Category Archives: Music

unnamed-1

The Wedding Guest

In addition to their teaching, Swarthmore professors frequently work on their own, independent projects. Most recently, on April 27, Olivia Sabee, Assistant Professor of Dance, and Thomas Whitman, Daniel Underhill Professor of Music, debuted their collaborative ballet The Wedding Guest at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The Wedding Guest features Swarthmore alumni musicians, current students as dancers, and Olivia Sabee’s own dance company, Agora Dance.

Professor Whitman composed the ballet’s music. He has previously mainly worked on operas and contemporary dance pieces; this is his first time collaborating with a choreographer on a ballet. Professors Sabee and Whitman considered a number of ideas, before deciding they were interested in environmental themes. Sabee suggested adapting Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. As Professor Sabee explains,

“We were talking about all types of different ideas and decided we wanted to portray the natural world, with elements of supernatural…we originally talked about climate change, though that faded from the final piece… [The Rime of the Ancient Mariner] is a piece that can really stand on its on, with no dialogue or acting, although of course we had to pare it down a lot.”

“It’s a great story in terms of environment,” adds Whitman. “The human at the center of it all inexplicably shoots a beautiful creature of nature and gets punished by nature in return, which seemed like a colorful and resonant image. It also has a lot of opportunities to write cool music – there’s the albatross, sea monsters, storms, a calm sea, dance music for the wedding, all these different elements that seem extremely promising.”

“I was intrigued by the idea of writing a ballet with a real, old-fashioned narrative storyline,” adds Whitman. “I like working in collaboration, because it makes it much easier for me to feel like I’m contributing a piece to a larger puzzle. Collaborating with Olivia and my former students, and traveling to D.C. together, was the most pleasant part of the experience.”

Most of the dancers who performed on the program came from Agora Dance, a D.C.-based company co-directed by Professor Sabee. Overall, The Wedding Guest included three professional and seven student dancers.

“The dancers I chose had to have strong ballet skills, but also experience with improv, contemporary dance, and inversion,” says Sabee. “The dancers in this ballet were all chosen for the way they use their arms, which is very important, especially for the albatrosses…My favorite choreographic moment is a pas de deux by the two albatrosses. It’s simple in many ways, very pared down as far as movement goes, but we spent a lot of time working on arm movements to develop birdlike qualities.”

Professor Sabee spent hours watching videos of birds and of water, from waves to whirlpools, to better understand how the dancers could best reproduce the movement of water. She also worked with Swarthmore Associate in Performance Chandra Moss-Thorne, who danced the part of the titular wedding guest, and Tara Webb, who supervises the Swarthmore Theater Department wardrobe and helped design the costumes.

Meanwhile, Professor Whitman watched a number of wedding dances on Youtube in order to compose the festive music for the opening marriage scene. He was also in charge of finding musicians, three alumni and two non-alumni freelance musicians. According to Whitman, “I originally was going to hire freelance musicians in D.C. to play the score, then Olivia decided students should be part of the show. It made no sense to transport D.C. musicians to Swarthmore for rehearsals, so it was better to hire students…I was unsure about asking student musicians, because they would have had to skip a few days of classes. So ultimately I called alumni I have worked with and played with socially. Traveling to D.C. with everyone was wonderful.”

Regarding the presence of professional performers from Agora Dance, Sabee believes “any opportunities to bring students together with professional dancers is really exciting because it really pushes the students to perform more fully, and pushes them physically. We have a great crop of very talented students, and everyone thought it was great working with them.”

The ballet itself, which was part of a larger, 1-hour program, was a major success. Over three hundred people attended in person, with an extra 3,500 watching on livestream. Both professors have expressed delight in working so closely together, and hope to do more collaborations in the future.

