Nov 042014

The music major at Dartmouth was recently updated (a fact that, thank God, has no bearing on my own graduation requirements) to differentiate into three different areas of study. Without letting my biases show too much, suffice it to say that I would rather focus on the positive implications of offering degrees in performance (my degree will not, unfortunately, say violin performance on it) rather than focusing on the other implications of offering a degree in “sonic arts.” To each their own I guess. What sort of bugs me about new wordings and euphemisms isn’t so much that they are wrong/intrinsically bad, but rather that the attempt to sum up my experience as a music major into one of three tracts is laughable. At times I have studied music “generally,” I guess. But at other times it has been so ridiculously specific as to barely maintain cohesion with the rest of my academic pursuits. I prefer the characterization of my musical life at Dartmouth as twelve-tone.

For those who don’t know, twelve-tone music is a rather progressive branch of 20th century classical music pioneered by Arnold Schoenberg. A large part of the origin of my musical life at Dartmouth was Schoenberg, for I was given the honor of page-turning at my friend’s senior conducting recital for this piece my freshman year. A twelve-tone composition abides by the rule that each of the 12 pitch classes must be played before any one can be repeated. The point of twelve-tone music is multifaceted. On the one hand, it seeks to treat all pitch classes equally. I could compare this to the two music course I took freshman year – ethnomusicology and introductory music theory. Both courses fulfilled a major requirement – you could say each of them was an individual tone treated equally. But music theory was the first class in my life that I got a B in, the first class that posed a substantial challenge to me at Dartmouth, and it was the class that convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to study music. Ethnomusicology didn’t challenge me academically or intellectually, but I’d be lying if I didn’t credit it for opening up my musical horizons and making me confront the fact that the music I listen to (and that everyone listens to) occupies a relatively small fraction of the total musical output of the world.

On the other hand, twelve-tone music seeks to unify these pitches into a singular composition. As I consider the prospect of how music will be in my life after college, I am forced to evaluate myself as a musical composition. In some ways (the music study abroad foremost among them), my musical education vastly outpaces what I could achieve at a conservatory, just like atonal music can access new emotional realms when it abandons the rules of tonal western harmony. In other ways, the ways of tradition still seem supreme. There isn’t a strings faculty of 20 and enough violinists at Dartmouth to form a new (awful) nation-state, and that relieves pressure from me. And musicians need pressure to get better sometimes. Similarly, the interval of a perfect fifth will always sound more consonant than a tritone. It just will.

A Dartmouth career spans 12 on-terms, which for me represent 12 different tones I can select. I have to put thought into each note, for I don’t get to repeat any terms, and taking an opportunity now can mean abandoning another later. I like the tones I’ve picked so far. I feel like I’ve built something meaningful out of them, something that I can say is distinctly my own. When I was studying in London, my private teacher made me hold pitches until I could hear the overtones. I would stand and play a C4 for 20 minutes until I began hear the resonance of the note, the implication of upwards of 16 other notes in a single tone. My music education at Dartmouth has been private lessons and chamber music and concerto competitions. It has also been TAing a theory class, working in the music library, and managing the orchestra. If I reflect hard enough, it has even been the history classes I’ve taken, the very nature of my liberal arts education, even merely living in Hanover. These are the more remote overtones of my music degree.

Perhaps the greatest similarity I could draw is that twelve-tone music forces you to become inventive as you make music. You can’t rely on tried and true harmonic progressions or voice leading to guide your composition. At Dartmouth, I’ve had to get creative as well. I went to Europe to study music, I sought extra lessons from the visiting opera company in the summer, I organized and performed in a recital with friends. You learn to be a self advocate and a well rounded musician, and that is the ultimate reward of choosing all twelve-tones. It may be unorthodox, it may sound a little weird, but as someone who lives it every day, I can say it is worthwhile.


