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What Words Cannot Express: Ian Bostridge on the Power of Music

Ian Bostridge by Sim Canetty-Clarke

What can music express that words cannot? This question intrigues esteemed tenor Ian Bostridge, whose “idiosyncratic vocalism, intense theatricality, and extreme musicianship” place him at the top of his field.

These queries make up the subject of a series of virtual lectures — and a virtual performance — that Bostridge will give at the University of Chicago this month. In a free, probing three-part lecture entitled “Musical Identities,” Bostridge examines the deeply communicative means of music to capture the otherwise indescribable phenomena of life: identity, existence, and death.

One Humanities Scholar Awarded 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship

Mitchell S. Jackson by John Ricard

Guggenheim Fellowships have been awarded this year to four University of Chicago scholars, chosen on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise. 

Prof. Ufuk Akcigit, Prof. Guanglei Hong, Asst. Prof. Mitchell S. Jackson and Prof. Tara Zahra are among the 184 fellows selected in this year’s class from nearly 3,000 applicants. Their fellowships will support research into the impacts of the Great Recession, a study of globalism and 20th-century Europe, and a work of historical fiction.

Vocalist Ian Bostridge to Deliver Lecture Series on Music and Identity

Acclaimed tenor Ian Bostridge

For acclaimed vocalist Ian Bostridge, classical music compositions count among the world’s most indispensable works of art—ones that should be as much a part of shared human experience as the poetry of Shakespeare, the paintings of Matisse and the novels of Charles Dickens.

The three-time Grammy Award winner seeks to help audiences connect to the resonance of classical music, and how the form expresses ideas of existence, love and loss and the inevitability of death.

This month, Bostridge will amplify that conversation as part of the Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures, hosted annually by the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago. His lecture series, “Musical Identities,” will begin April 11 and continue April 17 and 24. Each presentation will be held virtually from 1 to 2:30 p.m. CDT. Registration for the series is free and open to the public.

Take a Closer Look at Artist Pope.L's Newest Exhibition

The COVID-19 pandemic casts a shadow over the exhibition, which contains allusions to the crisis with a degree of directness that is unusual in Pope.L’s work. Visitors enter the gallery under a literal cloud of masks, and seeing the works requires opening mirror-clad medicine cabinets with blue latex gloves. Photo by Robert Heishman

After nearly a full year of closure, the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium will reopen its gallery to the public—doing so with a new exhibition from acclaimed artist Pope.L.

On display through May 16, My Kingdom for a Title features recent work by Pope.L, a scholar in UChicago’s Department of Visual Arts. The show contains allusions to the COVID-19 crisis with a degree of directness that is unusual in Pope.L’s work, which is often elusive and ambiguous.

Appointments to visit the gallery will begin March 9, with special hours and new visitor policies developed by the University of Chicago to protect the health of guests and staff.

Controversial Classics Spur New Conversations for TCM Hosts

Jacqueline Stewart by Joe Mazza, Brave Lux

Most of the classic films that run on TCM are introduced by a single host. In March, some will require a whole team.

The WarnerMedia outlet on Thursdays this month will seek to put some popular but troublesome films in better context, part of an effort it calls “Reframed.” Teams will ponder cultural issues posed by films such as “Gone With The Wind,” “Psycho,” “The Searchers,” “My Fair Lady” and “Gunga Din,” among others. Some of the hosts hope the initiative will continue beyond the next four weeks.

“We are hearing more and more from audiences about moments they are really puzzling over, if not downright offended by, in light of all of the broader cultural and political conversations we are having,” says Jacqueline Stewart, who became TCM’s first Black host in 2019 and is a cinema-studies professor at the University of Chicago.

Neubauer Collegium's New Research Projects Signal Enduring Commitment to Inquiry

Curator Nina Sanders, a visiting fellow at the Neubauer Collegium, sits on horseback at a parade to open Apsáalooke Women and Warriors on March 12, 2020. The exhibition grew out of the Open Fields research project, one of 111 faculty-led collaborations the Neubauer Collegium has supported since its 2012 launch. Photo by Max Herman.

