Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


The humanities: It’s not about what they are; it’s what we do

November 16, 2009

Due to an overwelmingly positive response, we wanted to share the following article with you, which was published in a variety of newspapers throughout Indiana, including the Indianapolis Star on Nov. 4, under the headline “Get in touch with the humanities.”

By Keira Amstutz, president and CEO of the Indiana Humanities Council. 

Once, after a dance performance, Isadora Duncan was asked what the dance meant. Her response has become famous as a terse description of art’s purpose: “If I could tell you what it meant,” she said, “there would be no point in dancing it.”

In my role as president and CEO of the Indiana Humanities Council, I often find myself being asked, “What are the humanities?” And sometimes, like Isadora Duncan, I think it’d be easier to dance than answer the question.

Why? Because sometimes describing the humanities is like describing the wind – it’s easier to say what it does than what it is. It swirls leaves on an autumn sidewalk. It teases a little girl’s hair. It pulses through a wheat field like waves on a landlocked sea.

So, I thought I’d explain what the humanities are by explaining what you can do – and perhaps already do – in, through and with them every day.

I don’t pretend that this list is conclusive; I know it only scratches the surface. But I hope that it will, in its breadth and diversity, allow you to create – and, more important, put into action – your own definition of the humanities. So, let’s get started:

Read a novel. Read a poem. Read the directions on a shampoo bottle. Read the Declaration of Independence. Read a blog. Read an essay. Read a review of a book you’ll never read. Read a sacred text. Read your diary. Read to a kid. Read the liner notes to an old jazz album. Read the lyrics to a song you love. Read a libretto.

See a play with a friend. Go early. Wander through the theater. View the stage from different angles. Peruse the program. Learn about the actors. Watch the play. Study the set. Notice the lighting. Listen to reactions. Find a place to have coffee. Discuss the play. Go to another play. Repeat the process.

Visit a courtroom. Visit a classroom. Visit an old teacher. Visit a park. Visit a museum. Visit a library. Visit City Hall. Visit a college campus. Visit a craftsman’s workbench. Visit an artist’s studio.

Look at a piece of art. Study it. Step back. Look at the piece beside it. Ask yourself: Why are these pieces next to each other? Why is this art? Step back again. Ask yourself: Does the size of the room affect the way I look at the art? Step back again. How does seeing more change the way you see the art?

Listen to a band. Listen to a debate. Listen to a well-tuned machine. Listen to a podcast. Listen to a diner ordering dinner. Listen to a photographer describing a photo. Listen to an architect explaining a building’s design. 

Stop outside a building you pass every day; look at its design. Do you know the name for the architectural style? Do you like it? What appeals to you? What would you do differently? Get a book about architecture and learn about the style. Find other examples of that style and compare them. Find examples of other styles and compare them. Take a walk with a colleague and debate the architecture you see.

Attend a historic-home tour. Attend a lecture. Attend the symphony. Attend a gallery reception. Attend a festival. Attend a legislative session. Attend opening night (of anything). Attend a public forum.

Speak at a public forum. Sing in a choir. Yell “Bravo” at a concert. Ask a question. Tell someone your family’s history. Recite a poem. Describe a work of art. Say what you think.

Now, think about what you’ve done. You’ve examined, studied and reviewed something made by humans or something that makes us human. You’ve thought about it, pondered it and processed it. And you’ve talked about it, debated it and discussed it.

That’s what the humanities are.


Elvis, the King, and Michael, Prince of Pop, had much in common

August 28, 2009

By Molly Armstrong Head

Coming up on Hoosier History Live! this Saturday is a reprise of our “Elvis at Market Square Remembered”  show, with eyewitnesses Zach Dunkin and Rita Rose, then reporters for the old Indianapolis News and Indianapolis Star, respectively.  Zach had given the King’s concert at Market Square Arena a devastating review, and continued, for some time, to receive hate mail for “having killed Elvis Presley!”

I reflected on the Elvis show when Michael Jackson died this summer at the age of 50.  Elvis was dead at  44.  On the Elvis show I had learned that Elvis had been surrounded by “yes men” who were not necessarily of a mind to confront the star about his alcohol and drug abuse and other excesses.  I mean,  who could pull off an “intervention” on a super star, whether it’s Elvis or Michael?!  There is some similarity in the ultimate demise of both of these men which is very sad.  Certainly,  being a super star is not always a bed of roses!

