The Yale Alumni Magazine is owned and operated by Yale Alumni Publications, Inc., a nonprofit corporation independent of Yale University.
The content of the magazine and its website is the responsibility of the editors and does not necessarily reflect the views of Yale or its officers.
Lesson one: how to build it
Architecture schools rarely require students to build anything larger than a tabletop. For 40 years now, Yale’s School of Architecture has been an exception: every first-year class spends its second semester working on the design and construction of a small building for a real client. “The hothouse setting in architecture schools can be a little suffocating,” says architecture dean Robert A. M. Stern '65MArch. “This is a way to get in touch directly with the building process and with the people who use buildings.”
In 1967, Charles Moore, chair of what was then the architecture department, led his students to Kentucky to build a community center for the town of New Zion. The next year’s project, and another in 1975, were also in Appalachia. For logistical reasons all the later ones have been closer to home.
To look at the school’s past projects is to walk through a history of architecture’s fashions and concerns over the last 40 years. After the socially conscious projects of the 1960s and '70s, the projects became simpler in purpose but more elaborate in form, as architects liberated themselves from the austere strictures of modernism in the 1980s. Students built a series of fanciful picnic pavilions and concert stages during this period.
In 1989, when homelessness and affordable housing were rising on architecture’s agenda, the school began designing and building houses for first-time homebuyers in inner-city New Haven, an effort that continues today in collaboration with the nonprofit developer Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. “The houses have provided the richest outreach to the community,” says Paul Brouard '61MArch, who has managed the construction portion of the building project since 1972. “And they provide a more comprehensive pedagogical experience than the pavilions and camp cabins did.”
Most recently, students have worked to ensure that the houses are environmentally sound in their use of energy and materials. The last two houses have been fitted with solar panels with the help of a grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.
Object lesson: Ben Franklin’s “epitaph”
Benjamin Franklin liked to make people laugh, especially about things they took seriously. Franklin apparently enjoyed the laughter that this epitaph provoked, for after writing it sometime in his twenties, when he was quite healthy and at the start of his career as a master printer, he often copied it out for his friends. Since this gravestone text is so markedly facetious—his real gravestone reads simply: Benjamin and Deborah Franklin 1790—we have to ask whether he actually believed in the immortality of the soul and its reincarnation.
We know that he did not believe in the divinity of Christ or in any of the theological systems that human beings had devised to explain God to themselves. But he was not an atheist, and he did believe that the world around him was God’s creation. Franklin was the proprietor of a very successful print shop, but much of his leisure time was occupied with trying to decipher the operations and essential nature of the material world. And he had no doubt that the trees, rocks, oceans, and all living things inhabiting the globe remained exactly as God had made them in the original act of creation. He once casually remarked in a letter to a fellow investigator that “No Species or Genus of Plants was ever lost, or ever will be while the World continues.”
When Franklin was 79 he applied this law of the persistence of species to the souls of human beings, speaking again with the kind of humor that sparked the epitaph written 50-odd years before. In a letter to an old friend he expressed his admiration for God’s supreme craftsmanship in making a world that required no further additions or deletions. “I cannot suspect the Annihilation of Souls,” he wrote, “or believe that he will suffer the daily Waste of Millions of Minds ready made that now Exist, and put himself to the continual Trouble of making new ones. Thus finding myself to exist in the World, I believe I shall in some Shape or other always exist: And with all the Inconveniences human Life is liable to, I shall not object to a new edition of mine; hoping however that the Errata of the last may be corrected.” In his ceaseless searching for the laws governing nature, Franklin came to find a sort of theological understanding of himself and his world. Even at his most facetious, likening himself to the cover of an old book, he conveyed both gratitude for his existence and hope that his life had been a useful one.
25 years on a whim
On October 7, more than 100 women held hands in Dwight Hall and sang. They sang of shakin' the tree and the tracks of their tears. They sang of black coffee, visions of love, chains of fools, and boola boola. And they sang of Hammond.
