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The brilliant and quirky composer Charles Ives, who graduated from Yale College in 1898, is widely considered the father of American experimental music. Here you see details from the first movement of his Three Places in New England, a three-part set for orchestra that premiered in 1931. This manuscript, long believed lost, was recovered as the result of an interview for Yale’s oral history project on American music.
Many Ives works exist only as sketches or in barely finished condition. In this original ink score, one can see penciled additions and modifications, such as the crossed-out figure at left. (Editors have described working with Ives manuscripts as “excavations.”) Ives often wrote colorful and revealing remarks in his manuscripts; a wry comment (below) underneath a complicated musical passage reads: “Franklin Carter Esq asked me to whistle this measure—no smile.”
The first movement of Three Places in New England is called “The 'St. Gaudens' in Boston Common (Col. Shaw and his Colored Regiment)” and was listed in the catalog of Ives scores as “lost.” But in 1969, Vivian Perlis initiated a series of interviews with people who had known and worked with Ives, including Goddard Lieberson, then-president of Columbia Records and an early admirer of Ives. In the course of the conversation, Lieberson mentioned that Ives had given him a manuscript. Perlis said, “Oh no. It must be a photostat.” But Lieberson insisted. He got up, and he found it in a storage closet.
Ives’s innovative compositions often incorporated well-known tunes from hymns, parlor songs, ragtime pieces, and patriotic odes into dense multilayered textures. He was also one of the first to use highly dissonant harmonies. Early on, Ives realized that his unusual works were not likely to meet with commercial success. Thus he pursued a career in the insurance business and composed music nights and weekends; he was known to say that he didn’t want his wife and children to starve on his dissonances. But he was careful to protect those dissonances from would-be correctors. Ives left this admonition in the margins of the score for The Fourth of July: “Please don’t try to make things nice! All the wrong notes are right. Just copy as I have—I want it that way.”
One Actor, Forty Characters
Within the first minute of the one-man play Emergence-SEE, it becomes clear that the main character, Rodney, has a big problem on his hands. A 30-year-old spoken-word poet, he’s on his way to compete for the title of grand slam champion when he learns that his father—who has been hearing voices ever since Rodney’s mother was murdered a few years back—has run off.
Finding him is easy enough, yet that's not nearly the end of Rodney’s troubles. For his father has climbed aboard a 400-year-old slave ship that has inexplicably surfaced near the Statue of Liberty. Symbol alert: the ship is called Remembrance. Rodney and his father are African American.
So is the play’s author and star, Daniel Beaty '98. In a 90-minute show that recently had an extended run at New York’s Public Theater, he inhabits 39 other characters, also African American or African, as they respond to the slave ship’s reappearance. These characters range widely across age, gender, sexual orientation, and class. And yet that diversity is wound around an autobiographical core.
There is, for example, the poetry contest that Beaty—himself a 30-year-old former grand slam champion of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe—has put at the center of his play. And the poem that one of the contestants, an Ivy League graduate, recites about the battle within him between the Nerd and the Nigger. The Nerd accuses the Nigger of feeling nothing but rage; the Nigger accuses the Nerd of acting removed, denying his roots: “Yo' daddy still smoke heroin/ Yo' brother still on crack/ Ghetto nightmares still haunt your dreams/ And yo' mama is still black.”
All of that is true of Beaty, who was raised by his mother in a poor section of Dayton, Ohio. For much of his childhood, his heroin-addicted father was in prison. After graduating from Yale, Beaty earned a master’s degree from the American Conservatory Theater. Only later, he says, when he was teaching in Harlem, did he feel his own duality, the distancing of a college education. His desire to connect with young people led him to the slam-poetry world. There, he says, “I knew I was different. Everyone knew I was different. But I was warmly embraced.”
Much of his play poured out of him in a single day after he attended an empowerment seminar that emphasizes taking responsibility for your life. “I chose the solo form because I lacked resources, but also because it drew on my talents as an actor.”
Those talents are readily apparent in Emergence-SEE as Beaty shifts smoothly between characters. He manages the technical feat of defining the characters clearly and then keeping them clear, even as they carry on a three-way dialogue.
The message of Emergence-SEE is partly in its form—that the African American community has many voices. But the play is also quite explicitly about turning pain into power. It’s a message that’s resonated with many: there’s been talk of moving the show to Broadway.
