~Poems Poems Poems Naomi 10/24/12~

Wednesday during seminar we studied poetry.  We looked at Walt Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and examined how he used repetition to promote his message.  I found it interesting how he created a rocking sensation for his reader by repeating terms and words throughout the poem.  The poem had a rhythm which made it feel as though the words were moving back and forth with the waves that he was describing.  I also found it interesting that that this ebb and flow was reminiscent of the movement of a boat, which is what the speaker is talking about.  When I first read the poem, I didn’t pick up on this use of literary device, yet I appreciate Whitman’s ability to seamlessly weave the literal and symbolic in his poetry.

In addition to examining the literary devices used in Crossing Brooklyn Ferry we discussed the age of Romanticism and listed some of the most prominent authors, musicians and works from that time period.  My favorite stories from the romantic era are the Grimm Fairytales.  When the NBC television show came out last year, entitled Grimm, I became interested in the stories which inspired the show.  Until then I hadn’t read many fairytales which weren’t “kid friendly”, where everyone lives happily ever after.  I love the original fairytales because they’re not what you would expect.  In the Grimm version of Cinderella, the evil stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to fit into Cinderella’s sipper and then are blinded at the end of the story.  If you had told me this version of Cinderella when I was little I would have been freaked out.  My favorite Grimm fairytale is the story of Bearskin, which also demonstrates some very PG-13 plot twists.  However, I find the Grimm versions more interesting than the disney versions.  The darkness of these tales are indicative of their time.  During the 19th century it was important that children behave, and one way to ensure that they did this, was to scare them into doing so.


~Crossing Brooklyn Ferry 10/22/12 Naomi~

After reading Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by the poet Walt Whitman, I can’t help but feel like it is a love letter.  When I say love letter I don’t mean in the traditional sense, but I feel that it is a love letter to future generations.  The speaker starts out describing his ferry ride, the “flood-tide” the “clouds of the west”, the “sun there half an hour high” and then slowly begins to talk to the people of his city, present and future generations included.  Symbolically, as he travels across the water, moving from one shore to the next, he travels across time.  He reaches out to his future readers, to the future inhabitants of his beloved city, and he draws comparisons between his life and theirs’.  He notes that they will see the same things on their ferry rides, that he sees on his. The speaker says, “I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence, Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt…” and he points out that even though there may be hundreds of years between him and his prospective reader, that time and distance make no difference.

In addition to sharing his city and love, I find it interesting that the speaker also notes that his reader will share his negative attributes as well.  In stanza 6, the speaker writes, “It is not upon you alone that the dark patches fall…” and “Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil…”.  Through this the speaker moves past what it means to share his city, and broadens the topic to examine what it means to be human and share humanity.  In this sense, acknowledging the humanness of his reader, he connects with his reader, almost as if he is reaching the other shore.  This poem, at face value is about one person’s story about their life, but upon further examination, it is a story about life itself, told from one very specific corner of the universe.

P.S. I can draw a text to text connection between this poem and the song, I was here by Beyonce. The lyrics are, “I was here, I lived, I loved. I was here, I did, I’ve done, everything that I wanted and it was more than I thought it would be…I will leave my mark so everyone will know”


~The Heiress on Broadway 10/17/12 Naomi~

This Wednesday we went to see ‘The Heiress’ on broadway with Jessica Chastain (Catherine Sloper), Dan Stevens (Morris Townsend), David Strathairn (Dr. Austin Sloper), and Judith Ivey ( Aunt Lavinia Penniman).  This was my second straight Broadway play, the first being ‘Death of a Salesman’ with Andrew Garfield and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I enjoyed seeing the play adaptation of the book Washington Square even though it was not entirely what I had imagined the world of Washington Square to be.  This was the first play that I saw, musical or straight, where I knew the basic story before I saw the show.  As a result of this prior knowledge I was constantly looking to draw comparisons between the play and the novel because I had already built up this idea in my head of what each moment should look and sound like.

Although I enjoyed the play overall, I don’t feel that Dan Stevens did a good job of being a jerk.  I liked him too much to be Morris Townsend.  I pictured Morris as very aggressive and arrogant and a little impatient with Aunt Penniman.  Stevens’ interpretation was too sincere, that I almost believed that he actually loved Catherine.  The only time that I felt that his ‘Morrisness’ showed was when he was running to hide the cigars and brandy that he had been helping himself to in the Dr.’s absence.

