In this insightful op-ed for the New York Times, composer Kristin Kuster takes on the denial and self negation that, for her, too often accompanies classical composition's masculinizing discourse. Kristin is one of the bravest people I know, and a composer whose work changes the air it touches. I'm glad to call her friend.
Once you hear the music of singer/composer Laura Mvula, it cannot be unheard. Once you see her, she cannot be unseen. Laura Mvula queers fading notions of who has the right to be called composer, of who has the goodwill and moral clarity to impart wisdom and be wholly heard. The comparisons to Nina Simone are obvious enough, but there is a generosity to this music--an egalitarianism that both edifies and enlightens. Listen to this.
their sound, a rushing water
to my eyes. My eyes!
If ever you wondered about the educational benefit of homemade internet videos uploaded to sites like Youtube, and the real wonder they can bring to the intersection of disciplines like mathematics and music, look no further than "mathemusician" Victoria Hart, or Vi Hart as she's known online.
Vi Hart's work is impossible to classify. One minute she's drawing elephants to illustrate the sums of infinite series; the next she's turning candied fruit into mobius strips, cutting them into thirds, and making Borromean knots. The videos move pretty quickly, and are always as goofy as they are edifying. The opening sentence of her video on the proper technique for eating candied buttons, for instance, brings unusual academic gravitas to the question: "The topic of candied button eating styles has been covered by Mr. Randall XKCD, but I'd like to expand his categorization to include a few more nerdy styles."
Underneath it all, Vi Hart is a philosopher in discourse with the static ineptitude of standard K-12 math curricula, musical learning, and indeed the very fabric of our imagination. (Many of her videos begin with some variation on the theme of ennui, something like, "so you're me, and you're sitting in math class and you're bored out of your skull by a topic that could be really interesting were it not for the totally boring and uninspired way it is being taught, so you start to doodle.")
Fun, constantly searching, devilishly inquisitive, and with a quick-silver wit, Vi Hart's latest video explores the wonder in early post-tonal theory, crazy geometrical shapes, the self-defeating stupidity of current copyright law in the digital age (a topic close to my heart), and, to quote physicist Brian Cox, "the right laws of physics." Cox continues, "they're beautifully balanced. If the weak force had been a little bit different, then carbon and oxygen wouldn't be stable in the hearts of stars." And, I would add, we wouldn't have the musical variations that end the video below. I've had two of my former students send me this link in as many days, so I had to share it with you.
So thank you, Vi Hart! Find and subscribe to her channel on youtube, and consider supporting the folks like her, whose eclectic thinking isn't "outside the box," but beyond it in the best possible ways.
"Wear your mask & practice social distancing. Together, we can defeat Covid 19!"
"Literacy in Music & Arts is one of your vital links to global citizenship!"
"Be sure to support the arts in *your* community!"