Wednesday, December 1, 2010

*~! Surrealism/ 21st Century !~*

Consider a piece of art, music, or writing that has been “revised” and turned into something new. How do the differences between the original and the “revision” represent the shift in values across time and culture? Compare and contrast the period characteristics of these two works. 


Surrealist Salvador Dali painted “The Persistence of Memory” in 1931. It was a painting which had several melted clocks in what appears to be some sort of desert or open plain. Also, in the center there is a piece of a person’s face with long eyelashes. The meaning behind this painting from what I have read is that Dali was inspired by dreams and the unconscious mind. When you dream, nothing has an exact form and cannot be fully interpreted. Dali also was concerned with time and how when a person dreams, they are not aware of time; it is not fixed and can be very hazy. The orange clock in the lower right corner of the painting is covered with ants which Dali commonly associates with death. Maybe he meant this as a death of time, in a sense because time isn’t certain when dreaming. Dali studied Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity and used that also as a basis for this work. Einstein’s general theory contains the statement that “a clock runs more slowly in regions with low gravitational potential”. Hence, the open space which I now can associate with the moon and outer space because of the shift in gravitational pull from earth to there.

As a newer aged painting, I chose a Volkswagen ad for the new 2010 Polo BlueMotion automobile created in 2008. It’s a car that is said to have very low gas consumption which, in this century, is a big deal because consumers are searching for ways to save money on gas with the rising gas prices. The ad has the same open plain concept as “The Persistence of Memory” and has an oil company owner crying with his hand extended against a fuel gauge of the Volkswagen car which is on full. There is also a “closed” sign on his arm symbolizing the companies being put out of business by this car. Also, there is an oil truck near the middle that appears to be deflating. Just like in Dali’s painting, there are ants near the bottom carrying a gas can, and staying with the concept that ants were used to suggest death, this could be death to running out of gas.

The two works are centered on different views. When the Dali painting was done, there was a focus on the imagination and being free from conventions and reason. Also, many tried to interpret dream and reality together. When the Volkswagen ad was done, economic problems were being portrayed such as the rising gas price.

*~! 18th Century !~*

Find a couple of different visual iterations of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Compare and contrast them. What is the effect of the visual representation alongside the poetic lines?

Paradise Lost was an epic poem written by John Milton describing the Fall of Man. Over the years many artists have worked to put their own illustrations to Milton’s work. I chose William Blake, Gustave Dore, and Titian as examples of some of the better illustrations that really capture the moment where Satan is trying to convince Eve to eat from the forbidden tree, which occurs in Lines 733-779 of Book IX. After being approached by Satan, Eve talks out the situation to herself on whether or not to eat the fruit because she knows of the consequences that will affect her and Adam as well.

First, I chose to look at William Blake’s illustrations and the one I chose was brightly colored with the Tree of Knowledge in the center, Eve on one side of the tree and Adam on the other side. Satan is actually wrapped around Eve and is placing the fruit into her mouth with his mouth. Some serpents, or snakes, wrap around their prey first and squeeze them to death, then bite them with their poisonous fangs which kill the prey. Satan, in this picture, appears to be doing just that, wrapping his body around Eve to set her up for “the kill”. Instead of poisonous fangs, he has the forbidden fruit in his mouth. Also, the way Eve is holding Satan shows that she has been fully convinced because she seems to be holding him with a gentle touch with no struggle or sign of uneasiness. 


Secondly, I chose Gustave Dore’s interpretation. His work is in grayscale with the tree seeming ominous and less joyous than Blake’s tree. Satan is not as close to Eve as in Blake’s either. He is in the forefront of the picture with his head turned towards Eve I guess to observe what she’s doing. Adam once again is not really involved, sitting in the back as if daydreaming. Also, there is a light shining on Eve which can be representative of when actors give their soliloquies on stage and everything becomes dark except the spotlight on them. This is the scene starting at line 744 where Eve begins to decide whether or not to eat the fruit. 


Lastly, I chose Titian’s iteration of the same scene. His is very much different from Blake’s and Dore’s because he has Adam and Eve actually interacting with one another. Adam seems to be trying to push Eve back so that she won’t take the fruit from Satan. Another difference is that Satan appears to be a child rather than the typical serpent, due to his childlike hand descending from the top of the illustration holding the fruit.

All of these representations of Eve’s temptation seem to capture the basic plot of Milton’s Paradise Lost. The main differences are that Blake and Dore have Adam unaware of what is going on with Eve and Satan, but in Titian’s interpretation, Adam is actually taking part in the interaction between Eve and Satan. Having the visual next to the lines of the poem really help to draw a picture in your head of what is really going on and gives the reader several ways to look at the scene.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

*~! Romanticism !~*

Examine alternate pieces by a composer, artist, or writer that we did talk about in class. How do these pieces affirm or call into question the period characteristics we've been discussing.