All you need is an audience of one

All you need is an audience of one

My study-abroad looking great after our last conert

My study-abroad looking great after our last conert

Me and my friends after our French Impressionism Recital

Me and my friends after our French Impressionism Recital

Feb 102014

Let’s talk about theater. The rush of performing, the tight-knit bond between cast and crewmembers, the overall joy of presenting your work to an audience. Point blank, I love and adore the theater. Dartmouth’s theater, of course, is no exception.

However, I didn’t always believe that I would end up doing as much theater as I do in a regular term. In high school, I performed in roughly 3 to 4 full-length productions a year, and was ready for a break when I started at Dartmouth. I thought: “Oh I won’t do theater, I’ll try something new.” Well that lasted for about a week. I immediately auditioned for the production of Breaking E.D.E.N., a new work. I was cast in the ensemble and was whisked away into the wonderful world of Dartmouth Theater. While involved in the production, I met and became friends with a few of my closest buddies here, and learned about the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, Dartmouth’s student-run Shakespeare Company. Following the production of E.D.E.N., I auditioned and was accepted into the Rude Mechanicals or ‘Rude Mechs.’ Let me tell you how thrilling, challenging, rewarding, and exciting it is to put on a Shakespeare production every term. The most rewarding part of doing theater for me is the inviting community productions and courses facilitate. You stay cast members for life, and often find long-lasting friendships in rehearsals. Apart from new buddies, performing or assisting as part of the crew has given me a newfound sense of confidence and determination in my work on and offstage. I am more assertive and proud of who I’ve become thanks to training in the theater.

Production photo from The Liar, 2013. © Rob Strong

Production photo from The Liar, 2013. © Rob Strong

At Dartmouth there are so many ways to get involved in theater. You can audition (usually the first weekend of term) for the Department’s production, which performs around the eighth week of term. Recent productions include The Liar, Angels in America, Hairspray, and this term: Spring Awakening. At the beginning of fall and winter terms you can audition for the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, the Shakespeare Company. We perform once a term, choosing a different play by vote. All of the sets and costumes are borrowed or from our own wardrobe, we emphasize the ‘minimalist’ aspect heavily, but it also concentrates the performance on the acting and the Bard’s language. As an undergraduate you can apply each term for a ‘Your Space’ production through the Department of Theater. A ‘Your Space’ is a performance you put on with the resources of the Department like costumes and lights.  It can be an original work, a published work, or a staged reading—it’s up to you! Applications are usually due the first or second week of the term and perform around week four or five of the term. Finally, there are so many wonderful theater courses the Department offers, anything from Russian Theater to Acting I to Set Design to Speaking Voice for the Stage. Some courses require interviews, which occur the first day of classes. My advice would be to try and dapple in a little bit of theater while at Dartmouth either by supporting a friend in a show, performing, or auditioning for a student production.

Apr 142012

Art History Professor Adrian Randolph checks in with three quick posts about art history at Dartmouth.

Renaissance Society of America

A couple of weeks ago I was in Washington DC to give a paper at the Renaissance Society of America’s annual conference. I was speaking about centaurs in Renaissance art (I’m a professor of Art History), specifically in Botticelli’s painting of a “Woman with a Centaur” (see picture). In the audience was Diana Bullen Presciuti ’98, one of my first students at Dartmouth. She has gone on to get her PhD from Michigan is now teaching at the College of Wooster. In any event, I spoke about the centaur in the painting, focusing on some recent thinking about ‘posthumanism’ and animal studies. Why is it we are fascinated by human-animal hybrids? Why were fifteenth-century Italians fascinated by such creatures? I started thinking about these issues a few years back, and Maria Fillas ’11 (who is now working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) helped me as a Presidential Scholar—this is a program that allows students to partner with a professor around a shared area of research for a term or two. Scholars can get paid or, under certain circumstances, get course credit. It’s a great opportunity.

The Hood Museum of Art

Draped figure of Dionysos, late 2nd–3rd century CE, marble. Yale University Art Gallery: Gift of the Olsen Foundation; 1956.8.1.

