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November 12, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-12

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014,, 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Wednesday, November12, 2014 - 5A

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"Ladies and gentlemen, we're gathered here tonight for a most beautiful occasion."
L 0
A master at work

Acclaimed producer
brings 'You're Dead!'
set to Royal Oak
Online Arts Editor
I've been mulling this article
over in my head for the better
part of three weeks. Now, not
every waking moment of those 18
days was spent curled in a fetal
position on my bed, marveling in
horror at the utter inadequacy of
written language for the task at
hand, but suffice it to say that the
problem posed by this article has
kept me up nights.
It's the type of problem any
writer faces, but that doesn't
make it any less profound.
Really, it's the problem of
written expression. - to
translate something intangible,
a feeling, a moment, an image,
into words that other people
will understand, to tell the
"truth" about the thing you're
writing about. And the truth is
that two-and-a-half weeks ago
at the Royal Oak Music Theatre,
I experienced something
uncanny, something that I'm
not sure I have the literary
wherewithal to articulate.
In short, I went to a Flying
Lotus concert.
But I've already run into
problems - really, "concert" isn't
exactly the right word to describe
what FlyLo did. Yes, I was in
what you might call a concert
hall. Yes, there was a stage with
a musician on it. Yes, a room
full of people had come there to
watch said musician make noises
at them. But within moments of
FlyLo taking the stage, it became
clear that "concert" and all of
the expectations tacked onto
9 that term - the song, clap, witty
banter, song, clap formula, the
room full of gyrating twenty-
somethings in various states
of inebriation - none of that
imagery would adequately
encapsulate the sublime artwork
happening in that theater.
FlyLo's stage setup consisted
of a massive prismatic cube
flanked on either side by strobe
lights and enormous speakers.
Inside the cube, whose walls
doubled as 3-D projector screens,
a small set of stairs led up to a
podium where the L.A.-based
producer had set up his laptop
and DJ equipment, looking a
good deal like a conductor's
stand. Before he began his

set, FlyLo appeared with little
ceremony from behind the right
side of the cube. He walked out
to the front of the stage, dressed
in an undertaker's black suit, and
addressed his audience as the
sound of funereal organs filled
the room.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we're
gathered here tonight for a most
beautiful occasion."
He slowly climbed the stairs
to his perch, putting on a black
mask with glowing yellow
eyes. The organs cut out and he
finished his speech.
"But I'm afraid I have to tell
you ... You're dead!"
The frenetic opening lines
of "Theme" from FlyLo's latest
release, You're Dead!, blared
out of the speakers, and the
music would continue with
only a handful of pauses for
the e tof 4h ,rariy ly e
hour set.* He'.was'dding lairge y
improvised trap renditions of
tracks from his entire Flying
Lotus discography interspersed
with a handful of Captain
Murphy numbers, pairing his
beautifully syncopated rhythms
with stunning visuals projected
onto the walls of the cube
surrounding him.
The one minute and thirty
second track "Fkn Dead"
expanded into a nearly four-
minute-long trap/jazz fusion
accompanied by animations
of tastefully disemboweled
and segmented bodies
provided by Japanese guro
artist Shintaro Kago. "Getting
There," a masterpiece of sound
engineering off of 2012's Until
the Quiet Comes, came across
just as crisply in the live setting
as a lightly rotoscoped version of
the track's music video played on
the screen.
Throughout the performance,
FlyLo stood at his podium, his
mask's yellow eyes shining
through the animations
surrounding him, rocking back
and forth in time with the music.
He was very clearlyuninterested
in providing the sort of inclusive
experience one usually finds at
a hip-hop concert. There was
no call and response with the
audience and certainly no call to
"get turnt"; he didn't even really
ask how anybody was doing, All
in all, he might have said 100
words by the end of the night,
most of those at the very end of
the show.
But if this performance was
impersonal, it was impersonal
in the same sense that an opera

