Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Peace Song in the Middle East

Peace song serenades Palestinians, Israelis
Simultaneous broadcast is latest sign of easing tensions
By Preston Mendenhall
NBC News
Updated: 8:55 p.m. ET March 27, 2005

JERUSALEM - A musical message of peace serenaded Palestinians and Israelis on Sunday, in a simultaneous broadcast to promote reconciliation - the latest sign of easing tensions in the Middle East.

Sung in Hebrew and Arabic, "In my heart" is the creation of Israeli musician David Broza and Palestinian instrumentalist Said Murad, whose brother, Wisam, accompanies Broza on vocals. The ballad is about love and land, an issue at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"If we succeed in making this music and create this kind of art, it will help put people together," 44-year-old Said Murad said.

Broza and Murad worked with the Voice of Palestine and Israel’s Army Radio to coordinate the broadcast on Sunday morning.

Despite improving relations, there was an undertone of conflict on the airwaves. Army Radio’s Razi Barkai asked a Palestinian radio official whether his station had "stopped incitement messages on your broadcasts." Shortly after taking office in January, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas ordered anti-Israeli incitement to stop.

Since a landmark Palestinian-Israeli summit, Israel has curtailed military operations and withdrawn forces from several Palestinian towns.

Risk for peace
The musicians took considerable risks by performing together and interspersing Hebrew and Arabic in the song. Broza, 49, traveled to the West Bank to perform the song in a Palestinian village. The two visited each other’s homes during the years it took to complete the project. The Murads live in Palestinian East Jerusalem. Broza lives in Tel Aviv.

"In my heart" is the first song with Hebrew lyrics ever played on Palestinian radio. Its broadcast is a rare appearance for Palestinian artists on Israeli radio.

"I really just think that if we put our minds together, and if we play it right, there will be peace in the Middle East," Broza said in an interview.

Broza is no stranger to the peace movement here. In 1978, a song he penned during Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Israel became an anthem for the peace generation.

"It was like watching the first man on the moon," Broza said. "The first Arab leader landing at Ben Gurion airport. It was something."

Rhythm of friendship
Broza and Murad's shared belief in peace grew into a deep friendship and a metaphor for the peace process: two sides getting to know each other at their own rhythm.

"When we met, David said he wanted to start working first. And I said, let’s wait. Let’s get to know each other better," said Murad from his East Jerusalem studio.

Murad and Broza say they admired each other’s work for more than a decade, but it took four years of "meeting and talking about music, politics and everything," Murad said, to write and produce "In my heart."

Bitterness over years of bloodshed won’t disappear overnight. Yet the musicians say they hope their song will succeed where politics have failed, and help to bring harmony to the Middle East.

"If we love the land, if we believe in history, we can create good future for us," Murad said.

Two sides in studio
Already, the recording of "In my heart" has helped to narrow the divide between Israelis and Palestinians.

For the chorus of "In my heart," Broza and Murad brought Palestinian and Israeli children to the studio to learn to sing in each other’s language.

Israeli TV stations featured the song prominently on Sunday night. And so far, radio listeners say they like the sound of hope.

"If children hear this music, they will understand that the land is for everyone, not just for the Jews or Arabs," said Ismail Khalifawi, a Palestinian student in Jerusalem who listened to the broadcast. "The land is for all."
NBC’s Preston Mendenhall is on assignment in the Middle East.
© 2005 MSNBC Interactive


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Opera in a post-Beverly Sills America

New York Times
March 20, 2005
Wanted: A New Cheerleader for Opera

OF all the times Beverly Sills was host of the "Tonight" show, her favorite was in 1977, when her guests were three of her closest confidantes: the comedian Carol Burnett, the perky singer and television host Dinah Shore and the pop chanteuse Eydie Gorme. The women got into a spat over who was whose best friend, then kidded the wholesome Ms. Shore about her current beau, the heartthrob actor Burt Reynolds.

It's a situation almost impossible to imagine today: a major opera singer as guest host of the day's most popular television show, joking through it with three of pop culture's biggest stars. Certainly no classical artist of the last 50 years has been as recognizable to a large swath of the American public as Ms. Sills during her heyday.

In 1980, after a slow-starting but sensational 25-year singing career, she embarked on a second career as the most influential administrator for the performing arts in New York, first as general director of the New York City Opera, then as chairwoman of Lincoln Center and finally as chairwoman of the Metropolitan Opera. She used her media stardom to dazzle boards, raise funds, set organizational priorities and proselytize for the performing arts as the host of innumerable television broadcasts, like "Live From Lincoln Center."

It's hard to imagine the American performing arts scene without Ms. Sills. Who will take her place as a media personality, as the public face of opera and the performing arts?

Sad to say, no one. The cultural climate that allowed Beverly Sills to thrive has changed beyond recognition. Today, if opera singers appear on a late-night talk show at all, they are typically shunted to the last few minutes to sing a lone aria. David Letterman and Jay Leno seldom chat with a soprano.