The Hoosier History Live! Elvis show will air Sat., Aug. 29, at 11:30 a.m. and  Wed., Sept. 2, at 9:30 a.m. on  WICR 88.7 fm.  Or you can listen online by clicking WICR.


Top three reasons to check out Indy Jazz Fest

August 25, 2009

By Rich Dole, a professional freelance trombone player in the Indianapolis area, currently doing PR and Media Relations for Indy Jazz Fest and Owl Studios

This year’s Indy Jazz Fest is going to be, well, for a lack of a better term or phrase, it will be OUT OF SIGHT!! Why? Well, allow me to explain:

1. Instead of a couple of days, the 2009 Indy Jazz Fest presented by MARSH will be a full week! Starting at Clowes Hall on Sat., September 19 and ending Sat./Sun. September 26/27 at The Lawn @ White River State Park, with everything in between, the Indy Jazz Fest will have something for everybody. THAT’s 9 (NINE) DAYS of JAZZ!!!

2. The artist line-up for the 2009 Indy Jazz Fest is virtually a Who’s Who of today’s jazz artists! Check out this list:
Branford Marsalis
Marcus Miller
Poncho Sanchez
Garaj Mahal
Charlie Hunter
Nicholas Payton
Claudia Acuna
Randy Brecker
Rufus Reid
David Baker
Rob Dixon
Derrick Gardner
Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra

There is something for everybody there! Traditional Swingin’ Jazz, Salsa/Mambo/Latin jazz, Progressive/Modern Jazz, Brazillian Jazz, Big Band Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Funky Jazz and Jam Bands!

3. Like the wide and varied artist line-up, the sponsors the Indy Jazz Fest has is also a Who’s Who of Indianapolis Arts sponsors, including MARSH Supermarkets, Printing Partners, St. Vincent Health, Take Note, DCG, United Water and 88.7fm WICR to name a few.

All information one could ever need is available on the website:, including how/when/where to buy tickets to all concerts at all venues!

What are YOUR ‘Top Three’ reasons to attendIndy Jazz Fest?


Music for all

August 6, 2009

I retired my drum sticks long ago, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the art of percussion. My husband — a trumpet player — naturally has a soft spot for the brass. So we ventured out to Eastern Hancock High School last night to take in a run-through by the Santa Clara Vanguard — a performing Drum & Bugle Corps participating in this weekend’s Drum Corps International World Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium.

One of the world’s best, the Vanguard didn’t disappoint. For anyone who’s never been to a Drum Corps show, let me just say this: It isn’t your average halftime show. It’s an elite group of musicians and dancers giving it their all for 11 minutes — all for pride. The energy of the members — who are on the last leg of a North American tour that’s consisted of 10-12 hour practices, thousands of miles on a bus and weeks spent in high school gymnasiums, was amazing. And then, there’s the sound. Crisp, invigorating, moving, intense. The show, “Ballet for Martha,” is a beautiful composition that features a jig that will make you chuckle and a company front that will knock your socks off.

Check them out — and the other 39 bands — this weekend in Indianapolis. For more info, visit DCI.


I (Almost) Read That Book

March 20, 2009

Have you ever lied about reading a book? Or implied that you had when you hadn’t? A BBC poll revealed that two out of three Britons have lied about reading a book, primarily in order to impress someone.

The most frequently lied-about books were listed in the survey. I suspected that some of these books have not been read because of a common flaw — their length. So I checked Tolstoy’s War and Peace on The first version listed was 1296 pages, the second was 1424 pages. Interestingly, these editions were only $13.57 and $12.24 respectively (wow, less than 1 cent per page).

Needless to say, no one has read Remembrance of Things Past (A la recherce du temps perdu) by Marcel Proust. In actuality a series of 7 novels, it comes in at a total of 3,424 pages (Vintage). That said, I counted up the total number of pages in Harry Potter, also a series of 7 novels, and it came to 4,100 pages, yet everyone has read it. Maybe length isn’t the problem.

Personally, I’ve only read 3 of the 10 books on the “Liar’s Top Ten List”:  1984 (the most lied about book of all time, probably because it’s often assigned in junior high school), James Joyce’s Ulysses, and the Bible. Then there are 5 books I’ve thought about reading: War and Peace (see above, however), Madame BovaryRemembrance of Things Past (I studied German, not French, and yes, I read Magic Mountain), A Brief History of Time, and Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama. I just bought a copy of Dreams from My Father, in fact, but I haven’t read it yet. Sounds fascinating, though.