or tragedy is impersonal, which
is to say profoundly beautiful
and moving without feeling the
need to be on a first-name basis.
FlyLo wasn't there to build a
reputation or a fan base - he has
already achieved both in spades,
and his reward is the ability to
create art divorced from the
more practical considerations
that bog down other artists. The
crowd was unusually reticent for
a hip-hop concert, but the gaping
mouths and stunned expressions
around the room showed that
they understood their job: they
were simply there to watch the
master at work.
That room full of awed
expressions illustrates, perhaps
better than any other image, the
uncanniness and intangibility
of this concert. You could
not be in that room, staring
at those glwj49gyes behind
\he prdjtctor srte'ehs,and feel
anything other than a sort of
ecstatic wonder, a bewildered
reverence for the man and his
music. Flying Lotus is one of
those artists, like the AbbeyRoad
Beatles or the "Don Giovanni"
Mozart or the BitchesBrew Miles
Davis or even the MF Doom
and Madlib of Madvillainy, who
seems to have reached as nearly
as one can, however fleetingly, to
But perfection is a very
different thing from being
flawless. FlyLo made a handful
of mistakes throughout the
show - a mismatched visual
cue here, a mistimed drop there
- but even the errors seemed
to have a sort of logic to them,
adding to the performance
rather than subtracting from
it. And that's precisely what
makes him perfect: the ability to
reconfigure flaws and mistakes
into a workable whole, shoring
up the gaps with his own
innovations. Where hip hop
falls short, he takes cues from
jazz. When simply standing
on stage with a laptop doesn't
work, he builds a 3-D projector
cube on top of it. Hell, when
Steven Ellison himself doesn't
get the point across, he becomes
a masked, nameless undertaker
with giant, luminescent yellow
It is uncanny, it is intangible,
it's a kind of magic you can't
necessarily understand, but
music can approach perfection,
and you know it when you see
it. Two-and-a-half weeks ago
in Royal Oak, it looked a lot like
Flying Lotus.

than epidemic ofsexu-
alassault sweepingcol-
VYlege campuses across
the nation, as
well as the Uni-
versity of Mich-
igan, there are
countless topics
of uncertainty
and controver-
sy. In afourpart
series, Jamess
Brennan seeks JAMES
to explore them BRENNAN
with interviews
and personal
research This ispart l.
In the past year, the Univer-
sity has become ground zero for
the crisis of sexual assault on col-
lege campuses. From the school's
bungling of the sexual assault
case involving former Michigan
kicker Brendan Gibbons, to recent
campus demonstrations, includ-
ing the spray-painted phrase
"EXPEL RAPISTS" across the
Diag, students and administration
alike can no longer sweep sexual
assault under the rug. At the same
time, a national movement to
prevent sexual misconduct has
gained steam, highlighted by the
White House-sponsored "It's On
Us" campaign, which Central Stu-
dent Government has enthusiasti-
cally supported.
Meetings have been con-
vened, profile pictures have been
changed and PSAs have gone viral
- but what does this all amount to
for students? What will this mean
for survivors and their allies from
all walks of life? What exactly
does "stopping sexual assault"
look like?
Over the past month, in inter-
views with dozens of peers,
student leaders and members
of administration, along with
additional research, I've tried
to make sense of these ques-
tions and dozens of others. What
follows is the first column of a
four-part series examining sex-
ual assault on college campuses.
My findings and opinions are by
no means conclusive; this is an
attempt to shed light on some
of the many moving parts that
students grapple with when it
comes to this issue, especially
the aspeFtswefind most confus,
ing, painful and pola-izing.
To any perspectives I leftout
or simply glossed over, I hope you
will write to me so I can continue
to learn. I also hope you'll consid-
er writing your own viewpoints
in The Michigan Daily so that all
students can hear your voice.
When it comes to sexual
assault and its endless list of
related problems, the only true
consensus amongst students
seems to be confusion.
While most of the students I
interviewed gave relatively simi-
lar definitions for "sexual assault"
as a term, their ability to confi-
dently draw lines around consent,
alcohol and coercion typically
came up short. This is not because
our student body is stupid, but
rather due to the all-encompass-

ing language that deals with sex-
ual misconduct.
According to the Universi-
ty's Sexual Assault Prevention
and Awareness Center, sexual
assault covers a broad range of
behaviors, from violent, penetra-
tive rape, to one-time instances
of groping without consent and
everything in between. This was
pretty consistent with the defi-
nition most students gave me.
But SAPAC doesn't stop there,
also making sure to include
any unwanted sexual contact
obtained through threat of force,
intimidation or coercion. A
handful of students even went so
far as to saythat sexually explicit
speech, gestures or text messag-
ing fell under the increasingly
large umbrella of sexual assault.
Anne Huhman, SAPAC pro-
gram manager for education
and prevention, sat down with
me to try and make sense of this
Huhman, who has been at
SAPAC for a decade, explained
that the broad language is meant
to emphasize the core issue
behind consent: the experience
of the individual. Because every
person has a unique life and
perspective factoring into their
boundaries, the language around
sexual assault is intentionally left
open-ended. According to Huh-
manthis is ahuge partofSAPAC's
Relationship Remix workshop for
first-year students in an effort

