Stephanie Solanki, 10/22/12

For today’s seminar class, we were asked to write a reactionary piece for the poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman. First off, I had to read this poem a few times before I understood what Whitman was trying to say. It is a very deep poem, filled with meaning in every word. I did like it very much after I understood it.

I imagine the speaker of the poem looking into the water beneath the Brooklyn Bridge when he was writing this poem. Interestingly, he addressed inanimate parts of the scenery like the sun and the clouds as “you,” yet he thought the commuters and everyone else on the bridge was “curious.” This led me to believe that he felt more of a connection to the scenery than the people. The people just passed by on the bridge, but the sun, clouds, and seagulls were always there. I thought that it was interesting that he felt a connection with “the others that are to follow [him].” He felt a connection with the people of the future, but could not with the people of the present. He felt a connection with the future through this bridge. The people who were to follow him will see the same things he saw when he wrote this poem. He says “I am with you” to the people who will cross the Brooklyn Bridge after him. He then paints a picture through words of the city he sees in front of him with “granite storehouses,” “fires from the chimney,” and “the stately and rapid river.” He says that these things are the same to him as they are to future generations.

I believe that then he was talking about the rough and hard life one has when living in the city. He says that he has “felt their arms on [his] neck” as if the people of the city were trying to strangle him. Later on, he told the scenery to keep doing what it had been doing because it was what kept the future and the past linked.

Stephanie Solanki, 10/17/12

Yesterday, we went to the play The Heiress. It was my first Broadway in very long time.

My first impression was of the theatre itself. It was very grandiose, “magnificent, opulent, and sumptuous.” I thought that the gaudy and over-the-top decorations of the theatre added to the experience of the play. The play is set in the Victorian era, which is also very gaudy and opulent. I was very impressed, also, with the set. It was beautifully done! The columns and rich-looking furniture helped to bring the story to life. I found the lighting so interesting. To transition to a morning scene, the lighting in the windows became gradually brighter to give the effect that the sun was coming up. During night scenes, the windows were not completely black, but gave off a blue light to show that the moon was outside. I found that little things like these really made the set of the play into a very realistic world.

I am really glad that I had to thoroughly analyze the book before I went to the play. This way, I was able to appreciate the story and how the actors portrayed the roles they were given. I really loved Jessica Chastain’s Catherine Sloper. I appreciated how her voice was very timid and monotone in the beginning, but as Catherine found herself, Chastain made her voice louder and she expressed her feelings through the tone of her voice more. I felt that Austin Sloper was not portrayed as witty and sarcastic as he should have been. He seemed a little lazy and tired. Mrs. Penniman’s voice was so on point with her character! In the book, she is the overly emotional character, and her wavering, high-pitched voice was perfectly in tune with her character. I thought that Morris Townsend seemed too sincere and too little of a sleaze in the play. He seemed at times to actually love Catherine.

I loved the ending of the play very much. It was perfect for a theatre performance of this story. It was more dramatic than the ending in the book, which is fitting for theatre. Even though the ending was drawn out, it didn’t skew the author’s intentions of the characters. It actually helped to better express how Catherine felt at the end.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Heiress. I was most impressed with the technicalities and the details that go into a play of this kind. I was impressed at how the set and lighting design created a whole new world on stage, one in which the actors were able to express their characters freely how they wished.

Stephanie Solanki, 10/15/12

In today’s class, we opened by talking about zeitgeist. Mendelssohn was a composer at the same time as Beethoven, yet Beethoven is so much more famous than he is in this age. This is because Mendelssohn appealed to his time period. His music was influenced by the Victorian era, and his music influenced the Victorian era. I thought this was an interesting concept. Mendellsohn’s music was for that specific era, and so it didn’t become as famous at Beethoven’s because his music transcended time.

Felix Mendelssohn was a very educated individual. He was very wealthy. He was interested in composing orchestral music, and his father hired musicians to play his music so he could practice. He went on a grand tour of Europe; this was part of his education. He saw Scotland, and wrote the “Scottish Symphony.” He was a German man who took his idea of a Scottish dance and put it into a symphony. He imagined another culture by putting it into music.

We listened in class to Mendelssohn’s most famous music piece of all time. It is called the “Wedding March” from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” This was an incidental music for the play, which was written for a specific scene or between scenes. Dr. Kahan said that we don’t think about this piece as something that someone had to write down at one point in time; it is just a part of our culture. I will try now to look at popular music pieces differently, and look at each piece of music as something that someone created.

