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The New York Review of Books featured the decades-long career of Anthony Braxton, emeritus faculty in music, who, as a MacArthur Award-winning saxophonist, composer and teacher, has made “substantial” contributions to jazz while remaining on the “fringes” of the genre. Braxton was honored in January with inclusion in the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Jazz Masters” list.

His latest project, which has been underway since the early 1980s, is Trillium, an “opera complex” in progress. The latest work, Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables), is premiering at Roulette in Brooklyn from April 17-19. According to the article:

The letterings—Trillium MTrillium J, et al—are not sequential, and can be reordered into new configurations by performers (or listeners). The opera-cycle’s acts are best thought of as sketches or Socratic-style dialogues. Characters recur, but their backstories and desires are recreated anew in each act (even within the same overarching multi-act “opera”). Sometimes, the Trillium universe deposits listeners in a boardroom, where marketing magnates are busy insulting the public; at other points, you’re traveling through space with a conquering race of arrogant intergalactic elites; in other moments, you’re looking at a child going off to college (while being privy to his parents’ fears about the widening chasm of inequality in America). As microtonal clouds amass and then disperse in the orchestra, Braxton’s singers enact their roles in his science fiction narratives, and deliver on his slapstick setups and ribald punchlines.

“The dramatic developments in Ukraine left Western media scrambling to explain a distant and complex country to an audience that could barely locate the places on a map or pronounce the names,” writes Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, in Transitions Online. He points to four bits of conventional wisdom about the country’s politics that Western media outlets have gotten wrong in their efforts to explain a complex situation simply.

“Binary thinking is lazy thinking,” writes Rutland, in the piece co-authored with Petra Stykow, professor of politics at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich. That is, Ukraine cannot be neatly split into east and west to illustrate divisions in public opinion. Moreover, they write, “Language does not equal ethnicity.” That is, “You cannot take language use as an indicator of ethnic identity or political loyalty. In the census, some Ukrainians claimed Ukrainian as their ‘mother language’ even though they may not actually speak it at home, as a way of expressing their identity. On the other hand, some Ukrainians who speak Russian at home express a desire for their children to learn Ukrainian. Moreover, the language options do not fall into simply two categories – Ukrainian-speaking versus Russian-speaking. There is a third category, people who speak surzhuk.”

Read more here.

Rutland is also professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, and a tutor in the College of Social Studies.

This is the time of year when high school students must decide where they’ll go to college, and while there are many criteria for this important decision (large or small school; urban or rural; public or private) Wesleyan President Michael Roth says that it’s most important to choose the place where you’ll thrive, and develop the habits that will serve you after college and throughout your life.

In an op-ed circulated by the McClatchy Tribune News Service and published in papers around the country and overseas, Roth urges young people to choose the university where they will flourish.

“Discovering these possibilities for flourishing is the opposite of trying to figure out how to conform to the world as it is,” he writes.” That’s a losing proposition, not least because the world is changing so rapidly; tomorrow it won’t be how it is today. When you flourish, you find ways of shaping change, not just ways of coping with it. Those who get the most out of college are often anti-conformists aiming to find out who they are and what kind of work they will find most meaningful. They are not ready simply to accept someone else’s assignment. Those who get the most out of college expand the horizons in which they can lead a life of meaning and purpose.”

The Boston Globe featured Wesleyan’s three-year degree option, which allows students to get a jump start on graduate school or a career while saving 20 percent off their tuition bill. The option is not right for everyone, and requires students to take on heavy workloads, and perhaps give up certain opportunities like study abroad.

The Globe interviewed students pursuing the three-year degree, including Victoria Ramos ’15, who is premed and majoring in neuroscience and behavior.

At the beginning, she was simply driven. Then she realized how much money she could save for herself and her parents. With financial aid, her family is paying $22,000 this year. She also went to one summer session, then spent the rest of the season working at her parents’ grocery store.

Last semester was “really rough,” she said, because of a tough organic chemistry class. Still, she is in a Latin dance troupe and two other student groups, earning a B+ average, and says she still has time for her friends.

Her secret: six hours of sleep is enough, she says. And when she does need rest, she ignores her friends’ text messages.

If she had time, Ramos would have liked to run track and study abroad in France. But ultimately, she doesn’t feel deprived.

“In the time I’ve spent here I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve done,” she said, “and gotten a good breadth of things I wanted to do, a taste of everything.”

Time also featured Wesleyan’s three-year option.

psycheDoes listening to your favorite song give you goose bumps, chills or a “skin orgasm,” as Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, puts it?  Loui is interested in the neuroscience behind emotional responses to music. She discussed her research with the website TRBQ and with Public Radio International (PRI).

No one type of music causes this kind of physical reaction; it’s all about personal preference.

“There are some people who will really, honestly say that some pieces of music, like Justin Bieber, are really, really, really moving to them,” Loui told PRI. “And then there will be some people who say, ‘There’s something about a piano concerto that’s really doing it for me.’”

And for some people, music just doesn’t elicit an emotional response.

Loui says her most interesting findings have to do with the disparity between the people who get chills, and those who never seem to respond to music emotionally.

She says the brains of people who get chills show a stronger connection between the auditory areas and the emotion and social processing areas.

This research could hint at answers to one of the biggest questions in the field: Why has music evolved to be so important in every human culture?

“Maybe what these results are telling us is that we use music as an auditory channel to evoke these emotional responses in other people,” she told TRBQ. “And in a way we’re using it as an emotional form of communication.”

Loui has also found a connection between musical creativity and empathy. That is, she believes we use music as a way to identify emotionally with one another. Her “pet theory,” she told PRI, is that this ability is unique to humans, setting us apart from singing birds and screeching monkeys.