Recently the young, gorgeous and immensely gifted Russian soprano Anna Netrebko sang one short Puccini aria on the "Tonight" show. At the time, she was starring in Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette" at the Los Angeles Opera, electrifying audiences and getting rave reviews. The production featured a love scene with a scantily clad Ms. Netrebko and the handsome Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón that got lots of publicity.

Besides being an exciting new singer, Ms. Netrebko has a story to tell. As a struggling student in St. Petersburg, she scrubbed floors at the Maryinsky Theater, the home of the Kirov Opera. Just a few years later she was a star in the company. American news organizations have paid attention: Ms. Netrebko has been profiled on "60 Minutes" and, recently, on "World News Tonight" on ABC.

Yet on the "Tonight" show, she sang an aria at the end and got a congratulatory handshake from Mr. Leno, and that was that.

Ms. Sills says that entertainment television has simply closed the door to opera.

"In my day you could make an impact on the public," she said during a recent interview in her apartment overlooking Central Park. "I did lots of television. That's not available to an opera singer today. The requirements are different. There is not a prayer in the world today - I don't care how good a talker or communicator you are - that someone like David Letterman would turn over his show to an opera singer."

Ms. Sills thinks that American society is paying the price for the generation that lost arts education in the public schools. Sooner or later that generation was going to take charge of the corporate and media world, she said, and "we have a lot of catching up to do."

But last month Ms. Sills, 75, announced that she was resigning from the Met and bowing out of public life. Some personal demands precipitated her decision. In January she placed her ailing husband in a nursing home. But apart from the needs of her family, the time has simply come, she says, to step aside. New York arts institutions that long relied on her fabled ability to get any chief executive on the phone when she called to raise money will have to cope without her.

"I will never raise one dollar more, except for a few medical causes," she said. "I don't want to give advice. I feel like a great burden has been lifted off my shoulders."

With her combination of brilliant singing and spunky vitality, Ms. Sills was a media natural who demystified the performing arts for average Americans. Her career embodied an archetypal American story of humble origins - the big Jewish gal from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who, as Bubbles Silverman, began singing on a children's radio show when she was 4 - followed by years of struggle, family crises and final triumph.

At a time when singers in the United States routinely went overseas for training and performance opportunities, Ms. Sills was a product of her native land who did not even perform in Europe until she was 36. People who knew nothing about opera and assumed all sopranos were unapproachable divas took Ms. Sills's self-deprecating humor to heart.

When asked about her sensational 1969 debut at the La Scala opera house in Milan, Ms. Sills pooh-poohed the ovations she earned from the city's notoriously picky opera fans, saying in a Newsweek cover story, "It's probably because Italians like big women, big bosoms and big backsides."

Though she essentially had a light, lyric coloratura soprano voice, Ms. Sills sang with a vibrant and enveloping sound. Possessed of an exemplary technique, she could dispatch runs and trills with effortless accuracy. Yet there was something refreshingly clearheaded and stereotypically American about her artistry. Her singing was rhythmically incisive, expressive without being sentimental, verbally alert.

But for all her success as a singer, Ms. Sills credits Johnny Carson with emboldening her to embrace television, as she explained in "Beverly," her 1987 autobiography. "It was Carson who first told me: 'If you come on the "Tonight" show, you'll humanize opera. Show 'em you look like everybody else, that you have kids, a life, that you have to diet.' "

So Ms. Sills followed his advice, went on television and talked about her life, including, in more revealing moments, the anguish of raising her two children, both born with disabilities. Her daughter, Meredith, called Muffy, was born deaf; her son, Peter, called Bucky, is severely retarded and has been cared for in an institution since he was 6.

Ms. Sills, as Carson knew instinctively, was a classy and appealing television performer. In a 1974 "Tonight" show skit, he and she sang a duet, "Indian Love Call," a spoof on Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, the attractive stars of operetta who were paired in several syrupy but hugely popular 1930's movie musicals. Carson appeared in a Royal Mountie costume; Ms. Sills wore an extravagant prima donna gown and warbled high notes.

Clearly, Carson assumed that his television audience would know who Eddy and MacDonald were. You couldn't make such an assumption today.

Just as Ms. Sills used late-night television to popularize her art, Carson also wanted her to lend sophistication to his show.

"Johnny would call me up with ideas," she recalled. "He once said, 'Can't you do something with Doc Severinsen, who is such a wonderful trumpet player?' I said, 'Sure.' "

So she and Mr. Severinsen collaborated in a performance of the Handel aria "Let the Bright Seraphim," which has a fancy solo trumpet part.

Ms. Sills's success on talk shows led to television specials, like "Sills and Burnett at the Met," taped live in March 1976 and broadcast on Thanksgiving Day that year. In one skit, Ms. Sills was costumed as Catherine the Great in an ornate robe with a 10-foot ermine train. Ms. Burnett was Catherine's official train-schlepper, Ms. Sills recalled. Every time Ns. Sills sang, goblets, mirrors and chandeliers on the set shattered.