In Washington Square, James set back the novel 20 years before than at the time it was written. He chose to start the novel in 1850 because the Civil War was in 1861. There are no wars in 1850. It was a period of stability and economic prosperity. The Civil War altered society, and so it would had altered the arts. This goes back to the idea of zeitgeist. The novel is called Washington Square because the title is meant to evoke the calm nature of the setting, Washington Square Park.

We then compared the two movies Washington Square and The Heiress. In Washington Square, the director chose to cut the red dress that Catherine wore and switched it with a blue and yellow dress. I think that this is a terrible choice on the director’s part because the red dress was such an important part of the story. It shows how she looked older than she was, even though she was not trying to be flirtatious. In both versions, however, Catherine is portrayed as a very awkward and unusual young lady. Her father is also very mean and blunt in both versions. The two Morris’ were very different. In The Heiress, it seemed as if Morris had known of Catherine before. However in Washington Square, it seems like the two were meeting at the same time. He also seemed as if he was trying to “match her awkwardness,” as Naomi put it. I feel like both versions have their own strengths and weaknesses. I think that the newer version of the story imposes the modern age social constructs onto the characters of the novel.

I really cannot wait to see The Heiress on Wednesday. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and am looking forward on the onstage production of it. I am expecting the acting to be outstanding, considering the star-studded cast.

Stephanie Solanki, 10/10/12

In today’s class, we started off by discussing the opera. We discussed the “point” of Liu. I thought that the character of Liu was to contrast the character of Turandot. She was generous in her love, whereas Turandot made her suitors fight for her love. Liu was a foil for Turandot. Liu was faithful in how she was viewed in her society. She paid with her life for loving somebody.

Professor Kahan said that Western art is valorizes Western music, and every other music is secondary. Intervals are the distance between two notes. Fifths (intervals) denote “barbaric” music. Liu’s music has a lot of fourth intervals, which denotes the Chinese motif that is present in many Chinese musical pieces. Puccini inserted a lot of fourths into Liu’s part so that we can recognize it as Chinese music. Her character had to be introduced as Chinese to show where the opera took place. The composer has to make exoticism palatable for American audiences. I think this is so interesting. We’ve programmed our brains to know that a certain sound is to be linked to a certain culture. This is subconscious. It just shows the power music has over our brains, and how it can influence us to believe certain ideas.

Mr. Sirotta is a composer of a symphonic orchestral music. His latest piece is to be performed this Sunday, and I have the privilege to attend. Fantasia Pripetshok is based on a piece by Mark Warshovsky. He was creating Yiddish tunes. He composed many songs but never wrote them down until he met a writer who was writing about the struggles of the Jews. They suffered from bigotry and anti-Semitism. The song that Sirotta has chosen to make something of for a symphonic orchestra is by Mark Warshovsky called Oyfn Pripetshok. Rhythmically the tune doesn’t know if it’s coming or going. It’s a parable for the Jewish people. The tune doesn’t follow the strict rules of a square melody. The words of a song teach a lesson. It parallels the survival of a whole nations because of the message paired with a beautiful tune.  He wrote a score using a computer using recordings of music instruments; this technique is called voicing.

Sirotta chose to do variations of the melody in his piece. The themes-and-variations form have been used since the 18th century, used by composers like Johann Bach. One of the reasons for using this form is the composer will pick the melody from a preceding composer and do something in his or her own language with it. The tune is presented in the onset, and then the variations begin. The variations follow the basic tune. The same framework is used with the same basic chord progression harmonizing it.

Sirotta’s piece is a set of variations that is not an identical match. He deconstructed the melody. He was interested in the harmonies and the chord progressions. I loved hearing every piece he played. His own piece was very special because he played it on the piano first, then introduced the history, and then played his symphonic piece all put together. I think i’m going to love the concert on Sunday.

Stephanie Solanki, 10/3/12

Yesterday’s seminar was a class trip to the Metropolitan Opera House. I was very excited to go because I love opera music, and I love music and shows in general. This was my favorite opera. I was very happy to see with with the class.

My thoughts on the opera is that the show was spectacular. It was very beautifully done. The set was immense and amazing. I couldn’t believe that they could completely change it the way they did during the 20 minute intermissions. I thought the opera house was beautiful. The acoustics were absolutely amazing in it. I noticed how it was tall and narrow and not wide, like Dr. Kahan said it would be. This was to enhance the sound, and it worked because I was able to hear perfectly from the topmost row. I loved hearing the voices; I wished the woman who played Liu would sing to me forever. I loved the orchestra, as well. It’s so thorough of them to include Chinese or Asian instruments in the music to go with the setting of the opera. Everyone was incredibly talented, even the background singers and dancers.

