Tag Archive for music

Sumarsam’s Book on Javanese Performing Arts Published

New Book by Sumarsam.

New book by Sumarsam.

Sumarsam, the University Professor of Music, is the author of Javanese Gamelan and the West, published by the University of Rochester Press on July 1.

In Javanese Gamelan, Sumarsam examines the meaning, forms and traditions of the Javanese performing arts as they developed and changed through their contact with Western culture. The book traces the adaptations in gamelan art as a result of Western colonialism in 19th century Java, showing how Western musical and dramatic practices were domesticated by Javanese performers creating hybrid Javanese-Western art forms, such as with the introduction of brass bands in gendhing mares court music and West Javanese tanjidor, and Western theatrical idioms in contemporary wayang puppet plays.

The book also examines the presentation of Javanese gamelan to the West, detailing performances in World’s Fairs and American academia and considering its influence on Western performing arts and musical and performance studies. The end result is a comprehensive treatment of the formation of modern Javanese gamelan and a fascinating look at how an art form dramatizes changes and developments in a culture.

As a gamelan musician and a keen amateur dhalang/ (puppeteer) of Javanese wayang puppet play, Sumarsam performs, conducts workshops, and lectures throughout the U.S., Australia, Europe and Asia.

Braxton Receives the Nation’s Highest Honor in Jazz

Anthony Braxton (Photo by Carolyn Wachnicki)

Anthony Braxton (Photo by Carolyn Wachnicki)

Composer, saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist, pianist and music educator Anthony Braxton was named a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master for his unique approaches to jazz. The award is considered the nation’s highest honor in the field.

Braxton, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, will receive a $25,000 award along with the honor.

According to the NEA, Braxton’s compositions “almost defy categorization through his use of the improvised and rhythmic nature of jazz but moving it in a more avant-garde direction, such as in his Ghost Trance Music compositions.”

Braxton, who was born in Chicago, Ill. has redefined the boundaries of American music for more than 40 years. Drawing on such lifelong influences as jazz saxophonists Wayne Marsh and Albert Ayler, innovative American composers John Cage and Charles Ives and pioneering European Avant-Garde figures Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis, he created a unique musical system, with its own classifications and graphics-based language that embraces a variety of traditions and genres while defying categorization of its own.

In 2010, Braxton revived the Tri-Centric Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that supports his ongoing work and inspires the next generation of creative artists to pursue their own visions with the kind of idealism and integrity Braxton has demonstrated throughout his distinguished career. The foundation also documents, archives, preserves and disseminates Braxton’s scores, writings, performances and recordings and advocates for a broader audience, appreciation, funding and support base for Braxton’s work.

Braxton, who taught “The Music Of Coltrane, Mingus and Cole” and “Materials and Principals of Jazz Improvisation” this year at Wesleyan, has received many awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2009 honorary doctorate from the Université de Liège, Belgium, a 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and a 2013 New Music USA Letter of Distinction. His next four-act opera, Trillium J, will be premiered in April 2014 at Brooklyn’s Roulette.

Jason Moran, jazz pianist, composer, and artistic advisor for jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, noted, “Anthony Braxton’s expansive catalog has always been an inspiration. [He is] a beautiful artist in every sense of the word: performer, composer, educator, co-conspirator. Braxton is a supreme improviser and composer who searches with sounds.”

Braxton and fellow award recipients will be honored at an awards ceremony and concert on Jan. 13, 2014, at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Read Braxton’s full bio on the NEA website here.

Read coverage of Braxton’s award in the Los Angeles Times here, and in the Chicago Tribune here.

Novak MA ’99 Explores Underground Music Genre

David Novak MA '99

David Novak MA ’99

For his new study Japanoise (Duke University Press), David Novak MA ’99 has conducted more than a decade of research in Japan and the United States to trace the “cultural feedback” that generates and sustains Noise.

Noise is an underground music—made through an amalgam of feedback, distortion, and electronic effects—that first emerged as a genre in the 1980s, circulating on cassette tapes traded between fans in Japan, Europe, and North America. This unusual kind of music has captured the imagination of a small but passionate transnational audience, characterized by its cultivated obscurity, ear-shattering sound, and over-the-top performances. For its dedicated listeners, Noise always seems to be new and to originate from elsewhere: in North America, it was called “Japanoise.”

Book by David Novak MA '99

Book by David Novak MA ’99

Novak’s book is a lively ethnographic account of live performances, the circulation of recordings, and the lives and creative practices of musicians and listeners. The author examines the technologies of Noise and the productive distortions of its networks. He also describes musical circulation through sound and listening, recording and performance, international exchange, and the social interpretations of media. Chapters are devoted to “Scenes of Liveness and Deadness,” “Sonic Maps of the Japanese Underground,”  “Genre Noise,” “Feedback, Subjectivity, and Performance,” “The Future of Cassette Culture,” and more.

Novak is an assistant professor of music at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Hoggard’s Vibes on NPR’s Top Jazz Album List

Jay Hoggard's Christmas Vibes All Thru The Year.

Jay Hoggard’s Christmas Vibes All Thru The Year.

