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April 09, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-04-09

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycomWednesday, April 9, 2014 - 5A

'The Gondoliers'
to be modernized

Examining the future
of voice-assist tech

Students to
perform Gilbert and
Sullivan classic
DailyArts Writer
From "The Simpsona" and
"Frasier," to "The West Wing"
and "How I Met Your Mother,"
references to
the theatrical
worksofGilbert UMGASS
and Sullivan PresentS
continue to The
appear in
contemporary Gondoliers
popular Thursday
Librettist and Friday
W.S. Gilbert at 8 p.m.
and composer Saturday at
Arthur Sullivan 2 p.m. and
partnered 8 p.m.
together to Sunday at
create some of 2p.m.
the best-known
theatrical Mendelssohn
productions of Theater
the Victorian- $10 Students;$20
era. During
their time GeneralAdmission
Gilbert and Sullivan wrote 14
comic operas, including "HMS
Pinafore," "The Mikado" and
"The Pirates of Penzance."
The works of Gilbert and
Sullivan are performed all over
the world by various theater

companies, such as Ann Arbor's
own University of Michigan
Gilbert & Sullivan Society
(UMGASS). Founded in 1947,
UMGASS brings together
students, faculty and community
members with a passion for
the theater in order to stage
two full productions of Gilbert
and Sullivan operettas at the
Lydia Mendelssohn Theater.
UMGASS's first production of
the year is "The Gondoliers,"
one of Gilbert and Sullivan's last
highly influential works.
"The Gondoliers" tells the
tale of two newly married
Venetian gondoliers who are
unexpectedly told that one of
them is the lost King of Barataria.
Unfortunately, no one, except the
gondoliers' absent foster mother,
knows which one of them is the
legitimate heir. Complicating
matters, the lost heir was wed
in infancy to the daughter
of a Spanish Duke, meaning
that one of the gondoliers is
unintentionally committing
The two gondoliers travel to
the kingdom of Barataria to rule
jointly in the hope of settling
the unrest in the land. However,
their Venetian wives follow them
shortly after, causing a series
of misunderstandings, class
struggles and unrequited love.
All of this action is set to the
infectious tunes emblematic of a
Gilbert and Sullivan production.
Thomas Cilluffo, a junior at

the School of Music, Theatre
and Dance, serves as the artistic
director for this production of
"The Gondoliers."
"We've set the opera in a
contemporary setting utilizing
the old city of Venice, with a
modern European setting and
characters, and we have it set
during 'Martedi Grasso' (Mardi
Gras) andtheCarnivalofVenice,"
Cilluffo said.
"We make use of Venetian
Masks and glamorous costumes
as well as contemporary street
costumes," he continued.
"The second act takes place
in the South Seas fictional
setting of Barataria, which we
have compared to the French
Polynesian island of Tahiti, South
East Asian influences mixed with
a tropical regal court setting."
Whether you're a seasoned
Gilbert and Sullivan fan, or you're
a newbie to the theater, UMGASS
hopes to provide a unique
performance for everyone.
"My hope is that the audience
will get a different experience
than they might expect from a
Gilbert and Sullivan production,"
Cilluffo said.
"I'm hoping the modern day
take on a classic operetta will
allow audiences to be whisked
away to the romantic city Venice
and also to the remote South
Seas kingdom of Barataria," he
continued "and watch as a cast
of zany individuals discover their
place in life."

Will Siri-like
technology reach
Daily Arts Writer
As someone who actively
looks forward to what mind-
blowing technology the future
will someday offer, it can be
easy to overlook the glimmers
of the future nestled within
our present.
For example, some people
still don't realize that if
you own an iPhone and the
included Apple earbuds,
it's possible to be walking
along, hold a button on the
headphones to bring up Siri,
tell her to play your favorite
song, and just like that you're
enjoying music without ever
taking your phone out of your
Voice assistants in
particular - whether it be
Apple's Siri, Android's Iris,
Microsoft's Cortana, or even
the voice controls on the XBox
One - are quickly closing
the gap between robotic
schedule-setter and the
drool-inducing J.A.R.V.I.S.
system in "Iron Man." The
only problem is, you never see
Tony Stark pressing a button
to talk to J.A.R.V.I.S in the
movies. You hear J.A.R.V.I.S
respond naturally when he's
addressed, passive until
required to be active. The
missing link that Siri and all
the rest don't have? Always-
on listening.
But people don't like their
devices listening all the time.
It creeps them out, bringing
to mind a "Nineteen Eighty-
Four"-esque world where
the NSA's PRISM program
might be tuning in too. This
has put tech companies in a
tough spot. On the one hand,
the fewer steps it takes to
communicate with a device
the better - the experience
is much more natural. I'd
rather be walking around
with my headphones on and
nonchalantly mention that
I'm in the mood for some Daft
Punk and have Siri pipe in and
ask "Which album?" We're not
there yet.
The downside to this type
of technology? Holes in device
security could potentially
lead to malicious software
tapping into your microphone
and, in theory, some massive
data collection program could
circumvent any safeguards


You can't help me with the real things, Siri.