Emilie Hautemont ’20

chorus picture 2

Chorus & Garnet Singers Concert Features Swarthmore Composers

When interviewed on the upcoming Chorus and Garnet Singers Concert, the first thing director Joe Gregorio notes is that for the first time ever, the Garnet Singers set is entirely comprised of music by Swarthmore composers. Gregorio also writes that the Garnet Singers, comprised of 26 students, and Chorus, including 80 Swarthmore students, faculty, staff, and members of the community, are “the strongest they’ve been in the five years I’ve been lucky enough to teach here.” Seemingly, this spring semester concert will be one to remember. The diverse repertoire of both ensembles feature some of the earliest forms of music alongside pieces composed this year by up-and-coming composers, many of whom will be familiar to those in the Swarthmore community.

The Chorus will perform songs spanning one thousand years of music history, from Gregorian chant to contemporary classical and pop music.  The set revolves around the theme of sun, stars, and sea, including two settings of Alma Redemptoris Mater, an arrangement of Billy Joel’s Lullabye, a Russian song by Sergei Taneyev, and a setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?) by Joe Gregorio. Student conductors Deondre Jordan ‘19 and Andrew Kim ‘18 have assisted in preparing the Chorus during sectional rehearsals on their repertoire. The final two songs in the set were inspired by the centennial year of the passing of two significant French composers, Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Lili Boulanger (1893-1918).

From Debussy, the Chorus will sing La mer est plus belle, which Gregorio notes may be the first ever choral performance of the piece. “Though Chorus has performed art song in unison before, Debussy’s is more complex than any such song we’ve attempted in the past.  It’s something of an experiment, I’ll admit, but I’m finding the mixture of Debussy’s sweeping lines, Verlaine’s mysterious text, and Chorus’s beautiful sound to be a magical one.” Joshua Mundinger ‘18 will be featured on piano in both Debussy’s and Boulanger’s works.

Boulanger’s Hymne au Soleil (Hymn to the Sun) will feature soloist Min Cheng ‘18 and is led by assistant conductor Andrew Kim ‘18. Says Kim, “This semester, I have the privilege of conducting the big Chorus, an ensemble that I’ve been a part of since my first week at Swarthmore. It could be daunting for a student conductor to stand in front of 80 people, but the musicians have been so supportive of me, always trusting my vision for the piece and working hard to bring it to life. I’m so grateful to Joe for giving me this opportunity to make beautiful music with people I love!”

The Garnet Singers will perform music by Swarthmore composers, including Min Cheng ‘18, Branch Freeman ’20, Rachel Hottle ’18, Lili Tobias ’19, Asher Wolf ’18, and Music & Dance faculty Thomas Whitman and Joe Gregorio. The text for Min Cheng’s work was written by Maya Kikuchi ‘20, and Asher Wolf’s piece features text by Moses Rubin ‘18 and soloist Shelby Billups ‘20. Joshua Mundinger will accompany Garnet Singers on the piano.

Rachel Hottle’s piece Oh!, set to the text of God’s World by Edna St. Vincent Millay, is described by the composer as “an exuberant celebration of the natural world.” This is the second song Hottle has composed for the Garnet Singers. “This piece springs from a place of sheer joy, and that’s unusual for me, and I think for most composers,” says Hottle. “I’m filled with a very pure kind of hope every time we rehearse the piece, and I think that’s a sentiment that I would do well to carry over into other areas of my life. If only one other person hears my composition and feels the same kind of hope, I will have done my job.”

Hottle’s work last semester inspired Lili Tobias in composing There’s a certain Slant of light, set to the text of Emily Dickinson’s poem of the same title. Says Tobias, “When Garnet Singers sang Rachel’s first choral piece last semester, I was really impressed with her setting of an Emily Dickinson poem. After rehearsal one night, while humming Rachel’s piece to myself, I caught sight of the poster my roommate and I have on our wall of “There’s a certain Slant of light,” and I created my own melody for it.” The piece was premiered earlier in the semester as a vocal quartet, but the spring concert marks the first performance of the song by an ensemble. “I had to make a couple changes to the music in order to facilitate the rehearsal process and improve the text-setting,” Tobias notes. “It’s been exciting seeing it take shape with a larger group.”

Five of the seven pieces performed by the Garnet Singers will premiere at the spring concert. Many Swarthmore composers, musicians, and writers contributed in creating the Garnet Singer’s set, which Gregorio notes was no easy feat. “The Garnet Singers have gamely embraced the daunting challenge of presenting a set comprising mostly premieres; the student composers, for their part, have worked hard to craft wonderful new works for the group, and in the process learned a great deal about writing for choirs.” This spring choral concert represents more than just the product of these songs. It truly showcases the entire process from creation to performance–with Swarthmore students involved every step of the way.

The Swarthmore Chorus and Garnet Singers’ Spring Concert will be held Saturday, May 5th at 3PM in Lang Concert Hall. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit https://www.swarthmore.edu/music/concerts-events.

Maya Kikuchi ’20

Orchestra concert hall

Swarthmore Orchestra Performs Beethoven and Rachmaninoff

Each semester, the Swarthmore College Orchestra performs a culminating concert of various musical works in Lang Concert Hall. This semester, the orchestra is playing two pieces: the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, also called the “Emperor Concerto,” and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Professor Andrew Hauze of the Music and Dance Department directs the orchestra and has put careful time and thought into choosing the pieces the orchestra plays each semester, deliberating what will be challenging and simultaneously rewarding to play.

This year, Josh Mundinger ‘18 won the Concerto Competition; a contest held each spring, the winner of this competition performs in the Orchestra’s spring concert. Mundinger chose to prepare Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto,” which is why the orchestra is playing this particular piece in the concert. Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances was deliberately selected as a rich learning experience for the orchestra students, as the musical work is interestingly complex and notoriously challenging.

Professor Hauze spoke on his decision to have the orchestra play the Rachmaninoff piece: “with the personnel that we have, all the students want a challenge and I want to give them a challenge. This piece is one which is very difficult but I think it’s the kind of piece where everyone has at some point a very important part and it’s all very musically satisfying, there’s no filler in this piece. Everything everyone plays, there’s a reason for why it’s there, and the way that it interacts with the other parts of the orchestra I find interesting and complex. The learning experience of the piece is very rich, my own study as well as learning with the orchestra.”

Rachmaninoff wrote the work to premiere in 1941 for the Philadelphia Orchestra, with which he had worked a number of times and was close friends with the conductor, Eugene Ormandy, as well as the orchestra players. According to Professor Hauze, this may contribute to the reason why the work allocates importance to every instrument in the orchestra.

Although Symphonic Dances is considered a difficult work to play, Professor Hauze was confident in the capabilities of this group of musicians to tackle such a stylistic challenge. According to Hauze, though the work has become a more common repertory piece for orchestras, it is very rare for college students to have already played Symphonic Dances in their high school orchestras, and he was hopeful that it would be new and exciting for everyone involved.

“[The orchestra is] game for a challenge and really strive with a lot of enthusiasm and energy to improve every week. I think they bring a freshness to it. In a way, this piece combines a sharply etched and sometimes satirical style with late nineteenth century, sweeping textures. It’s a tricky style to figure out. The group brings this sense, and they don’t have any preconceived notions, we’re going at it and learning it together.”

The Orchestra concert will be held on Friday, May 4 at 8pm in Lang Concert Hall. This performance will be free and open to the public.

Marion Kudla ’19

Fetter group

Spring Fetter Concerts Feature David Kim, Student Conductors, and Into the Woods

What do the musical Into The Woods, an experimental student orchestra, and a cello/piano sonata have in common? These are just a few performances featured in the Fetter concert series, which will run from April 20 through April 28.

