The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 -- 5A
Jazz legend Marsalis takes
classical ambitions to Hill
By DAVID RIVA
Daily Arts Writer
In 1874, Modest Mussorgsky composed
a 10-movement suite titled "Pictures at an
Exhibition." The piece as a
whole functioned as a trib-
ute to one of Mussorgsky's
closest friends, an artist Center
who unexpectedly died at a Orchestra
young age, and each move-
ment served to represent a with Wynton
specific drawing or water- Marsalis
color made by the artist.
The circumstances sur- Tonight at 8 p.m.
rounding the conception of Hill Auditorium
"Pictures" were less than $10
ideal, but the composition
has become a celebrated
staple of the classical music world and is a fre-
quent feature piece for orchestras and piano
More than a century later, composer-musi-
cian Ted Nash has created "Portrait in Seven
Shades" - a seven-movement suite that will
be performed tonight at Hill for "Jazz at Lin-
coln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis"
- which is strikingly similar to "Pictures" in
its structure and overall concept, but differs in
style, purpose and inspiration.
Nash focused his seven movements on
paintings by modern artists like van Gogh and
Picasso. Instead of concentrating on the work
of one individual, Nash is taking a broader
approach in observing and celebrating some
of the art world's most recognizable paintings.
This common motif between the two composi-
tions reveals the undeniable parallels between
visual art and music - a connection Nash was
conscious of throughout his writing of "Por-
"Painters and musicians, we go through the
same tribulations, (getting) our art out there
and accepted," he explained. "And (we're) able
to express ourselves and appreciate it for that."
Nash also points out the common language
of "textures and colors and shapes and differ-
ent words" that are used to describe the work
of artist and musicians.
"The big difference is a painting is finished,
it's on the wall, it's done, it doesn't change, it
doesn't move," Nash said. "It's all about the
process of having painted it. And music, every
night - especially with jazz music because
there's so much improvisation - every per-
formance of it is different so it's a constantly
Though Nash has been given a greater role
in writing music for the band, Marsalis is still
the evening's main attraction. For Nash, play-
ing alongside one of the best-known names in
jazz is nothing less than a dream come true.
"When I first became aware of Wynton ...
I always really fantasized about playing with
him at some point, being able to play with him
in a band or something, and I didn't think it
would ever really happen," he said.
Nash also pointed out some similarities
between himself and Marsalis: both of their
fathers were jazz musicians and they're rela-
tively close in age.
"After we started working together, at the
very beginning I was a little timid, a little
scared of him because I respected him so
much and I wanted him to like my playing,"
he said of his early experiences with Marsalis.
"As I've grown to know him both musically
and as a personal friend, he's someone that
I not only feel very comfortable with, I feel
we share a lot, we have a lot in common," he
added, saying also that he enjoys being able to
express these feelings musically.
Nash admires Marsalis especially for the
way he selflessly conducts himself around his
fellow band members.
"(Marsalis) is a wonderful person to work
for because he doesn't approach things from
the point of view of a large ego like a lot of
leaders will," he said. "You'd think that some-
body who's that famous and has gotten that
much recognition and notoriety might have
a lot of ego and (say), 'Well, this band's about
me and it's really just showcasing my play-
ing and you all are supposed to support that.'
No, he's about us as a community playing and
he loves to hear us play as much as he loves
to play, so when we play concerts he's always
making sure that everybody has a chance to
Tonight, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orches-
tra will continue its quest to place "Portrait In
Seven Shades" in the same high-regard in the
jazz world that "Pictures at an Exhibition"
has in the classical community. Ted Nash's
innovative vision, Wynton Marsalis's contin-
ued virtuosity and the band's ability to let the
piece evolve will all combine to certainly take
it in that direction.
COURTESY OF NEWMARKET
"I apologize for throwing my shit at you. You made it look so fun."
A dairk 'Creation' story
Charles Darwin biopic
has trouble evolving
By CARLY STEINBERGER
For the Daily
"Creation" focuses on a lesser-
known portion of the life of Charles
away from a simply *
Instead of touching Cretio
on his countless zoo-
logical endeavors and At the
his development of Michigan
evolutionary theory, Newmarket
the film, based on the
novel "Annie's Box"
by Randall Keynes (Darwin's great-
great grandson), takes a more emo-
tional approach. Director Jon Amiel
chooses to highlight Darwin's struggle
to accept his own conclusions.
Throughout the film, Darwin (Paul
Bettany, "The Da Vinci Code") labors
over writing his famous work, "On the
Origin of Species," recognizing that
his theories challenge the existence of
God. While he believes his findings to
be correct, he fears them and questions
whether they should be shared with the
public. This bubbling anxiety drives
him to near insanity and physical ill-
ness. His pious wife Emma (Jennifer
Connelly, "A Beautiful Mind"), further
contributes to his doubts. All the while,
the ghost of his deceased daughter
deepens his mental instability.
The bulk of the film depicts Dar-
win's descent into madness. The
tone is initially cerebral, though that
quickly diminishes in favor of a dis-
tinctly morbid air. Advancing the dis-
mal mood is the depressing score, dark
lighting and Darwin's constant inter-
action with the imaginary. He dreams
up everything from the spirit of his
daughter to re-animated stuffed birds.
At times the film seems to teeter a bit
too much into the horror-inspired, as
eerie montages showcasing both fic-
tional and actual events flash before
Darwin's eyes, fueling his torment.
"Creation" sets itself apart from
typical, reverent biopics by attempting
to portray a true genius as someone
with human qualities and flaws. We
see Darwin as a family man who seeks
involvement in his children's lives
(though not at the climax of his mad-
ness) and is concerned for his wife's
feelings. Yet, the combination of the
writing and Bettany's performance
takes the emotions to an almost unre-
alistic level - it's as if Darwin has no
strength at all. He seems too plagued
by his insanity to ever have conceived
possibly the most revolutionary theory
in all of history.
The lack of mental progression
within the film is also disconcerting.
While Darwin grows to better handle
his anxiety, his state of mind remains
relatively stagnant. The man is still
torn between promoting his research
- which in his heart of hearts he
believes to be correct - and avoid-
ing the consequences of challenging
established religion. He even consults
his wife, and while she gives him her
opinion, it's still a bit unclear as to
whether Darwin iscompletely sold on
his own findings.
While "Creation" shows the softer
side of Darwin, it's very easy for the
viewer to forget while watching the
film the great impact of his accom-
plishments. It's almost as if the film
could be about any insanity-stricken
man and there never was an evolution
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