Giving voice to the heart

first_img New faculty: Yvette J. Jackson Music professor composes pieces to immerse audiences in narrative Comprehensive study explains that it is universal and that some songs sound ‘right’ in different social contexts, all over the world In massive effort fueled by passion and drive, Harvard College Opera creates ‘Cendrillon’ Nature often serves as muse for Chaya Czernowin, but the composer turned to one of art’s most beguiling sources of inspiration for her new work, which just premiered at Deutsche Oper Berlin.Czernowin’s opera, “Heart Chamber,” transforms one of the largest music theaters in Germany ­­into an intimate space “where there is nobody else,” she said, and where the beauty, as well as the pain and uncertainty associated with falling in love grabs center stage. “I take this huge hall,” said Czernowin, Harvard’s Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music Composition, “and it becomes the soul of somebody.”But exactly how do you craft a piece of music around such a singularly personal experience and make it resonate with each member of an audience of 1,600? Czernowin’s solution is to incorporate all of the voices that simultaneously swirl through the mind of anyone who has ever had his or her heart filled, or broken, by love. To capture that complicated emotional landscape she employs just a pair of main characters in “Heart Chamber” — a man and a woman who fall in love — and two other singers who represent the duality of her protagonists’ inner thoughts.,The new production also includes a 16-person chorus that gives voice to the social forces that often weigh heavily on views of love and marriage. “The choir is actually part of what is happening in the soul of the protagonist,” said the Israeli-born composer, “because they are the voice of society which says: ‘Oh yes, we must create families, we must have children.’”Currently on leave from her Harvard teaching duties while the Rieman and Baketel Fellow for Music at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Czernowin said her work deals with the concepts of “identity, and fractured identity.”“I never believed that a person speaks in one voice, and I never believed that one voice is the soloist. And so I’ve dealt with the fracturing but also the enlarging, or diving in, or zooming in on the psychological depths of someone and really showing the complexity of all the voices inside.”For instrumentation, “Heart Chamber” blends an orchestral score with quirky acoustic elements periodically projected throughout the hall, such as the plinking of a comb as someone runs a finger over its teeth, or the clack of plastic hand clappers. The combination of familiar and unfamiliar sounds is designed to take the listener into a deeper “subconscious space,” she said. “There are things which are very intimately known to the ear, and there are things that are absolutely unknown, and the mixture is very strange.”,Exploring the inner workings of the mind and the soul with her compositions is familiar ground for Czernowin. Her last opera, “Infinite Now,” similarly places the listener “inside of a head/heart/body,” notes its online description. Based on a play about World War I chaos and a Chinese story about a woman trapped in a house, the piece examines “how we continue to live even if we feel we don’t have control of our life,” she said. As she labored over that earlier score, the thought of capturing in music and song something as unsettling and complicated as falling in love was never far from her mind.“Through that time and even before I had the idea of something, which is much more fragile, about the risk, not about the assurance, of our continued existence,” said Czernowin. “‘Infinite Now’ is about getting there. [With ‘Heart Chamber’] I wanted to do something that is much more fragile, much more vulnerable,” where the outcome is much less clear.Listeners and critics have embraced her approach. A capacity crowd responded with a series of ovations at the final curtain on opening night — the first time in its history the Berlin opera house has sold out for the premiere of a contemporary piece. Reviewers have praised the production, with one calling it “overwhelming and touching in an unfamiliar way.” In an online post, Anne Shreffler, Harvard’s James Edward Ditson Professor of Music, wrote: “If Czernowin’s aim is to let us feel and sense what it’s like to be ‘under the skin’ of the protagonists, then her music also allows us access to our own inner emotional states, if we are ready to take it on.”Leading her audiences into foreign musical territory is a driving force for Czernowin, who uses her compositions to push boundaries, ask questions, and challenge listeners to delve a little deeper into something unexpected. Still, she knows the topic of accessibility in contemporary music is unavoidable. Related Music everywhere A student-run show, from start to finish “From my point of view it is kind of sad because for a lot of people who write new music, which is more inquisitive or speculative, we are actually enabling a totally different avenue than the very accessible, chewable, use-and-throw away-thing that we all engage in 24/7.“I am actually very proud if people tell me, ‘It took me four times of listening to your piece but then I actually got something that I didn’t experience before.’ For me, that continued curiosity is a compliment.”During her Radcliffe fellowship Czernowin plans more experiments with form and using nature as a creative spark. She is currently working on a one-hour piece for chamber orchestra titled “The Fabrication of Light,” inspired by the sun that streams through the windows of her Newton home.“I love the idea of light, and how light changes every place it touches, and what it means to have blinding light, or to have only very little light, or colored light that filters through leaves so that it is almost green,” said Czernowin. “All these forms of light and how they come out of each other or change in their environment inspire me.”last_img read more

