Space chords are perhaps among the most beautifully chilling sounds in existence. Like a proclamation of terror and enlightenment, of omnipotence and microcosms, of everything and nothing at once, space chords are nothing short of awe-inducing.
Observe, the Blue Devils at warmup:
(Skip to 1:08-ish to cut straight to it.)
To be honest, I know little about this musical phenomenon. A quick Google turns up nothing particularly explanatory, and it seems that the majority of results are of the brass section of some professional drum corps going away at their warming-up or tuning exercises with impressive skill and precision.
Iâ€™ve always wanted to know how these chords were constructed, but never, never, could I pick apart exactly what notes were in there (Iâ€™ve a bad ear for that sort of thing). Somehow, â€œsimultaneously playing every note in existenceâ€ did not seem like it would achieve the intended effect. Apparently, space chords are particularly finicky and there is a finesse to getting them in tune.
Consider: thatâ€™s not only a bit of dissonance, such as one gets by playing two notes very close to one another at the same time (like the jarring wails of sirens and alarms), but itâ€™s dissonance on top of dissonance. They cannot be so messy so as to be a meaningless jumble or sound, nor can they fit too well and become suddenly harmonious. Itâ€™s a tricky one to balance.
But what defines the allure of the space chord? It is in human nature to shy away from discord and conflict, from clashes and horrid sounds that grind and screech against one another. Harmony offers a path of less resistance, seems natural and pleasing to the ear, and does not require shoving a shoulder against the offending sound with a lopsided grimace and proclaiming, â€œof course it sounds beautiful!â€ In medieval times, the tritone, a far simpler and more common form of dissonance, became associated with the devil and was subsequently banned by the church. The space chord? Like a tritone, multiplied tenfold. Even I occasionally wince a tad upon hearing one. They are, admittedly, an acquired taste.
That, perhaps, is what one might see in these unusual chords. There is a sort of otherworldly, indefinable quality to them, something that is off but not off, something that is almost right but not quite. The sound, the eerie feeling, is everywhere and nowhere all at once, now and in the past and the future. It might foreshadow something ominous, but is so much greater than you, so beyond the scope of your comprehension and your ability to do anything about it, that there is naught to do but to listen. Itâ€™s strange, and itâ€™s beautiful.
For some people, Facebook is their method of procrastination. For me, itâ€™s YouTube. A few of you may know my love for a good Youtube cover (Gabe Bondoc, anyone?), so I have decided that for this weekâ€™s blog I would share with all of you another one of my favorites.
Her name is Meghan Tonjes and she has a truly soulful voice. A Michigan native, Tonjes does both regular covers and clever mash ups. Some good ones include her mash up of Taylor Swiftâ€™s Innocent with Kanye Westâ€™s Runaway and of Taylor Swiftâ€™s Mine with Katy Perryâ€™s Teenage Dream and Ellie Gouldingâ€™s Starry Eyed. I also love her weekly Glee sessions where she covers songs featured on that weekâ€™s episode of Glee. However, if you are looking for some new stuff to listen to, Tonjes also has a lot of good originals to choose from such as The Weight Of. Part Ingrid Michaelson and part Jewel, Tonjes is definitely one of those artists who can get you through a tough night of studying! Here is a sample clip:
In 2009, a huge hubbub arose when a Danish comic artist portrayed the Muslim prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head in place of a turban.Â Muslims, whose Islamic law forbid any visual representations of their God (to avoid idolatry), became extremely offended by this obvious suggestion of Mohammed as a terrorist.Â Thousands of Muslims worldwide protested the posting of this drawing in all forms and many threatened the artist and any involved members of Danish newspapers that printed this image.
A Saudi Arabian law firm filed a suit against all of the Danish newspapers that published this cartoon.Â The letter stated that the drawing was offensive and insulted the many ancestors of Mohammed, as well as his followers and demanded an apology and removal of any offensive material.Â Recently, one newspaper organization, Politiken, apologized for the reprinting of the cartoon and stated that it was never an expression of the newspaper’s beliefs or opinions, but a mere transmission of regular news content.
Upon hearing about this incident when it first broke out, I could see both sides of the issue.Â On one hand, yes, to be a Muslim and to see this kind of image would be very offensive to me, especially because it presented a negative view of a part of my belief and culture that was highly integral to me and my life; and should this comic have depicted something or someone as important to me as Mohammed is to Muslims, I, too, would pissed off.
However, as an art historian, I believe that a drawing like this is acceptable.Â It is not pleasant, to be certain, and it is certainly not flattering, but in its essence, it is art.Â Art throughout the ages has always been inflammatory and highly contentious; from the “Castration of nudes” in the Vatican (i.e. removing penises and putting fig leaves on the genital regions of statues) to increasingly sexualized images in photography during the 1980’s, art has proven to provoke debate and incite wrath upon itself.
