Linguists Tackle Computational Analysis of Grammar

Children don’t have to be told that “cat” and “cats” are variants of the same word—they pick it up just by listening. To a computer, though, they’re as different as, well, cats and dogs. Yet it’s computers that are assumed to be superior in detecting patterns and rules, not 4-year olds. John Goldsmith and Jackson Lee are trying to solve that puzzle or at least provide the tools to do so.

Graduate Student Kate Pukinskis Premieres Composition

This edited version originally appeared in UChicago News on 26 February.

Kate Pukinskis loves to sing in choirs, to be on stage with others enveloped by the “crazy, loud sounds” of Beethoven’s Ninth or Verdi’s Requiem. “Choral music comes very naturally to me,” said Pukinskis, a doctoral student in composition in the Department of Music who has sung in professional choirs since she was a child.

“There is great joy in making music with other people—and it’s such a cool thing to use your voice as your instrument and feel it resonate inside your body.”

Pukinskis enjoys crafting that experience for others as she has done with her latest work, Water on the Thirsty Land: Three Songs from the Book of Isaiah, a set of choral pieces for unaccompanied choir that premiered February 28 at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, as part of the Quire & Place concert series.

Entitled Sacred Powers of Water, the concert explored water themes and features commentary by Christopher Neill, director of the Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., where the concert will be repeated later this year.

Pukinskis chose three excerpts from Isaiah that use water as metaphors for the divine—as protector, life giver, and strengthener. She realizes them musically, creating moments where words and sounds invoke the comfort of being enveloped in a pool, or the relief that comes when one’s thirst is quenched. She draws inspiration from her carefree childhood in New England, roaming through woods and swimming in ponds. “I remember playing in the water and how insulating that felt,” she said. “Anyone can relate to that protective feeling.”

Steven Rings on the Many Voices of Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is the ultimate musical shape-shifter. In his five-decade career, he has refused to stay in the same place for long, moving fluidly between genres, voices and performance styles. To some, that elusive quality makes Dylan almost maddening. To others, it makes him fascinating. But to musicologist Steven Rings, it makes Dylan's work a perfect object of scholarly analysis.

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