The Hood Museum of Art is a wonderful place. Right now, I’m writing up a short text about a small ancient Roman marble sculpture of Dionysos, on loan from Yale. It will be on display at an exhibition taking place this spring showcasing teaching with objects. The website linked to the exhibition has pictures of the objects that will be on display, as well as videos, where you’ll get to hear some Dartmouth students talk about a rather intriguing Greek vase). In the fall, the museum will be staging a major exhibition of works by indigenous artists of Australia; the Hood received a gift recently that makes it one of the major repositories of Australian “Aboriginal” painting.

Black Family Visual Arts Center

Next year will be the Year of the Arts at Dartmouth. The idea is to showcase some of the arts. It came about because we are opening the new Black Family Visual Arts Center, a sharp new building designed by Machado and Silvetti, and we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Hopkins Center for the Arts. There will be lots going on: visitors, performances, lectures and student activities. If you are interested in the arts, you’re going to love Dartmouth.

Feb 272012

Hairspray Stage Performance

Yesterday, I went to see the finale of Hairspray, the Theatre Department’s winter production.  I hadn’t heard of the play before, but I can now say I love it.  The cast was simply stunning, and they had such a bubbly energy even after two hours of jumping, hopping, dancing, and singing, and so much practice leading up to their final performance.  Personally, I find it amazing that people can be so talented at singing, dancing and acting all at the same time, especially since I find each one in itself such a challenge.  It was great to see that students of all years, even freshman, were featured so prominently in the show.  If I had any talent at all, I would definitely audition because it seems like the cast had such a great time working together.  My friends and I were all in a euphoric state after experiencing such a heartwarming story.

After the show, I went back to my dorm to work on my math paper.  I’m currently taking Math 17, a topics course called Math Beyond Calculus, which focuses on number theory and its applications in cryptography this year.  The professor does an amazing job tying together many areas of math into a coherent course in an interesting field while giving us a taste of what math is like after the calculus sequence.  In the final week, all the students in the class have to study something not directly covered in class.  Not only is it a chance to explore anything that interests us outside the curriculum, but it also exposes us to mathematical texts and papers, encouraging us to piece together an understanding the way mathematicians and scientists do when they learn about new topics.  We are soon going to start giving presentations to the class, which trains us in conveying difficult mathematical concepts clearly and succinctly, a skill that will definitely come in handy in the future.  I had never taken a math class quite like this before, and I love it.  I’m so glad that Dartmouth has classes like this, and I plan to seek them out in future terms as well.  I’ve been rubbing Warney Bently’s nose every time I pass through the Hop – hopefully that will give me good luck for my presentation.

Dec 092011

Hey there ’16s! Congratulations!!! We’re so so so excited to have you, even if we don’t quite believe that the class of 2016 is a real thing yet. I applied ED last year too, and it seems like just yesterday. I know I’m just a freshman and I’ve only been here one term, so forgive me for getting a bit nostalgic. And forgive me if I pretend to know what I’m talking about, since I often feel just as new as you do, but I’d like to add some of my own tips on Dartmouth to all the advice given by the lovely bloggers below. 16 tips, in fact. Here goes!

1. Celebrate! You’ve clearly worked hard to get to where you are now, and you deserve a break. Take the weekend to have fun, hang out with your friends if they’re not going too crazy about colleges, and repeat: you did it!

2. But… you still have school Monday. Relax of course, but remember that there’s a reason you’ve worked hard throughout high school aside from getting into college. Maybe take a class or do a project you didn’t have time for during the application process. I signed up for astronomy and creative writing during second semester of my senior year, and they were both great!

3. One more thing about school next week- a lot of people don’t yet know which Class of 2016 they’ll be a part of. So be proud and happy, but maybe don’t skip and sing down the halls dressed head to toe in Dartmouth green? Or go for it, your call.

4. Dartmouth green is a pretty great color though, and it looks good on everyone! It might be time to order that college apparel you were too superstitious to order before your decision came. I know I was way too scared to buy anything before finding out, but I placed an order that Friday. Nothin’ like a little school spirit.

