs an African American Studies major at Wesleyan, Lawrence-Riddell always sought ways to communicate the complex history of race and racism in America. Music would become a conduit for this mission. In the unapologetically political and pro-Black stances of many of his favorite hip-hop groups he found a call to action and inspiration to create socially conscious art.

Attending Wesleyan during a ‘golden age’ of independent hip-hop, he remembers returning from class with his friends to their Nicholson and Hewitt dorm rooms on Tuesday afternoons to discuss and listen to the latest albums. Together, Rogers, Holder and Lawrence-Riddell also worked for the student hip-hop publication Off Tha Top. When Rogers and Holder formed the hip-hop group The Masterminds, Lawrence-Riddell served as their manager, touring the country with hip-hop legends like A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, MF Doom and others.

“The experiences and memories that we built were incredible…those guys were, and are to this day, my brothers,” he says.

For those who’d like a sample of the hip-hop art of Mister El-Are, Lawrence-Riddell notes that YouTube offers a video for the song “Firebrands (Stand Up!) about the Stono Rebellion, Nat Turner and his insurrection, Denmark Vesey’s plotted rebellion, and John Brown and the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Lawrence-Riddell, Holder, Rogers and Akrobatik provide bombastic lyrical delivery and hard hitting beats that align with the radically progressive message of the subject matter.

Sumarsam, PhD Students, Alumni Present at Symposium

University Professor of Music Sumarsam demonstrated puppet movements at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA), in Penang, Malaysia.

University Professor of Music Sumarsam demonstrated puppet movements at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA), in Penang, Malaysia.

University Professor of Music Sumarsam and several PhD students and alumni recently presented papers at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA). The symposium was hosted by Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia, from July 31 to Aug. 6.

Sumarsam presented a paper titled, “Religiosity in Javanese Wayang Puppet Play,” and demonstrated puppet movements.

LA Times Features New Dramatic Oratorio by Neely Bruce

The Los Angeles Times offers a preview of “Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides, a new dramatic oratorio composed by Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, which has its world premiere Jan. 23 at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

The piece tells the story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a diplomat and little-known Portuguese hero to many thousands of Jews during World War II. In June 1940, nearly 120,000 refugees fleeing from Nazi persecution amassed down the road from the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, France. Though Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar issued a vehement directive to deny safe haven to the refugees, Sousa Mendes still issued more than 30,000 visas in a matter of months. The article likens him to Oskar Schindler, the factory owner famous for saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. In contrast, Sousa Mendes’ “contribution to history hasn’t received the same recognition mainly because Salazar took great pains to bury his story, Bruce says.”

According to the article:

After Sousa Mendes’ actions were discovered, his case went to the Supreme Court of Portugal, where he was essentially given a slap on the wrist. The punishment wasn’t severe enough for Salazar, so the dictator had Sousa Mendes stripped of all diplomatic privileges as well as his license to practice law. When Sousa Mendes married his second wife, Andrée Cibial, the couple were not allowed to marry in Portugal. Family members found it hard to secure employment.

“The petty cruelty involved was just ridiculous,” Bruce says.

Sousa Mendes died in poverty in 1954, and he was buried in a wooden box in the cemetery of Franciscan monks.

It’s a beautiful yet tragic tale, filled with larger-than-life characters — all the hallmarks of great opera, Bruce says, adding that the piece has been in the works for more than five years and that he ended up writing the libretto himself.

“I wasn’t writing a fairy-tale opera. I was writing an opera about real events, so I wanted to be as accurate as possible,” says Bruce, who has often visited political issues in his compositions and once set the Bill of Rights to music.

 

GLS Presents Jazz Concert, Open Course Session, Nov. 30

Noah Baerman

Noah Baerman

Graduate Liberal Studies will present a special concert and open session of the course Monk and Mingus: The Cutting Edge of Jazz with Jazz Ensemble Coach Noah Baerman, Nov. 30 in Russell House. Baerman will perform on piano, accompanied by bassist Henry Lugo, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and Private Lessons Teacher Pheeroan akLaff on percussion.