As for Rodney, he makes it to the poetry contest. His father tells him to “come home to the truth of who you are,” and the slave ship disappears. His poem, about constructing the pieces of his manhood before a crumbling model, resolves upliftingly, as do all of Beaty's stories. “If I didn’t choose an angle of positivity and hope,” he says, “I’d be very depressed.”
“What I am supposed to do with the anger?” asks one of his characters. Well, you could write a play.
Only Revolutions, the second novel by Mark Danielewski '88, and a National Book Award finalist, is intimidating. The book is written with its two separate story lines—the stories of Sam and Hailey, 16-year-old lovers—printed upside down from each other on each page, running in opposite directions. The end of Hailey’s story is the beginning of Sam’s story, and vice versa. (The inside flap offers the following advice: “The publisher suggests alternating between Hailey & Sam, reading eight pages at a time.” In other words, flip the book upside down every eight pages.) The text itself is written in a sort of prose poetry, packed with neologisms (“Everything. Everyway. Exvious./Hoofing flammatory over ice/shackled meadows and melting/Mountainstacked pebbles. Mine.”) and devoid of a clear narrator. Meanwhile, running alongside the two story lines is a series of side notes that catalogue 200 years of history (or technically, 143 years of history and 57 years of future), in terse, cryptic statements (“Abeid Karume & US ties.”). Plus, the letter “o” is always in color, and some of the pages have a black dot in the corner, and … well, you get the picture.
The award nomination confers public status on Danielewski, but he has had a devoted following—some might say a cult following—since 2000, when he published House of Leaves, his first book. House of Leaves is a literary labyrinth of a horror story, with stories inside of stories, footnotes, multiple narrators, multi-colored text, upside-down text, backwards text, appendices, and even an index. Dense as it was, House of Leaves found a commercial audience that embraced it. And it in no way hurt Danielewski’s cultural cachet that he and his indie-rocker sister, Poe (born Anne Decatur Danielewski), promptly embarked on a book and concert tour.
The best place to understand the Danielewski fan base is the forums that Danielewski has sponsored on the book's website. Danielewski’s books are filled with elaborate puzzles, and he has acquired a devoted following of fans who devote tremendous effort to unpacking these puzzles, attempting to penetrate to the heart of his mazes. On the forums, they offer each other theories. Why is the “o” colored? “Directing us, perhaps, in the direction of one kind of meaning for 'revolution' over other possibilities.” Why is the book’s layout so baroque? “MZD is deeply committed to an older notion of text, one which values not merely the deft use of words but, as well, their presentation: that is, the container they come in.” What's the easiest way to read Only Revolution? (Too many answers to list.)
Katherine Hayles, an English professor at UCLA who teaches a course in experimental fiction, says that esoteric novels periodically become social phenomena. Much the same thing happened in the 1970s around Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon, which became a popular topic of conversation at cocktail parties. “Someone would quote a phrase from the book, and two of the five people in the group would smile knowingly,” says Hayles.
Danielewski sees the forums as a natural extension of the cell phones and e-mails that have come to dominate modern communication. “For people who spend a great deal of time with books, reading, and writing,” he says, “it’s a type of socializing that can be more effectively integrated into their routine.”
In a sense, these forums are salons for the Internet age, international, collaborative, quick, and convenient. The elaborateness of Danielewski’s books creates a self-selecting society of kindred spirits. Reading, normally a solitary act, becomes a communal effort. Along with the esoteric noodling is an element of casual sociability—discussion of new movies, music tips, and opinions on who is the most attractive National Book Award nominee. The verdict: Mark Danielewski.