Professor Michael Johns has been coordinating the Fetter Program since 2001. The program, originally called “Pollard Scholarship Funds,” debuted in 1975. As Professor Johns explains,

“In 2001, the program, which had initially supported a single string quartet, was renamed the Elizabeth Pollard Fetter Chamber Music Program and expanded to support the coaching of multiple chamber music groups. Funding continues to be enhanced by successive generations of the Fetter family. Students wanting to participate in the Fetter Program need to audition, and the time commitment is two hours a week: one hour with an assigned professional coach, a second hour-long rehearsal by the students.”

The Fetter Program has earned recognition beyond Swarthmore. Ellen Liu ’18, who will be performing in the first concert of the Fetter series, is taking part in the program for the first time this semester, after a four-year break from music classes.

“I heard about the program prior to coming to Swarthmore, because I had planned on getting involved in the music department from the beginning,” says Liu. “…last semester, one of my friends, who has played in a chamber group for all his time here, encouraged me to reach out to the department and see how I could get back into it. I was put into this group and I honestly couldn’t be more excited to be able to play again…I hadn’t played piano seriously in a long time and I was really happy to be able to return to musicsince it was such a big part of my life before college.” Liu will be performing a Beethoven trio for flute, bassoon, and piano – a rarely-seen combination.

This year’s Fetter concerts feature a variety of musical pieces and instrumental combinations. Rebecca Rosenthal ’20, another first-time participant in the Fetter series, will be singing and playing the role of the Baker’s Wife in the opening from Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed musicalInto The Woods.

“I got involved when [a friend] asked if I would be interested in learning the piece…It’s been a lot of fun — besides learning the difficult music, which has a ton of moving parts and a lot of tricky spots, we spent last weekend actually staging the 15-minute sequence. So I had to learn how to act, too! Channelling your emotions is an integral part of so many musicalperformances and is often overlooked.”

Not all Fetter students are first-time participants: this is Kevin Lai ’18’s fifth semester participating in the program; four previous Fetter concerts have not dampened his enthusiasm or energy. He will be performing the Grieg Sonata on the piano, accompanied by Kyle Yee ‘19 on the cello.

“I think last semester’s Fetter concert was by far my best. I really enjoyed the music, and the crowd was entertained by our playing,” says Lai. “For me, if we please the crowd and play as well as we do in rehearsals, then that makes me extremely happy. I have worked with the same coach for 4 semesters now, so at this point, we have developed an amazing working relationship. Our coach pushes us to not only nail all the notes but also bring out the emotions and feelings from the piece.”

Another Fetter performance to watch out for is the Lab Orchestra, a group launched in Fall 2016 to give student conductors some practical experience. Shira Samuels-Shragg ’20, one of this year’s conductors, explains that “musicians in the ensemble are paid to rehearse on Saturday mornings with two student conductors. Andrew Hauze brilliantly coaches us [the conductors], suggesting changes and pointing out problem areas. In that sense, Lab rehearsals function as conducting lessons. Since fall 2017, Andrew Kim ‘18 and I have been the two conductors of Lab, so each of us rehearses for an hour with the ensemble every week…this semester we’re conducting Bach’s Violin concerto in E Major with soloist David Kim, and that has been such a blessing. He is simultaneously a world-class violinist and an incredibly generous and kind collaborator.”

Each of the Fetter students expresses excitement for their upcoming concerts. Audience members can enjoy a variety of performances, from a Renaissance vocal quintet to jazz improvisations. As Samuels-Shragg sums it up,“the Fetter concerts are a wonderful break from end-of-semester craziness. It’s always exciting to see what other groups in the musicdepartment having been working on over the past several months.”

The Lab Orchestra and David Kim will be playing in the second Fetter concert, on Sunday April 22nd at 7:30 PM. The other Fetter concerts will be on April 20th, 27th, and 28th, at 8:00 PM in Lang Concert Hall.

