Seminar Class 10/24/12

On wednesday’s class, Professor Kahan discussed the topics of romanticism and realism as an introduction to Walt Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. The romantic era occurred in the 19th century just as the rise of the bourgeois was beginning. This time period examined the dark side of arts and literature. For example, the well known novels Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came from this era. Unlike the romantic era, the realist era dealt with topics in literature that can truly occur in real life. A great example of a piece of literature that was written during this time period is Washington Square. It is a part of realistic literature because a heiress during that time could truly be deciveed by a man for her money.

After our discussion about these two time periods, we talked about Walt Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. I was happy to have read the poem before discussing it in class as a homework assignment. It was a great way for me to fully understand the meaning of the poem and, more importantly, to help me interpret the poem based on my own ideas and thoughts. When we discussed the poem in class on wednesday, most of what was said was similar to my own interpretations of the poem. However, there were some interesting ideas that I never thought of while reading the poem on my own. For example, Professor Kahan pointed out that Whitman repeats many of his ideas throughout the poem.  The repetition in this poem was considered a soothing element. However, the idea of repetition is not always soothing for it can also be considered annoying as well. We also compared this idea of repetition in the poem to the repetition in the Book of Psalms in the Bible. The repetition in the Book of Psalms is also considered a soothing element just as it was in Whitman’s poem.

Although English and Literature are not two of m favorite topics to study, I enjoyed wednesday’s discussion on Walt Whitman’s poem. I look forward to hearing my classmates’ poems as well as reading my own poem to the class on monday.

“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” 10/22/12

This monday we were assigned to read the poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman. The poem first beings with the narrator describing the ferry on his way to Manhattan. What makes this part so interesting to me is that he truly focuses on his surroundings on his ferry ride. Usually, many people do not do this. They take advantage of the beautiful scenery and do not admire it like the narrator is doing in this particular poem. By describing the motion of the water below him and the types of people that surround him, he notices everything. He even says in the first stanza “Clouds of the west-sun there half an hour high” which makes me believe that he is riding the ferry early in the morning just as the sun is rising.

One important factor that  noticed about the language of the poem was that the narrator uses the words “I too” very often. For example, the narrator states “I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine, I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it.” This makes me believe that the narrator used to live in New York and is telling a fellow ferry rider of his past experiences in the city. It is almost as if he is visiting New York after some years of being away from the great city. He also reminisces about his old life in New York and refers to Manhattan and Brooklyn as “admirable” and “beautiful”.

This poem makes me realize how much I take the Staten Island Ferry ride for granted. I never truly notice or gaze at my surroundings nor do I analyze the people around me. New York is truly a beautiful place and I feel that this poem reminds us all of that. Since we all live in the city, we never admire the places or things around us because it is considered “nothing special” since we see it very often. Now, after reading this poem, I will make sure to look at New York’s beauty on my next ferry ride.

The Heiress 10/17/12

On wednesday, my classmates and I went into New York City for a second time to see another great performance. This time, we went to go see a  broadway show called The Heiress. Professor Kahan chose a great show to see because it correlated to our reading and writing assignment on the novel Washington Square.

I fully enjoyed this broadway show. I thought that it was very similar to the novel and the characters in the play were just as I interpreted them to be in the novel. I loved the humor in the play as well. Just as the irony and humor was incorporated into the novel, it was also incorporated in the play. Even though I thought all the characters did a fantastic job with their specific roles, I thought that Jessica Chastain played Catherine Sloper’s role perfectly. She was very awkward, ungraceful, and unsocial just as we read in the novel. I even felt that her appearance in the play was very similar to what I have read in the novel.

One particular part of the play that I really enjoyed was the final scene. In the novel, when Morris Townsend came over Catherine’s house after a few years without seeing her, Catherine told Morris that she does not even want to be friends with him and to leave her house immediately. I thought that exact scene would also occur in the play. However, I was greatly mistaken. In the play, Catherine tricked Morris to believe that she agreed to marry him that night. However, just like he did to her a few years ago, she completely ignored him when he came to pick her up. She got her revenge on him. I thought this scene made the play much more enjoyable and exciting. I liked the final scene in the play much more than I did in the novel.

