Music Department Presents “Song of the Land: Poems of Ishion Hutchinson”

Barnes Hall was packed for “Song of the Land: Poems of Ishion Hutchinson,” a performance presented by the Music Department that put Hutchinson’s poetry to compositions by graduate student composers. The performance presented a fusion of the old and the new, incorporating multiple forms of art to deliver a powerful concert. Guest artist Rachel Calloway, a mezzo soprano, sang a dramatic reading that conveyed the emotion communicated in the performance, and did so in a way that drew the audience in to share in the experience with her.  This innovative project brought the respective virtues of literature and music into a symbiotic relationship that managed to showcase both the artistry of the music and the postmodern themes of Hutchinson’s poetry. The English department’s Ishion Hutchinson writes narrative poetry that investigates colonialism through his depictions of landscape and the emotional weight of colonial history.

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TEST SPIN: More Life — Drake

Imagine that the More Life playlist is your first exposure to Drake. What sort of artist would he appear to be? With plenty of Afro-Carribean beats, lots of bare bone bangers and a handful of thoughtful verses, Drake seems to be reinventing himself once again.
The playlist is great not only for its music, but for what it symbolizes about Drake’s career moving forward.

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Duck Soup at Cornell Cinema: A Healthy Serving of Laughter

If reality television existed in the 1930s, the Marx Brothers may be remembered today as the male antecedent to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Where the brothers blossomed from vaudeville to Broadway to motion pictures to television comedies, the Kardashians continue to progress from independently produced sex tape to accredited reality series to “Kourtney and Khloe take Miami” to the Kylie Jenner Lip Kit.  The two families take very different approaches on theatrical dramas and elicit laughter, shock and imitation for none of the same reasons. Regardless, Minnie Marx, mother to Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, may have inspired Kris Jenner to her momager role.  Minnie, an actress in her own right, led her sons to the limelight with a little more talent and a lot more clothing than her modern day match.

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Nickelodeon Tries to Join the Tolerance Bandwagon — and Fails Spectacularly

Tolerance. Prejudice. These two concepts are on everybody’s minds nowadays. Racial, ethnic, political and religious tensions are flaring around the world — including in our own country. It’s an uncertain time for children to grow up in, and some aren’t learning about the importance of coexisting with others who differ from themselves. That’s where several media studios are stepping up.

And then there’s Nickelodeon’s new show, Bunsen is a Beast.

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TEST SPIN: Depeche Mode — Spirit

I knew pop music reached a turning point when Depeche Mode released their single “Where’s the Revolution” and Katy Perry followed, a week later, by releasing “Chained to the Rhythm.” Ever since the presidential election, everyone became “woke,” including artists. I expected Katy Perry to buy into this, but not Depeche Mode. “Where’s the Revolution” left me hoping for something less industrial and more like the band’s trademark upbeat synth sounds. I had high expectations for Spirit and, sadly, they were not met. Rather than continuing to make thoughtful, soul-searching soundtracks, Depeche Mode bought into the rising “Purposeful” or “woke” pop act.

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Sex With Strangers at the Kitchen Theater

It is only appropriate that playwright Laura Eason chooses to reflect on the millennial obsession and consumption of authentic selfhood through psychological realism, a form that exposes private and supposedly authentic humanness. Literally walled off in a remote house and then, during act two, in an apartment, actors Leeanne Hutchison and Darian Dauchan strive to imitate authentic privacy through theatre. Their characters, Olivia and Ethan, aspire to achieve this by writing fiction, and, both character and actor, inevitably by social media. So the play dialogues inwards, towards a generation where pressure to authentically be (and perform) one’s self is supreme, monetized and burns through relationships. Sex With Strangers’ political effect is potent but undecided, and ultimately, like its form, a dialogue in itself.

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GUEST ROOM | Girl on the Road: Female Sexuality as Power in American Honey

In Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, a teenage girl named Star leaves behind a troubled home life to join a group of kids who travel across the Midwest selling magazines. This film sets out to tell the story of adolescent camaraderie on the road; it ends up an important contribution to road narratives that does justice to female sexuality in a way rarely seen before. In the beginning of the film, Star and two children stand on the side of the road sticking out their thumbs for passing cars. When no one will pick them up, Star yells in exasperation, “Are we invisible?” If women and children are seen as in need of help at any locus of society, that perceived helplessness is amplified when one is a woman or a child (both, in Star’s case) on the road. The vulnerability of women on the road is a reality that renders people like Star invisible to passersby.

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TEST SPIN: Pitbull — Climate Change

Well-worn but never quite worn out, Pitbull classics like “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and “Hotel Room Service” are always a go-to for playlists if you want a song everyone can sing along to. He’s been around for a while now, having released his first album M.I.A.M.I. in 2004 and been on an up and up trajectory with many collaborations with big-name artists. In Climate Change, released Friday, Pitbull has (once again) gathered artists like Enrique Iglesias, Robin Thicke, J-Lo and Kiesza to do a lot of the heavy lifting in most of his tracks with their vocals.

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SWAN | Chuck Berry and the Things We Ignore

MUSIC 1101, Elements of Music, begins with a rather thorough discussion of the Voyager Golden Records. Each record contains a somewhat lengthy selection of music, which was compiled in 1977, by a committee chaired by Cornell’s Carl Sagan, then professor of space sciences. Of course, this spurs the musicological debate on archival selection and canon formation. Is it even remotely fair that an American professor, grounded in Western culture, is in charge of leading the effort to select music representing societies of the entire world? The final lineup is indeed unjustly skewed towards the inclusion of Western musical examples and traditions.