Additionally I respect Jessica Chastain’s interpretation of Catherine, but I felt that at moments she was overtly awkward, to the point of rivaling Aunt Penniman as the comic relief of the play.  Drastic changes is her voice such as getting deeper when she told her father “I’m getting married” were more comedic than I had expected Catherine as a character to be (although I acknowledge that it was not Catherine who interpreted herself as being funny, but rather Jessica’s delivery of the line that was comical).  Nevertheless, I feel that Catherine hit a stride when she forced her father to write her out of his will.  I enjoyed Jessica’s interpretation of a stoic Catherine Sloper who has been broken  by both her father and suitor, and I loved Jessica’s performance in the final scene of the play when she locked Morris out of the house, turned off the lights and walked up the stairs.  The image of her walking up in that beautiful gown only lit by lantern is etched into my mind.

Along with the ending of the play, which was different from the novel, and much more dramatic.  I liked how David Strathairn played Dr. Sloper as very remorseful.  You could really tell that he missed his wife, and although he was very harsh with Catherine I liked how in the play Catherine forced him to write her out of his will, as oppose to him doing it on his own.  I didn’t like how in the novel Dr. Sloper didn’t trust Catherine and decreased her inheritance.  I thought that it was nice that in the play you could see that in the end, despite his disappointment in Catherine, he still loved her, and felt bad that Morris had broken her heart.  In the book I felt that Dr. Sloper took too much enjoyment in telling Catherine “I told you so” after Morris jilted her.

All in all, I enjoyed seeing ‘The Heiress’ on Broadway, and I am grateful for the opportunity, especially because it is in limited run.


~Discussion on Washington Square 10/15/12 Naomi~

On Monday in class we discussed our essays on Washington Square and watched clips from two different movie adaptations of the book by Henry James.  Personally I really enjoyed reading Washington Square.  I found Catherine’s story compelling and I enjoyed the contrast of her plainness to the strong personalities surrounding her.  I found it interesting in class to see the ways directors and different actors decided to bring the world of Washington Square alive.

I found the older film (1949) more accurate than the more recent adaptation (1997).  In the older one I felt that the screen write had kept most of what James wrote in the book the same, such as the red dress and Morris approaching Catherine at her cousin’s party.  I didn’t really like how the version with Jennifer Jason Leigh (1997) changed the dress from red to blue and yellow, and how Marian dragged Morris over to Catherine and introduced them.  On the other had I did enjoy how the 1997 version showed the father mourning Catherine’s mother and displayed him as tired and heartbroken.  In this way Dr. Sloper was a more sympathetic character whereas in the 1949 version Dr. Sloper reminded me of a villain from a Disney movie.  He seemed more frustrated and annoyed with Catherine, than tired and disappointed.  In the 1949 version I didn’t sympathize with Dr. Sloper’s character at all, but in the 1997 version the moments when he looks at the paintings of his late wife made it clear that he was sad, therefore mitigating his behavior toward Catherine.

I also found it interesting how Jennifer Jason Leigh (1997) and Olivia de Havilland (1949) had entirely different interpretations of Catherine.  In the 1949 version Olivia de Havilland played Catherine as mature for her age yet painfully shy (as described in the book).  She made a few jokes to her aunt Lavinia and hid behind her fan.  In the 1997 version Jennifer Jason Leigh played Catherine as if she were a little girl, running around the house falling at her father’s feet and laughing like a giddy child when her father comes home.



~musical memory 10/10/12-Naomi~

Today in seminar we were asked the question, “What was your first musical memory?” An intriguing thought, although I can’t honestly say that I have an answer. James said that his first musical memory would most likely be something from Fantasia or some other Disney film, interestingly enough I just recently observed while watching for the first time Disney’s newest princess movie ‘The Princess and the Frog’, just how much music is a part of these classic childhood films, but I digress.  Based off of stories I have heard about me as a child I would imagine that my first musical experience would be along the same lines.  According to my family members I would sit in front of the TV watching Fantasia and rocking back and forth before I could walk.  Additionally there are videos of me at two years old playing with a basket of my mother’s tea candles listening to Mozart in the background. I would consider this one of my earliest musical experiences, but I do not recall that day other than what I have observed on film.   So the question remains…what is my first musical memory.  I don’t think I have one. Music has surrounded me my entire life, that to pinpoint a singular experience and song would be difficult.

