Poetry? Jazz Piano? David Leach doesn’t see them as that different, and we asked him to give us a taste of why. Hear the full extent of his research, titled ‘The Long Watch: Original Poems/An Exploration of Poetic Voice’, tomorrow at the Senior Symposium.
In broad terms, what about T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Jorie Graham and Charles Wright spoke to you as a poet? How do they inspire you?
Each of these poets resonates with me on a range of wavelengths, from their philosophy and thematic material to the particularities of their syntax. With Graham, for example, I’m particularly captivated by a kind of desperation I hear in her voice and by the way she manipulates syntax to create the sense of the conceptual mind working at the absolute edge of its capacity. They are all very different poets, so it’s hard to generalize apart from saying that I’m inspired by each poet’s obvious commitment to their art, the depth of their engagement with language, and the vast scope of their inquiry into existence.
Has being a creative writing major impacted the way you play jazz piano?
Being a creative writing major has deeply impacted my piano-playing and vice-versa, so it’s hard to point to some aesthetic or some idea about the creative process and say “that came from poetry and affected my music” or “that came from music and changed how I write.” I hear language as music. I’m more in love with the sounds and rhythms of language than I am concerned with what it ostensibly means. At the same time, when I sit down at the piano to play, I find myself trying to shape time in the same way that poetry shapes experience through emotion, intellect, and intuition. Writing and music for me are like two halves of a rubber ball—without both together, nothing bounces.
This Friday, the Senior Symposium will take you on an afternoon-long journey through the important research of seniors at the college & conservatory. We’re catching up with some conservatory-specific students to give you a sneak peek!
Today’s feature is Rhys Hertafeld, whose project examines the physics of sound in Grisey’s Jour, Contre-Jour.
What does your Senior Symposium presentation entail, and how does Grisey “blur the lines between pitch and timbre”?
For this project I have analyzed the use of spectral techniques in Grisey’s Piece Jour, Contre-Jour.I will demonstrate how Grisey employs, in his own words, “sonic material that comes directly from the physics of sound.” These techniques blur the concepts of pitch and timbre into a single entity and ultimately challenge the traditional music theory notion that these musical parameters are completely separate.
OBERLIN San Jittakarn from Thailand withstood skilled performances by four other students to win an Arthur Dann Piano Competition on April 20 in Finney Chapel at Oberlin College.The Arthur Dann Piano Competition awards a $2,500 stipend for the w
Huge congrats to San Jittakarn ‘15! San won the Arthur Dann Piano Competition this past weekend!
"Comparing Students’ and Educators’ Perspectives on Comparing Music in the Elementary Classroom"
What were your findings compared to pedagogical claims on music composition in the elementary classroom?
Statements made by young students in the research I’ve analyzed suggest that these students can recognize the connections they make between their music, their feelings, and their experiences outside of composing; the musical and cognitive skills they currently possess; and when and how composing music serves as a catalyst for their own learning.
The fact that children can contextualize themselves in a musical-developmental process, even if not at the level that educators can, indicates to me that children’s self-aware development should be investigated further, so that we can establish just how much children understand about their own understanding of composing music.
In the ever-morphing landscape of today’s worldwide music scene, the only constant is change.
This much is true for Beards, both musically and otherwise. Just a few weeks ago, the band was called The Men With Short Beards (see Part I of this ongoing feature), and just a few months ago, they were touring China, bringing a mix of popular music and free jazz to club audiences, while teaching schoolchildren the art of improvisation.
And now, back to our interview with Beards, the fiery group consisting of seniors Steve Becker (guitar), Duncan Standish (drums), Nate Mendelsohn (alto sax), and Cory Todd (drums).
Now that Chinese audiences have connected with your music and style, what do you think they’ll want next?
Nate: What a confusing first question!
Nate: What I mean is, we don’t know if and when we’re going back to China.
Steve: But we do want to go back. Cause it did seem that audiences connected with the music.
Duncan: So probably what they’ll want next is just more music. A deepening of the style that we’ve already shown them, and more songs, new material.
Cool. Tell us a story about teaching the students at the international school.
Cory: The overall gist of the visit mostly involved us introducing some really strange musical experiments to the students, things that we were afraid might be inaccessible. But the students actually ended up loving it, understanding it, and throwing themselves into free improvisation. It was a really cool experience.
Duncan: The best story is probably the whole final concert with the students. We performed first, but then brought up the students for a couple of really zany pieces.
Steve: We ended up performing a couple improvisations that we came up with earlier that week. They were called “Purple Cupcakes” and “Voyage to the Sun”, which should give you a perfect picture of what they sounded like.
Nate: And then we got to play one of our original songs with their 70-piece string orchestra, which was pretty surreal. It was amazing but totally strange to go from playing a coffee shop in Oberlin to performing in China with orchestral accompaniment. That was a highlight for me.
You mentioned in Part I that you all grew up listening to music other than jazz. What are some of those specific musical influences, whether on the group as a whole or as individuals?
Steve: Yep…Nate loves Radiohead. Actually, though we all met here as jazz performance majors, we all grew up listening to a bunch of different kinds of music.
Duncan: A small minority of the albums I’d take to a desert island would be jazz. Maybe none.
Nate: Yeah me too. Maybe.
Cory: No. No, I’d definitely bring some.
Steve: Yeah me too. I’d take the Miles Davis Quintet’s Plugged Nickel box set. But my favorite bands growing up were Rage Against the Machine and Incubus.
Cory: I definitely grew up listening to guys like Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, even a few country artists like Tim McGraw. But my tastes have changed drastically over the years.
Nate: RADIOHEAD (laughing). But actually, Radiohead, Elliott Smith…Ornette.
Duncan: Yeah, we have a lot of overlap. As a band we’re definitely inspired by The Bad Plus, Ornette Coleman, but also The Dirty Projectors, D’Angelo, Messiaen, a ton of other stuff.
Tell us more about Terry Hsieh ‘12’s Jazz Meets East program.
Nate: Terry’s got a really great thing going with Jazz Meets East. Each year he books shows and teaches residencies around Beijing for an Oberlin jazz group. And he pretty much guides us around the city, which is great ‘cause Terry is awesome to hang with and is super knowledgeable about Beijing’s music and culture.
Cory: Or Tear Bear, as we like to call him.
Duncan: And the program keeps getting better. Next year the embassy will be involved, which is super exciting. It seems like Terry is taking measures to make sure the trip not only continues, but grows bigger and better.
What was the biggest cultural difference you feel you encountered while abroad?
Steve: The toilets. Also the language barrier, but definitely the toilets.
Nate: Yeah, it’s strange to be the only four people speaking English in a bus full of Beijing locals. We had a couple of vulgar conversations in public because we knew we could.
Duncan: We hope.
Cory: Navigating the city in general would definitely have been hard without Terry. But honestly, with the help we had it wasn’t so hard to get accustomed to the daily routine. There are definitely cultural differences, but nothing too difficult to get past. It was a blast.
Stay tuned for Part III of our series, ‘Who are the Beards?’ – an in-depth interview about the band’s experience creating music, traveling, and learning from Oberlin together. Or, go back and refresh your memory as to what happened in Part I.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Minimalist Jukebox Festival includes an April 8 concert featuring 14 pieces by 11 composers played by five ensembles under three conductors — in an evening spanning five hours.