The University of Chicago has long championed collaborative research as a promising strategy for addressing complex questions. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, it was not clear how this form of inquiry might need to adapt. What new strategies would humanistic scholars adopt to share, develop and test new ideas online? What empirical data would social scientists be able to gather, and what insights could they glean from fieldwork dramatically constrained by new public health guidelines preventing close physical contact?

The challenges for scholars pursuing humanistic research collaborations at this moment are significant. But the 2021–22 cycle of research projects at the Neubauer Collegium are a clear sign that UChicago faculty remain committed to collaborative modes of inquiry—and creative in their approach to pursuing excellence in research.

Martha C. Nussbaum Awarded 2021 Holberg Prize

Martha C. Nussbaum

Professor Martha C. Nussbaum, a philosopher whose prolific and influential contributions have made her one of the world’s leading public intellectuals, has been named the winner of the 2021 Holberg Prize—one of the largest international awards given to an outstanding researcher in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, law, or theology.

Nussbaum, the University of Chicago’s Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, is appointed in both the Law School and the Philosophy Department.

In giving the award, the Holberg Prize Committee cited the breadth and influence of Nussbaum’s work, as well as her “stupendous intellectual energy and productivity to address issues of major academic concern, as well as issues that have concrete economic, political, and legal impact.”

Art Historian Darby English on Why the New Black Renaissance Might Actually Represent a Step Backwards

Darby English

Darby English understands the power of art. The author of To Describe a Life: Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror (2019) affirms its place in our lives during this period of social turmoil and incessant racial violence in America. Timely, poignant, and ruefully truthful, English’s work on African American art history and thought challenges us to remember the capacity art has to change not only our lives but the ways in which we see ourselves and the world at large.

Revered in the field as a thought-leader, the Cleveland-born scholar is currently the Carl Darling Buck Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. In 2010, he received the University of Chicago’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the nation’s oldest such prize.

New Concert Series Weaves Together Music, Architecture for Online Audiences

During the November premiere of the SOUND/SITES concert series, pianist and UChicago artist-in-residence Clare Longendyke played music from Schumann and Debussy in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Image courtesy of UChicago Presents

While the past year has been challenging for musicians who normally perform before live audiences, it has also created opportunities for innovation.

One result is SOUND/SITES, a virtual concert series that combines music with architectural landmarks on the University of Chicago campus. A co-production of UChicago Presents and the Department of Music, the quarterly series offers a new way for artists and audiences to safely connect amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an avenue for interdisciplinary artistic exploration.

“We created this program at a time of empty communal spaces, so that these accomplished performers could fill them with music, showcasing the deep resonance between tradition and innovation that animates the University as a place of listening and learning,” said Prof. Berthold Hoeckner, chair of the music department.

Amid pandemic, UChicago scholar launches program for international artists

Ghenwa Hayek

Early last year, Assoc. Prof. Ghenwa Hayek signed on to become the interim director of the University of Chicago’s Gray Center. A month after she accepted the interim directorship, the COVID-19 crisis was officially declared a pandemic.

Uncertain times call for certain decision-making, and Hayek quickly embraced the challenge. The Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry has long convened scholars and artists in the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration—but without in-person events, it would have rethink the nature of its mission.

Drawn from Music: Art Exhibition Opens Window into Composers' Creative Process

Map of Form by University Professor Augusta Read Thomas; Image courtesy of UChicago Arts

For composers, drawing a “map” of music can give shape to a new work and articulate its overarching ideas. As evocations of the composer’s intentions—from sweeping curves to stars, birds and brightly-colored dots—such maps capture the ebbs and flows within a musical piece and complement musical scores, serving as guides for performers.

MAPS OF FORM, a new exhibition at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, presents a collection of these musical illustrations as works of art in their own right. Drawn by UChicago faculty and graduate composition students, the maps vary from abstract representations of operatic arias in numbers and letters to contemporary works illustrated with chariots and drawings of hanging mobiles.