Emilie Hautemont ’20

HOOP OF LIFE: Music and Dance from Ojibwa/Oneida with Ty Defoe (4/24 at 4:30PM)

HOOP OF LIFE with Ty Defoe/ Gi izhig (Oneida/Ojibwe Nations)Ty_Defoe

This event will include interactive tribal songs and flute, hoop, and eagle dances. This unique program explores stories within a framework of traditional and contemporary culture, history, and values. Ty draws on his vast repertoire gifted to him weaves urban anecdotes and teachings that can be applied to ideas of shape-shifting and how this relates to identity. Walking in multiple worlds on earth is what Ty carries as he  weaves stories and humanity together. Storytelling is often discovered with a presenting a message. For example the Sacred Hoop Dance is a metaphor that gives a message of people creating unity. The four colors of the hoops are symbols of interdependence and unity – the four human races, the four seasons, the four directions of the compass. As the Hoops move they speak of renewed creation of all of the universe.

Upper Tarble

4:30-6PM

April 24, 2018

https://swatcentral.swarthmore.edu/?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D288012818 

tamagawa taiko

Tamagawa Taiko Returns to Swarthmore

Tamagawa Taiko Drum and Dance Group has a long history with Swarthmore’s Dance and Music programs, spanning eighteen years of performances and workshops. Professor Kim Arrow, Swarthmore Taiko professor, first met Tamagawa Taiko director Isaburoh Hanayagi in 1999 at a dance festival in Philadelphia. The two of them–one an expert in Japanese performing arts and one a dance professor with a budding interest in taiko–arranged Swarthmore’s first Tamagawa Taiko performance the following year. Although lightly publicized, the concert was sold out, setting the standard for annual performances since.

In addition to regular taiko performances, Isaburoh has held multiple workshops in dance, taiko, and kabuki theater, extending the relationship between Swarthmore and Tamagawa beyond just the taiko programs. In 2002, a delegation from Tamagawa traveled to Swarthmore to consult with various faculty and administrators in establishing the first Department of Liberal Arts in Japan at Tamagawa University. Later, Swarthmore President Al Bloom and Tamagawa President Yoshiaki Obara would establish an official Sister Relationship between the two institutions, symbolized by the hanging of printed cherry blossom fabric over the LPAC stairwell. In 2004, a member of Tamagawa’s Art Program held a workshop in Japanese textile design for Swarthmore art students. In 2008, Isaburoh served as a Cornell Visiting Professor of Japanese at Swarthmore, during which his taiko classes performed with the Tamagawa group to an audience of over 20,000 people at Philadelphia’s Sakura Sunday Festival. Swarthmore has benefitted from the Tamagawa Taiko program in innumerable ways, including the gift of fourteen professional-class taiko drums arranged by Isaburoh.

Since that first, modest concert at Swarthmore in 2000, Tamagawa Taiko has gained acclaim performing in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, DC, and across the Northeast. Notably, the group now performs annually for Philadelphia’s famous Cherry Blossom Festival. Amidst their growing reputation, Tamagawa Taiko returns to Swarthmore yearly for their ever-popular performances and continues to grace the campus with their musicdance, and Japanese cultural education. Says Professor Arrow, “I am aware that audiences await each Cherry Blossom season with much anticipation for this world-class event with its exceptionally trained drummers and dancers. I am very grateful that they regard Swarthmore as their second home.”

Taiko students Christine Lee ‘18 and Josie Hung ‘18 also voice their gratitude having witnessed several Tamagawa Taiko performances. “This upcoming show will be my 3rd time seeing Tamagawa Taiko perform,” says Lee. “Each time I watch their show, I am blown away by their artistry, skills, and overall performance. The drums are exhilarating, the dances are mesmerizing, and the fact that they’re students our age is all the more impressive.” Hung remembers the performances with similar awe. “The experience was truly amazing. I loved the energy, movement, and preciseness that each player brought and was completely enveloped in their performance from the moment they hit their first beat.” Hung encourages everyone, especially students outside the Music and Dance Department, to attend a Tamagawa Taiko performance. “I think it is valuable to see professional performances from people who train everyday in this art form,” she says. “I also think engaging and learning from art in different cultures is a very important and valuable lesson that every individual can take from this.”

