“E-Motion” Digital Exhibition Opening!

The time has finally come! Twleve of my fieldwork photographs and my new documentary film will all be on view at this exhibition starting tomorrow. If you cannot attend the opening reception, I hope you can come and see the tremendous work our colleagues in the Art Departments here at Claflin, over at South Carolina State and beyond have been creating. Our works are on view through most of Feburary at Claflin’s Arthur Rose Museum.

Flyer_Digital Show 2015

I am grateful to wonderful colleagues in our Art Department for their invitation to collaborate on this show and their diligent work in getting it up! M.I. Hossain and Raishad Glover curated and hung the show, Xan Jennings ran point on any number of important details, and Anthony Deiter invited me to participate. I could not be more excited to share the great privilege of my field research experience in this way. Many thanks to you all and especially to the generous communities of Irondo and Nawandyo, Busoga, Eastern Uganda.
Mweebale inho inho inho bannaife!

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Back in Action: Visual Ethnography Exhibit

It has been too long, but I am pleased to report that I have been busy even as I have been away. January will see several of my large format digital images on view here at Claflin University. Here’s a self-portrait from my fieldwork in Nawandyo Village, Namutumba District, Eastern Uganda, just to give folks a taste:

NsweziPeteBaswezi2

The full show will go up at the Arthur Rose Museum of Art on the campus of Claflin University on January 19, and the opening reception will be January 27th at 5:30 PM. Check it out if you’re in town! You might even see yours truly playing some Ugandan music…

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New Digs

Along with a new student intern (yay!) and some tremendous support from Claflin University, I’m pleased to point readers over to a new arm of this site, the Orangeburg MusIC Project.

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Featured Artist-in-Residence: Denyce Graves

This week we have had the privilege of a brief residency with internationally renowned vocalist Denyce Graves. Let me begin by saying that her performance yesterday was among the finest live vocal performances I have ever experienced. Ms. Graves is the real deal. To repeat a phrase she used today, she is a “singing actress” of the finest quality. During the masterclass she offered for Claflin students this morning,  she demonstrated that she is an equally good pedagogue.

As a matter of priority, Graves shows how deeply she cares for young artists. Her approach to positive reinforcement is textbook: she puts praise first and emphasizes the positive so that musicians can build from strength to strength. All the same, she does not spare the rod. Graves hears through singers like most people see through glass, and then she polishes them. She refuses to stop until the particular aspect she is working on with the student reaches sufficient levels of both sound and understanding. That also means that every session ends as strongly as it begins. Any good musician will tell you that this pattern resembles a successful practice session. In the form of what she does–as much as in its content–she shows students this consistent approach to excellence.

She speaks to students in beautifully illustrative metaphors. To get the sound she wants, she speaks of the “core sound” of a singer’s voice. She compares it to perfume, noting that audiences don’t want eau de parfum or eau de toilette when they can have the real parfum. The comparison works perfectly for getting students to think about space and overtones or vocal formants. She instructs students to “stitch vowels together” by allowing [i] to “inform” [ε], [a], [o] and [u]. If that makes little sense to readers with different musical or linguistic backgrounds, think of it this way: she’s telling a singer to keep the long horizontal space in her vocal cavity equally long even as she opens up the vertical space for other vowel sounds. She compares this “spatial crescendo” to the feeling of taking a quick breath right after a peppermint.

Part of what works so well about all of this is that the students come prepared. Dr. Lori Hicks has worked overtime with many of these students for the love of singing and teaching. The students, for their part, know the technical language and the repertoire well. That eases Ms. Graves’ task, allowing her to use these pithy metaphors as illustrations that students can use to remember the sensation of good singing when they get back to the practice room. As she puts it, that sensation is so much important than sound; for as singers know, sound changes with the room, the time of day, what foods we eat, the season of the year, and even our seasons of life.

This is a promising time in the life of the music department at Claflin University. It was a tremendous pleasure to hear our students sing today, and it was an even greater pleasure to watch this master at work. I hope all of our students, whatever their instrument, can find something useful to take from the experience.

 

 

[A note to long-time readers (all dozen of you): the time has come for this forum to adopt a fresh angle. In the past, I have done many artist features. Now those features will serve–along with other aspects of this blog–as means of tying what has been primarily a research and reviews blog to my teaching at Claflin University. I hope this new breadth will continue to engage current readers and begin to connect them with a new readership among this university community.]

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Jocks and Their Jams

[This post has been re-blogged from a private course blog for one of my music history and literature courses at Claflin University.]

On the heels of public commentary investigating and completely refuting the notion that classical music is dead, the Renée Fleming‘s rendition of the National Anthem at SuperBowl forty-eight tonight certainly made a strong statement. Her comments earlier in the week made the statement that much stronger. Moreover, Denyce Graves reminding her audience at Claflin’s own W.V. Middleton Auditorium this afternoon about the use of opera in advertising for pasta sauce–along with Lawrence Fishburne’s new sync on a Kia ad–remind us that cultural relevance is always relative.

It’s refreshing then that one of these very same commentators had some very sensible things to say last year about music and sports in what he called the “Glee generation.” Some people find the middle ground to be milquetoast. At times it can be, but in these cases, I find the balance to be pretty strong.

Still not convinced? Check out Bruno Mars opening the SuperBowl halftime show with a drum solo before getting up to sing with a full horn line and dance like the Godfather of Soul!

So ask yourself: what does the term “classical” mean? What does it mean for a young musician to get up and tip his hat like that to iconic American style and some of America’s classic R&B artists?

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Featured Artist: Denyce Graves

I don’t normally offer concert announcements or teasers here, but this one is just too good to resist.

This Sunday afternoon at 3 PM in W.V. Middleton Auditorium on the campus of Claflin University, Orangeburg audiences will be treated to one of the music world’s finest voices. Drawing on over twenty years of experience as a professional musician, vocalist Denyce Graves promises a performance that the Washington Post has called “almost too good to be true,” from a “vital artist, a beautiful woman, a regal presence.” Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear a voice that continues to receive international acclaim!

The performance is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Claflin University Office of Communications and Marketing at 803.535.5077.

Want a preview? Check out the media section of her site!

 

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To My Old Brown Earth, by Pete Seeger

artclecticacademic:

Here’s just one of many tributes to a great fallen musician this week. Evidently nobody could have written a better eulogy for Seeger than ol’ Pete himself! Rest in Peace, dear friend of the masses.

Originally posted on The Chawed Rosin:

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TO MY OLD BROWN EARTH

by Pete Seeger

To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”

And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.

Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.

And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours
And you are also mine.

In memory of Pete 1919-2014.

More Pete Seeger posts.

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