They were alumnae of Whim 'n Rhythm, the senior women’s a cappella group, gathered to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary with a weekend of rehearsals, receptions, and reuniting that culminated in a Saturday night concert. Seven groups of women, each representing three or four consecutive years of Whim 'n Rhythm history, each performed three songs, making it easy to track changes in the group over 25 eventful years.
There had been other women’s singing groups at Yale before Whim 'n Rhythm, as well as a decade of female students pressuring the established male singing groups to go co-ed. But something clicked—rhythmically, whimsically, and sociopolitically—in 1981 that meant that women’s singing groups would never again be considered mere distaffenpoofs. In a 1981 article for the student magazine Aurora, 1982 Whim 'n Rhythm pitchpipe Sherry Agar wrote that the group’s founders “considered themselves feminists, and several were actively involved in the feminist movement. Fed up with singing about waiting for Mr. Right, and tired of toom-toom second alto parts ('walking viola lines'), they decided to use only arrangements that use women’s voices effectively, and lyrics that are not insulting to women.”
Times have apparently changed enough that the group from the classes of 2003 to 2005 could croon “The Lady is a Tramp” in the first person, with full-chorus splashy arm waves at its finale, and have the lyrics appreciated for their irony, self-deprecation, and empowerment.
The breadth of the selections at the Dwight Hall show—including Ani DiFranco, George and Ira Gershwin, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and the new wave synth-pop duo Yaz—showed how much the more traditional Yale singing groups still have to learn from Whim ’n Rhythm’s range, distinctive arrangements, and modern sensibilities. (And it’s not just the groups who might learn something. At the Whim concert, an audience member at the back of the hall remarked, “I don’t know any of these songs. When will they sing ‘Softly, As I Leave You?’”)
Six founding members performed together, a prelude to the much larger ensembles that followed (21 from the years 1982–88, 23 from 1989–92). That initial group began in 1981 with a three-song repertoire, no institutional backing, and a dream, illustrated by their wistful yet indomitable reunion rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” (They also performed the Roches' “Hammond Song,” a song of hard choices, separation, and return that has become Whim 'n Rhythm’s signature piece.) By contrast, last spring and summer the 2006 group went on a seven-week world tour and released the latest of Whim 'n Rhythm’s annual CDs, Independently Blue.
A reprise of “Hammond Song” provided an overwhelming finale, with 114 women forming a circle around the small room and turning the Roches' three-voice cult hit into a deeply spiritual hymn of unity that called across generations. That rousing finale revealed the non-Whim audience at the reunion concert to be less than three dozen strong, made up mostly of members' husbands, children, and friends. The group deserved a more diverse audience than that, but this was a concert for Whim 'n Rhythm itself, and there was hardly room for anyone else.
In a newly found poem, Frost weighs in on war
In May 2005, Robert Stilling '99, a PhD student in English at the University of Virginia, went to the university’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library to get started on what he hoped would be “a fun summer project” of archival research. A professor had suggested that he take a look at a new collection of materials on Robert Frost.
The collection had belonged to Frederick Melcher, a friend of Frost's. Sifting through letters from the 1930s and '40s, Stilling came across references “that set off little scholarly alarm bells”: in several letters, Melcher referred to an unpublished poem that Frost had inscribed in Melcher’s copy of North of Boston.
“The words ‘unpublished poem’ written in 1947 could easily mean, ‘published hundreds of times since,’” Stilling later wrote. “Still, I went back to the desk for the book in question, and within minutes, I had in my hand a puzzle.” More precisely, he held in his hands a small blue leather-bound volume of Frost’s second book, North of Boston. Across two blank pages and the title page, Frost had inscribed a poem entitled “War Thoughts at Home.”