5. If any meet-ups are happening in your area, you should definitely go. I bet all you ’16s are pretty cool kids, and you should meet each other. You could make your first Dartmouth friends before even getting here! If there aren’t any yet, plan one!

6. You didn’t really have to do a supplement for your application. You were required to have someone else do the biggest part for you! So if anyone asks you to write their peer rec for a regular decision application, go for it. It’s only fair.

7. If you had an alumni interview and enjoyed that experience, you might consider sending an email to your alumni interviewer to let them know you got in. Chances are they put in a good word for you, and they’ll be happy to know you were admitted.

8. Start checking out what’s happening on campus. The website of the Hopkins Center for the Arts will give you lots of great ideas about the types of performances and programs that will be happening when you’re on campus next year.


Whew, we’re halfway there! Still reading? C’mon ’16s, you can do it!


9. Go on a first year DOC trip. They’re so much fun! You’ll get to meet cool people and eat lots of Cabot cheese. You’ll also learn how to play the trash can game. It’s quite intense.

10. Get in touch with your roommates and floormates when you (finally) find out who they are, because if you’re half as lucky as I am, they’ll be awesome. Shout-out to Russell Sage 3!

11. Before you get here, take a look at some classes you might want to take next fall. Orientation is pretty busy, so it’s good to already have some sense of what you’re interested in when you get that large brick of a book that lists every class we offer.

12. Now I’m gonna give you some advice on what to do when you get here- which will be before you know it! Find a study spot that works for you. I spent the first month only studying on the first floor of the main library (there are 4 floors, and 6 in the stacks, and lots of other buildings and libraries to consider). I still do my work in Baker-Berry, but I also like to go to Sanborn library. I do my work at the Dirt Cowboy sometimes too, which is a really good coffee shop in town.

13. Do stuff. Whatever you like, I’m sure we have it. I’ve joined some pretty random things myself. For example, I’ll be co-chair of the polar bear swim at Winter Carnival this February, a tradition that involves hundreds of students jumping into freezing water in a hole cut into the ice in a pond, one at a time. It’s gonna be cold. But fun.

14. Explore Hanover! Its pretty tiny, but it still has a lot to offer. Brunch at Lou’s, warm bread at Molly’s, gelato at Morano, $5 movies at the Nugget, and whatever else you want to do.

15. In your classes, work hard but remember people are there to help you. Go to office hours, make study groups with friends or go to official ones, get a tutor if you feel you need one, and order all the coffee you need at King Arthur Flour in the library.

16. CONGRATS AGAIN ’16’s!!! Really, you’re making me feel so old right now. But so excited! We all can’t wait to meet you!

Nov 222011

I spent most of last week working on a video we have to make for our writing class. We’re supposed to analyse an aspect of Dartmouth’s history and present an argument related to that aspect. The entire process has required a large amount of time and hard work, however while doing this project I came across two of Dartmouth’s hidden treasures, Rauner Library and Jones Media Centre.

Rauner Library is undoubtedly the most special library at Dartmouth. It is home to Dartmouth Archives dating back to the year of its existence, more than 100,000 volumes of extremely rare books (many of them cannot be found anywhere else in the world), manuscripts dating back to the twentieth century BC cuneiform tablets, and a large amount of other cool stuff. Examples of items include a collection of  The Dartmouth‘s (Dartmouth’s official Newspaper’s) publications dating back to 1799, Robert Frost’s original journal where he has edited many of his published poems (it shows how he would have edited them after they were published), and much more. You can find pictures, audio recordings, official documents, etc from any event in Dartmouth you could ever think of. You could simply go to the Librarian’s desk and ask them “Can I see something cool?” and within 5 minutes you will be seeing stuff that will blow your mind away. In addition to all of that, Rauner is a beautiful, nice and quiet place to study.