to get students focusing on what
they as individuals want out of
relationships and sex.
LSA senior Kathryn Abercrom-
bie, a former SAPAC volunteer
coordinator, expressed a similar
viewpoint, saying that handling
sexual assault should be all about
empowering the survivor.
In large part, the ambiguities of
consent come from the intensely
personal nature of sex and sexual
assault. These individual varia-
tions are most clearly present in
what may be the blurriest of the
lines surrounding sexual assault:
the role of alcohol.
Drawing a line between con-
sent and over-intoxication was
by far the most challenging ques-
tion for most of the students I
interviewed. A handful of stu-
dents emphasized a person's
ability to communicate or appear
coherent, with one senior defin-
ing it as a person "doing things
they would not normally do." But
this poses challenges. One senior
noted her ability to appear com-
pletely sober and put together
while blacked out, even to the
point that her friends can't tell
she's been drinking. Moreover,
this strategy is hard to apply to a
person you don't know very well
or have never seen intoxicated.
"We try to validate that we
know that happens," Huhman
said regarding consensual sex
under the influence. However,
she also expressed concerns about
the confusing physiological roles
played by food, sleep and a per-
son's tolerance.
"If what we are aiming for is
good, positive, healthy, satisfy-
ing sex, it's sometimes harder to
accomplish when under the influ-
ence of alcohol or other drugs,"
Huhman wrote in a later e-mail,
also noting that "it's important to
remember that people who sexu-
ally assault others will intention-
ally use alcohol and other drugs as
tools to sexually assault.
"It would be a lot easier if we
could just draw a line," she said,
a sentiment that most students
seemed to share.
Like issues surrounding alco-
hol, there's a lot of gray area
when it comes to getting clear
consent. Of the students I interc,.
vie'wed, most explicitly asked for'
or were asked for' consent less
than half the time they had sex.
One senior told me that while
he usually asks permission,
many times he has been "too
drunk to remember" if he asked
or not. For the most part, how-
ever, men said they didn't ask
because they were familiar with

their partner or they thought
it would be awkward anti "kill
the moment."
Abercrombie, when asked
about these barriers to affirma-
tive consent, answered with a
pointed question of her own: "Are
you honoring awkwardness over
your partner's safety and sense
of security?"
This fear of an awkward
moment may also be unfounded;
most of the women I surveyed had
no reservations about a partner
who paused to ask for consent,
and many in fact preferred it. One
senior said she thinks it would
"actually be kind of awesome" if
men made it a point to stop and
ask. I should note that this line
of questioning was asked, at first,
in a very gendered, heterosexual
fashion: men were asked about
getting consent, women were
asked about giving it. However,
even as I began asking students
without gendering the question
or assuming their sexuality, men
discussed getting consent while
women discussed giving consent.
AsHuhman emphasized inthe
beginning of our conversation,
sexual assault is an intensely
personal concept. From affirma-
tive consent, to alcohol, to just
defining terms, erring on the
side of caution is the only way to
ensure a potential partner's safe-
ty. At first, I was somewhat dis-
appointed by my own inability to
make gray areas black and white;
a frustration that only increased
when dozens of interviews failed
to help me. But rather than being
vague, these concepts are meant
to be inclusive
While .the law may attempt
to draw lines around what is
and isn't assault, and different
levels of sexual violence, it can
never come close to defining the
trauma that each individual sur-
vivor feels from any variety of
forced sexual contact. In accept-
ing these terms as broad, we are
in fact accepting the reality that
caution is our only choice when
faced with a decision that could
potentially permanently ruin
another person's life.
"I have witnessed these beau-
tiful beings ... they just change,"
said.HannahCrisler,,, an LS4,
senior and campaign director of
I Will - a stude'nt'initiative to
spark conversation about sexual
assault on campus - describ-
ing friends who survived sexual
"The light is snuffed out"
- James Brennan can be
reached at jmbthree@umich.edu.


In conjunction with Dead Man Walking,
the School of Music, Theatre & Dance
welcomes author Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ,
for two events:

Sally Fleming Master Class
"Dead Man Walking, the Journey Continues"
November 13 at 3 PM - Rackham Auditorium
Free and open to the public
Post-Show Discussion following the Thursday evening
performance of Dead Man Walking




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