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January 24, 2013 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-01-24

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2B - Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

COMMUNITY CULTURE COLUMN
Ann Arbors
cinematic
culture lives on

a-

"I never practiced, I was just
getting along at the barely com-
petent level, but then something
happened and I just had to play,"
said Evan Chambers, a professor
in the School of Music, Theatre
& Dance.
Though his parents were '50s
folk-music revivalists - both
sang and played a myriad of
instruments - it wasn't until
his junior year in high school
that Chambers became obsessed
with music, a moment he likens
to beingstruck by lightening.
Years later, his composition-
al pieces are being performed
across the country, including in
Carnegie Hall. But for Cham-
bers, now the Chair of Composi-
tion in MT&D, one moment from
college sticks out more than any
prestigious venue.
"I was in an orchestration

class in college, and so I did a
project and (the orchestra) read
it," he explained. "I was sitting
in the back of the hall in Bowling
Green, Ohio and it was like hav-
ing the biggest, fastest car in the
world. It was thrilling! And boy,
I was hooked at that point."
Never one to stop exploring,
Chambers's music is recognized
by critics and avid listeners alike
for its wide incorporation of
musical and artistic disciplines.
"I'm very interested, in my
work, in creating translations
between different kinds of
experiences," said Chambers,
whose pieces have incorporated
orchestras, choirs, Irish fiddles
and electronic music. "For exam-
ple, between Albanian music and
contemporary classical music.
Some of my work is even inspired
by Sufi Qawwali music."
Chambers is also an accom-
plished Irish fiddler. Around 20
years ago, he said, he was driving
to Cleveland to see his future wife
when something incredible hap-
pened.
"I was driving past Toledo and
the snow was falling down and
'The Thistle and Shamrock,' that
local folk and Celtic-music radio
show, came on and I was just
floored. It was like a conversion
experience," he explained. "It was
something that had been closed-
off and openedback up."
Though he could surely find
success as a freelance musician,

Chambers is a professor, composer, Irish fiddler and environmental activist.

Chambers is more than happy to
be a professor.
"I'm socommitted to teaching,
in fact I love it," he said. "I've had
the benefit of so many wonderful,
gifted, caring and inspired teach-
ers in my life.... It's a natural pro-
gression to want to try to emulate
them in my own way."
In addition to being a compos-
er, an Irish fiddler and a teach-
er, Chambers is an ardent and
knowledgeable environmental-
ist. With the help of the Graham
Institute, he led the success-
ful movement to eliminate the
application of chemicals to the
grass surrounding the School of
MT&D.
Unsurprisingly, Professor
Chambers's connection to the
environment has found its way
into his work.

"You're most alive when you're
in the living world, not the built
world,"he said. "There's an urgen-
cy to take that sensibility and kind
of experience and translate it into
music as well. There's also an
urgency to use your 10 minutes of
face time as a composer ... to bring
(the audience's) attention to some-
thing that's of desperate urgency
- which is the fact that we are
destroying the environment we
need to live in."
"There's a danger for artists to
be caught in the trap of wanting to
say, 'Hey, dig me' all the time," he
added. "I think my role as an artist
is much more to say, 'Hey, look at
this world, look outside - look at
the things that are larger than us
as humans and get into tune with
them."'
-JACKSON HOWARD

At a career fair hosted
by the History Depart-
ment, I talked about Ann
Arbor's film culture with one of
the alumni the department had
brought in.
Apparently,
it was once
possible to
purchase
tickets that
could be used
to attend a ,
variety of JOHN
films playing BOHN
throughout
campus - in
auditoriums
and rooms in any University
building imaginable.
No one would doubt that cin-
ema, as a cultural experience, has
been a rather big deal in the Ann
Arbor area for some time. This
past year alone, we've brought to
town national and global firsts
like the Japanese and Korean
Film Festivals, respectively.
If you've read Jacob Axelrad's
article on the history of Hash
Bash, you'll know that Andy War-
hol had shown material at one of
the many film festivals that have
occurred in Ann Arbor over the
past 60 years.
However, cinema, like all art
forms, is in constant flux; the
forms it takes as an experience
are constantly changing. Even
the communal experience the
alumni related probably became
superfluous oruntenable with
the advent ofVHS and, later on,
with the Internet.
Yet, even as things change
in Ann Arbor, old forms persist
in a big way. While most of the
world may have watched a near-
complete overhaul of the cin-
ematic landscape, in Ann Arbor,
older technologies, methods and
moods like the Barton Organ or
the old-time '20s architecture
of the Michigan Theater, exist
beside new developments.
I would like to relate one
particular experience I had at
the Michigan Theater, where
I was reminded of this chang-
ing cinematic landscape. I saw
"Nosferatu" one year during
the Halloween season. This has
become a tradition in the area
and an event I definitely suggest
everyone check out at least once
while they are here.
As it was originally per-
formed, a live organist plays a
score of the movie. The difficul-
ty of syncing up the score with
the movie in real time, espe-
cially when some of the music
functions as sound effects, is
something I cannot fathom,
but is undoubtedly something
I respect. I became anxious, as
I usually do during live perfor-
mances, and it gave an edge to a
movie that was once very scary
for its contemporary audience.
In fact, during one of the more

"scary" scenes, a sweet old lady
next to me gasped in horror at
the sight of the monstrous Nos-
feratu.
I was confronted, during
her short-but-profound gasp,
with the generational gap in
cinema. What is laughable to
the modern audience, subject
to the most obscene horrors
during even a casual film view-
ing, might be the most sublime
depths of past generations. To
discuss it ina class was one
thing, but witnessing it was
something else.
Fast-forward a year and I'm
watching "The Avengers" at
Ann Arbor's Quality 16. The
experience seems unimaginably
different. After the movie, as
I'm in the bleached tiled bath-
room, I hear a couple of kids
talking about it.
"Man, that was like living the
dream," one said.
Movie magic is
all around us.
While I was originally per-
plexed that watching a movie
could be "the dream," maybe
it was possible: a decent film
adaptation of iconic comic
culture, Robert Downey Jr.'s
particular brand of humor
andenough CGI destruction
to satisfy the most extreme of
Freudian aggressions. But it is
definitely a particular dream,
one of the current moment.
Before the "talkie" revolution,
the "dream" was probably just
hearing the human voice.
Given the rarity of such an
experience as "Nosferatu," it's
not hard to see that cinema
culture is ingrained in the Ann
Arbor community. The space has
been invested with an eye toward
film; it is, in many ways, part of
the city's landscape. With recent
updates - like the Askwith
Media Library, where, freshman
year, I attempted the impossible
feat of getting my tuition's worth
through free rentals - there does
appear to be further investment.
And yet, I won't be quick to
rest easy about the persistence of
the old experiences. Updates on
the Barton Organ have required a
great deal of passion and invest-
ment on behalf of the people and,
for a short time, the organ fell
into disarray.
Come what may, the precious-
ness and vulnerability of the
unique experiences offeredby
Ann Arbor's film culture are
apparent, and I encourage them
to always be encountered as such.
Bohn was attacked by
Nosferatu. To free him, e-mail
obohn@umic.edu.

If

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