The remaining two on the list are Midnight’s Children and The Selfish Gene. I am not going to add them to the list of books I’ve thought about reading, but I will add them to the list of books I’ve looked up on Amazon.

Perhaps next we should ask: What is your favorite opera? I bet we could rack up quite a few little fibs with that question. Mine is La Boheme, of course, although I also enjoy The Ring and the ending to Faust. Here, let me hum a few bars . . . .


Our Land: Contemporary Art from the Arctic at the Eiteljorg

November 6, 2008

Back in September the Indiana Humanities Council made the final round of grand awards for 2008 (Don’t worry, 2009 is just around the corner and more grants are on their way. Start your application early.) Humanities Initiative Grants are awarded on a competitive basis three times per year and are judged on a variety characteristics. We receive a lot of grant applications and make a lot of awards. Helping so many projects from all over Indiana go from plans to reality is one of the cooler aspects of working here. (Truth be told, I have very little to do with the grants program. Fellow Hoosierati blogger, Nancy Conner is the workhorse of that operation and she does a phenomenal job.)

All of the grants awarded go toward programs in the public humanities and all of them are interesting and important. While I was away, two programs we gave grants to already happened. We awarded a grant to the Asian Help Services to host an Asian Festival back at the beginning of October. And we also gave a grant for a civic discussion on immigration hosted by IUPU-Columbus.

Now that I’m back from Texas and have more-or-less gathered my wits about me, I would like to tell about the next event we helped to fund before it happens.

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is opening a new exhibit, Our Land: Contemporary Art from the Arctic which is sponsored by Barnes and Thornburg and Dorit and Gerald Paul. There are two days of scheduled events planned to mark the exhibit’s opening and as part of those opening ceremonies the Eiteljorg is bringing in Kendra Tagoona and Charlotte Qamaniq to perform katajjaq, or Inuit Throat Singing.

This will truly be a unique experience for anyone that gets to enjoy it. Throat singing is a very old art and the Inuit variety is unique among cultures that practice throat singing. The IHC awarded the Eiteljorg funds for this part of their opening ceremonies and the accompanying talk where Kendra and Charlotte will talk about their culture and their own relationship with this part of their cultural heritage.

The full schedule of the two days of events is:

Schedule of events
November 15
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sale of Inuit art
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Family Activities:  Finger Puppets and Animal Carvings
10 a.m.                Lecture: The Evolution of Canadian Contemporary Inuit Art
Lorne Balshine, President of the Arctic Art Museum Society
Noon                    Peter Irniq builds an Inuksuk on the museum’s front lawn
1 p.m.                  Tour of Our Land: Contemporary Art from the Arctic
Ashley Holland, assistant curator of contemporary art
1 p.m.                  100 Days on Baffin Island: My Experiences with Inuit Culture, Craft and Charisma
John Huston, Arctic explorer
2:30 p.m.             Throat singers performance
November 16
1 p.m.                  Public tour of Our Land: Contemporary Art from the Arctic
2 p.m.                  Indianapolis Women’s Chorus Concert: Sound Sport

7 p.m.                  Indianapolis Women’s Chorus Concert: Sound Sport

Or go to the Eiteljorg website to read more about the exhibit (including a video of a throat singing duo.

For a little bit more on throat singing and it’s role in modern Arctic cultures, NPR did a story earlier this year.


Go Slugs!

August 20, 2008

Comes the news from my alma mater, the University of California at Santa Cruz, that the Grateful Dead has donated their complete archives to the University Library’s Special Collections. Believe me, this item made front page, above-the-fold news in the alumni newsletter. The Chancellor commented: “UC Santa Cruz is honored to receive this invaluable gift. The Grateful Dead and UC Santa Cruz are both highly innovative institutions, born the same year [1965]…” What is going to happen to this collection? Researchers will use it to study music and popular culture of the twentieth century. It’s a significant gift and quite a coup for UCSC.

The campus is also known for its mascot, the Banana Slug, which made ESPN’s top ten list of best college nicknames. It seems that when UCSC decided to start competing in NCAA Division III, the administration tried to change the unofficial name to Sea Lions. The students of course protested, and the Banana Slug prevailed.

So here’s my point. Getting back to the Grateful Dead, we learn that all kinds of people have archival material in their possession, that the late twentieth century is now a legitimate field for historical research, and that sometimes scholars approach their work with great glee. This is a scholarly community that understands the joy of the humanities and how they interface with our very personal lives.

Way to go, Slugs!

This entry was posted by: Nancy