Author: Natalie Carlisle

Student recitals can bring campus together

Recital season. Few words spark such fear and erratic behavior in music students, particularly seniors. This is the time of year that many senior and junior performance majors must put on their own recitals, with a wide repertoire that should show off the beauty and technique they’ve developed on their instruments. And of course, any good recital has some degree of collaboration with other students or music faculty. To the average recital-goer, it’s just a chance to hear peers perform.

Not all music students are required to put on a recital under their own name, but by their final year, many find it a satisfying culmination of their private studies and an empowering personal opportunity. Students that must put on their own recital for their degree need to trust in their work with their private teachers, carefully choose what rep to share and make time in their already busy schedules for what seems like an endless number of hours in rehearsal with collaborative pianists and other soloists.

Students taking private lessons often go to these recitals for pink cards, the slips of paper that signify you have gone to the required number of on-campus music events for the semester. But beyond that, it’s to find inspiration for their personal musical journey. As someone who identifies as a mezzo-alto (read: singing high scares me but I know I don’t count as a true contralto), I feel a jolt of excitement when I receive the weekly music department events email and see fellow mezzos or altos from my choir listed. That sense of solidarity and support that tells us to see our friends and other people with similar instruments perform is also what helps us to push past our own nerves in performance.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the competition, intimidation and comparison to other vocalists and instrumentalists in the music department, but the truth is that so many of the people who walk through the doors of Christiansen Hall of Music and Hall of Music want success for everyone else.

It’s this common understanding that informs the unique vibes of the music community on campus – and is why more students should make a point of attending recitals. Whether you know the performer or not – if you haven’t talked to them since you sang in Manitou or Viking or if they’re your best friend – you should make the time to support someone giving a recital this year. You might laugh or cry, but even if you don’t, that person will share a little bit of their soul with you. In this divisive time in the world and on campus, we can all use a little more connection, understanding, perspective and beautiful music.

carlis2@stolaf.edu

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Best Original Song win reflects narcissism

Sunday, Feb. 26 was the 89th Academy Awards, when Hollywood’s elite dressed to the nines and celebrated another year of film and themselves.

The category of Best Original Song was revealing, to say the least. “La La Land” received two nominations: one for “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” and another for “City of Stars,” the ultimate category winner.

The potential for either “La La Land” song to win meant that Hollywood gets to keep stroking its ego and produce more films encouraging its self-importance. I’m not complaining – I found “La La Land” to be a gorgeous tribute to jazz music and an all-around enjoyable film, but it also reflected Hollywood’s narcissism.

One of this past summer’s hits was “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from “Trolls,” and Justin Timberlake is never a bad choice in my book. “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana” was a promising nomination: the anthem that Auli’i Cravalho sings is a powerful one that will be stuck in my head forever (maybe). The final nomination was “The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story,” and admittedly, I hadn’t even heard of this movie, much less the nominated song. When I listened to the touching ballad written by Sting and J. Ralph, I put “Jim” on my must-watch list.

I had put my money on “City of Stars” and “How Far I’ll Go” as the main contenders for this award. “City of Stars” has a weighty sound and a modern take on Sinatra’s jazzy stylings. Moody recurrences of the song throughout “La La Land” as the theme of Sebastian, one of the main characters in the film portrayed by Ryan Gosling, is a great reminder of the timelessness of the jazz tradition.

The surging orchestral lines and raw vocal power in “How Far I’ll Go” make this the ultimate Disney princess song. Despite the criticisms of Disney’s appropriation and stereotyping of Polynesian culture that gained traction in the lead-up to the premiere, the praise for “Moana” – particularly for its music – has the movie approaching cult status.

The song also gave the composer Lin-Manuel Miranda the potential to be the youngest ever EGOT winner, the coveted title of those who receive Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards.

The song choices for this year’s Oscars reflect the narcissism and traditionalism typical of awards season, and the top contenders even more so. Disney is a usual champion at these events, and any project that panders to Hollywood’s ego is a winner.

It would be hard to imagine a non-Disney, non-American focused film winning any of the main categories, let alone the categories for Best Original Song or Score. In this way, I think the nominations for Best Original Song reflect a larger-scale hierarchy of privilege and power struggle.

If it’s not made for kids or in praise of the almighty American Dream, it’s not a winner. Maybe this is reflective of Hollywood’s reluctance to take on projects outside the realm of the white-dominated perspective, or of the Western audience’s subtly biased viewing choices, or maybe the lack of class mobility that permeates our ideals of film and pop culture that restricts who is able to tell stories that are in the spotlight.

“City of Stars” being named the Best Original Song was unsurprising, if a little disappointing. The question is what this year’s awards shows will teach us about ourselves and if we choose to listen. I, for one, am eager to see what happens with these categories in the future.

carlis2@stolaf.edu

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote