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March 25, 1992 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-03-25

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Page 8- The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 25,1992


Much ado about Rag
Historiadmusicenjoysrenewedpopuarity 1

by Carina A. Bacon

Expand your horizons and get set
for a musical journey through
time! They All Played Ragtime is
not just about Ragtime music. Rag
is "our departure point - our
roots from which we begin," says
Leo Najar, composer of the
Michigan Ragtime Orchestra.
The musical tour takes us to
Paris, Berlin, New York and
Switzerland, exploring many
themes ranging from multicul-
turalism to the "borrowing" of
music, which is sampled from
other genres and incorporated into
new pieces.
You might feel unable to un-
derstand this type of music, but
don't worry! They All Played
Ragtime is geared toward every-
one - music connoisseurs and
casual listeners alike. The show
also includes visual arts because
"quite often, everyone looks at
pictures," comments Najar. A
slide show with a commentary en-
ables the audience to understand
the place from which Rag music
"(Rag) basically comes down
to one simple word - exoticism,"
says pianist Robert Conway, who
will be performing both with the
orchestra and as soloist on George
Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."
Incidentally, Gershwin's rhapsody
concludes the musical journey,
showing the impact of late 19th
century Rag on the "classical"
pieces of today.
"At the turn of the century,"
says Conway, "(Europeans) were
really looking for other influences
besides Western Europe." And
with Ragtime's evolution - the
product of American and African

influences - visual art became
more exotic as well. "The slides,"
says Conway, "show the influence
of African art on European art."
Unfortunately, American audi-
ences didn't appreciate the
Ragtime music that first came out
of the saloons and the cat-houses,
describing it as bawdy. In retro-
spect, this was "the first important
contribution America made to
world music that was really signif-
icant," says Najar, because it was
an original medium regardless of
its base origins.
At the time of Rag's inception,
it was virtually impossible for
Black artists to make money, so
they played it on the piano for tips
in establishments of ill-repute.
Tonight's performance begins
with a popular Rag classic by
Black artist Scott Joplin, who is
most well-known for his musical
score "The Entertainer." Joplin
made the most significant contri-
bution to Ragtime without being
aware of it in his lifetime.
Much like fashion, music can
go in and out of style. After a re-
vival in the 60's and a spurt of
success with the movie The Sting
in 1974, Rag seems to be on the
down-side today. In recent years
people have begun to analyze its
history. "It's become a measure of
study, like folk and classical
(music)," says Najar. That it is be-
ing studied, Najar says, elevates
Ragtime to an appreciated art
rather than being dismissed as
It's about time people began to
re-notice Ragtime music. Accor-
ding to Najar, "Rag has set the
basis for just about all music we
listen to in the 20th century." He
cites the rhythmic beat as an
important aspect in rock music to-

Come on, admit it -
Weir all Deadheads
by Andrew J Cahn
W hen many students realized that Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weit
wouldn't be playing at the Power Center Sunday night, they were no longer
interested in attending. They didn't seem to be interested in the musician's.;
speech about the plight of the rainforests. All those who did go, however,
emerged greatly informed about how to stop deforestation.
In this extremely rare public speaking engagement, Weir was not able to,.
completely overcome his shyness, but he showed great knowledge of this I
ecological problem. He spoke of the "fracas" over Senate Bill 1696.
In a press conference following the speech, Weir said the bill will.
"allegedly" protect a million or so acres in Montana and Idaho in exchange-
for a few million acres which will be harvested by the timber industry.
Another four million acres will be reserved for future consideration. -
"There are no trees on the million acres left for wilderness," Weir says.
"I've talked to the forest service, and they don't talk in terms of trees and&
ecosystems. Those people are the timber industry. It's all entirely corrupt." _
Both Weir and the band have done a lot to raise money and awareness
about saving the rainforests in the United States as well as in South Americas
and Malaysia. Through the efforts of benefit concerts, the Deadicated al-41
bum, and a Gap ad Weir did with jazz bassist Rob Wasserman, a few hun-
dred thousand dollars have been raised.
In addition to his genuine concern, Weir can take advantage of his enor-
mous, religiously devout following of Deadheads who live and breathe by
everything he and his band says and does. If Bob Weir says, "Save th6
Rainforest," people will listen, and do whatever they can.
He said to us, "You are college kids; you're the motivated sort," but
that's only partly accurate. True, the lobby of the Power Center was filled
with various student-run groups geared toward environmental issues, blif2.
many of us only seem to find the energy to completely blow off our respon-
sibilities and head to the Palace Monday and Tuesday night to see the Dead.
At the press conference Sunday, I asked Weir if there was anything he'
wanted to tell us about the band. "All we've got," he says, "is the nightly
news." So here's the report from Monday night.
I had a great time before the show, shopping in the traveling mall out iii.
the parking lot. Where else can you get a steaming plate of spaghetti or a hot
veggie burito for $2? Deadheads sold hand-made clothes and jewelry, wit,)
the proceeds going toward tickets, gas and food to live on while they fol-,
lowed the band.
The deadhead consensus, however, said it was just an average show. It,.
started off strong with "Jack Straw," but much of the night relied on the
more obscure tunes like "Loose Lucy" and "The Music Never Stopped,"
There wasn't much singing along on those tunes except for the lines every-;
one knew: "... for a real good time," and "everybody's dancing."
The second set opened slowly, and included a new song by Phil LeshT
which sounded like "Copacabana," but the set ended successfully with "The
Wheel" and "Morning Dew." The encore of "Gloria" got the crowd going,1,
but many hoped for something along the lines of "Iko Iko" or "Scarlet