Maya Kikuchi ’20

Wind ensemble

Swarthmore Wind Ensemble’s Spring Concert

Having survived four March winter storms and a few power outages, the Swarthmore College Music and Dance Department is now ready to host its series of spring concerts, featuring students from a variety of classes and music and dance groups. One of these is the Wind Ensemble Concert, featuring over thirty members from the student body, faculty, and Swarthmore community.

Wind Ensemble is one of the largest music courses at Swarthmore, with over 30 members this semester. It is also one of the oldest, ongoing since the 1980s. Andrew Hauze, a Swarthmore professor trained as a conductor, pianist, and organist, has taught the class every semester for the past seven years.

“The biggest challenge from semester to semester is figuring out who is playing, what their level is, and finding music that everyone can play together,” says Hauze. “…I love that it brings students together from all across campus. I get to hear about what they’re doing in their courses, and meet students from all departments.”

The Wind Ensemble is open to students from all class years and majors who play wind, brass, or percussion instruments. As a Tri-Co class, the Ensemble often has at least a few students from Bryn Mawr and Haverford, in addition to faculty and members from the local community. As Hauze explains, “if we have room, we open the Ensemble to community members, especially those who play instruments we don’t have in that year’s ensemble. It’s really nice – [students and community members] really get to know each other and many of the faculty and community members keep coming year after year, for over a decade, so there’s this intergenerational dynamic.”

This semester’s Wind Ensemble features two faculty members, Gilbert Rose (Classics) on the trumpet and Carr Everbach (Engineering) on the trombone, in addition to four community members. The Ensemble features a variety of instruments and musicians, ranging from six clarinetists and flutists to a pianist, and one player of the less-known euphonium (a baritone horn). Regarding Wind Ensembles in general, Professor Hauze notes, “one of the strange things about Wind Ensembles as a group is that it only began to coalesce in the 20th century. So if we want to play older music it needs to be arrangements not originally intended for this group. I like to get a mix of pieces originally written for these instruments and pieces that have been arranged. The Ensemble always plays together, for every piece.”

Saturday’s concert will feature seven pieces, divided into two sections, mainly religious and spiritual works. To honor the centennial of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, one of the most famous American composers in musicalhistory, the Ensemble will perform his “Profanation,” a complex piece whose meter changes with almost every measure.

Hauze’s personal favorite in the first section is “O God Unseen,” by Philadelphia-born composer Vincent Persichetti. This will be Hauze’s first time conducting the piece.

“[Persichetti] was this very famous composer, with a lot of weight in the musical community. But at the same time he was interested in writing for ordinary people, so a lot of his wind music is in that vein,” explains Hauze. “But at the same time he is very serious, this is a brooding and haunting piece. The musical language is pretty complex, but playable by a college group. It’s been very challenging but super fun to learn!”

The second half of the concert will be more lighthearted, and focused on storytelling. Hauze is especially fond of the Overture of 1930s Broadway musical Of Thee I Sing, composed by George Gershwin. “The Gershwin one is very close to my heart, because I think he is really fantastic but not as well known today. It’s also an arrangement I made 5 years ago, and because it is an overture it has fragments of music from all over the show, but they were blended in a way that’s really ingenious,” says Hauze.

The Wind Ensemble Concert is held Saturday, April 14, at 8pm in Lang Concert Hall. Students and community members are all welcome to attend.