I was ver happy to see this play with my classmates. It was a great way to visualize what I have read in the novel. It was a great night with great people that I will never forget.

Seminar Class 10/15/12

On monday’s class, Professor Kahan began class by giving background information on the famous composer Mendelssohn. We discussed Mendelssohn’s well known Symphony No. 3, which was played during sunday’s Philharmonic. Mendelssohn came from a very wealthy family and was very educated. His music was very well known during the mid 1800s, or the Victorian Age. Besides Symphony No. 3, Mendelssohn also wrote another very famous composition. This work is known as The Wedding March which is the song played during the bride and grooms exit of the church. This song, amazingly, is still used and favored today in many, if not all weddings.

After the discussion of Mendelssohn, we started to talk about the novel Washington Square and our opinions on it. We mainly focused on Catherine Sloper’s character, the protagonist of the novel. She is known as a plain and ungraceful girl who has a fine taste in clothing and is soon to be an heiress. Even though she likes to dress well, she does not do it to impress others. She does it to please herself. He father, Dr. Austin Sloper, does not like when Catherine dresses this way because she makes it seem like she “wears her money.” We also discussed why Henry James chose to set the book in New York in the 1850s. Since the book was written in 1880 during the rise of the civil war, the author chose to set the book before the civil war occurred to show New York during its prosperous times.

The we watched scenes from two movies: Washington Square and The Heiress. We compared how these two movies differ with the presentation of characters and how they act during the film. I felt that in the film Washington Square Catherine’s role was very much like the character in the novel in the sense that she was very unsociable and ungraceful. In the film The Heiress, I felt that Catherine should have been more awkward and unsociable.  In Washington Square, Marian, Catherine’s cousin, introduced her to Morris Townsend. In The Heiress, Catherine’s Aunt Penniman introduced her to Morris Townsend. One particular difference that truly shocked me was Catherine’s dress in the movie Washington Square. Instead of Catherine wearing a cherry red dress just as her mother did in the past, the director of the movie disregarded this and had Catherine wear a huge and extravagant yellow dress. I was glad Professor Kahan decided to show us these scenes from the two movies in order to give the class a taste of what the broadway show would be like.

Seminar Class 10/10/12

On Wednesday, class began with a discussion on our feelings and thoughts on the opera Turandot. Overall we all as a class liked the opera. It was something different that most of us have never experienced before. Many of us especially liked the costumes and scenery of the opera for they were both very extravagant. In class we also discussed the types of music throughout the opera. The two types of music that were played in the opera were Italian-like and Chinese-like. Some music sounded Italian because it was an Italian opera written by an Italian man. Some music sounded Chinese because the setting of the play was in China and was about a Chinese empress named Turandot. The muiscians achieved this Chinese-like music by including a lot of fourth notes.

During the second half of the class, Michael Sirotta came to talk about his experience with music. Professor Sirotta is a world known musician who just created his first orchestral symphony, that of which we will as a class attend on Sunday afternoon. Professor Sirotta first discussed his first experience with music. He remembered what was his first piece of music that he ever encountered. This song was Oyfn Pripetshok, a traditional Jewish folk song. It is so popular in the Jewish community that it is also known as the second Jewish national anthem. He remembered his grandfather singing this song when he was a little boy. As a result of this great memory, he made this song the basis for his first orchestral symphony. Professor Sirotta also talked about his experience and his past with music. He discussed why variation was so important in music and how the composer knows what instruments to use to get a certain emotion or variation.

Having Professor Sirotta come to our seminar class to talk about his orchestral symphony made me more interested in attended the Philharmonic on Sunday. I now understand how difficult his job is as a conductor and will appreciate his performance more than I would have in the past. I know that seeing this performance will be a great experience.

10/3/12- The Opera

On Wednesday, October 3rd, both seminar classes went to the Met in New York City to see the opera Turandot. Unlike most of my classmates, I knew exactly what to expect as I got off the subway and walked up the stairs to the fountain in front of the Met. Last year I saw the opera The Barber of Seville and I loved it. It was such a great experience. Since I had a great time at last year’s opera, I didn’t mind seeing another opera this year. In fact, I was excited. The Met was just like I remembered. There were many people surrounding the beautiful fountain outside the Met, people were dressed their best, and the chandeliers  inside the Met were just as stunning as the first time I saw them. I loved the elegant atmosphere.