in the name of national
security. Luckily we've never
encountered something like
that before.
Microsoft began testing
these waters when it first
announced the Xbox One's
voice control features, which
would enable users to turn
on their Xbox by simply
saying "Xbox On." A useful
feature, but one that requires
the Xbox's microphone to
always be listening for those
magic words. Outlash from
the gaming community was
swift, and Microsoft later
clarified that the feature,
called "instant-on," would
only listen for those exact
words and could be turned
off. The general reaction,
however, demonstrated how
many (perfectly justifiable)
reservations people have
regarding always-listening
The biggest issue with
always-listening technology is
where all of that white-noise
data goes, where it travels,
where it's stored, and who
has access and authorization
to listen. Microsoft insists
the voice data it receives is
stored locally on each Xbox,
nothing is shared between the
Xbox and Microsoft. That's
a tough sell though, and one
that requires a certain degree
of trust.
Apple has taken a similar
but slightly more transparent
approach to the data its new
fingerprint sensor stores on
the iPhone 5S, called Touch ID.
The way it works now is that a

mathematical representation
of your fingerprint's unique
features is stored in what Apple
is calling a "Secure Enclave"
- an isolated portion on your
iPhone's internal computer
chip that's walled off from
iOS 7 and Apple's servers. It's
a bit like your own personal
off-line diary that only you
have the key to. It's certainly
a promising step in the right
direction, and Apple could
theoretically utilize their
Secure Enclave to bring Siri
to life further, enabling her to
listen in with a J.A.R.V.I.S.-
like capacity, but refusing to
share what she hears with
anyone but you. The problem
is that Siri currently sends
every single word you say to
her back to Apple's servers
where it's analyzed to help
improve Siri's responses ...
and you need to be connected
to the internet for Siri to even
We still have a few laps
until we catch up to the
fictional J.A.R.V.I.S.'s level of
comprehension and security,
but I predict a second wind.
People can be reasonable. If
tech companies can present
a compelling argument for
an always-listening device
and back it up with a secure
storage architecture for the
necessary peace-of-mind,
then we may well see the Xbox
Two or iPhone 7 bundled
with a J.A.R.V.I.S.-level voice
Until then, we'll just have
to be content to press an extra
button or two. Oh, the horror.

Say hello toze new Etta James.
Martina McBride covers soul
classics on 'Everlasting' LP

Daily Arts Writer
Martina McBride is a full-
blown country music superstar
and has the accolades to prove it.
The four-time
CMA Female +
Vocalist of the
Year has been Everlasting
nominated for
14 Grammy Martina
Awards over
the span of 12
studio albums. Kobalt
In recent
years, her star
power has waned as younger
hit-makers like Taylor Swift
and Carrie Underwood have
become legitimate pop icons.
In an attempt to stay relevant to
her fair-weather fan-base, the
47-year-old vocalist is releasing
Everlasting, a collection of
covers of soul and R&B songs.
A cover CD allows McBride
to show off her tremendous
voice without, of course, having
to go through the process of
creating her own material.
Instead, she borrows from
a library of classic tracks,
opening with a lackluster cover
of Aretha Franklin's "Do Right
Woman, Do Right Man," and
continuing from there. McBride
shoots for lofty goals with her
modern-day interpretations of
these beloved songs, but she's
ultimately unable to deliver an
album worth listening to. Her
takes on Elvis Presley, Sam

Cooke and Otis Redding are
inspired renditions, but they do
little to improve on the original
Everlasting often finds
McBride out of her comfort
zone while putting her own spin
on the'sound of Motown and
R&B legends. It's encouraging
to see an artist take such a risk
at this point in her career, but
12 albums deep, McBride's
attempt to diversify her sound
falls flatter than her cover
of "In the Basement" by Etta
James. The song is a duet with
Kelly Clarkson, and while both
are clearly talented singers,
neither can match the energy
of the original and the twangy
cover has little of the original
soul feel.
McBride's voice sounds
strong throughout the album,
but each song sorely lacks the
soul present in their original
iterations. The album's highest
point comes at McBride's
cover of Van Morrison's "Wild
Night," which has also been
covered by John Mellencamp,
among many others. The
biggest strength of the album is
its live instrumentation, which
is refreshing in the age of
digital production. Each song
was rerecorded by McBride's
backing band, led by legendary
producer Don Was, who has
worked with everyone from
Elton John to Bob Dylan to The
Rolling Stones.
Hearing enthusiastic live

guitar work trumps piped-in
backing tracks any day of the
week, and this nostalgia factor
is Everlasting's biggest asset.
McBride's curated tracklist
shows her excellent taste in
R&B music and exposing these
old tunes to a new audience
isn't the worst thing in the
McBride can
sing her heart
out, can't fit into
R&B staples.
Though there isn't much
replay value in Everlasting,
there are undoubtably fans of
both soul music and country
musicthatcould find something
worthwhile in it. McBride's
attempt at covering a litany of
classics may not go perfectly
smoothly, but it is clear that she
has the vocal chops to take on
this challenge. As she moves
into the twilight of her career,
the mother of three keeps
innovating and keeps singing
her heart out. Everlasting won't
have as large of an impact as
some of her career's largest
hits, but it shows that despite
her age, McBride is still a
welcoming, powerful presence
behind a microphone.

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