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The Chosen One: The “Bald Mamba” is exactly what the Lakers need to win a championship

first_imgCaruso’s positive impact on the team not only manifests itself through his intangibles but also through advanced statistics. Currently, Caruso has the third highest real plus-minus on the Lakers, behind only Davis and James. (According to ESPN, real plus-minus is an advanced statistic that “estimates how many points each player adds or subtracts, on average, to his team’s net scoring margin for each 100 possessions played.”) Caruso also has the 20th best defensive real plus-minus in the entire league, which is a true testament to his defending abilities.  Instead of stuffing the stat sheet with dominant scoring, Caruso became Texas A&M’s all-time leader in steals and assists, earning the 2015-16 All-SEC Defensive Player of the Year and an All-SEC Second Team selection in the process. But somehow, Caruso evolved from an undrafted, overlooked rookie to a beloved, electrifying NBA player earning valuable minutes on a title-contending Los Angeles Lakers team, all while becoming one of the internet’s favorite NBA players.  These aspects of his game are not new by any means. In reality, Caruso has been a particularly outstanding role player ever since his days as an Aggie. Texas A&M senior point guard Alex Caruso did not hear his name get called during the 2016 NBA Draft. Considering his college statline, that shouldn’t have been too surprising. Although he started 120 games in his college career, Caruso didn’t average more than 9.1 points per game in any season.  Caruso also provides energy and excitement through his powerful dunks and flashy highlights. Every time Caruso rises to throw it down, the whole crowd seems to stand on its feet. In fact, every time it happens, the highlight almost always inevitably finds its way onto ESPN.  Kyle Kuzma has seemingly regressed since last season, Danny Green is a one-dimensional shooter, Rajon Rondo can’t shoot at all, Avery Bradley is limited offensively, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is inconsistent and big men Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee are aging and prone to fouling. It’s not hard to see why fans doubt the Lakers’ supporting cast at times. The truth is that Caruso is one of the Lakers’ most popular players even though he plays on the same team as superstars like LeBron and Davis. Part of the reason that Caruso is so hyped stems from the fact that he looks nothing like your typical NBA player.  This is why Caruso has been able to shine as a young role player who gives the Lakers energy on both ends of the floor. Caruso plays with constant hustle; he’s pesky and smothering on defense and a capable shooter and ball handler on offense.  But though Davis and LeBron James have been almost unstoppable, questions still surrounded the rest of the team.  Caruso’s time at Texas A&M molded him into a player who provides value in numerous ways for the Lakers now. Although it did not lead to the flashy stats that would have gotten him drafted, it is surely paying off today as he has found his niche with the Lakers.center_img This number may actually be Caruso’s most significant stat because it is tied for the highest on the team with Lebron. Caruso’s net rating alone should demonstrate just how impactful he is when he is on the floor, especially since he doesn’t just play in junk time.  The hype and energy surrounding Caruso is by no means a distraction to himself or the team. Rather, it is contagious and has given the Lakers’ bench life. No other player on the squad has the same kind of vitality and spirit that Caruso does, which further proves his value to the team and should be a positive factor in the playoffs, where the intensity reaches a whole different level.  Though he was just the fourth-leading scorer on the team, his tenacity and court vision made him a major factor in the Aggies’ 2016 NCAA Tournament run. Heading into this season, the whole league was aware the Lakers would be competing for a title after adding Anthony Davis to their roster. Up until the coronavirus suspended regular season play, the Lakers were meeting almost all expectations, holding the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference for almost the entire season while a number of other contenders — the L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets — lagged behind.  At 26 years old, Caruso looks like your everyday white guy and is already showing signs of baldness on the top of his head that he can’t hide with his signature white headband. People find it hilarious that someone who looks the way he does is capable of delivering show-stopping dunks and playing at such a high level. As a result of his nonexistent hairline and his fierce play style, fans have affectionately nicknamed him “The Bald Eagle.”  In addition, Caruso proves his value while he is on the court through his season net rating of 10.3. (Net rating measures the team’s point differential while the player is on the court; the higher it is, the better.)  Caruso’s evolution is so significant, in fact, that I think the “Bald Mamba” provides the exact spark the Lakers need to propel them to an NBA championship this year (if the Finals even happens).  All of these things contributed to Caruso’s rise from undrafted rookie to a reliable rotation player with a weirdly massive internet following. Don’t get me wrong, Caruso is still young and needs to develop further, but you can’t deny the enthusiasm and buzz his persona offers. The legend of Alex Caruso just needs one more thing: a championship ring. And from what he’s contributed to the Lakers so far, it’s clear that Caruso has what it takes to help the Lakers get one.  Harrison Cho is a sophomore writing about sports. His column, “The Chosen One,” runs every other Thursday.last_img read more

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