Then it was time for the opera to begin. I found my seat and waited for the curtain to be lifted. Turandot is an Italian opera about a princess who lives in China and tries to find her prince and true love. They way in which she finds him is through solving riddles. If the man solves the three riddles, he has won her love. However, if he does not, he is to be beheaded. In the end, Calaf wins her heart and marries Turandot. Once again, I had a great experience at the opera. The orchestra and the music, along with the voices of the performers, were truly amazing. The costumes and the stage decor were also unbelievable. Even though I do understand and speak Italian, it was still difficult to understand some of the words the performers were trying to say. As a result, i put the Italian subtitles on and followed word for word what the performers were singing. This made it much more enjoyable and easier to understand. All of these factors combined to make an unforgettable night.

Seminar Class 10/1/12

On Monday’s class, Professor Kahan explained to us the different types of singing in an opera. The three types of male voices, from lowest to highest, that we discussed in class were bass, baritone, and tenor. For a male to be able to sing in tenor is extremely difficult because it is very high pitched. One example of a male singing in tenor was when Luciano Pavarotti sang “Nessun Dorma.” Luciano Pavarotti had become extremely famous for singing this song from the opera Turandot because he hits the line “vincerò” at a perfect tenor pitch. Since Luciano Pavarotti is one of the most respected opera singers in the twenty first century, we watched his performances of “Nessun Dorma” three times each during different time frames. Even though Pavarotti was a different age each time he sang this song, it sounded amazing all three times. He also sounded the same all three times. However, he had a more matured voice in his later years. It truly amazes me how he could sing so beautifully and powerfully at the age of seventy and at an unhealthy state.

Another video that we watched to give an example of a type of male opera voice was the song “Largo al Factotum” from the opera The Barber of Seville. This song was shown to give an example of a baritone male voice. I have seen the this opera before and this was my absolute favorite song. It is probably one of the most famous baritone songs in an opera. It is a difficult song to sing because it is very upbeat and the performer singing it must be moving around the stage the whole time, since the role of Figaro is very exuberant.     “Largo al Factotum” is also a great example of a patter song. A patter song  is a song in which the words are sung extremely fast. Both of these songs, “Nessun Dorma” and “Largo al Factotum” are two songs that i fully enjoy and I am so happy that Professor Kahan chose them to exemplify some of the types of male opera voices.

Seminar Class 09/24/12

Monday’s class was an intro to music. We defined that the four elements of music are rhythm, melody, harmony, and timbre. These four elements are combined to make each piece of music unique. When Naomi sang “I Feel Pretty” from the musical West Side Story, Professor Kahan played the piano to accompany Naomi’s singing. When the piano was played, it added texture to the song. It also provided rhythm and harmony. Professor Kahan also pointed out the rhythm in the song. The rhythm was “one, two, three, one two three” with emphasis on the “one.”Naomi had a beautiful voice and I loved how she participated in teaching the class about the four elements of music.

Another piece of music that the class was introduced to was the Praeludium I by J.S Bach. This song is very dainty and soft in texture. It is also very soothing and calming. When the song got louder, it created more of a dramatic feeling. It also seemed as if it was telling a love story. This song reminded me a lot of the Ave Maria because they both start similarly and have that same delicate texture. In Praeludium II,  the song sounded much different  and gave a much different feeling. This song was much more dramatic and frantic than the first. It had a very mechanical texture and evoked a scary feeling. I liked both pieces of music. However, I loved Praeludium I. That song made me feel nice and calm  compared to Praeludium II.


Seminar Class 9/19/12

On Wednesday, class began with the analysis of a scene from the movie Girl With a Pearl Earring. In this scene, Johannes Vermeer, played by Colin Firth, is beginning a painting of his servant Griet, played by Scarlett Johansson. She is dressed modestly with her hair wrapped in silks to that it is completely hidden. During the time period in which the movie took place, women were only allowed to show their hair to their husbands because it was a symbol of beauty and seduction. However, Vermeer tasked her to take her head wrap off for the different affect of the painting. Eventually she gave in and took it off in private. However, she noticed that Vermeer was watching her take it off and she felt violated and humiliated. This scene reminds me of what I read in the book Ways of Seeing. Women are viewed differently according to what they wear and how they present themselves. As soon as she took off her head wrap, she was viewed as an immodest woman. It is truly amazing how many aspects, such as clothing and style, can have an affect on the reputation of a woman.

During the second half of class, Dr. Charles Liu came to discuss the art gallery displayed in school of Johann Jakob Scheuchzer’s artwork. He told us about the history of Scheuchzer’s artwork and then we looked at and experienced the artwork first hand. The main ideas of Scheuchzer’s artwork are based on science and religion. During his time period, it was taboo to try to explain religion through the use of science. However, he went against society and displayed his love for religion and science in his artwork. One particular work that I enjoyed from his collection was Physica Sacra plate CCCLXXI. This displayed the bible verse Joshua 10: 12-14. In this illustration, Joshua is speaking to the Lord. He is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, mountains, a river, and the sun shining above him. Scheuchzer incorporated science into this illustration by making a frame of worlds shaded in different ways. This showed that he knew the concept of daylight and nighttime by the position of the sun. Scheuchzer’s collection was truly amazing. His subtle ways of incorporating science into his religious artwork taught me to always look at the fine details of art.

Seminar Class 09/12/12

The main topic of class on wednesday was about the idea of gaze in an artwork. Gaze is defined as a way of looking at or admiring something. In order to get a better understanding of what gaze is, we looked at an excerpt in chapter three in the book Ways of Seeing. This excerpt compared the appearance of men and the appearance of women. It discussed how women must always look their best and presentable while men do not. Women are judged more on their appearance than men are. To look at a few examples of this, we compared the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci to a photo of the famous actor Robert De Niro. In the Mona Lisa, there is a picture of a women who is dressed to impress. We know that she is dressed in high quality clothing because the material on her sleeves looks like it was made of silk. This gives us the idea that she is an upper class woman. Her hair is done is beautifully placed curls and she also has a veil or hair net on to make sure her hair is always looking perfect. This gives the audience a good impression of her because of her modest and presentable look. However, when looking at the picture of Robert De Niro, he still gives the audience a good impression even though he does not look his best. In his picture, De Niro has aged. He has wrinkles on his face and gray colored hair. He has a five o’clock shadow on his face and his hair is not combed back nicely. Even though he may not seem presentable, the people of today’s society still think highly of him. Basically, he s allowed to look this way just because he is Robert De Niro. If a commoner looked the same way De Niro did in this picture, people would view this man as a bum instead. This shows that no matter how famous a women may be, she must always look presentable to get approval of the public. However, this idea does not apply to men.

In class, we also discussed the artwork of Edward Hopper and tried to analyze his style. One of his paintings that I found particularly interesting was American Landscape. In this painting, Hopper shows a house on a farm with some farm animals. It seems that there is also a road or train track about the house which implies that the house is located on the bottom of a hill. It is a picture of a typical American landscape. Hopper painted this in a three dimensional style horizontally. The three dimensions include the  sky at the top, then the house with the forestry in the background on the bottom of the hill, and then the top of the hill with the hay, train track, and farm animals. Another painting of Edward Hopper that I enjoyed was New York Interior. This painting shows the back of a women who is presumed to be a dancer because she is dressed in a ball gown. She is located in a small apartment in New York City and is sitting down on a sofa or bed next to a fireplace. Similarly to American Landscape, New York Interior is also painted three dimensionally. However, instead of it being painted horizontally it is painted vertically. The walls are vertical, the door in the background is vertical, and the structure of the fireplace and its columns are vertical as well. As a result of looking at these two paintings, I conclude that Edward Hopper’s style is to painting according to dimension and shape. In his paintings, he does not hide his shapes but instead makes them visible to the public eye.