The poem, written in 1918, describes an old, weathered house, a threat of snow in the air. It could easily be a typical Frost scene of a New England winter, except it is interrupted by a “flurry of bird war.” The flurry draws the attention of a woman in the house, who comes to the window to investigate. At the sight of her, one bird suggests to the others that they escape, “Though the fight is no more done/Than the war is in France." The birds' chatter, in turn, stirs in the woman thoughts of “a winter camp/Where soldiers for France are made.” She draws down the shade. The poem closes with the image of sheds stretched out behind the house, “Like cars that long have lain/Dead on a side track.”
Stilling had unearthed a new poem by Robert Frost—and it had taken him about an hour.
Over the next year, he researched the poem's history. He found that Frost had written the poem shortly after the death of his dear friend, the writer Edward Thomas, in the Battle of Arras. The death grieved Frost deeply, as did the war in general, but he published only a few poems about the war during his lifetime. It is not clear why he did not publish “War Thoughts at Home.”
In October, the Virginia Quarterly Review published “War Thoughts at Home,” along with an essay by Stilling on his findings and a critical commentary by Glyn Maxwell. (Coincidentally, the Review's editor, Ted Genoways, had been the last to find and publish a new Frost poem, seven years ago.) The revelation of a new Frost poem aroused a flurry of media interest, with the news being reported as far as China and Turkey. “It’s curious to me, because I’ve never seen Frost as central to my own studies,” Stilling says. “I’m ready to move on to other things.”
“War Thoughts at Home” breaks some new ground in Frost’s work, for he had not previously been thought of as a Great War poet. It is also a good poem: Sterling Professor emeritus John Hollander, an eminent poet, told the Yale Alumni Magazine he considers it a “fine and resonant poem by Frost” and that it comes “from a major period in his work.” Yet the poem has achieved a popularity beyond what those factors might explain.
Perhaps it is the notion of war intruding into a scene so quintessentially American as a Frostian winter that has struck the nerve. An editorial in the Boston Globe suggested, “There’s a pricked wound … in this poem for those who gaze out their own windows having heard the nighttime television news clashes of war in Iraq.”
Or perhaps the discovery is simply heartening to those who always wish for more from our favorite departed poets. Asked if he felt a bit jealous at Stilling’s discovery supplanting his own, Genoways laughs. “To me, there would be nothing sadder than to be the person who found the last Robert Frost poem to be published,” he says.
Symphonies to be sung
Writing music has a visual, tactile element few listeners apprehend. Some composers scrawl notes across the paper as if casting dice. Many turn to computers to produce print-ready pages. In the studio of her Massachusetts home, Augusta Read Thomas '88Mus presents her new piece, Helios Choros, written on huge sheets of yellowish score paper as cleanly, beautifully, and carefully as a Rembrandt etching. Flecks of Liquid Paper are the only sign that this clean copy is new-written and handmade.
And the music comes to Thomas not in flashes of silent inspiration, but as a living thing to be danced, sung, gestured with the long fingers she uses to illustrate the sounds of bells for an interviewer, as if plucking them from the air.
“I think everything I’ve written is vocal,” she says. “Because when I stand at the drafting table, I’m actually singing. I think you can hear in my music that I heard it. It seems like a funny thing to say, but it isn’t, because I think a lot of people write music that's constructed, that they don’t even hear.”
Thomas’s conversation is a lot like her music: an intense, directed outpouring, drawing in many different elements and with a dazzling array of references to composers and poets, past and present. At 42, she is one of the most successful composers of her generation. In the classical music world, that means she has held tenured teaching jobs (at Eastman, then Northwestern); was composer-in-residence of the prestigious Chicago Symphony Orchestra for nine years; and has received commissions from the Berlin and New York philharmonics. But it doesn’t mean that people are humming her tunes in the street, or even that her most important works have been recorded. Classical record labels are struggling, and the only recording of her orchestral works (Words of the Sea / In My Sky at Twilight) is one she paid for herself.
Thomas has written music in virtually every genre, but her favorite instrument is the modern symphony orchestra—to some an outmoded dinosaur, to her a relatively young tool rife with unexplored possibilities. Her complex pieces, at times evoking Bach, Stravinsky, Ravel, or Coltrane but not really resembling any of those composers, have won her modernist champions like Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim. But for all their intellectual pedigree, they are not off-puttingly difficult.
