Musical Epiphany Leads to Debut CD by Michael Blum ’15

Michael Blum ’15 was raised in a musical household in Great Neck, N.Y. When he was 9, he learned to play the guitar from his father, Len Blum, a classical guitarist. But it wasn’t until he got to Dartmouth that he realized music could be more than a hobby.

His epiphany took place midway through his first year at Dartmouth, when he played guitar in the orchestra pit for Hairspray, the Department of Theater’s winter 2012 production. The show’s musical director, Joel Mercier, then hired Blum to play in the orchestra pit that summer for the New London (N.H.) Barn Playhouse.

“That was where I decided that music was my calling,” says Blum, a music and cognitive science double major who also sings with the co-ed a cappella group the Dartmouth Dodecaphonics. “Before that first professional gig, I never realized that it was something I could pursue professionally and something that I could really go for.”

Music Is Power: How We Respond (Pacific Standard)

In a Pacific Standard opinion piece, Professor of Music Steve Swayne reflects on the recent “loud music” trial in Florida, the way music can make listeners feel powerful,  and the effect of “second-hand” sound.

“Public nuisance and zoning laws are hamstrung in a world that is supersaturated with second-hand sound,” writes Swayne, a Dartmouth Public Voices fellow. “What is needed instead is a greater awareness of how and when we are the perpetrators of such sound, be it from our cars when we drive around with the windows down or from our homes and offices where our choices of music—and the volume at which we play it—are imposed upon others without their express consent.”

Read the full opinion piece, published 3/5/14 by Pacific Standard.

Faculty Consider Folk Singer Pete Seeger’s Legacy

Folk singer Pete Seeger, who died January 27 at age 94, was no stranger to Dartmouth. He sang at the College a number of times and, say faculty members, has been an influence on their work, and in their lives.

Seeger played 105 Dartmouth Hall in 1957 and by 1968 he was making at least his fourth appearance in Hanover, a benefit on campus for the Upper Valley Human Rights Council.

In between, in April 1961, following his contempt of court conviction by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, campus radio station WDCR devoted special programing to Seeger, in protest of the charges, says Jay Satterfield, Dartmouth Special Collections librarian.

There’s a particular segment of Seeger’s work preserved in the online Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive, which Professor of Hebrew Studies Lewis Glinert curates with Professor of Engineering Alexander Hartov.

Professor Summers: Rare Sketch Shows How Beethoven Worked

A rare sketch leaf manuscript written by Ludwig van Beethoven—which goes on the auction block January 15 in Amherst, N.H.—is an extremely important piece of evidence about the way the composer worked, according to Associate Professor of Music William Summers.

New Hampshire Public Radio reports that bidding on the sketch leaf, part of Beethoven’s work on the majestic Missa Solemnis, was approaching $400,000 by the early morning of January 15.

“Whatever price this sketch leaf may bring, its true value lies in the visible revelations it provides concerning Beethoven the composer and a work of the highest value in western classical music, the Missa Solemnis,” Summers says.

Uniting Traditions in ‘Playing for Peace’ (Valley News)

Professor of Music Sally Pinkas talks with the Valley News about next week’s concert “Playing for Peace,” which will include the world premiere of Kareem Rouston’s Traces, described by the Emmy-nominated Syrian composer as a “meditation on loss.”

The new piece was co-commissioned by the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The Israeli-born Pinkas, who is Dartmouth’s pianist-in-residence, will perform “Playing for Peace” November 13 at the Hopkins Center along with Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and New Hampshire’s Apple Hill String Quartet, writes the Valley News.

“Playing for Peace,” writes the Valley News, is meant to connect musicians from countries in conflict. But performing together “doesn’t have any different meaning than anyone else I would be playing with,” Pinkas tells the newspaper. “And that’s the beauty of it.”

Read the full story, published 11/6/13 by the Valley News.

