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January 18, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-01-18

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, January 18, 2008 -5


The famed Detroit producer J Dilla died in 2006 of lupus


Mos Def is widely respected and praised for his socially-conscious rhymes.

UMS brings
another top-notch
performer to the
prestigious Hill
DailyArts Writer
Mos Def - and his Big Band
-is another impressive get forthe
University Musical Society's con-
cert series. And yet, this concert
doesn't seem to
be the most log- Mos Def
ical production.
Why would Mos Monday at
Def go through 7:30 p.m.
the trouble of At Hill Auditorium
assembling a big $25-$45
band for a one-
time tribute to
J Dilla, on Martin Luther King Jr.
Day, in Ann Arbor of all places?
The Mos Def Big Band is yet
another impressive permuta-
tion of hip hop by the Brooklyn-
born emcee. Mos has previously
fronted the rock band Black Jack
Johnson, as well as recently dis-
covering Chicago's Hypnotic

Brass Ensemble playing on the
streets of New York and enlisting
them for a run of concerts. This
big band doesn't have the same
personnel, but it's the same idea.,
Having horns replace turntables
in a tribute to the late Detroit
powerhouse J Dilla might not
make sense on the surfacebutit's
the sort of pioneering move that
Dilla would have been proud of.
Dilla, born James Yance, but
also known as Jay Dee, had col-
laborated with Mos during his
career, most notably on Black
Star's "Little Brother," Mos
Def's "Can U C the Pride in the
Panther? (Remix)" and on Dilla's
own posthumously released The
Shining. With only a handful of
these collaborations though, it
appears that their friendship
is the reason for the tribute.
Immensely respected for his tal-
ents within the industry, Dilla's
name didn't become well known
outside hip-hop circles until his
death two years ago from lupus.
While most of his fame has to do
with his production and emcee-
ing skills, his warm and car-
ing personality sure didn't hurt
either. Nearly every hip-hop

megastar who eulogized Dilla
described him as an ambassador
for Detroit, and a world-class
nice guy.
The Martin Luther King
Jr. Day connection is also eas-
ily explained. Mos Def is one of
the most intelligent emcees to
ever wrap his hands around a
microphone. His extensive dis-
cography puts his money where
his mouth is. Genre labels like
"backpack rap" or "conscious
hip hop" can't contain his vari-
ous styles. Mos isn't preaching
from a pedestal - he's on the
ground, in the streets, weaving
rhymes about the struggles and
triumphs of every day life in his
native Bed-Stuy, in a manner
that resonates from the inner
cities to the suburbs. Whether
he's paired with Talib Kweli and
producer Hi-Tek in his seminal
group Black Star, or on his own
with an album like Black on Both
Sides, Mos brings the knowledge
and pride that critics often wish
most emcees possessed. Without
putting words in his mouth, Mos
has a dream. That dream is social
justice through righteous music.
Long after Kanye West moved

on to window shade sunglasses
and half-baked boasting, Mos
is still trying to bring attention'
to the administration's heinous
reaction to Hurricane Katrina. A
few weeks ago, Mos was arrested
at the Video Music Awards for
performing his incendiary song,
"Katrina Clap," on a stage on
the back of a truck outside the
entrance. Far from just a P.R.
stunt, his protest showed he
wasn't afraid to put his own ass
on the line. And why have this
historic concert in Ann Arbor?
Because Mark Jacobson, the
University Musical Society's pro-
gramming manager, and the rest
of the UMS staff are straight kill-
ing it. They've managed to turn
Ann Arbor into one of the Mid-
west's most prominent cultural
centers by bringing in a diverse
and impressive line of artists
from around the globe. The pres-
tige surrounding Hill Auditorium
has made it a great draw for art-
ists, validation per se, instead of
the other way around.
This has been said often in the
last few years about UMS con-
certs, but this is truly a once-in-
a-lifetime opportunity.

Fine Arts Editor
Paul Rardin, a member of the
School of Music, Theatre and
Dance's con-
ducting faculty 31st Annual
and this year's
coordinator of Collage
the School's Concert
annual perfor-
mance blitz, the Saturday,Jan.
Collage Con-
cert, has a mes- At Hill Auditorium
sage many have $25-$15
heard before:
"This is the 'if
you've got time to go to one con-
cert' concert."
With Hill Auditorium filled
nearly to capacity last year, for the
concert's 30th anniversary,Rardin
expects this year's performance to
live up to the hype. He also feels
the performance gives a sense of
the University's greatest invest-
ment in the arts - its arts students
- the way no other event will.
At a rehearsal of "Gloria," by
the American composer Domi-
nick Argento, Rardin debriefed
the Chamber and University
Choirs - separate University
classes, largely made-up of vocal
performance majors - on what to
expect at Saturday's 8 p.m. show.
"There are five rises, and you'll
be sharing them with the saxo-
phone ensemble," he said to the
students, who stood elbow-to-
elbow. They chuckled, imagining
the musicians huddling with their
instruments next to about 100
people singing in Latin. "We've
never done it this way," Rardin
admitted. "But there's nowhere
else for them to go."
Such juxtapositions are more
than concessions to a smallish
stage - they're what the Collage
Concert is about in the first place.
The idea came from a professional
show the Concert's founder, Gus-
tav Meier, saw years ago.
"He liked the sudden dramatic
contrasts from loud to soft, big to
small, classical to pop," Rardin
said. "Sometimes jarring segues
can be extremely effective."
There are almost 30 parts to
the concert, which puts most of
its performers onstage at once
and moves between perform-
ers without pauses, directing the
audience's attention with lighting.
For Kelly Moran, a sophomore
majoring in piano performance'
and performance arts technology,
Saturday will be her first time
participating in the concert.
od of conducting, but I think it's