“I think an immediacy can be felt,” she says of her own music. “It’s colorful, it speaks off the stage, the harmonies are really careful, people have said it’s musical, you can hear where all the notes came from. You’re kind of pulling the listener in,” and she mimes the hand-over-hand gesture of drawing in a rope. “I’m definitely writing for somebody to hear it. It’s not just pushing 12-tone rows around.”
Thomas is married to another composer—Bernard Rands, 30 years her senior—whom she met through her composition teacher, Jacob Druckman, during her year at the Yale School of Music. (She left without graduating.) But between their teaching schedules (his at Harvard) and other commitments, they have never actually lived together. Their home in the Berkshires has served as a weekend retreat. There, they listen to tapes of each other’s world premieres.
This year, Thomas is taking the artist’s ultimate leap of faith: resigning an endowed academic chair to write music full-time. This means selling the beautiful house in the Berkshires and getting a more affordable apartment in Chicago—where she and Rands, who is retiring, will live together. “We’re making a lot of sacrifices to make this position where I’ll be in an apartment writing all day long,” she says. “I don’t want anything. I just want paper and time.”
Loyalty Gone Wrong
The Man Time Forgot: A Tale of Genius, Betrayal, and the Creation of Time Magazine
“To a remarkable extent, this place has detected and rejected those who wear the colors of high purpose falsely, “ President Kingman Brewster Jr. '41 told Yale freshmen in 1965. “This is done not by administrative edict … but by a pervasive ethic of student and faculty loyalty and responsibility.” Friendships formed in the college’s rites of mutual testing and bonding had public consequences: Averell Harriman '13 and Dean Acheson '15 shared crew and Skull and Bones before framing the postwar Atlantic alliance. Briton Hadden '20 and Henry R. Luce '20 were Yale Daily News editors and Bonesmen before they revolutionized the news media by starting Time in 1923.
“Just as the assembly line had altered industrial production a decade earlier by dividing a job into a series of discrete tasks, Time would alter people’s thought processes by dividing all that happened into discrete categories,” explains Isaiah Wilner '00, a former YDN editor himself, about the way the weekly categorized the news into bite-sized departments and personalized the newsmakers in pointed, irreverent accounts of their doings that changed Americans' sense of their country and the world. This strategy, now a media standard, proved durable and extremely profitable. But the media empire that Time would eventually spawn has come to be associated with Henry R. Luce alone. Hadden, who died at 31, became quite literally the “man that Time forgot”—or, at least, the man whose genius and accomplishments Luce tried to erase from corporate history. Wilner, mining Time Inc. archives and personal letters, offers a compelling biography of Hadden that provides a detailed account of the darker side of the Hadden/Luce partnership.
Thanks to friendships such as those formed at Yale, leaders of grand public ventures learned they could disagree passionately without resorting to treachery or groupthink. Yale men of the time prided themselves “on being good teammates and knowing how to win,” writes Wilner. “Believing success was virtuous, they respected and rewarded dedication and 'grit,' the personality traits that could decide a close contest. Valuing tact and consideration, they subjected their personal interests to those of the group.”
Exclusive yet outward facing, this “Yale democracy" tempered somewhat the competitive, acquisitive society its graduates would lead. But Wilner argues that Luce, a son of Christian missionaries and self-doubting scholarship boy, always felt himself so overshadowed by his magnetic classmate that he tried to bury Hadden’s memory after his early death. Wilner pushes, perhaps too hard, on the point that this conflict was a long-buried story; and his sources, mainly in archives of private letters that he doesn’t (and perhaps sometimes couldn’t) quote directly, are all but impossible for a reader to find and cross-check. Still, this is a riveting, suggestive, and generally persuasive account of Yale’s “loyalty and responsibility" gone wrong—yet not wholly abandoned.