Emilie Hautemont ’20

tommy neale

Representing Radiohead at Ethnomusicology Conference

On Saturday, March 24, Swarthmore Professor of Music Lei Ouyang Bryant and recent alumnus Tommy Neale ’17 presented selections of their respective scholarship at the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s annual conference in College Park, Maryland. Neale’s conference presentation consisted of a condensed version of the senior comprehensive paper that he presented to the music faculty for evaluation last semester. The topic of his paper is a music theoretical, historical, and cultural analysis of “Paranoid Android,” the lead single from Radiohead’s third studio album, OK Computer.

After reading his paper and listening to his presentation, Professor Bryant realized that Tommy’s research would be a good candidate for a conference presentation. She said, “I was really impressed with his multi-faceted examination of Radiohead. In his paper, he rigorously investigates the band, their music, and the particular historical and cultural moment of the album. Tommy has a wonderfully analytical mind and is really engaging in both writing and public speaking.” But the process of preparing his comprehensive for a conference presentation has not been without its challenges. Neale was tasked with condensing his 36-page thesis into a 10-page document and 20-minute presentation, that still somehow preserves his original points. Out of necessity, his presentation eschewed some of the finer music theoretical details that were contained in his original thesis, and focused mainly on the relationship between instrumentation, timbre, and ethnomusicology.

Both the process of writing his comprehensive and the subject matter of “Paranoid Android” were extremely important to Neale. He calls the initial process of writing his comprehensive as “tremendously worth doing” but also “very difficult” saying, “doing comps changed me.” “Paranoid Android” was “very formative” for Neale as a young listener, and he acknowledges the tremendous influence Radiohead has had on his own songwriting process. The process of sustained scholarship on a single topic is certainly a Herculean task, especially when the topic of one’s scholarship is a piece of art that holds such personal significance. The subject matter of “Paranoid Android” particularly resonates with Neale, especially given his experiences at Swarthmore. He describes Swarthmore as a “hyper-anxious place,” and says that the only way he has been able to keep his anxiety under control is by “going totally low tech…keep(ing) the stimulation really low.” “Paranoid Android,” written in the early days of the Internet Age, provides for Neale a distillation of this fear of sensory overload. “The main point of Radiohead,” he says, “is sort of turning the soundscape of modernity on itself critically.” In a world that can often be hyper-stimulating, Radiohead has provided for Neale a blueprint for survival.

He cites “the allure of doing something totally sideways…something very, very non-classical” for his senior comprehensive as one of his reasons in selecting “Paranoid Android.” But he is also quick to mention that his primary motivation was his love of Radiohead: “I think the reason that I loved them before is the reason I did comps, is the reason I still love them now.” But when asked how this process of scholarship has informed his conception of the song, Neale wryly chuckles. “In the end,” he says, “the research gets so far away from why you loved the song in the first place.” He says he is taking six months off from even listening to “Paranoid Android” again, perhaps to give his brain time to rest.

Rachel Hottle ’18

CME 1

Chinese Music Ensemble’s Spring Concert

On Sunday, April 8th at 3:00PM the Swarthmore College Chinese Music Ensemble will be showcasing its talents in Lang Concert Hall for their spring concert in a program shared with Gamelan Semara Santi. The Ensemble is co-directed by Professor Lei Ouyang Bryant and Wang Guowei, a world-renowned performer who comes down from New York to rehearse with the students.

The Chinese Music Ensemble will be playing five pieces, all personally arranged by Wang Guowei to suit each musician’s abilities while still creating a cohesive piece. Many are related to nature, including “Flower Drum Song,” “August Flowers in Bloom,” and “Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon.” Another piece, “The Happy Farmer,” is quick and fast-paced, leading some members of the Ensemble to jokingly call it, “The Stressed Farmer.” To round out the repertoire, the Ensemble is bringing back “Three Folk Songs,” which, as the title indicates, is composed of three separate folk songs.

The Chinese Music Ensemble was established as an official performance ensemble for the first time last semester, drawing both seasoned musicians and beginners looking to learn something new. Students will play traditional Chinese instruments such as the guzheng (zither), erhu (bowed fiddle), hulusi (gourd flute), and yangqin (hammered dulcimer). Though many students used their knowledge of Western instruments – for example, the hulusi is similar to the clarient – they had to adjust to various changes such as the use of cipher notation, which assigns a number to each note rather than a letter.

