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February 12, 2002 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-02-12

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Showcase night ...
Nebali, Silent Planet and 5
Star Buzz perform at Blind
Pig. 10 p.m. Free.


michigandaily.com /arts

FEBRUARY 12, 2002

New England provinciality
explored epic new novel

Courtesy of JAG Entertainment
I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion Mr. Fleck.
ra mwFleck binsbanjo
to Power Center'

By Ted McDermott
For the Daily
The prologue to Richard Russo's fifth novel
"Empire Falls" dumps the reader right to the center of
tiny Empire Falls, Maine. It takes us into a strange
town where the wealthiest citizen, the heir to a textile
factory fortune, is building "a mission-
style hacienda" along the banks of a
central Maine river. It introduces a char-
acter who decides to re-route this river
because its flow is depositing piles of EMPIRE
dead trash (including a decaying moose
carcass) into his back yard, giving the
place a terrible stench, and who (we are Knol
told in the first few pages) will buy a
gun "30 years later for the purpose of
ending his life."
But our introduction to C.B. Whiting, his construc-
tion plans and his history is a brief one. Immediately,
in the first paragraph of the first proper chapter, we
are thrown 40 years forward, into the world of the
Empire Grill and its manager Miles Roby.
This quick shift back and forth is characteristic of
"Empire Falls." The trick of Russo's brilliant literary
construction is the ability to find a page-turning
means of bringing the past and present of each charac-
ter together. And Russo does this nearly perfectly.
Empire Falls is a dying town. A former seat of
booming textile mills and a healthy downtown, it has
been rocked by Whiting's sale of the mills to multi-
national corporations (everyone's favorite enemy) and
the inevitable emigration of a nearby county's popula-
tion. Miles Roby is undoubtedly at the center of this
larger-than-an-Altman-movie character list, and his
Munro taces

a looming figure in his middle-aged
life, in the town's rocky past and in other
things (things which, if revealed, could
ruin the reading experience)
Though it is the central relationship,
it is certainly not the only one. There is
Miles' relationship with his daughter
Tick, a high school sophomore, aspiring


relationships with Mrs. Francine Whiting, C.B.'s wid-
owed wife, provides much of the book's action.
Miles is the manager of the Empire Grill. Mrs.
Whiting is the grill's owner - and the owner of seem-
ingly everything else in the town. However, their rela-
tionship is much more convoluted than a simple
boss-employee one. It is rooted in Miles' mother, still

By Jim Schiff
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor
The banjo is an instrument we
don't normally consider ripe for clas-
sical crossover. But five-time Gram-
my winner Bela Fleck, a seasoned
pro in bluegrass, jazz and rock,

makes a successful leap
to classical with his lat-
est recording, "Perpetu-
al Motion." Tomorrow BELLA
night, Fleck and bassist AND.
Edgar Meyer will per- Mi
form selections from power
the album, in addition
to some of their Tomorro
favorite duets.
Fleck's upbringing
would seem conducive to a career in
classical music, but as a teenager, he
was drawn to other styles. The allure
of Flatt & Scruggs' bluegrass playing
attracted Fleck, who picked up the
banjo at age 15. He joined the pro-
gressive bluegrass band New Grass
Revival in 1982 and subsequently
made a series of solo recordings for
Rounder Records. Fleck's career sky-
rocketed in 1989 when he formed the
Flecktones, a group who describe
their style as "blu-bop," a combina-
tion of jazz and bluegrass.
"Perpetual Motion" is a return to
the classical sounds of his childhood,
exemplified by his cello-playing
stepfather. "It's funny I always
enjoyed classical, but it was never so
galvanizing that I wanted to play it
for a living," said Fleck. "The older
you get, the more it makes sense to
you. Now I hear that there is more
rhythmic, exciting stuff in classical
music that I didn't catch onto until
The initial push behind "Perpetual
Motion" came from Meyer, who ear-
lier this year shared a Grammy award
for Best Classical Crossover Record-
ing with violinist Mark O'Connor
and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. For this album,
Meyer helped Fleck make a "wish
list" of acclaimed artists to collabo-
rate with. The ultimate product
included Meyer on bass, Joshua Bell
Bolcom co
By Archana Ravi
Daily Arts Writer
This is the story of a love that
developed over a lifetime, through
the filter of race. "From the Diary
of Sally Hemings" gives us a fic-
tional glimpse into the complex