According to Wilner, differences between the two were apparent early. At the Hotchkiss School’s debating society in 1914, young Luce urged Americans to join the Great War “to spread Christian democracy through the world.” In Hadden’s counterargument against enlisting, he cited the cavalry’s low ratio of horses to men: “Nine militia officers riding to war on one horse! A pretty sight!” Hadden’s “habit of cutting straight to the point with a joke rather than launching on a grand thesis” would drive Time’s style. Luce, a lover of grand theses, was a dour John Adams to Hadden’s Tom Paine.
There were also indications of trouble. At Hotchkiss Luce appropriated photos intended for the yearbook for his edition of the literary journal, earning “a reputation for being self-interested to the point of occasional dishonesty.” He became Hadden’s managing editor on the Hotchkiss Record and the Yale Daily News—hiding his hurt at coming in second.
Hadden pitched his vision of Time to Luce in 1918 when they were Yale juniors on leave as wartime training officers: “Their magazine would be that rare combination … a mass-market phenomenon that appealed to people’s better instincts and elevated their intelligence,” Wilner writes. “They were … twentysomethings with uncommon judgment who would proclaim to the world what was news”—the Yale democracy at work: of their first 69 investors, 49 were Elis—14 from Bones.
Wilner is smitten enough with Time style to use it to show how Hadden’s adjectives and punchy sentences did the work of explanation: When Mussolini’s “eyes rolled with fury” in a Time caption, “even a reader who knew nothing of Mussolini could grasp that Hadden thought he was a no-good guy.” Hadden, no ideologue, was equally scathing of “socialist-sophist Upton Sinclair.” But epithets can short-circuit thought, and if Hadden wanted only to inform “as many people as possible, and … to entertain,” Luce “had views to impose and the dream of becoming a public figure. Unwittingly, Hadden had built Luce a podium.”
Hadden wanted to make his first million by age 30 (he did), but he disdained mass marketing and ridiculed as “high-class Babbitry" Luce’s plans for another magazine, Fortune, that, as Wilner puts it, would “glorify the tycoon and tell the history of industrial civilization.” A wunderkind in the Roaring Twenties, Hadden may have sensed that the decade was consuming itself. So was he. Hadden died of a mysterious infection worsened by alcoholism, just months before the October 1929 crash.
In closed-door conversations as Hadden lay seriously ill, Luce failed to convince Hadden to will him his share of their controlling interest. But having been overshadowed hurt Luce more than this rejection. After Hadden’s death, Luce “diminished his significance, barred public access to the true story, prevented … enterprising journalists … from pursuing it, and ultimately succeeded in burying Hadden’s role in history.” Frustrated admirers memorialized him by building the Yale Daily News' Briton Hadden Building; Luce, shamed into donating $10,000, later claimed falsely that he was the main funder.
But is Wilner burdening this story with too portentous a moral? After all, Luce outlived Hadden by 38 years and so was bound to eclipse him. Because Wilner necessarily tells little of Luce’s career in its own right, his concentration on Luce’s school-age indiscretions skews the story. (The choice may reflect his own experience. In 1999, Wilner had to remove himself from overseeing YDN daily operations during a regulatory challenge to a New Haven aldermanic election; he had helped to register nonresident freshmen on behalf of his roommate, a candidate, while the YDN was covering the race.) And Wilner gives Hadden a seamlessly sympathetic role in the morality play. He does dig deep to find out if Hadden was gay but, finding nothing solid, keeps suggesting it in asides not clearly sourced.
Yet the story is compelling. And Wilner’s assessment of Hadden’s decline—“the generous and politic leader of the Yale democracy seemed to have faded …, overshadowed by a grim successor—restless, nervous, irritable, impolitic, and intemperate”—could also apply to the fate of Hadden and Luce’s creation. Time’s long avoidance of writer bylines (and egos) has succumbed to egotistic, histrionic punditry, as in its recent hiring of blogger Anna Marie Cox.
