“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” – Shumaila

“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is basically a poem about a man standing on a ferry between Brooklyn and Manhattan and observing the view from both sides. He sees the sun and clouds, and refers to them as “you”. The crowds of men and women evokes his curiosity. He begins to wonder about how they will be traveling on the same ferry, taking on the same commute for years to come. He draws a comparison between the people on the ferry and the tides of the ocean. Even in fifty or hundred years, there will still be a steady rush of people on the ferry just like the ocean tides will continue to flow.

The speaker then explained every detail of the ferry, and related all the observations to what the reader may have seen had they ever been on the boat. The speaker goes on to paint a vivid picture of what exactly the reader would see, like the flags of all nations,  or the chimneys burning in the sky. He saw “a reflection of the summer sky in the water”, making the reader picture looking down from a boat seeing the sky’s reflection in the ocean water.

He then went on to discuss the things he did in his life as though we were there with him. He related it to the reader when he consistently said throughout the whole fifth stanza, “I too did…” He pointed out how he had some dark times in his life, when he was dishonest, greedy, and adulterous. After he finishes his confession, he went back to explaining the tides crashing. Once again, he looked out to the people and thought about how the crowd of people will always be there in the years to come. He explained that life will continue to go on, and that this ferry will always be transporting passengers between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The Heiress – 10/17/2012

On Wednesday, I went to see my first ever Broadway play. It was titled “The Heiress”, and based off the novel “Washington Square”. The moment I walked into the theater, I was able to see the seating, and the velvet balcony rails. I was amazed by the grand setting with the extravagantly long curtains covering the center stage. As the play began, I found myself comparing the image I had from the characters in the book to the actors on stage. Usually, when I compare movies to books, they never quite satisfy the image I have in mind. However, this time, the actors perfectly portrayed the characters just as I had them in my mind. Catherine’s awkward poses always seemed to be just as I imagined.

Compared to how the movies depicted Catherine, I preferred the play much more. I feel as though Catherine wasn’t as determined to please her father as in the movies. She wasn’t introduced by anyone to Morris, but rather met him all on her own. They fell in love without the help of anyone else. She also seemed more of an independent character than she did in the movie versions.

My favorite thing about the play was the dramatic ending. At the end, everyone around me was sitting at the edge of their seats desperately anticipating  Catherine’s next move. I loved how the ending was much more fulfilling in the end. Initially when I finished the book, I felt as though Catherine didn’t make the right decisions. However, when I watched the play, I finally fully understood the final scene. I was completely content with the way it ended. The performance was so amazing, that I eagerly look forward to my next broadway play. It was definitely an experience worth remembering.

10/15/2012 – Shumaila

We began class on Monday by discussing Sunday’s concert called Culture in Harmony. Dr. Kahan introduced us to the works of Felix Mendelssohn, a man whose contributions I had never heard before. Although his music was very popular at the time, Mendelssohn took a “Grand Tour” around Europe, where he was introduced to many aspects of society such as culture and history. He was able to take his experiences around the different countries of Europe, and turn them into great musical works. The work that we heard at the concert was called “Scottish” which was a composition of what Mendelssohn viewed Scottish lifestyle as.

We also discussed how the novel “Washington Square” was written in in 1880 but it was set to take place in 1850. I had not paid attention to this fact until Dr. Kahan pointed it out.  The society in 1880 varied vastly to that of the 1850’s. During 1880, there were a lot of post-war problems. Society was reformed from the serene extravagant lifestyles that people were accustomed to. In order to evoke the tranquil feeling behind the title of the novel, it was necessary to match the time frame to the lifestyle that James was aiming for.

In the latter segment of our class we compared the two movies that were based off of “Washington Square”. The two versions, “The Heiress” and “Washington Square” both portrayed Catherine differently, each with a different approach on her behavior. In “Washington Square”, Catherine meets Morris through her cousin Marian. She seems like an awkward girl who manages to even make the viewers feel uncomfortable. In the older movie, however, she met Morris through her aunt Penniman. Personally, I liked the older adaptation better because I felt as though it more accurately painted a picture of the way I viewed Catherine while reading the novel.

Shumaila – Seminar 10/10/2012

During Wednesday’s seminar, we were presented with the opportunity to discuss the opera, “Turandot”, as well as meet Professor Sirrota. With Professor Kahan, we talked about everyones various perspectives, and answered any unresolved questions about the opera. During the opera I was very fascinated by how much power the conductors had, and how well they orchestrated the whole event. Elisa pointed out how the entire orchestra left the play much before they could be recognized for their stunning performance. We also talked about how servants were traditionally given no worth, and as a result they thought very little of themselves. The professor pointed out something that I never thought about during the opera, the librettos have to put in a substantial amount of effort to match the script to the specific time frame that the play would take place during. I noticed during the opera how even the music had a chinese flare. She explained it was because they were all played in the fourths intervals. I was amazed to learn how different perspectives regarding different races resulted in certain music being played when they came on stage. 

