Steve Swayne on Music and Making the World a Better Place

The Dartmouth Professor Talks: Steve Swayne is the Jacob H. Strauss 1922 Professor of Music and chair of Dartmouth’s music department. The author of two books, with two more in the works, Professor Swayne talks to Dartmouth Now about stretching the boundaries of musicology, the morality of MP3s, and how a gay man who once served as an evangelical chaplain redefined his calling.

The Dangers of Overestimating Music Therapy (The Atlantic)

In an opinion piece for The Atlantic, Professor Steve Swayne says that while songs can help dementia patients recall memories, it is important to realize that music may also invoke false memories and confusion. “For someone suffering from dementia, we have no easy way of knowing whether she is genuinely recalling a song and how the recall challenges her present situation, which is decidedly not that earlier time and place,” he writes.

Swayne, the Jacob H. Strauss 1922 Professor of Music and chair of the Department of Music, continues, “We hope that the patient is experiencing joy, but that joy can be laced with anxiety or even terror from being awakened by familiar sounds into an unfamiliar world.”

Read the full opinion piece, published 7/15/14 by The Atlantic.

Dartmouth Wind Ensemble to Perform at Commencement

For 52 years, a professional brass quintet has been hired to play the solemn marches and ceremonial music for the Dartmouth Commencement each spring. At this year’s ceremony on Sunday, June 8, however, the customary quintet will be replaced by student musicians, some in caps and gowns, who will play the processional, recessional, and incidental music, about 90 minutes in all.

The 24 musicians are from the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Matthew Marsit, and include graduating students Jeremy Baskin ’13, Th ’14; Mitchell Jacobs ’14; and Ryan McWilliams ’14. The three will be seated to play alongside their colleagues and will rise to collect their diplomas.

Commencement has long featured the Dartmouth College Glee Club, singing Dartmouth’s traditional songs. Last fall, the wind ensemble played as part of the fall Convocation, which opens the academic year. It served as an audition for Commencement, which the group passed, Marsit says.

Liliana Ma ’14: On Research and Thinking Outside the Box

Research is important, says Liliana Ma ’14, because it is a path to opportunities for expanding the current knowledge base. “So many careers and degrees are aimed at applying existing knowledge, which is obviously very important, but research allows us to think outside the box in areas that are of interest to us personally,” she says.

Ma came to Dartmouth from Princeton Junction, N.J., where both her parents are engineers. She seeks balance in her own life through a double major in biomedical engineering and music. “The problem-solving aspects of engineering are very interesting to me, but music is on a totally different side of the spectrum,” she says. Ma plays both violin and piano, and is a member of the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra.

Reveling in the diverse range of academic and extracurricular possibilities offered by the College, Ma says, “I don’t think there are many other schools with such strong academic research that would have allowed me to double major in engineering and music.”

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.

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