The first hour of the class (6:30-7:30 p.m.) will be a discussion, demonstration and Q&A session, followed by a performance of music composed by and associated with Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. Attendees interested in learning more about Graduate Liberal Studies are encouraged to arrive at 6 p.m. for an information session with GLS Director Jennifer Curran. The event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a reception.

Jazz Quartet Stanley Maxwell to Perform World Premieres March 1 at Russell House

Jazz quartet Stanley Maxwell will perform at 3 p.m. March 1 in the Russell House.

Jazz quartet Stanley Maxwell will perform at 3 p.m. March 1 in the Russell House.

Wesleyan’s “Music at the Russell House” series concludes with a free concert by the Connecticut-based jazz quartet Stanley Maxwell at 3 p.m. March 1 in the Russell House. The group plays music that blends tight arrangements with intricate group improvisations. The concert at Wesleyan will feature acoustic arrangements of original tunes from the past decade, including several world premieres.

Stanley Maxwell's Andy Chatfield, pictured second from left, composed several original tunes for the group that will make their world premier at the March 1 concert. (Photos by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography)

Stanley Maxwell’s Andy Chatfield, pictured second from left, composed several original tunes for the group that will make their world premiere at the March 1 concert. (Photos by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography)

Stanley Maxwell features the CFA’s Press and Marketing Director Andy Chatfield on drums, Mark Crino on bass, Eric DellaVecchia on alto saxophone, and Evan Green on piano.

The group has built a grassroots name for themselves at colleges and festivals throughout the northeast since 2001, combining the virtuosic and the simple into a visceral concoction, which helped lead to their winning “Best Jazz Band” in the Hartford Advocate’s Grand Band Slam Readers’ Poll in 2007, 2009, and 2010.

“Mousetrap,” an 11-bar blues written by pianist Evan Green, was influenced by Thelonious Monk, and was featured on Stanley Maxwell’s debut album Don’t Wake The Baby!  The band’s recording of the composition attracted international attention, including “Mousetrap” winning “Best Jazz Song” at the 7th annual Independent Music Awards in December 2007. The band also won the Relix Magazine November 2007 “JamOff” contest for unsigned artists, with “Mousetrap” featured on that month’s Relix CD sampler, included with over 100,000 issues of the internationally distributed magazine, dedicated to jam bands and improvisational music.

Jay Siegel’s Tokens, Super Girls Group to Headline WESU’s Doo Wop Benefit Concert

On July 12,  Wesleyan's 88.1 FM WESU radio is hosting a fundraising concert in celebration of 75 years of community radio. The concert will feature several doo wop, rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll artists. 

On July 12,  Wesleyan’s 88.1 FM WESU radio is hosting a fundraising concert in celebration of 75 years of community radio. The concert will feature several doo wop, rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll artists.

Lovers of vintage doo wop, rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll attended a night to remember when Wesleyan’s 88.1 FM WESU Middletown presented the “WESU 75th Anniversary Doo Wop Extravaganza” on July 12.

The fundraising concert, held at the Middletown High School Performing Arts Center, was a celebration of 75 years of community radio.

Headlining the show was Jay Siegel’s Tokens, the legendary group that recorded the mega hit, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” They’ll be joined by The Super Girls Group, featuring original members of some of the greatest female groups of rock ’n’ roll, including:  Louise Murray of The Hearts & Jaynetts (“Lonely Nights” and “Sally Go Round The Roses”);  Lillian Walker of The Exciters (“Tell Him” and “Doo Wah Diddy”); Margaret Ross of The Cookies (“Chains” and “Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby”); Beverly Warren of The Raindrops (“The Kind of Boy You Can’t Forget” and “What a Guy”); and Nanette Licari of Reparata and The Del Rons  (“Whenever A Teenager Cries” and “Tommy”).  

WESU has been broadcasting ‘oldies’ music for 35 years on Saturday mornings on the “Moondog Matinee” radio show (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

“While most commercial radio stations have abandoned this musical format, our ‘oldies’ programs are among our most popular shows. This is a great examples of how community radio, like WESU, serves the needs of listeners who are marginalized by main stream media,” said WESU General Manager Ben Michael.