on violin, Evelyn Glennie on marim-
ba and John Williams on guitar,
among other artists.
"I knew I was going to be satis-
fied ... I felt we were on a very top
level," said Fleck. "I like the fact that
it's an intimate kind of recording.
Between one or two musicians, it
gives it a very honest
FLECK s"Perpetual Motion"
FLECK spans three centuries of
DGAR classical music, from
'ER Bach, to Beethoven, to
-enter Chopin to Tchaikovsky.
Fleck's playing fits
at 8 p.m. seamlessly into the
classical compositions,
but he never tries to
replicate the sound of a cello or vio-
lin. Each selection puts a modern
twist on an old favorite, such as what
Fleck does with Bach's "Prelude
from Suite for Unaccompanied Cello
No.1." The long, lyrical cello bow-
ings on this piece are replaced with
Fleck's gentle banjo strumming -
and the result is a harp-like, almost
ethereal sound that is a delight for
the ears.
Though The Flecktones have per-
formed with live orchestras, "Perpet-
ual Motion" is entirely new territory
for Fleck. The process of selecting
music and transcribing it for banjo
fingerings was one of his most men-
tally taxing projects yet. "It was tech-
nically challenging," he said. "It was
sort of amazing how much of the
stuff actually did work and fit the
banjo. It was quite a cool experi-
On following up "Perpetual
Motion" with more classical works,
Fleck hopes to write a concerto for
The Flecktones and orchestra. Such
experimentation with other genres
has become part of Fleck's musical
creed. "I think it's something every
musician who wants to be well-
rounded should do, it's part of my
ongoing education," he said. "There's
just so much music out there to learn
and it's just like, 'What am I going to
do next?"'

I artist and virtual anorexic in love with a
boy she held hands with one night.
There is Miles' relationship with his father Max, a
man who ignores the food accumulating in his beard,
refuses to "shake" after urinating and whose only care
in the world is scamming beer and enough money to
get to Key West. There is a repressed homosexual
priest's relationship with an overtly Catholic, overtly
gay artist. There is an ex-wife, a reporter with a blue
cyst bubbling from his forehead, a high school art
teacher whose favorite painter is a public access chan-
nel artist who always completes an entire painting in
exactly one hour - the list goes on.
In "Empire Falls," Russo creates a complex, expan-
sive story that actually fits holds interest for almost
500 pages. His prose is simple, but beautiful and his
voice is original, yet somehow familiar. He marries
the personal feel of the first-person perspective with
the detached feel of the third person. This is a very dif-
ficult trick to pull off and Russo does occasionally
fidelities n n

fail. Most of the time, however, he manages by focus-
ing each chapter on a certain character and allowing
that character a turn as the limited third-person narra-
tor. Avoiding a consistently outside omniscient narra-
tion and the constrictions of a limited third or first
person voice allows Russo to build a far-reaching,
vivid picture of the town and population of Empire
Often, the mammoth scope of the book seems to
overwhelm Russo. Plot lines sometimes dead-end (see
the homosexual priest story) and sometimes Miles'
painstaking realizations (things he's been so close to
figuring out for years) seem painfully obvious to the
reader. But in the end, "Empire Falls" stands as a
remarkably captivating piece of literature, standing up
to the acclaim it's received and providing a look at the
intricacies of an aging New England town.
ew coleCtion

By Beatrice Marovich
Daily Arts Writer

As this garrulous title seems to
promise, Alice Munro's 10th col-
lection of short stories is integrally
relational. Once again, Munro
offers a work occupied with the
largest questions - ones mainly
concerned with love and death. Her
lucid talent for unraveling the
seemingly ordinary threads of
human lives reveals Munro as a
master of details - the fine points
are what make these stories credi-
ble and compelling.
Munro does not seem to be'one
who takes great risks with her
prose. Even her language is agree-

able and basic though
with a few bright metap
characters are no differ
are, more or less, noth-
ing fancy. Most live
not far from where
Munro herself makes
her home, small towns
and rural areas near
Southern Ontario and
British Colombia. The
distinction between
what is city and what
is not is in fact, often
a source of .conflict
among her characters.
A slightlymore cosmopo
tive is often caught look
the lives of those who n4
it out of town.
The women tend to
domestic, and among th
majority are professorial1
Munro's tendency to'
absurd rescues her sto
women are asymmetrica
strong and always capable
ing drama. The men are 1
honest, uncertain and alw
esting. Her characters s
on the path toward medic
always manage to resc
selves and somehow ench
And, of course, in line
ty, every love affair is b:
Fidelity is questioned o
aside in almost every o
nine tales. One charact
over the sort of love tha
for her husband, "Shev
she loved him, and me-

