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.