During the second half of class, we were joined by our renowned guest speaker, Professor Sirrota. He told a delightful story of he became inspired to write such an incredible piece. It all started with an epiphany he had eighteen years ago, when he was almost instantly able to recall the first time he heard a musical piece. He was able to remember an old childhood memory of a man singing a song to some children, and it later went on to become a brave anthem for the people of Israel. The variations of the songs were quite interesting to hear, it was my first time listening to these tunes. I like how they are so gentle on the ears, and the harmony is very serene. His piece is a set of variations that he explained go on the “benjamin britain model”, its melody and harmonic possibilities showed great different combinations. He taught us how we could detect the repetitions in the variations, and how the other instruments came together. He doesn’t have a theme at the beginning, but then a theme emerges from the introduction. 

Learning about all these elements in music served as a very good introduction to the Staten Island Philharmonic that I will be attending on Sunday. Now I am confident that attending this performance will be a memorable experience, one that I will remember for years to come. 

“Turandot” 10/3/2012 – Shumaila

On Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012, I went to my first Opera titled “Turandot”. The opera was about a princess who didn’t want to be controlled by any man. She composed a plan so that she would never get married. Any potential suitor would have to correctly answer the three riddles, and if they answered incorrectly, they were beheaded.
When I first got out of the subway terminal, and walked in to the hallway that led to the outside courtyard between the Metropolitan Opera House and the Julliard school, I was amazed by the overpowering scenery. I didn’t expect that the fountain, the building, and just the comprehensive setting would convey such an immense sense of appreciation for the arts.
During the Opera, seeing the orchestra perform live, was something I had never seen before. I watched in awe as the conductor directed the musicians so play their instruments. Watching the “Nessun Dorma” was definitely an amazingly emotion-filled experience. At the end, I was happy that Turandot was finally able to love the man that risked his life to prove that he was a suitable man for her. The colors of the stage, and how they changed the settings during the intermission was so interesting to me.
In conclusion, I loved how so many elements of the arts came together to form such an amazing production. The performers all acted in such harmony, each performing their numbers at the perfect moment. I can most definitely say that my first time at an Opera was an unforgettable experience, one that I will reminisce for the rest of my life.

Shumaila 10/1/2012

During Monday’s class, Professor Kahan introduced different types of singing voices in operas between men and women. The three types of male voices that we went over were bass, baritone, and tenor. I was particularly fascinated to learn how combining the elements of drama and music created opera.

I learned about the four biggest musical composers, Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, and Bizet. Professor Kahan explained how writing Operas isn’t as easy as it seems, because you have to look for unique high-pitched words that display the performer’s talents effectively.  Then for the first time, I watched an opera video in class. This was something, to be honest, I never saw myself doing at any point in my life. However, I’m glad I was provided with such an intriguing introduction to Operas before attending one myself during Wednesday evening. I was most fascinated when I learned about Pavarotti, and how he sang at various points in his life, but he consistently sounded the same. Although, his voice had matured somewhat, I was awestruck but how one can sing so powerfully even at such an old age. My appreciation for Opera definitely grew after I watched the “Nessun Dorma” meaning  “None shall sleep.”

I learned more about the opera during this class than I had thought I’d get to know. I have a new appreciation for such a unique musical form, and hope to learn more styles that I never thought to learn if I had not been in Macaulay’s Seminar class. After being in Monday’s class, I felt much more interested in attending my first Opera.

Shumaila 9/24

During Monday’s seminar, for the first time in my life, I learned a great deal about musical sounds. I saw how text should have congruency to give the action taking place a more lively experience. A lot of things about music seemed improvised, which was a very novel concept to me. We went over the four elements that compose music, which are rhythm, melody, harmony and timbre/texture.

When Naomi sang “I feel pretty” from West Side Story, and the professor added her part to the melody, the music had more texture and feeling. The rhythm gave the listener an understanding of where to tap their feet.  The rhythm tells me where to tap my feet, it makes me feel comfortable around the music a little more. We learned to recognize patterns in the music page called “Praeludium”. I had never dealt with musical notes, so learning about them was definitely an amazing experience. It was fascinating to learn how playing certain notes faster or slower can give off a feeling of progression and suspense. Praeludium #2 had less consonants and more dissonance, and without the distance, there was more “crunch”.

Next we listened to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. It had a celebratory type of suspenseful feeling. It reminded me of winter wonderland where the instruments got louder and added suspense and excitement to the big finale.  Slowly all the instruments joined in, creating a remarkable finish.