conducive to the short attention
span of most audiences," she said.
The importance of conducting
is unexpectedly great.
"One way to get most of the
Music school involved is to use
these big ensembles like Universi-
ty Choir and Jazz Ensemble, and
there are always conductors for
those," Rardin said. "Most of the
logistical decisions fall to us, and
I suppose that's how the selection
process fell tous too."
The conducting faculty selects
performers through auditions.
A few years ago, the concert was
extended to include perform-
ers from the Theatre and Dance
departments, people who come
via recommendations from their
respective department chairs.
The concert also promises to be
an eclectic representation of the
University. "It's like a crash musi-
cology course," said Mary Martin,
a junior majoring in vocal perfor-
mance, of the material presented.
"Not everything that's included
100 people on
stage at one time
is historically monumental, but it
highlights some things and offers
It offers alternatives to the par-
ticipants as well, many of whom
have less contact with peers out-
side of their discipline than one
might imagine.
"In a self-concerned way, it's
just as important for us to hear
what we sound like as it is for the
outside world to hear," Rardin
said. He described the gratifying
recognition that comes during
dress rehearsal.
"For someone in Jazz Ensem-
ble to hear what an Indian music
ensemble sounds like that they
didn't know existed, and then
to realize, 'hey, that person's in
my theory class,' it's a wonderful
moment," he said.
The students have a lot to dis-
cover on the road to the concert
itself. In rehearsal for a piece they
will ultimately perform with the
Symphony Band, Rardin hushed
his students, and dropped a pearl
of performance wisdom: "There's
nothing instrumentalists hate
more than singers talking behind
themwhenthey're tryingto listen
to their conductors."
But everyone will surely be
talking after the performance.

SThe fastest little fin

DailyArts Writer
This seems to be the season of
spectacular pianists for the Uni-
versity Musical
Society. With i.i
Andras Schiff, -Uja Wang
Louis Lortie Sunday at
and the classi- 4 p.m.
cal music super-
star ang Lng AtHill Auditorium
star Lang Lang $110-$50
all visiting Ann $
Arbor, it would
be easy to overlook what may
well be the most important con-
cert this year - Yuja Wang at Hill
In a decade during which clas-
sical music is increasingly domi-
nated by adept and adaptable
Asian artists, it's no surprise to see

another Chinese virtuoso. Senti-
ment in the field has easily placed
China at the top of the list of hot-
beds for new talent. At the Curtis
Institute of Music in Philadelphia,
a school generally considered the
leading piano conservatory in the
nation, seven out of twenty stu-
dents are Chinese. One of those
students is Yuja Wang.
It's understandable if there's
some confusion here. She is a
student, yet she's performing in a
full-scale concert hall with the St.
Petersburg Philharmonic - at age
20. Yuja Wang is thatgood.
She first emerged on the scene
in North America when she
replaced Radu Lupu to perform
a concerto by Beethoven. Since
then, she has performed with
some of the greatest orchestras in

the na
York P
Cisco S

gers on the keys
tion - including the New are demanding and will no doubt
'hilharmonic, the San Fran- serve as an excellent display of
Symphony and the Houston her artistry. Ravel's La Valse in
sony - and has been hailed particular is known not just as
one of the most expressive and
evocative waltz pieces, but also as
an infamously technical and diffi-
he's a piano cult work. The rest of the program
is equally impressive, including
rtuoso at age Liszt, Bartok and Scriabin.
Although the current media
0. W hat have darling, Lang Lang, won't arrive
ou one? until early April, Yuja may very
you - well be his equal. Wang trains
under Gary Graffman, the same
instructor Mr. Lang once had. Her
future looks incredibly bright.
rgetic, fearless and extrava- This is a rare opportunity, in a
gifted, combining her pre- genre often dominated by older,
on the keys with passionate experienced artists, to see a true
mance. virtuoso before she's established
pieces for Sunday's concert as a world-renowned figure.

as enei

420 Maynard St., just
northwest of the Union
Sunday, Jan. 27
7 p.m.


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