I loved the art and the music of the opera, but the story seemed a little shallow to me. It was a happy love story, but I think the tragedy of Liu and Calaf’s father could have easily been avoided if the princess had gotten over her pride.

Overall, my first opera experience was fantastic. I loved it so much that I really want to go back and see another.

Stephanie Solanki, 10/1/12

Today, in class we discussed the different voice types. I learned that opera singers are like athletes. In order to preserve their voices, they have to maintain their bodies and lead a very disciplined life. Opera is a combination of the improvisation and music as an art. Opera was born around 1600 when people combined dramatic poetry readings and music.  Dr. Kahan said that the four most important opera writers are Mozert, Verdi, Wagner, Rucci, and Bizet, who wrote Carmen. The lowest voice type for a man is the bass. Mozart was inspired by the cultural revolution that occurred in the lat 17th century; he wrote about overcoming the oppressors. A recitativo is musical narration, where the plot gets moved along. The tunes are not memorable. An aria is the main part where the singer expressed an emotion, thought, or plot idea. The main tune is sung twice, and improvisation occurs the second time.

The Catalog aria in Don Giovanni is a light-hearted comedy.

The baritone is the next voice up after the bass. The Barber of Seville by Rocini is a comic opera writer. Figaro is the servant that bests his master. This is a patter song, because you sing many words at once. His music helps define who his character is.

The librettist has to know how the voice works and how to use text to define a character. We listened to Verdi’s Othello, which was his adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. It was a part of Iago. the music announces an evil character. Verdi had to present Shakespeare’s drama while letting the singer show off his voice to a nice tune. This singer was a dramatic baritone. It goes with his character because he had to use a lot of pressure at the top of his  voice, and Iago’s character is evil.

We then heard Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma from three different years. Pavarotti is a tenor. The difference in the both performances is that he was more confident in the second, more recent one. His voice was more powerful in 1998. He improvised more in the second one. He seemed much more emotionally connected in the last performance, and he was struggling a little more. However, he did move his body more.

The lowest voice type for a woman is the alto. The next up is Mezzo-Soprano, and one is in  Carmen by Bizet. There are many different sopranos, like the dramatic soprano. There is the lyric soprano. There is also the spinto soprano, because it can cut through a thick orchestra. The next is the light lyric soprano; these women have the comic roles. The coloratura is soprano who sings very high, very fast notes. Bizet has chosen a chromatic scale because it shows that Carmen is slithery and she breaks social rules.


Stephanie Solanki, 9/24/12

I thoroughly and completely enjoyed today’s class session. I am a musician; I play guitar and sing in my church’s band every Sunday and can also play guitar classically. Music theory is something that I’d love to get into. I think that this was a very toned-down type of theory class, which made me so happy.

The four fundamental components of music are rhythm, melody, harmony, and timbre/texture. I knew what the first three were very well, but timbre/texture were knew terms to me. I loved listening to the different pieces and seeing the different combinations of the “Big Four” components. It was so interesting how a little change in one of the components sets it apart from all other pieces.

“Praeludium I” was heavenly. I notices a very distinct rhythm set by the 1st and 5th notes. the bass notes add a depth in the middle of the song that contrasts the dominant high notes of the melody. The homogeneity created a soothing feeling, like a lullaby. There was no climax. Volume and dynamics create a climax, but this piece was very tranquil.

“Praeludium II” was not calming. It was rather suspenseful. Dr. Kahan said it was like a “malevolent machine,” a concept that I’ve never thought of before, but I realized how well it  fit the piece. Different configuration of basic elements of music create a different sound. Dissonant notes in this piece set it apart from the first piece in which the notes were consonant.

In the “Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky, I noticed a very strong bassline. There was a dominant, repetitive melody broken up by they elimination of the bass to transition from one melody to another. I thought it was interesting that the harmonies among the instruments created an eerie sound. There was a very futuristic sounding strings part paired with a basic 1-2 bass rhythm. I also noticed the contrast of the staccato baseline paired with very long sounds in the background.

In Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” I thought it was so interesting that Dr. Kahan said “more humanity, as represented by more instruments, is added to the tune.”  There were different musical events occurring under the dominant melody in the piece. The staccato bassline contrasts the fluid dominant melody provided by upper string instruments. The climax in the piece was a departure from the standard tune of “Ode to Joy” and is brought on by the fast beat of the upper strings.