Personally, this has been one of my favorite seminar classes to date. I always knew about musical composers like Beethoven, but I never actually sat down and listened to their works. Neither did I ever analyze these things. It was a unique experience that makes me appreciate being a student at Macaulay, because at any other place, I know I definitely wouldn’t have learned about music in this way.

9/19/2012 – Shumaila I.

On Wednesday, in Seminar, we resumed our discussion on the significance of John Berger in “Ways of Seeing”. So far, this class has made me view art in a completely different perspective. Before, I didn’t really think much of different artworks, but now every time I look at a piece, I find myself wondering about its origins. At the start of class, we looked at some clips from the movie, “The Girl With the Pearl Earrings”. We saw a girl who began to see the world from a new perspective, similar to how I began to see art. During the last half hour of our class, we visited an art exhibit titled Art, Science, and Religion in the Physica Sacra. At first, I didn’t quite know what to think of the paintings. They were confusing. But after looking at them closely, and discussing it with my peers, I gained a better insight. Scheuchzer’s works demonstrated how two seemingly diverse topics, religion and science, can be combined to create a magnificent element, art. I loved how the art, in a way, brought the scientific and religious ideologies to life.

Dr. Liu’s discussion taught me a lot. For as long as I’ve been in school, my life has mainly centered on math and science. It was after I began Macaulay that I started to explore new territory in the arts. I see the significance behind art, and how it represents the feelings of that era. After just a few classes, I’m already beginning to appreciate the art around me, more than I ever did before.

9/12/2012 – Edward Hopper’s Style

During Wednesday’s Seminar, we looked at approximately twelve of Edward Hopper’s timeless pieces that belong to the Whitney Museum of Art.  Hopper’s paintings all exhibit a certain degree of modern realism.  He tends to paint characters in everyday poses, except the viewer is looking in from a hidden angle.  The spectators are basically outsiders gazing in.

The first painting we looked at was called “American Landscape”. There we see Hopper’s realism come into play, through the regular farmland look. There are bulls, cows, and even some hay. There are some train tracks going between the house and animals. It goes on to represent early or rural America as having a calm and peaceful lifestyle.

When I first read “Ways of Seeing”, I didn’t really think much of it. However, the more we discuss it in class, I begin to see the wisdom behind the words. It actually means much more, once you start to analyze artwork with the book ideas in mind.

The moment I looked at  “The Night Interior”, I thought this is a girl who is getting ready for a party that is taking place in the 20’s.  However, when Professor Kahan analyzed it with the class, I began to notice the inner details of the picture. We get to make little assumptions about the character through minor details like the uneven colors in her skin tone, which revealed that she was actually struggling to make a living. She seemed alone and living a harsh life. Next I noticed where the viewer was looking in from, and it appeared that we are actually eavesdropping in on a private moment.

After looking at many of Hopper’s paintings, I noticed that he usually painted a lot of urban scenery. Most of his paintings included people, who were specifically placed at strategic places. Edward Hopper painted landscapes where one character often seemed lonely. They seemed bored or tired of the hard life in the city, but in the countryside, life appeared serene. He expressed loneliness in the city during the 1920’s, maybe even expressing the hopelessness during the early Great Depression.

Mona Lisa & Night Hawks

Today in class, we analyzed Leonardo Da Vinci’s timeless piece known as the “Mona Lisa” in a perspective that I have never seen before.  Honestly, I loved it! Before this class, every time I looked at the Mona Lisa, I only saw her eyes. Now, I pay attention to the background of the painting. I try to make sense of the mysterious scenery and where it might be taking place. While many people in class find the background calm and peaceful, I actually find it violent. I feel as though the ground looks scorched as from a fire. It looks like a warzone. The small stream seems to be leading into the huge sea. Separating the two bodies of water, I see a rough terrain, like a scorched island.  On the left  side of the painting, there are mountains. The mountains have a pathway going through them, maybe a part of the steady stream of water. Overall, it’s a barren, rough terrain. She seems like she’s content with her life. As though there have been some rough times, but now she’s gotten through it all. She appears to be satisfied with her life, but not completely happy. The background is as mysterious as the subject, because nothing is known about either elements. After careful consideration, it also was obvious that the painting is drawn around imperfect ovals. The dullness of her outfit was contrasted by the diverse background.

After going through the “Mona Lisa” in such detail, I began to see art in a different perspective. Basically all of our opinions are correct, they simply express how we feel about the painting based on our understanding of life.

Next we looked at the iconic portrait known as “Night Hawks”. The painting showed a woman and three men. While the third man seemed completely indifferent to what was going on at all in the bar (or so it seemed), the other three figures seemed to be interacting in some way. The man and woman looked like they were a couple. The third man, who seemed like a hard working employee, was just listening and interacting with these frequent customers. The two characters sitting together seemed to be powerful figures in their town, whereas the other man just seemed indifferent. He just blended in with the room itself.