Jones Media Centre is conveniently located on the second floor of Berry Library (One of the main Libraries at Dartmouth). Not only is this place a media or visual arts fan’s paradise, but it also has something for everybody. Jones is simply one example of the numerous opportunities and services available to all Dartmouth students whenever they want. At Jones you can borrow video cameras, edit any kind of video or movie (no matter how professional), practice animation, or simply check yourself out on one of the computers with a funky camera. All you have to do is go to the front desk and ask.

It’s places like Rauner, Jones, and literally numerous others that make Dartmouth so magnificent and special. I still can’t wrap my head around the opportunities we undergraduates get at Dartmouth. No matter what you want to do, there will always be resources available for you. In other words, you can take the first steps to fulfilling your dreams at this cozy little college called Dartmouth.



Nov 192011

Before I came to Dartmouth, I loved doing theatre – performing, directing or just helping out. I loved being around the stage and I loved the relationships that form in that sort of environment. When I came to Dartmouth, I was worried about fitting into the Theatre scene. The Theatre Department directs one play a term called the mainstage. When I got here, I auditioned for the mainstage performance Breaking E.D.E.N. I was cast in the ensemble and it has been one of the most memorable experiences of my first fall term at Dartmouth.

Photo credit:

First of all, it’s been a really great way to meet upperclassman. As a freshman, this can be hard to do because we are grouped together a lot (through trips and various freshman activities). Once we were into ‘Hell Week’ (tech and dress rehearsals) I was spending 5+ hours in the theatre with 25 wonderful people and this – as you can imagine! – means that A LOT of bonding goes on. A typical rehearsal was to arrive at the theatre, a quick briefing from the stage manager and ASMs (assistant Stage managers), then picking up of the show from where we had left off. It was a huge time commitment but one that I don’t regret taking on at all. We wouldn’t always be working and there was a fair amount of down time and I’ve had some of my most interesting conversations during this down time.

Second of all, committing to this show was like a crash course in time management. I was spending every evening in the Bentley (the theatre) during Hell Week and – as fun as it was – it wasn’t an environment conducive to studying, or attempting to do anything productive. So I really had to plan out my time to be able to get assignments in on time. Time management is something that a lot of freshman struggle with and I wasn’t any different but I quickly learnt how necessary it was.

The Theatre Department is such a family here. They are so welcoming and excited about freshman joining and getting involved in shows. There is also so much to do! The DTC (Displaced Theatre Company) is in charge of student productions – mainly plays, the Harlequins is a group for musical theatre and the Rude Mechanicals is the student run Shakespeare group. The Rude Mechanicals is the only groups that requires an audition (and once in the group, you participate in their performances for your four years); the other two groups audition on a show to show basis. E.D.E.N. has allowed me to do so much in just my first term here and I am so excited about doing more with theatre here!

Sep 252011

Wednesday morning, September 21, 4:30 am. In just over four hours, my first day of classes at Dartmouth will officially begin. I’m sitting on the red circular seat at the entrance of the Hop, which I’m convinced is simply wood with one layer of upholstery draped over the top, as alert as I can be after being abruptly woken from a state of quasi-slumber. Men’s a capella auditions, second round.

After not making it to the third, final round of auditions (yet still sleeping through the paroxysmal beeping of my alarm clock and my first class), I was justifiably upset. I had never sung in a choir before, let alone an a capella group, but I was convinced that I had a wonderfully melodious voice. After all, my friends and family had insisted on it, and they wouldn’t lie to me. The truth was that the standards had simply changed. Everyone had 18 years of life experience before we met, and everyone had devoted themselves for years to their extracurricular passions. For some, it was singing. It dawned on me what it really meant to leave my public high school in suburban Wisconsin.

I felt as though I was the subject of a grave injustice. I too, had literally spent every waking hour during my final two years of high school on Academic Decathlon, and Dartmouth didn’t even offer a near substitute. I was left to carve a new path out for myself, while everyone else continued what they’d been doing for ages. But slowly, I began to see it for what it really was: unbridled opportunity to discover my true self. Although I still have no clue about what new interest I’ll stumble upon next, I’m ever grateful for the strange conspiracies of fate that brought me to where I am today.