Swing it, shake it, move to those Ragtime rhythms. Slide into those
harmonies and sink into this historical genre.

day, while Conway adds that the
"oompah" and syncopation are
also important features of Rag.
"It's just fascinating music,"
says Conway. "It's hard to not get
involved in it rhythmically."

will be presented Wednesday,
March 25 at 8 p.m. in the
Michigan Theater. Tickets are
$15, $10, half price for students
and are available at the Michigan
Theater ticket office.
Call 668-8397.

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Continued from page 5
work, the more he was struck by his
influence on the composers who
followed him.
The influence is "most obvious in
movie music - high tension movie
music ... Every artist in the 20th
century is connected, and not just to
the 20th century," he says, referring
to Webern's own love of Renais-

sance chorales.
"There have been so many trib-
utes to other artists," Arwulf says in
explanation of how the idea of a per-
formance piece based on Webern's
life and work came to him. He says
he feels there are many others that
"nobody's talking about, and that
Arwulf brought the idea to'
Performance Network, where he's
been working on productions since

about 1986; since last summer, he's
been creating a piece of work which
he says makes everything else he's
done little more than whimsy.
Indeed, the two-act piece should
be a full evening's worth of art and
emotion. Arwulf decided to employ
several media in order to make the
work accessible to as many people
as possible.
Photographs of nature and art-
works as well as short excerpts from
the diaries of Webern and his con-
temporaries are projected onto
screens, while live figures move
across the stage. "We're an image-
oriented society. You can deliver a
lot with a series of images," he says.
Except for the music - a sound-
track consisting almost entirely of
Webern's orchestral, chamber, and
vocal works - and a few spoken

lines by actor Malcolm Tulip, the
piece is intentionally soundless.
Choreographer Noonie Anderson
says creating movement for this kind
of music is challenging. Because
Webern's music doesn't provide
strong rhythmic ideas, the dancers
follow body and breath rhythms.
"There's an internal cadence I set
up for myself," says Anderson.
Often the texts or images provide the
"text" of the movements; other
times, Anderson is conscious of
playing against both them and the
music. She also emphasizes the free-
ness of creating movement for this
work, saying, "The beauty of this is
it's not static, it's not set. It grows
out of itself."
Both Arwulf and Anderson offer
the following advice for under-
standing the piece: don't try too


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hard. Arwulf suggests that audience
members come "with a totally open ;
mind. Relax. Don't concentrate too
much. Let it come to you."
Anderson echoes those feelings, y
noting that dance audiences often
feel they must take every-thing lit
erally. "Whatever it means to you -
that's what it's supposed to mean:
Just let it wash over you," she says.
While this kind of art experience'
isn't for everyone, it's not as imper'
meable as it might seem. Anyone
with an interest in modern music,
particularly jazz, will find the roots
right here, in the life of an Austrian:
man named Anton.
be at the Performance Network-
March 25 through 27 at 8 p.m
Tickets are $9, $7 students. For
more information call 663-0681.
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