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February 2004 Archives

February 2, 2004

Fractured fairy tales

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“We’ll begin far, far away and long, long ago,” intoned Barbara Schubert, conductor of Saturday’s University Symphony Orchestra performance, Fairy Tales, which featured Scheherazade, opus 35 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Jack and the Beanstalk, Jon Deak’s Concerto for Contrabass and Orchestra. Starting with Scheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1888 adaptation of Arabian Nights, the musicians sounded the story of a sultan who beheads his young brides one after another until his last wife, Scheherazade, tells him nightly stories so fascinating that he stays her execution 1,001 times, eventually renouncing his murderous habits.

For the second piece soloist Andy Cowan, a biology graduate student, took center stage with his contrabass, playing Jack in Deak’s Pulitzer Prize–nominated work. A whimsical and unconventional piece, including a kazoo, a barking percussionist, and intermittent subtitles, Jack and the Beanstalk personified the instruments—the bean-selling oboe, the cruel-giant low brass—and used eclectic sound effects—slide whistle, doorbell—to undercut the characters’ musical dialogue.

A.L.M.

February 4, 2004

Bright lights, small exhibit

The Smart Museum of Art’s current show, Illuminations: Sculpting with Light, running through April 4, presents a handful of works that take artificial light as an essential ingredient.

Visitors first see Charles Biederman’s #9, New York, 1940, a recent addition to the museum’s collection, incorporating blue, red, and yellow fluorescent tubes into a modernist relief sculpture.

Next they encounter three pieces by Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin, and James Turrell that use light itself as sculpture. Flavin’s Untitled, 1964, for example, showcases pink and blue fluorescent tubes, hung on a gallery wall, blanketing their surroundings in a soft, pinkish glow. Finally visitors walk through rising star Stephen Hendee’s Dead Collider, 2004, an installation commissioned for the exhibit. Lit from behind by colored fluorescent and incandescent lights, a steel structure—decorated with geometric shapes—envelops them in a mod scene.

Exiting where they entered, they complete the museum’s circle of light.

M.L.

February 6, 2004

Wine and swine

Wednesday evening the University’s new Alumni House welcomed more than 65 local alumni to an open house and wine tasting. The event attracted guests from the Class of ’03 through Alumni Emeriti, from the College to the Law School, frequent attendees to new faces. Tasting wine and cheese, mixing, mingling—it was just the sort of event to warm an alumni officer’s heart.

One upshot of all this intergenerational mingling was the handing down of campus lore. At the tasting (as with every other event held in the new House) alumni seemed magnetically drawn to the bookshelves containing those ubiquitous volumes of memory, the College class “portrait directories.” Recent graduates knew them as “pic books,” which they assumed to be a spontaneous abbreviation of the official name. More seasoned alumni, however, were quick to point out that when they were on campus in the ’60s and ’70s, the publications were fondly known as “pig books.”

Kyle Gorden, AB’00, Assistant Director, Class and Campus Programs, University of Chicago Alumni House

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February 9, 2004

Do-it-yourself folk

Although the 44th Annual University of Chicago Folk Festival offered its usual trio of evening concerts this weekend, the hands-on fans turned out Saturday and Sunday for workshops that filled Ida Noyes with dueling banjos, fiddles, tin whistles, and guitars.

Sunday afternoon festival-goers crowded the lobby, fingering through folk CDs and manuals (Beginning Fiddle, How to Play the Pocket Harmonica, Instant 5-String Banjo). Irish fiddlers strummed on the first-floor landing; a bluegrass group jammed in the cloakroom. In the Cloisters couples—wearing jeans or shorts, or dancing slippers and gored skirts designed for twirling—waltzed, two-stepped, and jitterbugged to Cajun tunes. Across the way participants in a harmonica workshop learned the tricks of instrument care, including a caveat on reed replacement: “They’re little, tiny things. If you lose one in a shag carpet, it’s gone.”

Next up were fiddler Liz Carroll, a South Side native who won the Senior All-Ireland Championship at 18, and guitarist John Doyle. The duo, who also performed at Saturday and Sunday’s concerts, alternated reels with insights into Irish music (“It’s like sweet and sour sauce—happy, but with undercurrents of melancholy”). They ended with an impromptu ceilidh, as the instrumentalists in the audience joined in for a set of reels—but no waltzes. “For the Irish,” Carroll said, “a waltz means the evening’s over.”

