Faculty

UChicago Composers Share Creative Processes

Shulamit Ran, Andrew MacLeish Distinguished Service Professor of Music, Augusta Read Thomas, University Professor of Composition in Music, and Marta Ptaszynska, Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Music, recently shared what inspires them to create music and their composing processes. Ran, who recently composed a piece inspired by the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts which was performed at the building's launch festival, said “Life informs my music in every possible way, through the people I meet, the sounds I hear, things I see or read, life’s events and passages, its awe and adventure. This feeds into everything I am, and thus everything I compose.”

Ptaszynka and Thomas both commented that ideas for their compositions usually come to them fully-formed, rather than in fragments. “I never start a piece if I don’t know how the piece will end,” Ptaszynska says. “It’s like buying a train ticket without knowing where you’re going.”

Thomas' process echoes this theme of travel. “I usually draw maps—a timeline of the piece, the shapes it’s going to take, its harmonic fields,” she says. “If you’re going to build a huge building or cathedral, you can’t just go to the hardware store and start hammering nails. I actually draft the beginning, middle, and end of absolutely every sound. I want to know, what’s the inner life? Where is it going, why is it going there? How does it relate to what comes next, and why? Gestalt is everything to me.”

All three composers underscored that none of their creativity would be possible without diligent work, which makes the University of Chicago a particularly fruitful setting. “Many people have a talent but don’t develop their craft,” Ptaszynska says. “And talent without craft is nothing.”

Read the full article here.

Connection between Magic and Medicine in Ancient World Discussed during Recent Lectures

In October at the Oriental Institute, several professors participated in the lecture series "Medicine and Magic in the Ancient World, A Search for the Cure", which sought to explore the connection between the physical and the psychological aspect of healing within ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. Robert Ritner, Professor in Egyptology, opened the series with his talk titled “The Theory and Practice of Medicine and Magic in Ancient Egypt”, Christopher Faraone, the Frank Curtis Springer and Gertrude Melcher Springer Professor in the Humanities, and the College, and Elizabeth Asmis, Professor in Classics, presented "Medical Healing in Ancient Greece". Walter Farber, Professor of Assyriology, discussed how people came to understand and fight against contagious diseases in his lecture titled "Diseases and Epidemics in Ancient Mesopotamia: Medical Conceptualization and Responses", while Robert Biggs, Professor Emeritus in Assyriology, focused on Mesopotamian religious practitioners and their approach to illness and misfortune in his talk "Religious and Magical Elements in Babylonian Medical Practice." The series closed on October 27 with a presentation by John Wee, a postdoctoral scholar in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, titled "Mesopotamian Texts and the Knowledge Assumptions of Medical Diagnosis". To find out about upcoming lectures at the Oriental Institute, please visit their Events and Programs web page.

Michael Bourdaghs's New Book Traces Japanese Pop Music from post-WWII to 1990s

Michael Bourdaghs, Associate Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, reveals the history of previously unrecorded concerts of iconic Japanese artists such as Misora Hibari and Yamaguchi Yoshiko in his new book, Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop. As the article details, the source material for this work was discovered in 2009, when a Canadian collector contacted Bourdaghs after procuring unmarked wire recordings from eBay that they suspected were of Yamaguchi and Misora. This discovery enriched Bourdaghs's book, which tracks Japanese pop music from 1950--the first year Japanese performers were permitted to travel overseas since the end of World War II--to the early 1990s. In his work, Bourdaghs argues that pop music became a way of working through tensions between Japan and the United States. To listen to music clips or watch video samples, check out the book's online companion.

'Invisible Man' Adaptation among Honors for Court Theater

Court Theatre won three awards at the 44th annual Equity Jeff Awards ceremony on October 15. From the theatre's fifteen nominationsInvisible Man (in association with Christopher McElroen Productions) earned the New Adaption (Play) award, Larry Yando won the award for Actor in a Principal Role (Play) for his portrayal of Roy Cohn in Angels in America, and Timothy Edward Kane received the Solo Performance honor for his work in An Illiad. Ken Warren, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor in English, served as adviser to this first-ever stage production of Invisible Man.

From the article:

"I’m also thrilled that Court’s world-premiere adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, adapted by Oren Jacoby, was awarded a Jeff for Best New Adaptation. A product of close collaboration between Court Theatre’s artists and University scholars like Ken Warren, Invisible Man’s continuing success in Chicago and beyond is a testament to what Court and the University of Chicago can achieve in partnership," Newell added.

Read the full article here.

Pages