Vive la Différence
The Female Brain
You might think that a 47-year-old woman with two daughters, four sisters, and three mothers (including two stepmothers) would know a little something about the female brain. But I still find it an organ of wonder and mystery, so I’m predisposed to welcome a new book on the topic: The Female Brain by neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine '81MD. The wonder of the brain, of course—male or female—is that a three-pound mass of gray tissue can harbor all that makes us human, our intellect and wit, our passions, creativity, and emotions. The mystery of the female version was brought home to me recently by two events. The first was a car ride home with my teenage daughter and three teammates after a soccer tournament in which their team had suffered blistering losses, skunked in all three games. The girls seemed unbothered by the stressful skirmishes on the soccer field. Chattering away in the back seat as if I were invisible, they analyzed each girl's personality by tagging her with “essential” traits: what color would she be? What kind of music? And car? Their blithe babble and peals of laughter in the wake of crushing defeat puzzled me. How could their young brains so easily let go of humiliation and disappointment to revel cheerfully in one another's company? The second event was a reunion with my sisters, where I marveled at the way my eldest sister, an empty-nester in her 50s, seemed suddenly free of the fetters of anxiety over every aspect of her children’s lives, concerns that once consumed her. What had so radically shifted the obsessions of her midlife brain?
Despite my extensive experience with women—or because of it—I’m deeply curious about the female brain and how it changes over a lifespan. From The Female Brain, I hoped to learn whether behaviors of teen girls and mature women, young mothers and empty-nesters, are rooted in sex-specific biological factors, as I suspect they are—at least in part. Brizendine is founding director of the Women’s and Teen Girls' Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, the first clinic in the country devoted to the study of women and their mental, sexual, and physical health. In her book, she intertwines stories of her patients with discussion of findings from scientific and popular sources to explore how sex hormones affect the female brain and modify the way women function in the world. As a resident in psychiatry at Harvard, Brizendine became fascinated by the lopsided two-to-one ratio of depression in women as compared with men. At first she blamed the “patriarchy” of Western culture, which “kept women down and made them less functional than men.” But when new studies suggested that the same skewed ratio held in other cultures, she began to think that something more fundamentally biological was going on. This book is Brizendine’s effort to argue that hormones hardwire male and female brain circuits, resulting in sex-specific emotions and behavior—and to offer women a guide to their own wiring throughout life.
Over the past decade, science has confirmed that men and women differ in nearly every facet of the body, in skin and bone, muscle and gut, heart and nerve, and—yes—gray matter. While many aspects of male and female brains are similar (average level of intelligence, for instance), there are intriguing sex differences in the anatomy of the brain and how it works. As Brizendine points out, men’s brains are 9 percent larger than women's, but in some regions women have a higher density of nerve cells. In the brain centers for language and hearing, for example, women have 11 percent more neurons than men. Likewise, women have more abundant brain cells in the hippocampal region of the limbic system, the heart of both emotion and memory formation, and in the decision-making anterior cingulate cortex, what Brizendine calls the “worrywart center.” Men, for their part, have a larger amygdala—important in fear, anger, aggression, and decoding threatening stimuli—which makes a man’s “anger button” more easily pushed, says Brizendine. Men also have bigger sex-related centers—about two times larger than parallel structures in the female brain, says Brizendine. “Men, quite literally, have sex on their minds more than women do.”
These anatomical differences are caused by activity of estrogen and other sex hormones that bathe the prenatal brain. In some cases, these physical differences appear to correlate with cognitive differences (though establishing a true link is a tricky business). A surge of findings from functional neuroimaging and other studies suggests that gender influences hearing, memory, emotions, problem-solving strategies, processing of faces, reading, hunger and satiation, the way people orient themselves in space, and—my favorite—appreciation of humor.
Sex-specific disparities in the brain’s chemistry and architecture may also affect how we respond to stressful events. Estrogen not only prolongs the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, but also stimulates activity in a broader area of neurons in the brain, including those responsible for forming vivid memories of an event. Because of differences in emotional circuitry, says Brizendine, a woman’s brain activates more than a man’s in anticipation of danger or pain, and she tends to feel more stressed in the moment. “Anxiety is a state that occurs when stress or fear triggers the amygdala, causing the brain to rally all its conscious attention to the threat at hand,” writes Brizendine. “Although this may not seem like an adaptive trait,” she explains, “it actually allows her brain to focus on the danger at hand and respond quickly to protect her children.” This hair-trigger stress response may make women become anxious and depressed more quickly than men do, Brizendine suggests—which could account for the depression gender gap that seems to exist across cultures. (However, other scientists suspect the gap is illusory: women are more willing to discuss their symptoms, and so may be simply more frequently diagnosed.)