Hadden and Luce knew that a good society's professional and political relationships begin in an “ethic of loyalty and responsibility” that orients youth to the world. Were privilege like theirs distributed more fairly, friendships formed at Yale might not be freighted quite so fatefully with public consequences. But they were, and are, and that shadows Wilner’s closing judgment: “Luce still loved Hadden [and] honored him in his heart. … Though the desire for fame and power ran strong in Luce, so did a strong sense of morality. But the essence of a man’s character is tested only when it conflicts with his own self-interest. Luce failed that test, and he did not feel right about it.” The admonition is as Timely as it is personal.
Crawling: A Father’s First Year
The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of
Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution
The Interpretation of Murder
Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West
More Books by Yale Authors
Richard N.L. Andrews
Traci Ardren 1991MPhil and
Scott R. Hutson 1995, Editors
Robert Brustein 1951Dra
Bert Cardulo 1985MFA,
Arthur Harry Chapman
1945BS, 1947MD, S. V. Almeida, and M. A. dos Reis
Barnaby Conrad 1944
Mark Z. Danielewski
Victor Erlich, B.E.
Bensinger Professor Emeritus of Russian Literature
S. Roger Horchow 1950,
19LHDH, and Sally Horchow 1992
Sandy Isenstadt, Assistant
Professor of the History of Art
David Klass 1982
Seth Kugel 1992 and Carolina González
Ramsay MacMullen, Professor
Emeritus of History
David Madden 1961Dra
John Matthews, the John M. Schiff Professor
of Classics and History
Edmund S. Morgan, Sterling
Professor of History Emeritus
Kent Nelson 1965
Elizabeth A. Povinelli
Chandra Prasad 1997, Editor
Stephen Prothero 1982, Editor
Christopher R. Reaske
Kenneth D. Rose 1971BS
Sam Rubin 1995
John T. Seaman Jr. 1990
David L. Stebenne 1982
Robert J. Sternberg 1972
and Karin Weis, Editors
Dennis Washburn 1991PhD
Jay Winter, the Charles J. Stille Professor
Cynthia A. Young 1999PhD
Home Entertainment Center
In the days before television and radio, families often gathered around the piano. Nineteenth-century English portrait painter George Chinnery portrayed a group of these amateur musicians in this pen-and-ink sketch, which probably depicts the family of a colonial official in India around 1820. “Music is an intensely social activity—it brings people together,” says Tim Barringer, the Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art. “In this Jane Austen-like scene, complete with flirtation and sisterly disapproval, Chinnery captured the role of music in encouraging civility in upper-class society.”
The drawing, A Family Group around a Piano, is part of “Art and Music in Britain: Four Encounters, 1730-1900,” an exhibit at the Center for British Art that was curated by Barringer and Eleanor Hughes, a postdoctoral research associate. The collaborative exhibit, which runs through December 31, features material from five Yale institutions, including the Beinecke, the Music Library, and the Collection of Musical Instruments.
Responding to Kahn: A Sculptural Conversation
Yale students celebrate the reopening of the Art Gallery’s main building with a sculpture exhibition that highlights the relationship between modern art and architecture.
Music of the Season
The Glee Club’s traditional holiday concert in Battell Chapel, with members of the Yale Collegium, Yale College chamber ensembles, and others.
Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq
Photographs and statements by Kael Alford, Thorne Anderson, Rita Leistner, and Ghaith Abdul-Ahad depict their experiences covering the war in Iraq outside of the U.S. military’s embedded journalist program.
“Making No Compromise”: Margaret Anderson and the Little Review
An exhibit commemorates Margaret Anderson’s literary magazine, the Little Review (1914-1929), which published work by such writers and artists as William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Pablo Picasso.
It’s post-revolutionary Russia, and the Theater of Moscow decides to make a play out of Sergei’s failed novel—fueling his dream to become the next Shakespeare. But the dream falls apart when an autocratic director transforms the work beyond recognition.
©1992–2012, Yale Alumni Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
Yale Alumni Magazine, P.O. Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905, USA. email@example.com