hors. Her

ent. They little hum of hate running along
beside her love, nearly
all the time."
The title story
*** involves a housemaid
who it seems no one
HATESHIP, could love, a widower,
FRIENDSHIP, his son-in-law and a
COURTSHIP, LOVE- silly prank played by a
SHIP, MARRIAGE couple of teenage
girls. This is probably
By Alice Munro the most complicated
story and I found
myself changing my
Titan rela- mind several times as-to the
king in on expected outcome.
ever made Another story, "Post and Beam"
follows the young wife of a some-
be very what unresponsive husband. She
e men the begins to realize the weight and
types. But consequence of the "bargaining" in
ward the a woman's life after a visit from
ries. The her small-town cousin. In "Com-
al, clever, fort" we learn about the death of a
e of creat- high school biology teacher who is
aughingly driven to resign by the creationists
iays inter- in his small town. His wife is left
eem to be to pick up some of the pieces he
ocrity, but was too stubborn to deal with. She
ue them- eventually instructs the undertaker
ant. to tell her exactly what had been
with reali- done with his corpse during crema-
ittersweet. tion.
r brushed "Queenie" is the story of a
ne of the woman who thinks back to the
er muses reckless life of her stepsister who
at she has had eloped with one of the middle-
would say aged neighbors and inevitably dis-
an it to a appeared forever. But, perhaps the

certain extent, and she wanted to
be loved by him, but there was a

most charming tale of the collec-
tion is "The Bear came Over the
Mountain". A habitually adulterous
husband finds the tables turned
when he sends his wife to a nurs-
ing home and he mulls over what
extents he will go to for her happi-
Munro's latest collection is satis-
fying, and filled with several gems
that could almost fill your stomach
like a serious meal. Munro's char-
acters are dynamic and real, and
like all of us, constantly striving
for some sort of grace.

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impositions enhance 'Henmmgs'

being of someone
who refused to be
identified as merely
Thomas Jefferson's
Each performance
of "Hemings" fea-
tures a cycle of 18
songs composed by
the University's
Pulitzer Prize-win-
ning composer and
pianist William Bol-

Sun. at4
University Mus

Sandra Seaton. "Hemings" will be
sung by mezzo-soprano Florence
Quivar, who chose Bolcom to
compose the songs for this work
because she "fell in love" with his
Bolcom was initially hesitant to
work with the subject matter of
Hemings simply
because he had never
seen a well-crafted
E DIARY depiction of her life.
?LLY However, his interest
PING in the romantic rela-
INGS tionship between
n Theatre Hemings and Jeffer-
at 8 p.m., son, rather than the
4.m. historical aspects sur-
$4 rounding it, drove him
sical Society to follow through with
the project.
He knew of only one person who
could write the show and actually
make the production a success:
His long time friend and play-
wright Sandra Seaton. Seaton first
met Bolcom in 1988, after he won
the Pulitzer Prize for his "Twelve
New Etudes for Piano." "Sandra
truly believed in Sally, and her

for the sake of her children's and
her own futures.
Bolcom's goal in composing the
music was to make each song an
entry in her diary, giving the audi-
ence a glimpse into the woman
she was and the time period she
lived in.
In addition to Quivar's perform-
ance of "Hemings," each evening
will also include song cycles from
"Honey and Rue." Composed by
Andre Previn to a text by Toni
Morrison, "Rue" will be per-
formed by accomplished soprano
Harolyn Blackwell.

Seeking a
Be a Summer Academic Peer Advisor!
Info at LSA Advising Center, 1255 Angell or
attend an information session at 4:00 p.m.,
Tuesday, February 12, 1215 Angell Hall

com and written by accomplished
playwright and English professor

Quivar ready for some serious singin'.
enced her, if not more," Seaton
Both Seaton and Bolcom agree
that Sally Hemings was a strong,
intelligent woman of her time.
According to some sources, she
may have visited France with Jef-
ferson to learn French cooking and
shed her slave status for some

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