During the Romantic period, there was a definite shift from tradition, social structures, and logic to intuition, individualism, and imagination. Everything is more natural and free. In class, we listened to Smetana’s “The Moldau” and it was a beautiful symphonic poem about a river in the Bohemian Forest flowing throughout the green pastures and finally reaching the sea.
As an alternate piece, I chose Smetana’s “The Bartered Bride”. Its basic plot is about a marriage in which love conquers all despite parents and marriage brokers who are trying to destroy the couple’s marriage. This piece starts off with low, deep tones and a fast speed, and it gets louder near the middle with softer, higher-pitched instruments. Then, near the end, the piece slows down initially and finishes with a fast paced ending. You can imagine the story in your head as you’re listening to it, which is the purpose of an art song; to allows the listeners to hear the stay through the composition.
There is definite texture in this piece with the different instruments and sounds used due to the technological improvements on certain instruments as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Also, orchestra size increased rapidly during the romantic period yielding a larger range as well. Finally, “The Bartered Bride” embodies the concept of the Romantic period where there is no more form and where imagination is used to express emotions of the musician.

*~! China !~*

Discuss a piece of the textbooks that we haven't talked about in class.

I chose Lu Xun’s “Diary of a Madman” because the introduction to it seemed intriguing. This story is ultimately a piece which criticizes the traditional culture of Chinese societies. The Chinese have wanted to be independent and have their own cultural identity, and the writers of their time gave them the hope for that change. Lu Xun is one of the important writers and his story “Diary of a Madman” uses the idea of cannibalism to describe the influence the Chinese traditions have on its members.
In the beginning of the work, the narrator visits his older brother and finds out that his younger brother died due to illness. The older brother gives the narrator the younger brother’s diaries. In the diaries are accounts where the younger brother feels he is a targeted victim in a gang of cannibals, including his own brother. He would walk the streets and everyone would give him malicious looks. He described some of the faces as being green-colored, and I immediately associated that with greed and hunger. The narrator ends up locked in a house and speaks about change from the cannibalistic traditions and is ignored. At the end, the narrator questions whether or not he had once been involved in the acts he’s speaking out against as a child, which is where Lu Xun’s ironic twists come into play. Lu Xun also uses his famous “Save the Children…” line to end this work. I interpreted this last statement as Lu Xun telling everyone to not allow their children to grow up learning traditional values which are unethical. The way children learn these ways is from the parent’s teachings. So, if the children are not taught old values, then they can grow up and be real human beings.
“Diary of a Madman” also represents the characteristics of the Chinese period. There is an apparent sense of a hierarchy with the emphasis on Elder, Young, and Old in the titles of some of the characters. Also, some of Confucius’s teachings came into play such as tradition and the hope of a perfect unity because the narrator actually mentions that “all they’d have to do is give up that way of thinking, and then they could travel about, work, eat, and sleep in perfect security”. Finally, this work is a great example of having rigidity because the traditions of the culture seem to be unchangeable.

*~! 20th Century !~*

What art is hanging at the White House or another location? Knowing what you know about the period characteristics and themes, why might these pieces have been chosen?

Several presidents have come and gone over the years and some tend to leave their own persoanl mark on the White House with the paintings they choose to display throughout the White House. I chose three instances during the twentieth century and even some years after which show how the art displayed has changed.

In 1963, after John F. Kennedy’s assasination, Impressionist Claude Monet’s painting entitled “Mornings on the Seine” was donated to be placed in the White House. Kennedy was a very adventurous, outdoorsy, nature-loving man. This painting shows a scene on a river in real time and the viewer sees it as it is. It also gives off a very calming and serene like feeling. It definitely embodies JFK’s style and emotion towards the great outdoors. This may have been the reason why “Mornings on the Seine” was chosen to be placed in the White House; as a remembrance or some type of memorial for Kennedy.

In 1966, Landscape artist Thomas Moran had the honor of having his painting placed in the White House as well during Lyndon B. Johnson’s term. It has been there ever since because it is said to represent the American landscape throught its permanent collection. I can see why it’s still there. This is a beautiful painting capturing nature as it is, similar to Monet’s painting.  There is a peacefulness and calmness about it which allows the viewer to connect to it and imagine that they are actually there, especially during stressful times in the White House when the president just needs to clear their mind and relax. This painting is also important to the White House because it inspired Congress to make the decision of forming one of the first national parks.

Laura Bush acquired a Modernist painting by Jacob Lawrence called “The Builders” in 2007. This painting was created during the end of World War II in 1947 when the world was still in much ciaos. This particular painting shows the type of teamwork that may have been taking place in order to “build up” their societies. The way it is painted displays the characteristic of fragmentation because, upon first glance, there seems to be sections blocked off and has a geometric feel to it. Also the people and ladders are painted in two dimension so the full work has a flattening appearance. “The Builders” is probably still in the White House because of its essential idea of many people working together towards a common goal which is an important concept to think about when serving as a president.

*~! Expressionism !~*

Do some reflection on another work by an artist, writer, or musician that you’ve been introduced to in class.