NPR Jazz named Connecticut vibraphonist and composer Jay Hoggard’s album Christmas Vibes All Thru The Year on its top “5 Jazz Christmas Albums for 2012” list.

Hoggard, adjunct professor of music, has recorded more than 20 albums. For his latest, he draws upon the Christian tradition in which he was raised — his father was a clergyman — for a universal message surrounding all the good things of the season.

Joining Hoggard are fellow respected veterans James Weidman on organ and Bruce Cox on drums.

Rahaim ’00 Examines Gesture and Voice in Indian Vocal Music

Matthew Rahaim ’00

In Musicking Bodies: Gesture and Voice in Hindistani Music (Wesleyan University Press), Matthew Rahaim ’00 studies the role of the body in Indian vocal music. Indian vocalists have long traced intricate shapes with their hands while improvising melody. Although every vocalist has an idiosyncratic gestural style, students inherit ways of shaping melodic space from their teachers, and the motion of the hand and voice are always intimately connected.

Book by Matthew Rahaim ’00

Musicking Bodies is among the first extended studies of the relationship between gesture and melody. Rahaim draws on years of vocal training, ethnography, and close analysis to examine the ways in which hand gesture is used alongside vocalization to manifest melody as dynamic, three-dimensional shapes. The book builds on insights of phenomenology, Indian and Western music theory, and cultural studies to illuminate not only the performance of gesture, but its implications for the transmission of culture, the conception of melody, and the very nature of the musicking body. Several helpful illustrations and photographs have been included in the publication.

Rahaim is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Minnesota. He was a music major at Wesleyan and received his MA and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Charry Author of Hip Hop Africa

Book edited by Eric Charry.

Book edited by Eric Charry.

Professor of Music Eric Charry is the editor of a new book, Hip Hop Africa: New African Music in a Globalizing World, published Oct. 23 by Indiana University Press. The book is part of the African Expressive Culture series.

Hip Hop Africa explores a new generation of Africans who are not only consumers of global musical currents, but also active and creative participants. Charry and an international group of contributors look carefully at youth culture and the explosion of hip hop in Africa; the embrace of other contemporary genres, including reggae, raga and gospel music; and the continued vitality of drumming. Covering Senegal, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa, this volume offers unique perspectives on the presence and development of hip hop and other music in Africa and their place in global music culture.

Charry is also the author of Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music of the Maninka and Mandinka of Western Africa, published by University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Peter Yarrow Sings with Dar Williams’ Music Movements Class

Folksinger Dar Williams ’89 is back on campus, teaching Music Movements in a Capitalist Democracy through the Center for the Study of Public Life. On Oct. 3, the class gathered in Zelnick Pavilion to sing songs associated with the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960s—"If I Had A Hammer," "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round," We Shall Overcome," and "Blowin' in the Wind" among them. Joining the class and accompanying on his guitar was folksinger Peter Yarrow, perhaps most widely known as a member of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio, as well as a political activist.

Folksinger Dar Williams ’89 is back on campus, teaching Music Movements in a Capitalist Democracy through the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. On Oct. 3, the class gathered in Zelnick Pavilion to sing songs associated with the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960s—”If I Had A Hammer,” “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round,” “We Shall Overcome,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” among them. Joining the class and accompanying on his guitar was folksinger Peter Yarrow, perhaps most widely known as a member of the Peter, Paul and Mary trio, as well as a political activist.

Concerts, Workshops, Courses in Music, Public Life Exploration

Music & Public Life at WesleyanDuring the 2012-2013 academic year, Wesleyan will celebrate and study the sounds, words and spirit of music in public at the local, national and transnational levels through concerts, workshops, gatherings and courses, all designed to cross disciplines and to engage both the campus and regional communities.

Wesleyan’s new Music and Public Life series, presented by the Center for the Arts and Music Department, has a global scope and features performances and lectures by scholars and artists from nine different countries. Events during the fall semester include the New England premiere of “Voices of Afghanistan” (Sept. 28) and concerts by Noah Baerman (Nov. 2), Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church Choir and Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem (Nov. 8), and La Cumbiama eNeYé (Colombia) and Merita Halili and The Raif Hyseni Orchestra (Albania) (Nov. 9); talks by ethnomusicologist Anthony Seeger (Nov. 8) and Ben Ratliff of The New York Times (Nov. 14); and a celebration of the centenary of John Cage (Dec. 5-8).

As part of the celebration, the public is invited to explore, share, and remix the sounds of Middletown throughout the year as part of MiddletownRemix, a project that combines location-based cell phone technology, a database, and a web application allowing individuals to record and store sounds and images of Middletown using free mobile phone software for iPhone/iOS and Android devices. These sounds will ultimately be remixed and performed by students, faculty and community members on Saturday, May 11, 2013.

Voices of Afghanistan's New England premiere kicks off the Music and Public Life series at Wesleyan. The concert is at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 in Crowell Concert Hall.

Voices of Afghanistan’s New England premiere kicks off the Music and Public Life series at Wesleyan. The concert is at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 in Crowell Concert Hall.