Everyday, I see images that intrigue, infuriate, and entice me.Â Some images evoke more emotions than others and lead me to ponder about the issues presented and others pique my interest only to die down immediately after.Â Theoretically speaking, if art, as many say, is just a means of self-expression and as human beings we have the right to express ourselves, then why shouldn’t someone have the freedom to draw and say what they wish?
Yet this kind of thinking is reserved for the purely ideological realm; in the real world, everything is mired by politics and bogged down by personal motivations that often the lines of freedom get blurred and the definition becomes hazy.Â We all want to be politically correct so we censor ourselves and hide our real thoughts and intentions.Â We realize that it is not appropriate to say or do certain things in various contexts, but we are cognizant of the fact that even these norms change with time and cultural shifts.Â Right now, in this time, the world is not prepared for this kind of drawing and perhaps it will never be.Â But I don’t think that means one should not create such things; merely that one should be more careful about the avenues by which they display their work and more considerate about the people it may affect.
Sometimes the best way to be introduced to something new is by accident. I arrived at the Dude early for a meeting today, and on my way to the escalators, with twenty minutes to spare, I walked past the Dude’s gallery. Seeing bright colors and walls full of pictures, I of course had to walk in. “Affinity of Form,” Stanford Lipsey’s exhibit of forty-five digital images is currently on display in the gallery at the Dude, and it is an eye catching mix of nature and architecture juxtaposed against each other to create a unique sense of the similarities between the shapes and colors found in nature and man-made constructions.
The thing that I found most fascinating about Lipsey’s photography was the way he made photographs of the natural world and architecture compliment each other so well. The way he finds similarities and highlights them in his photography is very cleverly done. One image in the gallery that particularly exhibited his eye for natural elements in architecture is entitled “Like an Eagle.” In this photo Lipsey captures an image of the Milwaukee Art Museum, which has large wing-like structures on the sides of the building. In “Like an Eagle,” Lipsey captured one of these structures from the base of the building so it looks like the wing of an eagle. He took a man-made architectural element and highlighted its similarity to natural shapes by capturing the image from a specific angle. In another image, “Spokes of a Tropical Circle,” Lipsey does the opposite – takes a natural object and makes it appear manmade. In this image, Lipsey took a picture of a palm tree from the base, and made the trees canopy look almost like some sort of ceiling. Specifically, it reminded me of a ceiling in a cathedral. Lipsey’s color combinations are very appealing to the eye as well. Some of his images are very bright, while some are lacking in color. The contrasting colors create a striking visual interest in his exhibit.
Lipsey’s “Affinity of Form” exhibit will be open through Tuesday, November 2, 2010 in the gallery in the Duderstadt Center. It’s a beautiful exhibit, and I encourage you to stop in and look around.
When I say I hate Winter, I need to add the disclaimer that itâ€™s not the bitter cold temperatures or the layer of clothes that really makes me sad; what it comes down to is that I hate winterâ€™s confinements to the indoors.Â As my Women Studies roommates would say, â€œWinter is oppressive!â€Â So, what I really dislike about winter is that it holds me captive to the indoors for far too long.
The stem of this hate, I realized only recently.Â As winter fast approaches, and jackets begin to emerge from the bowels of homes, I have become increasingly aware of my fate.Â No longer can I wear shorts or tang tops, exposing my skin to the warmth and comfort of the sun.Â Soon the sun must pass through layer upon layer of clothing in order to warm my body; and thatâ€™s only when it decides to show itself.Â Being October 20th, I am extremely content with the way the weather is fairing.Â I have seen the sun everyday for the past 10 days and I want nature to progress in this manner, although as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
Before the Earth tilts any further, and we are all restricted to the indoors, I see to it that it is my earthling duty to call upon your attention to one of the most magical places in Ann Arbor; the Arboretum.Â I recommend you walk to the Arb after an early morning at the Farmerâ€™s Market in Kerrytown where you fill your morning void with coffee or cider and donuts.Â Then I direct you to take your happy full tummies on a lovely stroll to the Arb.Â Depending on what Saturday you go, you may find pleasure in passing far too many drunken students before 10 am getting rowdy for one of the most valued events in our countryâ€¦Football.Â Passing these students will make you smile based on the pure absurdity of it all.
As you continue to walk out of the crazy zone, you will find screams and loud music replaced by crunchy leaves and howling winds.Â If you catch the morning just right, the sun will gleam on the changing trees, making you think you suddenly stepped into a fairytale.Â You will pass a cemetery on your left as you approach the Arb that will put any fear of death out of mind due to the serenity and peacefulness of the crowded leafy ground and sunlight peering through the thinning trees.
By the time you come to the Arb your morning activities have prepped you for the right frame of mind to appreciate nature and the calmness you feel within.Â Bring a date, a friend or go alone, and make sure to make a fall memory before time slips away and into winter.