PREVIEW: Berlin Philharmonic

The Berlin Philharmonic
The Berlin Philharmonic

The Berlin Philharmonic is coming to Ann Arbor in a little over a week, and it’s time to get excited.

The world-class orchestra is returning to Ann Arbor for the first time since 2009, as a part of their final US tour under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle, presenting two stellar concert programs on November 11th and 12th in Hill Auditorium.

This event is so big that all 1,400 student tickets set aside for these two performances have already sold out. If you’re fortunate enough to have tickets, UMS has suggested that students visit The League Ticket Office to pick them up in advance, in order to avoid lines at Will Call before the performance. If you don’t have student tickets, there are still some full-price tickets available (which, if you think about it, are still a fraction of the cost of a plane ticket to Berlin). If you have tickets, but find that you can’t make it to the performance for any reason, it is your moral obligation to make sure that they do not go to waste.

Once you have your tickets, you can start getting excited about the program. On Saturday night, the concert will open with a tribute to the recently departed, great conductor and composer Pierre Boulez, with a performance of his piece for fifteen musicians, ÉclatThis virtuosic, modern work explores the reverberations of the variety of instruments it uses, from piano to mandolin to vibraphone. The second half features the rarely-performed, monumental Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, a dramatic journey of a work that lasts nearly an hour and a half and includes unconventional instruments such as the mandolin, cowbell, and guitar in the orchestration. That’s right. Even Mahler needed more cowbell.

Sunday afternoon’s concert showcases some of Vienna’s finest composers, including Brahms’ Second Symphony as well as works by 20th century composers Webern, Schoenberg, and Berg. It is particularly notable that the orchestra is playing so much music that was written in the last century, as this difficult repertoire is not often performed on the concert stage.

It’s time to get excited. If you don’t have much experience with going to orchestra concerts, you might want to consider listening to the concert program, especially the more modern works, online in advance, so that you have an idea of what to expect (I’ve included links to the pieces above). However, some people prefer to experience unfamiliar pieces for the first time live, without knowing what to expect. However you choose to prepare yourself beforehand, be sure to arrive to the concerts early, healthy, alert, and ready to hear some of the greatest music the world has to offer!

REVIEW: Detroitography talk + exhibit

Alex Hill, the founder of Detroitography, spoke to a packed room inside the South Thayer Building about putting an emphasis on the human side of statistics and big data.

Although not a native of Detroit, Alex has been able to fuse his background in medical anthropology with his current work at the Wayne State Pediatric Research Center and love of statistics to create a number of incredible maps of Detroit.

Where's the nearest Starbucks?
Where’s the nearest Starbucks?

All of the maps are created using open source data to make them accessible to everyone. The aim, as Alex explained, is to present data in a way that shows the actual implications and makes it relevant to people.

When bringing up the Detroit bankruptcy–the largest municipal bankruptcy in history at 17 billion dollars–Alex addressed how the water shutoff was a fatal flaw in looking at data. While the city saw that they could save over 100 million dollars by confronting delinquent accounts, no one thought to consider the fact that the majority of delinquent accounts were owned by people that could not pay them off.


The rest of Alex’s sleek red, white and black presentation addressed the overarching question: how do we relate data not just to other data, but to people?

There is a risk of drowning in big data, as he explained, and it is up to us to figure out how the data relates to human beings. One of the biggest flaws about statistics is the belief that algorithms are completely objective. This is completely false–someone had to write the code for that algorithm, and they chose all the variables. Nothing is completely unbiased.


Numbers don’t motivate, but the connection to the people that correspond to those numbers. One map of the MidCassTown Corridor was a collection of responses from residents of that very corridor. Some residents called it the Cass Corridor, and some called it Midtown. Mapping the data showed the Midtown-naming residents to be in the more affluent, modernized areas. As one individual stated: “They [white people] call it Midtown.”

Detroitography is an interesting concept, there’s no doubt about that. Will it be effective? Will mapping data about Detroit have a positive impact on policy decisions for the city, or will it turn out to be simply another aesthetically pleasing project related to the Motor City?

PREVIEW: The Importance of Being Ernest

Gather round connoisseurs of aesthetics, readers of 18th century plays, and lovers of Oscar Wilde.

Rude Mechanicals’ is putting on a version of The Importance of Being Ernest–set in the 1950’s–this weekend! See this link for specific showtimes and how to purchase tickets online.

Where: Mendelssohn Theater (Michigan League)

When: November 4 – 6 

Cost: $7 for students or FREE with a Passport to the Arts (yay!)

“Be yourself; everything else is already taken”

–Oscar Wilde



REVIEW: Catie Newell’s Overnight

Catie Newell’s three-dimensional piece Overnight. Photo courtesy of

The UMMA has features captivating artists in their special exhibits, but from June 11 to November 6 of this year, the museum has brought a member of the University of Michigan to the spotlight: Catie Newell.

After briefly reading a synopsis of the artist and her work, I enter the room. My presence is immediately acknowledged by two rows of prints, who beckon me to their attention. I answer their call and inspect them: images of dark city nights radiate tones of mystery, but in each scene, light illuminates a fragment of old buildings or tall trees. I’m captivated by the metallic sheen of these prints, animating the light within the images so that the scene that sits before my eyes interacts with me rather than standing isolated.

One of the pieces to the Nightly collection. Photo courtesy of Michigan Radio.

The prints, however, are derived of their attention once I notice an array of aluminum wire that hangs from the center of the room. Usually enlightened at night, I gaze at the structure, attempting to translate Newell’s perspective of darkness and urban landscape into coherent sentences. Perplexed at the subject of the gallery, dissatisfaction festers within me when my visit to the gallery is cut short.  

A Detroit-based architect and assistant professor at the U-M Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, Catie Newell is entranced by light and its relationship to architecture; the two seem to interact in a situational fashion, rather than separate entities. Newell encompasses this relationship by the two pieces showcased at the UMMA. Nightly, which is the collection of prints I mentioned earlier, uses the streetlights of Detroit as its subject. With this project, Newell investigated the two dimensions of the city: one that is clear at daylight, and one that thrives in the shadows of twilight. Overnight, the three-dimensional piece, works in collaboration with the gallery’s exposure to light in order to serve as a living entity of how architecture behaves in light and dark.

Catie Newell’s Overnight exhibit sparked a fascination of the elusive behavior of light in me that I did not know I would have. This exhibit will be open until November 6 from 8:00am to 5:00pm, so please do come out to see Newell’s work!

PREVIEW: Detroitography talk + exhibit

What is Detroitography?

It is a combination of the city of Detroit & cartography/geography–an organization that curates a collection of maps focused on Detroit and its extensive history.

This exhibition of traveling maps will set down at the South Thayer Building, starting with a talk by founder Alex Hill.

Here you can get a preview of the types of wonderful maps you’ll be able to see.

When: November 1st at 12:30

(The Detroitography exhibition runs Nov 1 – Dec 15)

Where: 202 S. Thayer Building 

Price: FREE!


PREVIEW: The Haunted Belfry at the Lurie Tower


Students in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance are putting on a haunted performance on the top floor of the Lurie Tower on North Campus. The tower will be decorated for Halloween and the students will be dressed in costume, playing eerie music on the 53-bell, 43-ton Charles Baird carillon. A carillon is the instrument typically at the top of towers, consisting of at least 23 cup-shaped bells. At this Halloween-themed event, the students have practiced spooky music to be played.