After a successful fall concert, the Ensemble drew more new members, with only four returners, turning last semester’s beginners into teachers for their peers. Lesia Liao ‘18, who started playing the yangqin just last semester, will now be playing a solo in “The Happy Farmer.”

The performances of Gamelan and the Chinese Music Ensemble will transport audiences across the world to China and Indonesia. As the Chinese Music Ensemble continues introducing students to traditional Chinese music, their spring concert’s ambitious repertoire will enrapture audiences with their energy and rich, melodic sound.

Tiffany Wang ’21

gamelan players

Gamelan Semara Santi Plays Lang Concert Hall and Hawthorne Park

To commemorate Gamelan Semara Santi’s twentieth anniversary season, the ensemble, comprised of Swarthmore students, faculty, staff, and community members, will perform two concerts. One in Lang Concert Hall on Sunday, April 8th, and the other on April 15th in South Philadelphia’s Hawthorne Park, the performances will feature Balinese music and dance performed in a variety of styles.

The second concert joins other activities designed to celebrate Gamelan’s twentieth anniversary through explorations of Balinese and other Asian styles of music. Earlier in the semester, the Department of Music and Dance hosted Indonesian dancer Didik Nini Thowok, who held a guest lecture and demonstration on cross-gender traditions in Balinese and other dance styles. The first performance will be shared with the newer Chinese Music Ensemble.

The decision to hold a second concert in Hawthorne Park is significant. According to co-director and Professor Thomas Whitman, there was “virtually no Indonesian community in Philadelphia” in 1997, when he began teaching gamelan at Swarthmore. He continues, “In the wake of Indonesian political and economic instability in the late 1990’s, however, there was large influx of immigrants from Indonesia, many of whom settled in South Philadelphia.”  Following contacts made with the new community and the support of the College, transporting the group to the city became more of a possibility. “Swarthmore’s full ensemble has never performed for an audience of Indonesian-Americans…so we thought this would be an appropriate capstone for our 20th anniversary season.”

Hawthorne Park joins previous off-campus venues that the ensemble has performed at such as the Kimmel Center and Longwood Gardens. The instruments, created by I Wayan Beratha, arrived on campus in the fall of 1997 and have since been featured in biannual concerts at Swarthmore College. Gamelan Semara Santi’s name was derived as a tribute to Swarthmore College’s Quaker roots, merging the name of the Balinese god of love (Semar), and “santi,” the Sanskrit word for “peace.”

The collection of instruments is tuned in the pelog system, which is realized as a repeating sequence of five notes named for the Balinese vowel sounds. Among the instruments, the largest is the gong; in gamelan music, the gong occupies a central role and, with the kempur and kemong, defines the cyclical pattern through which the nuclear melody takes shape. This melody, contrary to much of traditional West European musical practice, is voiced through the lower-toned instruments jegogan and calung and enhanced by a number of gangsas. Accompanying this basic distribution of instruments are, depending on the style, the kajar, reyong, suling, kendang, ceng-ceng, and gentorag.

During its upcoming concerts, Gamelan Semara Santi will perform one piece from the Gamelan Semar Pegulingan repertoire, which rose in prominence during the nineteenth century and is characterized by a slower and more regular gong cycle. We will also perform two pieces of the rapid and dynamic Gong Kebyar style, which evolved in tangent with Bali’s rapid sociocultural and political changes around the turn of the twentieth century.

I am incredibly grateful to the directors and group for making Gamelan a central part of my Swarthmore education since freshman year and am honored to be able to participate in our twentieth anniversary concerts. I am excited to share what we have learned in both the Lang Concert Hall and Hawthorne Park!

 

Jacob Demree ‘19