We then looked at the use of music in productions, like in a movie and an opera performance. In “Camille” with Greta Garbo, there was quicker pace. In “Un di felice” from “La Traviata,” the music was like a waltz. It was an aria. It had a slower pace, which made the content or text of the song more dramatic and realistic. It illustrates the process of him falling in love with her, rather than just a love-at-first-sight type of infatuation in “Camille” where he remembers what she was wearing.



Stephanie Solanki, 9/19/12

Dr. Kahan started the class by showing us a few clips of the movie “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” The clips she showed us had to do with the “Aha” moment we all had in pervious class sessions when looking at art. I noticed after seeing the girl’s reaction that once a person “sees” a work of art, or sees what they think the artist sees in the work, he or she begins to look at all art differently. As a musician, I have had this same experience. I first learned guitar in a classical way, and I did not expose myself to chords at all. However, after learning a few, I began to explore different styles of playing guitar, and I realized how beautifully each style sounded. I think it’s important to really give each work of art a chance, a fair chance, and to see it the way the artist would have seen it. This gives the work a whole new dimension and depth that an spectator might have missed.

Dr. Liu’s talk left a great impression on me. I also am I person very interested in science, like him. For as long as I have been in school, I have loved science class and learning about all things science. I found that after becoming involved in music and expanding my horizons in the artistic field, I began to see everything differently, even science. I began to see the beauty in science rather than just learning about it. I think that being fluent in the arts and science and being involved in culture makes me a better person.

Stephanie Solanki, Seminar 9/12/12

In Wednesday’s class we actually discussed how “gazing” means to look at something on purpose with an intent to analyze it. Mona Lisa’s reciprocal gaze is a part of the painting that has baffled so many people for years. It is so distinct that if someone was to only show her eyes, I would know it was the Mona Lisa.

We also discussed how the perception of decency and class is different between men and women. For example, Robert De Niro can go to a premiere without shaving and trimming his hair, but every actress or female celebrity must look like she’s spent hours getting ready in order to be presentable. This, in my opinion, is not fair at all. I believe that double standard should not exist in today’s world. It would be unjust and debilitating to say that it is not good for a woman or man to make their own choices and behave however he or she is comfortable. However, this is my opinion.

One line that stuck out to me in class is “we ascribe power to a man because of who he is in the world.” If a man goes out into the world and does adventurous, innovative things, then he is a powerful man. He has been places that nobody has ever gone, and has done things that people are afraid to do. Women could do this, too, if they weren’t wearing their controlling hairnets. I mean to say that women must look modest and controlled at all times.  This is exemplified by the Mona Lisa, who is wearing a hairnet to control her hair. She must keep it perfect because that is the perception of beauty. Her whole life is about being under control, and not being able to venture out and do daring things. This is a very ancient sort of mindset, in my opinion.

Next we looked at the works of Edward Hopper. His works were all of real-life situations. His “American Landscape” work did not idealize rural American life. It actually made it look  quite warped because the dimensions were unique. For example, the cow looks just as big as the house from the point of view the spectator has. This is shows that the rural life of America can be a little scary at times. Hopper does make paintings that look distorted at times, but does so to make a point. This shows how real his work is. I think his style would be realism.


Stephanie Solanki, Seminar 9/10/12

Today in class we looked at the Mona Lisa. We actually gazed at the Mona Lisa and the background. We said in class how it looks like a desert, and a scary forest. I thought it looked like a mix of different landscapes, which adds to the fact that the painting is so dynamic and deep. Most people in the class saw different things, and very seldom were too opinions exactly alike. I think that is the allure of the class, that we can all experience art in New York but we all experience it in different ways. I think it’s interesting that the the background is so complex, yet I haven’t noticed it since before looking at it in class.

I think it’s interesting and very telling of the time period that Mona Lisa is painted with perfect skin, hair, and clothing. I think that maybe this woman was a patron of Da Vinci’s, so he was forced to idealize her. This also shows that the Renaissance woman was ideal and perfect.

It’s interesting that this painting is part of the “Big Three” most famous paintings. I like that it’s so simple at first glance, but one I start gazing at it I see so much more. I notice the oval patterns in the painting, and I now see a connection with the “Last Supper” in which Da Vinci painted many triangles.

This same principle applies with Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. I learned how to see patterns in paintings like the rectangles on the building in the back, and the rectangular shape of the diner itself. I now see the language of painting, that there are patterns and different ways of expressing an idea.

A connection I thought of between the two paintings is the use of light. The background in the “Mona Lisa” is darker than her face and skin, which is done on purpose to draw attention to the face. The same thing is done in “Nighthawks” with the woman in red, because the painting is done so that it seems that the lighting fixture is directly on top of her. It really works to grab attention and make that portion of the painting stand out more.