Wednesday

March 9th, 2005

 

Arts

Volume 22, Issue 22

A different kind of classical music
Ahn Trio perfoms at Sangamon Auditorium

By Courtney Smith - Photographer

I’ll admit it. I’ve never been a huge classical music fan. I like my songs to have words so I can sing along, horribly.
But I went to see the Ahn Trio with an open mind, having heard that they were a “different” kind of classical music. That statement was confirmed as soon as the show began. The sisters, Lucia, Angella, and Maria who play the piano, violin, and cello walked on to the stage wearing a mix of velvet, leather, lace, tye-dye and sparkles. They definitely looked like rock stars, but could they live up to their outfits?
They began with a song called “Winter” and it was just what you would expect from the composer of songs for the movies “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Dr. Zhivago.” With its sweeping melodies and unexpected tempo change, the audience quickly realized that this was not Mozart’s classical music.
Next was “Swing Shift”, a song with six movements. Written by Kenji Bunch, the song describes New York City from dusk until dawn. Unfortunately, somewhere around midnight my mind began wandering. I was quickly brought out of my thoughts, in fact, I jumped out of my seat by the sounds of Angella and Maria beating their bows against their instruments.
They were actually simulating the sound of falling rain with their cello and violin. It was bizarre, yet amazing. The song ended with the equally amazing feat of the trio imitating a club DJ spinning records. I have no idea how they did it, but it was very cool. It made me wish I had kept up with those piano lessons like my mom told me.
Most people probably think that classical music is just for the ears, but with the Ahns, it is also extremely visual. From their bright costumes to the moody red, blue and purple lighting; they dazzled the eyes just as much.
Another thing that was fun to watch was the interaction between the sisters. When one would play a solo, they others would answer back. They encouraged each other and challenged each other through their music, body language, and facial expressions. It was not unusual to see one sister finish a solo and raise her eyebrows towards another sister as if saying, “Top that.” The sisters obviously have fun together. The audience was having fun, too. That was clear by the amount of CDs bought during intermission. The second act began with a slow moving song called “Appalachia Waltz.” It was very traditional, almost like a wedding song. It got boring after a few minutes and I found myself wishing they’d start beating their instruments again.
The next song was “Mr. Twitty’s Chair,” which was written about an old man who sat on his porch and inexplicably yelled a people as they walked past. Perhaps the oddest song subject of the night, but a definite toe-tapper. Somehow during the song, Maria had the audience amazed by actually making her cello song like an old man. Don’t ask me how she did it, it would take a much better writer than I to explain it.
The lively pace continued with “Skylife” a song that rotated between a backwoods hoedown, a smoky lounge and a Beethoven concerto. One stand out song was “Riders on the Storm” originally performed by The Doors. Hearing the Jim Morrison classic played as a literal classic was mind blowing. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud.
That one song almost convinced me to buy their CD, but not quite. Although the show was great and the Ahn Trio is amazingly talented, it’s not really the type of music to listen to everyday. I’m not now a classical music fanatic, but I’ll definitely see the Ahns again next time they are in town.


“Merge” is a celebration
Exhibit features photography by African American women

By Gabrielle Wiegand - Feature Writer

Step into my confessional: Before seeing “Dogville,” I made up my mind to hate it.
A few years ago, I was looking forward to writer-director Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” (2000), a musical starring the Icelandic pop-singer Björk. But “Dancer” was a punishing, soul-crushing film that ends by belting the audience across the face. My life is 140 minutes shorter, and for what?
Hence, I was not looking forward to “Dogville,” but then something surprising happened.
Dogville is a small town in the Rocky Mountains, literally at the end of the road. The townsfolk look tired and dirty, like they just stepped out of a Farm Security Administration photo, and it is clear that the still-raging Great Depression has taken its toll. One character yells at his son for giving their dog a bone that still had a bit of meat on it.
One day, self-appointed town leader Tom Edison (Paul Bettany) is walking the street of Dogville when he hears gunshots in the distance. After a little while, he sees Grace (Nicole Kidman) trying to steal the dog’s bone. When a black Cadillac pulls into town, Tom hides Grace in the abandoned silver mine while he convinces the gangsters that the woman they are looking for must have gone another way.
Tom has been looking for a way to task his fellow citizens, to see how well they can accept a gift, and Grace needs to gain their trust in return for shelter and acceptance. She decides to offer to help the people of Dogville, and though everyone says they do not need anything done, she is soon working a full day.
Before long, the police come through, first saying Grace is missing and then that she is wanted for a recent bank robbery on the West Coast. Grace evades the law each time, and though the people of Dogville know she could not have robbed the bank —she had been in town the whole time — they decide she should work a bit harder if she wants to continue to enjoy their protection.
Grace, true to her name, does not complain as the townsfolk demand and extract more and more from her. Even though she and Tom declared their love for each other, she has kept their relationship chaste. When her treatment grows worse, Tom must eventually choose between Grace and Dogville.
At this point, at two-and-a-half of the film’s nearly three hours, it was shaping up to be another “Dancer in the Dark.” Had I not been watching the film on my own television, I might have gotten violent with the appliance.
Von Trier’s female leads are often women who silently, stoically accept their miserable conditions for the sake of principle or some simple-minded idea. But unlike Björk’s character in “Dancer,” Grace is not stupid and she does have a limit to what she can withstand.
Ultimately, “Dogville” is about human nature. Grace says to another character, “Dogs only obey their own nature, so why shouldn’t we forgive them?”
“Dogs can be taught many useful things,” he responds, “but not if we forgive them every time they obey their own nature.”
In von Trier’s highly stylized world, there is no middle ground, and Grace must decide whether to forgive or punish.
“Dogville” takes place on a highly theatrical set, with no walls or roofs and just a few props. The houses, street, and shrubbery are marked in chalk on a bare, black studio floor, and beyond the narrow confines of Dogville is vast nothingness — white nothing during the day and black nothing at night. Even the dog is a chalk outline.
The effect of this pared-down set is jolting at first, but its utility quickly becomes apparent. In almost every shot, one’s eyes never wander to paintings on the wall or the mountains in the distance because those distractions are not present. Attention is always on the actors, even when none are in the foreground.
The characters must respect the imaginary walls — they cannot see or pass through them. The audience, however, can often see what is going on in several houses at once. Sometimes, as when some of the men begin doing something terrible to Grace, it is telling to see how oblivious the rest of the town is and what Tom does about it — or rather does not do about it.
Lars von Trier has famously never been to America, yet he claims that America’s status as a superpower makes us fair game for filmic exploration. How close or far from the mark he hits is a judgment I shall leave to you.
His distance was a source of some criticism around the time of “Dancer in the Dark,” a film that some (understandably, I think) perceived as anti-American. But that criticism only emboldened von Trier, who decided to create an American trilogy, of which “Dogville” is part one.
Filming on part two, “Manderlay,” has reportedly been completed. While “Dogville” is better than von Trier’s previous American film, let’s not provoke him any further. I wouldn’t want to lose another 140 minutes.


“Dogville” will be shown this Friday at 7:00 p.m. in Brookens Auditorium. The screening is sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs through the Independent & Foreign Film Series; admission is free. Running time: 177 minutes. The film is rated R for violence and sexual content.

 

 

A different kind of classical music

“Merge” is a celebration

 

 

 

 
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