I would however venture to say that one of my earliest musical memories is driving in the car with my parents listening to Stevie Wonder’s “I just called to say I love you”. It was part of a collection of songs which were labeled, “The Greatest Hits” As I’ve gotten older I’ve maintained an affinity towards all of the songs in this collection, yet Stevie’s song is my personal favorite.  I remember asking my mother to repeat the song over and over for the entire ride, so much so that “Again! Again!” has become a joke within my family about my childhood obsession with this song.

Aldous Huxley said that “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is Music.” I agree.


~My first Opera 10/3/12 Naomi~

On Wednesday October 3, 2012 I attended my first opera.  After watching clips of the opera in class and seeing commercials on tv for the Metropolitan opera I was excited to see Turnadot in person.  When we first arrived at the opera house I was in  awe of the foyer, everything from the high chandeliers, velvet red carpets, ornate costumes on display, and high wrapping staircases amazed me.

I enjoyed the first act of the opera and I was amazed that even without microphones the performer’s voices were able to carry all the way up to the highest balcony of the opera house where we were sitting.  Even though I enjoyed the first act I was a little disappointed that from our seats we were not able to see Princess Turnadot in her tower through the first act. During the first intermission I got my opportunity to walk down to the first floor orchestra seats with Professor Kahan, Elisa and Austin.  As the lights went down for the commencement of the second act Elisa and I were able to find seats in the third row  from the orchestra pit.

With my new seat I was able to see the entire stage in all of its glory.  I was able to see the intricate details of the set pieces, the shimmering jewels of Turnadot’s magnificent costume and the severe makeup on the performers faces.  I would never have had this magnificent experience from my original fourth balcony seat.

In the end my first opera experience was a very positive one.  I hope to return to the metropolitan opera soon, and I hope to share this experience with my family.


~Opera ~ Naomi 10/1/12~

On my way home from today’s seminar class I had to turn off the radio in the car because nothing on Z100 or Fresh FM could compete to the music which I had just spent that last hour and forty minutes listening to. Today in seminar, we listened to opera.

When I was five years old, my aunt gave me a VHS tape of the movie version of Rigoletto (1993) and it soon became one of my favorite movies to watch. Although this version was not entirely set to music and the libretto was in English, this was my first introduction to opera and ever since that time this particular form of music has reminded me of my childhood. Despite this early introduction to opera, I soon became more interested with the world of musical theater, which I suppose isn’t too far out of the realm of opera.  However, today I was excited to get reacquainted with the opera and listen to Pavarotti perform Nessun Dorma. I had heard Nessun Dorma performed many times before today’s class yet each time I hear it lifts me out of my skin. The notes soar with the music in a way that captivates me like no other form of music does.

In addition to listening to clips from famous operas we also discussed some of the technical aspects of opera.  I found this part of the class particularly interesting, because although I was fond of opera I never thought too much about the technique that went into such things as writing the libretto of an opera.  A librettist must convey the plot, allow the performer to show off their vocal skills, provide the listener a pleasant melody while also making sure that the text is not too difficult for the singer to say while holding high notes.  In addition to the difficult work of a librettist, I also found the various voice parts interesting. I was aware of the three male registers, (tenor, baritone and bass) and I was aware of (contralto, mezzo soprano, and soprano) yet I was unaware of the many different levels of the female vocal range.

After today’s class I am excited to attend my first opera this coming Wednesday.


~What makes music, music? 9/24/12~

During Monday’s class we listened to different pieces of music and examined how the five main elements of a piece of music were used to evoke different emotions in the listener. These elements were: rhythm, melody/tune, harmony, timbre and texture.  One of the pieces which we listened to was ‘The Rite of Spring’ by Stravinsky. This piece of music intrigued me because it involves multiple different melodies and rhythms simultaneously.  The sounds of the woodwind instruments such as the english horn combined with the harsh brass of the trumpets and the deep sounding timpani made me think of a magical land where peaceful creatures are being attacked by vicious predators.  The story is that of a predator and its prey. When I was listening  to this piece it reminded me of Titans Spirit- by Trevor Rabin. In both pieces there is a conflicting timbre as the woodwind instruments evoke peaceful and innocent emotions and the brass and deeper sounding instruments evoke images of danger and violence.

