Shared Studios Portal
By Alyssa Grubbs
Nursing Major (League City, Texas)
October 17, 2018
I visited the portal that is located at Texas State University. When you walk inside there is a screen that reaches from the top of the container to the bottom of the container. I was able to look directly at a screen and be able to have a conversation with another person in a different country. When I first heard that we were talking to someone from Mexico City I had no idea what to expect.
We talked to a girl named Celia. One of our first questions to her was “How was the weather there?” We then explained the similarities and differences of how we live our day-to-day lives. For example we explained that we drive anywhere to get to where we need to. She explained to us that she walks everywhere due to Mexico City being very crowded. Being able to walk instead of driving is so much easier and more time efficient. We explained to her that biking is becoming more popular here and offered the idea of riding a bike instead of walking. She said that she never learned how to ride a bike, but she does knows how to roller skate. I found that very surprising, but very cool! This made me realize that different things we learn pertain more to the environment that we live in. In this case, transportation differs. It could be roller skating, driving, or maybe riding a bike. For Celia living in Mexico City, she learns what she needs to help her in the environment she lives in.
I really enjoyed the portal experience. It was a great opportunity to be able to experience another country, but still be here at Texas State. It is so crazy to think about what is occurring in our lives, and how in a different place, at the same time, many other things are occurring that we don’t even know about. One major takeaway I got from the portal experience is that our communities we live in help shape what we do and have an influence on the people we become.
By Hannah Sipper
Biology Major (McAllen, Texas)
September 28, 2018
This year’s Common Experience theme is innovation. I hear a lot of companies throw that word around in ads and the like. Being an “innovative” company, group, or person is the way to be, and the way to sell product, particularly if that product is yourself. While being mindful of your actions and how they could potentially innovate is a wonderful thing that takes practice, I also am a staunch believer in the natural way. People are going to keep adding on to, changing, synthesizing to end up with something better than what they had before. It is what we are. That being said, new does not equate to innovative. The end result of an inventive endeavor has to solve a unique problem, provide some benefit the older model did not, or be better as a whole to qualify as innovative. Pierrot Lunaire both cemented this belief and inspired a new one.
Pierrot Lunaire, a contemporary piece, was very skillfully played. The fault was not with the musicians. The piece involves poetry that is chanted, and the poems detail the unfortunate life of a tragic, horny clown in three parts: sonnets to the moon and sensuality, a surreal nightmare filled with violence and depravity, and a nostalgic trip back home that makes both Pierrot the clown and the audience wish they were somewhere else. The poems themselves are thought provoking; and the character, Pierrot, is a largely analyzed metaphor for man’s darkest urges. To summate, the components of this performance included incredibly precise musicians, talented vocalists, and good poetry. What could possibly go wrong?
The fatal folly was with the composer himself. Arnold Schoenberg’s mission as a composer of music was to find a new way to write it. An entirely new way. The author of the poems expressly asked him to do so. Music, however, is one of the most difficult things in the world to innovate. A large amount of musical ‘innovation’ so to speak has been in unfettering bold tonality and emotion, setting aside old rules of harmony that Mozart and Bach composed within, and moving into the romantic, sweeping passions of Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. The rules may have changed, but music itself cannot. Frequency and vibration are constants, and the human ear will always read them a certain way. Tonality, therefore, is not a rule to be broken but rather a universal truth. The emotion portrayed through certain frequencies sounding together is truly a spiritual phenomenon in that people all over the world can hear and understand, without words or even context.
Arnold Schoenberg, in his desperation to stray so completely from the norm, divorced himself from any and all musical beauty. He managed to put meld together singularly gorgeous instrumentals in such a way that they sounded like nothing. The clashing tones across the aisle rendered their counterparts null and void, even to the trained ear. Instead of a line or a pattern, one simply received a cacophony of confusion; not even in such a way as to communicate a nightmarish or morbid atmosphere. I felt as though so much more could have been done to supplement text with music and to have words be music. I felt as though the richness of the story and the salaciousness of the character were entirely lost in the din of misplaced "innovation."
How, then, can music be improved upon; refreshed? I believe the answer lies not in denying its nature, but exploring what else we as musicians could be doing with our hands, and with our instruments. Left hand pizzicato, Bartok pizz., and Col Legno (Striking the string with the wooden end of the bow as opposed to the hair) are all largely unexplored ways to use our fingers and the wood of our bows to extract a new kind of sound from our strings. In addition, harmonics, natural divisions of the string at which the instrument with ethereally sing, could be made more extensive use of. The mechanics of how music is made can be altered, even if tonality cannot. There is always a new pattern. A way to combine the elements in such a way that an entirely original impression is given. In a way, there no such thing as an original melody, as there is no way to invent a new note. Ergo, I suggest we stop trying.
To conclude, Pierrot Lunaire has been a cautionary tale and a learning experience. In our efforts to innovate we must take a cue from Michael Crighton in Jurassic Park and acknowledge that just because we can, does not mean we should. I know that when it comes to music we are in the right room; looking in the wrong corner. The answer to the question of innovating sound is much simpler than we are tempted to think. Moreover, I believe this process will unfurl as a natural deduction of the past. We’ll be there before we know it.
LBJ Distinguished Lecture: José Hernández
By Lauren Fulenwider
Psychology Major (Abilene, Texas)
September 25, 2018
I attended the LBJ Distinguished lecture on September 25. José Hernández spoke of his whole life journey thus far. He started at the very beginning, with how his dad was a migrant worker in Mexico and the U.S., and eventually became a U.S. citizen at the age of eighteen. […] He claims that a huge monumental moment in his life was when his second-grade teacher, Mrs. Young, explained to his dad that he cannot keep moving around California and Mexico every three months if he wants his children to have a strong, rooted education. He later goes on to say that he ended up inviting Mrs. Young to the launching of his first mission, because he credits a lot of his success to her. He also recalled the moment he learned he first wanted to become an astronaut. He was watching the first moon landing on TV. When he told his dad he wanted to be an astronaut, he gave him a recipe for success. First, know what you want. Second, know how far you are from the goal. Third, make a road map to your success. Fourth, prepare for the challenge. And lastly, work hard and never give up. After talking about his childhood, he talked about his first mission into space in detail. After his whole speech, he allowed some people to ask questions. One of his answers really stuck with me and made me tear up. The question was: what is the most memorable thing you saw in space? He said two things: 1) Seeing earth from outer space is completely different than seeing a globe. There are no colored continents, and most importantly there are no borders. He said that is one of the most profound things he saw, that North America was all one. 2) He watched many sunrises, 214 of them. He recalled being on the dark side of earth and watching the sun come up from the other side. He said he could see the sun rays over our atmosphere, and he noticed just how thin it really is. And in that moment, he became a tree hugger. It was incredible hearing him talk about overcoming his adversity, and I feel completely inspired.