In Brizendine’s probing of the neurobiological roots of behavior, I found plenty of “aha!” moments. She explains, for instance, why intense, intimate conversation may play such an important role in the lives of teenage girls. Not only does the female brain have enlarged verbal areas, but it’s subject to a flood of estrogen during puberty, which activates sex-specific brain circuits organized to respond to stress by nurturing protective social networks: “The Stone Age brains within them are flooded with neurochemicals telling them to connect with other women so that they can help protect the young,” writes Brizendine. “The primitive brain is saying, ‘Lose that bond, and both you and your offspring are toast.’ … No wonder girls find it unbearably hard to cope with feelings of being left out.” This pattern of behavior, termed “tend and befriend,” may be a distinctly female strategy for dealing with stress, she suggests—and may well explain my daughter and her friends' chatter during that car ride home from their drubbing. For boys, the surge of testosterone during puberty has the opposite effect, suppressing interest in talking and socializing—“except when it involves sports or sexual pursuit,” says Brizendine. While girls experience a fivefold rise in testosterone during adolescence, which boosts their libido and interest in sex, a boy’s levels increase five times that much between the ages of 9 and 15, resulting in triple the sex drive of girls the
In a chapter on the mature female brain, Brizendine also offers an explanation for my sister’s new midlife attitude: when a woman has launched all her children, she loses the estrogen-fueled circuits in her brain that function as a “Maserati engine” for tracking the emotions of others. “Her ancient mommy wiring comes loose and she is allowed to pull a few of the connections to the child-tracking device out of her brain.”
Brizendine has taken risks in this book—among them categorizing human behavior in stark pink/blue terms that may make one squirm. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that the basic male/female reproductive asymmetry (women must make massive investments in one infant; men don’t have to and can father large numbers) would result in different biological and behavioral strategies for perpetuating genes. But men and women are individuals. Hormone levels vary from person to person, and there's a continuum from “male” to “female” behavior. In some of the arenas Brizendine discusses, such as the ability to read nuances of emotional expression in voice and face, the brain and behavior of men I know would have to be categorized as “female.”
Perhaps more important, Brizendine treads dangerous water by so heavily stressing the role of hormones in shaping every aspect of a woman’s life, from getting angry to caring about her work to making decisions about the value of her marriage. She rightly observes that hormones alone do not cause behaviors; they “merely raise the likelihood that under certain circumstances a behavior will occur.” But on nearly every page, she emphasizes how women in their reproductive years are run by their hormones and by the “gyno-crises”—the spikes and troughs in hormonal levels that occur monthly and throughout life—which may cause emotional stress and unpredictable behavior. And while she notes, significantly, that only 10 percent of women suffer severely from this hormonal flux (experiencing edginess and easy upset), she suggests that even the 80 percent of us who are only mildly affected by it still march to the beat of the estrogen drum, our sense of reality “shifted and hijacked” by our pulsing hormones.
These kinds of assertions are going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. I don’t relish being told that at certain times of month and stages of life, my brain is “marinated” in hormones that usurp my judgment, upset my emotional equilibrium, and alter my reality (just as some men I know may resent the portrayal of their own testosterone-drenched brains as nonverbal, emotionally handicapped, and driven by aggression, sex, and watching football). These characterizations seem perilously close to reinforcing old that-time-of-the-month stereotypes of erratic female behavior.
But Brizendine suggests that the real risk lies in failing to grasp the nature of our own biology, especially its ups and downs. By understanding hormonal changes, she argues, we can make good choices about how to manage our own lives and gain important insights into what’s influencing the behavior of people around us, including our wives and daughters. In this case, knowledge really is power.
It’s important to understand that in matters of the brain, gender matters. Sex hormones direct the hardwiring of our brains and continue to shape our actions, perceptions, and the way we respond to the world throughout life. But it’s equally important not to overrate their influence or the “hardness” of the brain’s wiring. We’ve learned lately that learning also matters deeply in shaping the physical brain. Thanks to brilliant research by the Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel and others, it has become clear that the brain has a remarkable ability to rewire itself throughout life by learning and experience. Virtually every thought we have, every action we take, can shape, modify, and strengthen neurons and their connections. The real wonder of the brain is this remarkable plasticity; male or female, the brain is never a finished work but creates and recreates itself from cradle to grave.