South College. Memorial Chapel. Judd Hall. Though Wesleyan’s campus is defined by its eclectic architecture, a number of key buildings share the same familiar building blocks: brownstone.

CPTV’s “Connecticut’s Cultural Treasures” series looked into the story behind Wesleyan’s brownstone, which came from the nearby Portland brownstone quarry. Providing insight into the history of this industry is Alison Guinness MALS ’85, CAS ’91. She completed her master’s thesis at Wesleyan on Portland brownstone, and took CPTV on a tour around campus to appreciate the different styles of brownstone architecture.

“The need was created in the early 1800s, when major developing urban centers like New York and Boston were concerned about the risk of fire, and they created ordinances and building codes requiring stone or brick to be used,” explained Guinness. “All of the buildings were pretty much brownstone for a long period of time.”

Brownstone was critical in the founding of Wesleyan.

“They endowed the university with the sale of stone from quarries, and the stone that came out of the quarry could also be used to create more buildings,” said Guinness.

Professor of History Ron Schatz also was interviewed about the immigrant workers who took dangerous, but high-paying, jobs in the quarry.

“They worked very hard, they drank very hard, they drank at work. You and I would too if we were doing it under those conditions,” Schatz.

Watch the special here.

Climate change is already leaving its mark on countries all around the world, damaging food crops, spreading disease and melting glaciers.

This is the conclusion of a new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on which Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, is a co-author.

“Previously the IPCC was accused of being very conservative,” Yohe told The Guardian (UK) newspaper. “This allows them to be less conservative without being open to criticism that they are just trying to scare people to death.”

According to the article, nearly 500 people must sign off on the exact wording of the summary, including the 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers.

“But governments have already signed off on the critical finding that climate change is already having an effect, and that even a small amount of warming in the future could lead to ‘abrupt and irreversible changes’, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

‘In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans,’ the final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will say.”

Read more here.

Yohe also discussed the report with The Washington Post.

Watch a webinar with Yohe on climate change and the new IPCC report here.

Donnie Cimino ’15, captain of both the baseball and football teams, “has been having fun from the day he stepped on the Wesleyan University campus 2-1/2 years ago,” according to a feature article on the Wesleyan student in the New England Baseball Journal. “A junior center fielder and No. 3 hitter, he’s a two-time NESCAC batting champion, and, last year as a sophomore, set a program record with 69 hits.”

In addition, “In the fall, he earned All-NESCAC football honors for the second time, a safety who helped the Cardinals go 7-1, their best record since 1997, and one that included wins over Amherst and Williams that secured an outright Little Three title for the first time since 1970.”

“We knew he was a great player coming in, and he’s fulfilled that,” baseball coach Mark Woodworth told the Journal. “But he’s also become a great, great leader for us. This is the best team I’ve had, and Donnie’s a big part of that. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence the football team had its best season in 40 years.”

 

Firshein

William Firshein’s book, published by Oxford University Press in January 2014

“Of the approximately ten million cells that make up the human body, there are billions of microbes that come along with them.”

In a post on OUPblog (the blog of Oxford University Press), William Firshein, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, emeritus, reminds readers of the multitude of microbes that can make us sick, including antibiotic resistant pathogens that infect more than 2 million people in the U.S. each year. Given the constant assault we’re under from these pathogens, how do our bodies defend us? In this blog–and in a new book titled The Infectious Microbe, published by Oxford University Press in January–Firshein walks readers through the biological processes involved in warding off pathogens.

He writes: “How does the body interact with these ‘foreign’ entities? The immune system must protect the body from attack by pathogens and also from the formation of abnormal cells which could turn cancerous. Two types of immune responses exist. One is under the control of antibodies (proteins which circulate in the blood stream) that resist and inactivate invading pathogens by binding to them. The other is mediated by a certain type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte that destroys abnormal (potentially cancerous) cells and viral infected cells. Together, with other white blood cells, they present a formidable defense against infection and abnormality.”

Game of Thrones cast members Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen. Photo: Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

Game of Thrones cast members Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen. Photo: Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

On the eve of the fourth season of HBO’s fantasy hit Game of Thrones, Wesleyan Visiting Writer in English Jim Windolf talks with series creators D.B. Weiss ’93 and David Benioff and novelist George R.R. Martin – on whose works the show is based – in Vanity Fair:

“Based on ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ the epic series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, the show seemed like an odd fit for HBO. But Benioff and Weiss believed it was in the tradition of The Sopranos, Deadwood, Oz, and other HBO shows in that it would breathe new life into a tired or maligned genre. It wasn’t an easy task, though, to persuade executives that something belonging to a category that includes Xena: Warrior Princess was right for the crown jewel of premium cable. ‘That was one of the big uphill sells,’ Weiss says. ‘It was just a question of convincing them that it applied to a genre that had never seriously crossed their minds before.’”

Windolf traces the history of the show’s creation and rocky HBO debut, and asks author Martin about the relationship between the source material and the series:

“Game of Thrones, which enters its fourth season this month, may be heading toward its second massive problem, as tough to solve as the messed-up pilot, which is this: the show is in danger of catching up to the books.

“Martin started writing the epic saga (more than 4,000 pages and counting) in July 1991. He has published five of a planned seven books. If the 2015 television season carries Benioff and Weiss through Book Five, which is possible, and if Martin has not completed Book Six (The Winds of Winter) by that time, which is also possible, there could be trouble.

“Asked if it’s conceivable the show could overtake its source material, Benioff says, ‘Yup.’ When I mention to Martin that Benioff and Weiss are catching up, he says, ‘They are. Yes. It’s alarming.’”

Windolf is editor of M magazine, contributing editor for Vanity Fair, columnist for Capital New York, and writer for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The New York Observer.

Read more…

 

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