In addition to ‘The Rite of Spring’ we listened to Praeludium II by J.S. Bach.  When listening to this piece we discussed how the repetition and the fast rhythm of piece was reminiscent of a malevolent machine which was out of control. Even though the piece was written in four four time it is composed entirely of sixteenth and thirthy-sixth notes which made me as the listener feel as though I was trying to keep up with the song as it raced ahead of me. The repetition of the base note also adds a darkness to the piece. The base note acts as an anchor, allowing the melody to float above it and then yanks it down when it starts to stray too far out of bounds. Additionally when I look at the piece I find it interesting that there are no crescendo or diminuendo markings, yet when I listen to the piece performed the pianist uses the base note as a guide for the volume. When the base note is low the piano gets softer in volume, while higher base notes allow the piece to grow in volume.

As a musician I look forward to exploring deeper into the art of composition.


~Expanding Frames of Reference 9/19/12~

On Wednesday in class we went to art gallery titled ‘Expanding Frames of Reference: Art, Science, and Religion’. I enjoyed looking at the artwork and listening to  Dr. Lui explain the exhibit. I find both science and art interesting, and I’ve struggled, and continue to struggle to find a happy medium between the two. The part that most intrigued me about Jacob Scheucher’s exhibit was that it joins science, art and religion, which are subjects which don’t usually coincide with each other.

His artwork is a testament to his deep love and appreciation for history, science, art, and religion.  Each of his pieces in the exhibit were connected to a bible verse, and the intricate boarders offered extra details on the topic of the picture within the frame. An example of this would be his plate “CCCLXXX Judges, chapter 14, v.5, 6”. This plate is a picture of Samson fighting with the lion, which is a biblical story, yet around the boarder  he drew greek and roman coins which depict similar scenarios. In this one picture Scheuchzer is linking cultures, and different subject areas.  The complexity of Scheuchzer’s artwork makes it a pictorial encyclopedia, providing the viewer with a wealth of information about the image before them; its history, its science,and its religious significance.

After seeing Scheuchzer’s work, I hope to find ways to link my passions in the same way that he was able to link his. There doesn’t need to be a separation of the arts and sciences. I can have my cake and eat it too, and I look forward to finding my fork.


~Edward Hopper~

On Wednesday’s class we focused on Edward Hopper and his technique. We looked at a number of different pieces by Hopper and we identified trends which appear throughout his works. The element which stands out to me most when I look at an Edward Hopper painting is the darkness. Even when he is painting the simplest of scenes his work evokes a dissonance which makes me uncomfortable.

This dissonance was present in the painting “Seven A.M.” (1948), which shows a store placed in the middle of a forest. The white of the store creates a sense of purity, and simplicity, but it is placed within the darkness and unknown of the forest . The picture of these two things together doesn’t sit right with me as the viewer. This darkness is also evident in his painting, “New York Interior” (1921). At first it seems simple, a girl sitting on her bed, but after looking at the scene for more time I get the feeling that once again something is not right. The girl has her back to the viewer which makes it seem as though we are intruding on her in some way, and the framing of the scene with what appears to be bed curtains, paints the viewer a voyeur, lurking in the shadows. The curves of the girl’s body also adds to the darkness of the scene. Although we can only see her back we can tell that the girl is relatively young yet the curves of her arms suggest that she has had to work hard in her life.

The element of being watched without your consent is also evident in his painting “Nigh Shadows” (1921). The aerial point of view of a man walking at night alone on a street draped in disfiguring shadows makes it seem as though the man is being followed. Not only is the painter watching him as he walks, but his own shadow seems to be stalking him as he hurries down the desolate street.  In addition to the structure of “Night Shadows”, this painting reminds me of Cat Steven’s song “Moon Shadow” which creeped me out as a child. The idea that a shadow could be alive and following you and that you could never really escape it made me scared out of my mind when I first heard it.

Even Hopper’s “Self Portrait” has an air of darkness to it. The slant of the picture and the manner in which looks at the viewer through the corner of his eye makes it seem as though he is asking the viewer, “What do you see when you look at me?”. His confusion brings a sadness to the picture, as well as a vulnerability. As an artist he knows how art is picked apart and analyzed, so by offering up his self portrait he is offering up himself to be picked apart and analyzed. He looks at the viewer with a suspicion which suggests that he may not be comfortable with their interpretation of him. He doesn’t trust to viewer and this adds a darkness to the painting.

Despite the darkness motif present throughout his work, I think that Edward Hopper’s darkness speaks to a deeper truth…that there is no light without darkness.