Junkies: The Hidden Truths behind America’s Favorite Addiction
Thoreau chose truth over fame, but today many of us would opt for celebrity. Halpern melds research in psychology and evolution, interviews with stars and wannabes, and portraits of celebrity personal assistants into an insightful and entertaining look at our obsession with fame.
A Needle in
the Right Hand of God: The Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Making and Meaning
of the Bayeux Tapestry
“If the Battle of Hastings began with poetry, it ended in the realm of the visual arts,” writes Bloch. In a masterful exploration of the “world's most famous textile,” the author traces the history of the 230-foot-long embroidered account of a pivotal battle.
Happiness of This World: Poetry and Prose
In his fifth collection of poetry, the critically acclaimed writer and teacher marries the personal and the political in well-wrought encounters with intimacy, national politics, home repair, and road kill. The book finishes with an autobiographical tale of a journey eastward in search of his long-dead uncle's ghost.
2000: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Bicentennial and the Millennium
At 10 pounds and more than 1,500 pages, this beautifully illustrated and truly definitive study examines the development of the city’s architecture from the July 1977 blackout to 9/11.
More Books by Yale Authors
Barnstone 1960PhD, Editor and Translator
G. Bribiescas, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Marantz Cohen 1975
Cohn, Editor of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin, and Senior Research Scholar in
Cooper 1993, Writer and Illustrator
S. Gerstenberger 1960STM
Wilson Gilmore 1972, 1975MFA (Drama)
Kahn, the Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities
Laurence Kaplan 1974PhD
Koppelman 1989JD, 1991PhD
D. Rankine 1998PhD
D. Rose 1971BS
L. Satlow 1986
Schuck, the Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law, and Richard J. Zeckhauser
Gates Schuyler 1993
Sherman, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Making Room for Sol LeWitt
The dozens of works that pioneering conceptual artist Sol LeWitt is planning to give to the Yale University Art Gallery could fit into a filing cabinet—but to display them all would take an entire building. And that’s just what LeWitt, the gallery, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) have in mind.
For nearly 40 years, LeWitt has been creating monumental wall drawings by preparing a diagram and a set of instructions, then having a team of assistants execute the work. “It’s like a musical score,” explains Art Gallery director Jock Reynolds. “LeWitt tells you how to do the work, and then other people carry it out.” The earliest drawings consisted of repetitive pencil lines, but over the years LeWitt has used vivid colors and geometric motifs.
LeWitt, 78, is going to bequeath the rights to (and instructions for) a yet-unspecified number of drawings—there are more than 1,100 in all—to the Art Gallery. But since the gallery will never be able to install more than a few at a time, Reynolds proposed a partnership with Mass MoCA, whose sprawling campus is in a former factory complex in North Adams, Massachusetts. LeWitt has designed an installation of 50 works (the model is pictured above) for a three-story building in the middle of the museum complex; it is expected to open in fall 2008.
In the meantime, at least one LeWitt drawing (number 614, from 1989) can be found at Yale: it was executed on the first floor of the Art Gallery’s Louis Kahn building for its reopening in December.
Jasper Johns: From Plate to Print
An exploration of the artistic and mechanical process of printmaking focuses on an untitled 1999 intaglio print by Jasper Johns and features the working proofs, trial proofs, and progressives leading up to the final print, as well as the five plates used in its creation.
Reflections on Bach: Music for
Christmas Day 1723
Guest conductor Helmuth Rilling, a preeminent expert on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, leads the Yale Schola Cantorum, the Yale Collegium Players, and soloists from the School of Music graduate programs in a performance of the Bach Christen, atzet diesen Tag; Sanctus in D; and Magnificat in E-flat. Free; no tickets required.
The Black Panthers Trial: Courtroom
Sketches by Robert Templeton
Since the courtroom was closed to artists and photographers during the 1970s Black Panthers trial in New Haven, sketches by Connecticut artist Robert Templeton, made surreptitiously, are likely the only visual record of the courtroom during the case. Defendants Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins, prosecutor Arnold Markle, and Judge Harold Mulvey are among the subjects depicted.
In the Continuum
Nikkole Salter and Danai Gurira wrote and perform in this play about two black women with HIV, living worlds apart yet experiencing parallel life-changing revelations.
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