Music Students Get a Chance to Wield the Conductor’s Baton

Professor of Music Melinda O’Neal acknowledged that her “Music 52” students had “a very tall order” for their final class project: They had a full orchestral score to learn and just two weeks in which to prepare to conduct 30 instrumentalists.

In the week leading up to the final day, each of the eight students conducted two pianists in four-hand arrangements of Schubert, Mozart, and Mendelssohn excerpts, imagining the orchestra layout and instrument timbres while in Faulkner Recital Hall. During these sessions, O’Neal frequently clapped to stop the music so that she could offer recommendations. Occasionally O’Neal, the conductor emerita for the Handel Choir of Baltimore, rose from her seat near the back row to demonstrate a gesture, providing visual guidance. She rarely doled out praise, but her directions were clear and sometimes as simple as reminding the students to check the tempo or to breathe.

“You need to set the salt on the table,” she said to one student, gesturing in a more subdued downward motion.

Navigating the Path Between Computer Science and Music

In 1959, the British novelist and physicist Sir C.P. Snow gave a famous lecture ruing what he saw as a rift between society’s “two cultures”—the humanities and the sciences. Snow would surely be heartened, half a century later, by Dartmouth doctoral student Andy Sarroff.

“I have one foot in the music department and one foot in the computer science department,” says Sarroff.

“I would describe myself as being in the field of music-information retrieval,” he continues. “It’s not such an old field—probably just about 15 years old. Its focus is taking music in whatever format it’s in and extracting meaningful information out of it. Usually, I’m working with digital audio—looking at the zeros and ones in digital audio and mapping the perception to the signal.”

Sarroff came to his interest in “zeros and ones” through his interest in notes and meter.

“Music was a gateway to computing for me. I’ve always played music,” he says.

He was a music major as an undergraduate at Wesleyan and then a recording engineer for eight years or so. He went on to earn a master’s degree in music technology at New York University.

Why Does Music Move Us So? (National Geographic)

The National Geographic blog Only Human writes about a Dartmouth study that looks at how people express emotions in music and how they express the same emotions in movement.

The researchers included Thalia Wheatley, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences; Beau Sievers, PhD student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences; Larry Polansky, the Jacob H. Strauss 1922 Professor in Music; and Michael Casey, the James Wright Professor and chair of the Department of Music.

According to the study, the magazine writes, “our cognitive connection to music may have evolved from an older skill, the ability to glean emotion from motion.”

Read the full story, published 12/18/12 by National Geographic.

Exploring the Arts in Class, on Stage, and Across the Globe

Dartmouth offers dozens of opportunities for students to engage in its vibrant arts culture—whether in the classroom, on the performance stage, or across
the globe.

“Dartmouth is simply an outstanding place to study the arts,” says Adrian Randolph, associate dean of the faculty for the arts and humanities, and the Leon E. Williams Professor of Art History. “We have gifted practitioners who mentor students in all media. What is more, we match such creativity with up-to-date interpretations that help students understand art through time and around the globe.”

In the 2011-12 academic year, 2,383 students enrolled in film studies, music, theater, and studio art courses. Dartmouth will offer 71 courses in these subjects for winter term 2013. Still more students will craft novellas in a creative writing course, create animation in a computer science class, or study ancient Greek architecture in an art history course.

Handel Society to Perform Premiere of Award-Winning Alumni Composer’s Piece

When Oliver Caplan ’04 returns to campus for the Handel Society of Dartmouth College’s performance on November 13, it will be a special occasion for the award-winning composer. Not only will he see old friends in the chorus he once sang with as an undergraduate, but the 100-member group will also premiere a work he wrote.

Caplan’s Roots & Wings was commissioned by Handel Society Director Robert Duff in honor of the Hopkins Center for the Art’s 50th-anniversary celebration. It will be performed in Spaulding Auditorium at 7 p.m. as part of a program entitled Away From Home, which also includes the great American composer John Corigliano’s Fern Hill.

Additionally, the concert previews music by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594), Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), and Anton Bruckner (1824-1896). The Handel Society will perform these pieces on its upcoming Italian tour.

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