The Music and Public Life series is supported by grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the New England Foundation for the Arts, and is co-sponsored by the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Center for the Arts, the Music Department, the Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of the Dean of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs, Wesleyan Writing Programs and the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns.

For a full listing of all Music and Public Life events, click here.



Strauss Remembered for Rejuvenating Private Music Lessons Program

Melvin Strauss in the 1970s.

Melvin Strauss in the 1970s.

Melvin “Mel” Strauss, adjunct professor of music, emeritus, died Sept. 5 following a prolonged illness. During his time at Wesleyan, Strauss directed and conducted the University Orchestra and Concert Choir and also served as director of the Private Music Lessons Program, which he helped to rejuvenate.

Born in Newark, N.J., in 1929, Strauss earned his bachelor of arts degree in humanities from Rutgers University, and his master of arts degree in musicology from New York University. Subsequently, Strauss worked with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood (then the Berkshire Music Center), and it was through Strauss’s involvement at Tanglewood, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Contemporary Music Weeks, that he came to prominence in contemporary music circles. Strauss was appointed conductor of the Fromm Players at Tanglewood (as recipient of the prestigious Fromm Fellowship in Contemporary Music) and awarded the esteemed Koussevitsky Conducting Prize by the Boston Symphony.

Strauss taught at Wesleyan from 1985 to 1998, after serving for a decade as President of Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts. Prior to his role at Cornish, Strauss served as associate conductor (to Michael Tilson Thomas) at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and taught at SUNY-Buffalo, University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers.

Among his many accomplishments in conducting a variety of orchestras, opera companies and choruses, Strauss co-founded and directed the celebrated Orquesta Filarmonica de Bogota, Colombia’s premier symphony orchestra. Perhaps most famously, in 1988, he led the Wesleyan Symphony Orchestra during the “John Cage at Wesleyan” festival; one performance from this was publicly released for the first time, to considerable critical fanfare, as part of Mode Record’s 2007 3-CD set, “The Complete John Cage Edition, Volume 2.” Taped at Crowell Concert Hall, the set features the “first recording of all 86 instrumental parts of Atlas Eclipticalis, recorded under Cage’s supervision … with all-star players including the Arditti Quartet, Alvin Lucier, Christian Wolff, Neely Bruce and others.”

“[Mel’s] musicianship was deep, but so was his insight into life,” says Strauss’s Music Department colleague, Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music.

Strauss’s obituary is published in The Seattle Times.

President Roth Joins Faculty/Staff Band at THE MASH

The Mattabassett String Collective, a Wesleyan faculty/staff band, performed an eclectic mix of bluegrass, blues, country and rock during THE MASH, Sept. 7.

The Mattabassett String Collective, a Wesleyan faculty/staff band, performed an eclectic mix of bluegrass, blues, country and rock during THE MASH, Sept. 7. From left is Professor Barry Chernoff, Professor Gil Skillman, cataloging librarian Rebecca McCallum and academic computing manager Kevin Wiliarty.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth joined the band for the noon-time performance.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth joined the band for the noon-time performance. He played keyboard, guitar and harmonica, and sang.

Kinky Spigot Performs at All-Campus Party

Alumni band Kinky Spigot and the Welders performed classic soul and covers during the All-Campus Party May 26 on Andrus Field. The event was held in conjunction with Reunion & Commencement Weekend. Band members include Lillian Ruiz ’08, Nicole Tirado Strayer ’07, Amanda Facelle ’09, Marlon Bishop ’07, Vlad Gutkovich ’07, Yoni Rabino ’07, Jon Hutchinson ’07, and Tess Amodeo-Vickery ’07. Photos of the event are below:

Music Department, Local Musicians Create Film to Benefit Japan Relief

To help the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan, Wesleyan graduate students Maho Ishiguro, Akiko Hakateyama, Ellen Loeck and Shoko Yamamoto arranged a benefit concert titled “Voices United.” Students and faculty from Wesleyan’s music department, and resident performers from the Middletown area, assembled at Crowell Concert Hall for an afternoon of music and dance performances.

The concert was filmed and will be available on DVD this month.

Eleven performances, which included different genres of music from 10 countries, were featured. Participating ensembles and musicians included Chinese Ensemble, Balinese Gender Ensemble, Carnatic Music Ensemble (Indian vocals), The Mixolydians (vocal ensemble singing Rennaisance madrigals), Slavei (vocal ensemble singing folk music from Eastern Europe), Collegium Musicum (vocal ensemble singing music from Medieval and Rennaisance periods), Kaze Taiko Ensemble, Ceol go Maidin (Irish traditional music), Green Street’s Fresh Obsessed (Breakdancing group), Andrew Colwell Mongolian Homii (Mongolian throat singer), and House of Moses (R&B music).

To order a copy of the DVD, send $15 to Jody Cormack, World Music Archives, Olin Library 252 Church Street, Middletown, CT 06459. Make checks out to The Japan Society New York, and write “Japan Earthquake Fund” in the memo. All proceeds go to the Japan Society where donations will be divided and sent to a number of relief agencies.