M.R.Y.

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Photos (from left to right): Fiddler Liz Carroll and guitarist John Doyle (center) lead 16 musicians through St. Anne’s Reel. Cajun dancing in the Cloisters. A gentle reminder to musicians: curb your enthusiasm.

February 11, 2004

Bush-whacked

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Financier and philanthropist George Soros wants you—to vote President Bush out of office this November. Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management, came to campus today to tell students why: he thinks Bush is leading the country and the world in the wrong direction. “It’s your future which is at stake,” he told a packed audience in Max Palevsky cinema, his first stop on a college and university tour.

Soros also makes his argument against Bush in a new book, The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of Power (PublicAffairs, 2004). During the talk, sponsored by the Graduate School of Business, he challenged the administration’s foreign policy of pre-emptive military action. In his work, Soros proposes an alternative of multilateral engagement and “preventive action of a constructive nature.” But it would “take too long to explain,” he concluded. Curiosity piqued, many students bought the book, on sale for $22 in the lobby afterwards.

But first two in-house scholars weighed in. Roger Myerson, the W. C. Norby professor in Economics, praised Soros’s insights. Luigi Zingales, the Robert C. McCormack professor of entrepreneurship and finance, took issue with some of Soros’s points, particularly a capitalist critique and a comparison of the Bush administration’s policies with a stock-market bubble. Zingales, however, emphasized that he too was opposed to the war in Iraq.

M.L.

February 13, 2004

Book lovers

Friday afternoon Special Collections hosted “Love in the Stacks,” a study break featuring Valentine’s Day treats and rare books about love, including a 1914–15 scrapbook by Helena Jameson Stevens and three drafts of Love Story (1916) by William Carlos Williams. The oldest item displayed was Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun’s Le Rommant de la Rose printed in 1515.

Not to overlook Friday the 13th, the Library showed off Antonio Scarpa’s Tabulae Nerulogicae (1794)—morbid sketches that balanced the fluff.

A.M.B.

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February 16, 2004

Fish fest

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Complete with Yiddish rap, the first-ever “Gefiltefest”—a Jewish cultural extravaganza organized by College students Miriam Gedwiser and Beth Malinowski—took place Sunday evening in Ida Noyes’s packed third-floor theater, decorated for the occasion with white and blue streamers. After a buffet dinner including, but not limited to, gefilte fish, the attendees took in a variety show featuring a monologue, skits, and a guitar performance. The evening concluded with an energetic set by the University of Chicago Klezmer Band, playing traditional Eastern European tunes with a number of instruments: bass, percussion, guitar, saxophone, clarinet, piano, cello, and violin.

Phoebe Maltz, ’05

February 18, 2004

Uplifting art

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“I decided to paint my daughter several hours after her C-section,” says Jean Bundy, MFA’02, of her 2003–4 acrylic-on-canvas painting Post-Partum. “It felt unnatural not to help her while watching her sink into the sterility of the hospital and the agony of childbirth. … Painting her was my counter-depressant.”

Part of the Center for Gender Studies exhibit “Counter/Depression,” Post-Partum is on display at 5733 S. University, Thursday through March 20, along with other artworks addressing depression’s medicalization and privatization, its prevalence among students, and the relation between economic and psychological depression. What role, the exhibit asks, can art play in times of crisis?

Keeping with the same theme, a March 12–13 campus conference called Depression: What Is it Good For? will feature academic papers as well as creative works.

A.M.B.

Photo: Jean Bundy
Post-Partum, 2003-4
3' x 4'
Acrylic on canvas

February 20, 2004

Heartfelt thanks

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Usually party guests eat before they express their thanks. But at Thanksgiving in February, things went differently. The Office of Donor Relations hosted its annual letter-writing luncheon for College scholarship recipients February 18, when about 160 students acknowledged donors’ generosity by drafting personal thank-you notes.