     In class we read Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” which was, in a nut shell, about a traveling salesman who awakes one morning and realizes that he has been transformed into a giant cockroach. He is obviously having some sort of psychological experience and Kafka does an excellent job of executing this nightmarish scenario. Because I enjoyed this work, I decided to look up another short story written by Kafka; “The Vulture” (Below). This story is about a young man being attacked by a vulture and allows the vulture to eat at his legs rather than his face hoping the vulture would leave once it’s finished with the man’s legs. Another man comes along and offers to shoot the vulture but he has to go home to get his gun. Right after the man leaves to get his gun, the vulture pecks the young man’s head with his beak and kills him. Kafka is known for writing about struggles and “The Vulture” is no exception. The young man couldn’t drive the vulture away and finally gave up becoming helpless. The vulture could represent the hardships in life essentially. He was going to continue to eat the man’s legs no matter what. In life, you are going to have continuous struggles and obstacles to prevail over up until the time of death. In this case, the vulture overheard the two men talking of shooting him, so he took action and killed the young man first. This goes along with Darwin’s idea of the survival of the fittest. The vulture took action in order to save his own life. This story is a typical Kafka story and the reader is put in an uncomfortable position because there is suffering, then Kafka gives us hope when the other man comes along and offers to help the young man. But then Kafka hits us with an unfortunate event in the end when the man is killed evoking some time of emotion in the reader which is a characteristic of the expressionist period.
     I also compared “The vulture” to an expressionist painting I found entitled “Against the Green Wall” by Chriss Pagani (Below). The title itself could be suggestive because there is a common expression where someone is said to have their “backs against the wall” when they are overwhelmed with too many things at one time. They can become helpless. In this painting, there is a weather girl who is fed up with all the lies and deception she brings to her viewers on the weather, so she commits suicide right in front of the screen where she broadcasts from. There is suffering, such as in “The Vulture” because of her job from day to day. There is helplessness because she feels there is nothing she can do to fix her problem at work. Finally, there is the similar unfortunate event where the woman kills herself. It, too makes the viewer a little uncomfortable and ties into the expressionist period by playing on the mind of the viewers just like Kafka.

“The Vulture” by Franz Kafka
A vulture was hacking at my feet. It had already torn my boots and stockings to shreds, now it was hacking at the feet themselves. Again and again it struck at them, then circled several times restlessly round me, then returned to continue its work. A gentleman passed by, looked on for a while, then asked me why I suffered the vulture. "I'm helpless," I said. "When it came and began to attack me, I of course tried to drive it away, even to strangle it, but these animals are very strong, it was about to spring at my face, but I preferred to sacrifice my feet. Now they are almost torn to bits." "Fancy letting yourself be tortured like this!" said the gentleman. "One shot and that's the end of the vulture." "Really ?" I said. "And would you do that?" "With pleasure," said the gentleman, "I've only got to go home and get my gun. Could you wait another half hour?" "I'm not sure about that," said I, and stood for a moment rigid with pain. Then I said: "Do try it in any case, please." "Very well," said the gentleman, "I'll be as quick as I can." During this conversation the vulture had been calmly listening, letting its eye rove between me and the gentleman. Now I realized that it had understood everything; it took wing, leaned far back to gain impetus, and then, like a javelin thrower, thrust its beak through my mouth, deep into me. Falling back, I was relieved to feel him drowning irretrievably in my blood, which was filling every depth, flooding every shore.

 "Against the Green Wall" by Chriss Pagani

Friday, September 24, 2010


Attend an event on campus or in town—summarize the event you attended and explain its relevance to HUMN2002 content. In what ways does this event represent interdisciplinarity? What fields might also be connected with this event that were not represented?

           The music of the Baroque Era was a concert set specifically to the Baroque period and embodied the instruments of that time as well as the style and form. There were eight total performances highlighting a range of composers including Bach, Handel, and Monteverdi. This concert was relevant to humanities 2002 because we actually highlighted Handel and Bach in class. Bach liked dressing up his composition, using certain chords to produce powerful sounds or using sharps and flats. He also introduced the continuum where two parts of a composition are played together in sonatas. For example, in the Purcell selection, “Music for a While (From Oedipus)”, the cello played the same tune continuously throughout the performance. The ornamentation of the music overall encompasses the characteristics of the Baroque era.
          The first selection, “Ohim√® dov’√® il mio ben” by Monterverdi, seems to represent Milton’s Paradise Lost. Part three of the song says “Thus my ambitious and too trifling aspirations had more power than my love”. This reminds me of how Eve wanted to eat the forbidden fruit selfishly because he wanted the power over Adam, and even though she loved him, she still wanted that superiority at first. The fourth part of this selection says “Ah, stupid world, and blind; ah, cruel fate! You make me the executioner of my own death” and it symbolizes the consequence of eating the fruit. She knows it was wrong and that death was an end result, yet, she still ate it.
          There was also a selection entitled “Triosonate” by Telemann which was a trio sonata. It was full embellishments and improvisations which relates back to the ornateness of this Era. The contrasts and dynamics of the composition reminded me of the Palace of Versailles, specifically the Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors is this huge space full of mirrors and chandeliers. Although each piece of the hall is ornate and has its own style, the whole space together screams grandiosity.
          So, the Baroque Era concert wasvry represntative of the Baroque characteristics and the period as  whole. It also called forth connections to other forms of work in this period such as Paradise Lost and the Palace of Versailles.