As in past years, the event was held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Reynolds Club South Lounge. Keeping with the Thanksgiving theme, the study room was spruced up with pumpkin-scented candles, tea lights, music, and a warm fire. The menu likewise offered mini turkey and cranberry sandwiches, veggie wrap bites, acorn squash soup, and dips, as well as lemon bars, pumpkin squares, and other desserts.

Laurent Lebec, Assistant Director of Donor Relations, Office of Development and Alumni Relations

Photography by Dan Dry.

February 23, 2004

Wheel world experience

Potter Meghan Taylor Holtan—a graduating third-year in Latin American Studies—considers herself lucky to show her work in Regenstein Library’s Special Collections Outer Gallery, a space typically booked five years in advance. On exhibit last Wednesday through today, “Craftworks” features pottery Holtan created last summer outside Homer, Alaska. Thanks to a summer grant from the U of C Arts Council, she spent the season firing the kilns and mixing glazes under the watchful eye of the Anchorage native’s mentor, artisan Paul Dungan.

“You would think that ceramics don’t have a place at the University of Chicago,” Holtan writes in her exhibition description. “Craft of the hand doesn’t work so well with the life of the mind. However, UChicago, for all its theoretical foundations, was quite supportive of my binge on the three-dimensional realm.”

Part of her display, in fact, pays homage to functional pottery and sculpture at the University over the past 100 years. While three glass cases contain Holtan’s earthy, glazed mugs and bowls with muted organic designs, mounted on the wall behind are news clippings from pottery-related University archives, pulled together with help from Jay Satterfield and Rosa Williams.

It may be a while before Holtan’s next exhibit. “I am trying to graduate right now, so I am not doing any pottery,” she says. “I expect if I get back into pottery it will be in several years. Plus, I have plans after graduation to start a circus with some pals of mine.”

Joy Olivia Miller

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February 25, 2004

Multimedia martyrdom

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George Bernard Shaw termed St. Joan of Arc “one of the queerest fish among the eccentric worthies of the Middle Ages.” Burned at the stake in 1431 for heresy, 19-year-old Joan, driven by the voices of St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and St. Michael the archangel, spent most of her teens dressed as a man leading French troops in their fight to expel the English. After many victories she was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, and prosecuted in Rouen by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, which kept meticulous records of the proceedings.


Those records inspired Carl Dreyer’s recently rediscovered silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), which depicts Joan’s excommunication, trial, and execution. The film in turn moved composer Richard Einhorn to create Voices of Light (1993), an oratorio designed to be performed in concert with The Passion—as the Department of Music did Saturday night in Rockefeller Chapel. The film screened to a 1,200-plus crowd, as Randi Von Ellefson conducted the University Chorus and University Symphony Orchestra members in Rockefeller’s chancel, hidden behind the movie screen and black curtains. Together the score and film dramatically recreated the trial, which Joan of Arc scholar Pierre Champion deemed “second in importance only to the trial of Christ.”

A.L.M.

February 27, 2004

Sound of Music

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About 20 local elders and backpack-toting students filter into Graham Taylor Hall. They turn their wooden seats away from the chancel and toward the back door. Most chat in hushed tones with their neighbors. Suddenly, a voice from above booms, “Good afternoon.” All heads tilt heavenward. A goateed man wearing jeans greets the crowd and then disappears. The music begins.

Welcome to organist Thomas Wikman’s weekly recital, sponsored by the Chicago Theological Seminary. Throughout his 30-minute performance listeners stay quiet. Many close their eyes. There is little movement, aside from one young man turning book pages and an older fellow wiping his brow with a handkerchief.

Wikman pauses part way through this afternoon’s four Bach selections to
serve up some extemporaneous program notes, although, he concedes after the free concert, he has “a very knowledgeable crowd.”

The Reverend David Neff of Chicago’s Morgan Park Presbyterian Church is a longtime fan. “The organ was beautiful,” Neff says. “‘St. Anne’ fugue in E flat—oh my, it takes you through so many movements.”

Wikman enjoys playing the seminary’s baroque organ, hand-built in 1983, doing so on-and-off for the past two decades, with stints in Europe in between. This season’s final concert is March 12.


M.L.

About February 2004

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in February 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2004 is the previous archive.

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