But when Ms. Sills sang something seriously, like an aria from Donizetti's "Linda di Chamounix," and the television audience saw Ms. Burnett listening in awe, it made this opera stuff seem worth checking out.

For two years in the late 70's, Ms. Sills even had her own Emmy-winning talk show, "Lifestyles With Beverly Sills," which ran every Sunday morning on NBC before "Meet the Press." Can anyone imagine Renée Fleming, arguably the most radiant and well-known opera star today, being given a talk show by a major network?

In popularizing classical music, Ms. Sills had only one peer: Leonard Bernstein. But Bernstein was a teacher at heart, who saw television as potentially the greatest teaching tool ever devised. Educating audiences about music - breaking down the structure of a sonata, explaining the components of harmony, making connections between classical and popular genres - was his game. Bernstein did not appear on talk shows and kept his private life guarded.

Ms. Sills, on the other hand, opened herself up to persuade people to take a chance on an opera or a concert. The teaching would happen by itself if she could just get people to experience the real thing.

Classical music has since produced other media sensations, notably the Three Tenors. But Ms. Sills, who served as host of the first American television broadcast of the first Three Tenors concert from Rome, doubts the impact of that phenomenon on the field at large.

"I think the three boys have no pretensions about altering the face of opera," she said. "They have no illusions about people storming into the opera house because of their concerts. But it did knock down a few walls."

There are still a few potential successors to the Sills phenomenon, like Deborah Voigt, who, besides being the finest dramatic soprano of our time, is a real character. She sings Broadway show songs with style and taste. A down-to-earth American, she is articulate about her art, outgoing and friendly, and would have no problem discussing her struggles to lose weight. (Her recent dismissal from a Royal Opera House production of Strauss's "Ariadne auf Naxos" would have been perfect "Oprah" fodder.) She stole the show singing carols and a comic song as guest artist in a holiday concert by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus last year at Carnegie Hall.

Renée Fleming is charming and smart in interviews but probably too demure for such a role. And it's unlikely that she or any other popular opera star of today would take direct responsibility for the art form by running a company both artistically and administratively the way Ms. Sills did. As general director of the City Opera, Ms. Sills the populist made enticing the public her top priority. City Opera became a "feeder company," she said.

"We would take the future superstars, polish them, give them a good setting and send them off to the grand opera houses," she explained. "This is why I tried to be a totally American company. The City Opera had to be a place for the presentation of young artists and the preservation of the art form."

Ms. Sills also programmed adventurous fare and contemporary works, more than most other companies at that time, especially the Met. Among the premieres she presented was Anthony Davis's provocative "X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X."

And in 1983, following the lead of the Canadian Opera in Toronto, the City Opera became the first American company to introduce "slide-projected translations," as Will Crutchfield called this curious new technology in a New York Times article at the time.

"Did I ever get roasted for that one," Ms. Sills said. Tradition-bound critics called her a philistine. Asked whether the Met would ever employ supertitles, James Levine vowed, "over my dead body," only to reverse course when the public embraced the system, as Ms. Sills had predicted it would.

Lately, Ms. Sills has had much time to consider the state of American culture, "serious" and popular, in which she once played a big part. She has been spending hours a day at home in a wheelchair as she recuperates from an injury to her knee.

"I already have two artificial knees," she said. "I'm like the robot woman."

From her windows on the sunny day of this interview, she gazed wistfully at "The Gates" in Central Park and at the throngs of people strolling through the walkways, basking in an exhilarating work of public art.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Lalo Guerrero

Chicano Music Legend Lalo Guerrero Dies
Friday, March 18 2005 @ 06:16 PM EST
Contributed by: TJNelson

Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero Jr., hailed as the father of Chicano music and a voice of the Mexican-American community for more than 60 years has died at the age of 88. According to his family, Mr. Guerrero had been victim to recent health problems and had been moved from his home in Cathedral City, near Palm Springs to a convalescent home in Rancho Mirage where he died.

Born in the impoverished Barrio Viejo section of Tucson, Arizona in 1916 to a large family living and no formal musical education, Guerrero went on to write more than 700 songs, declared a national folk treasure by the Smithsonian Institute in 1980 and received in 1997 the presidential Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton.

Writing lyrics in both English and Spanish, Guerrero sampled a variety of styles from corridos to swing to cha cha and rock and roll. His credits include “Nunca Jamás” and Mexico’s unofficial national anthem “Cancion Mexicana.” Writer and director Louis Valdez incorporated several of the Pachuco songs written by Guerrero for his 1970s Broadway musical “Zoot Suit.” Guerrero is also credited with “El Corrido de Robert Kennedy and “El Corrido de Cesar Chavez,” marking his dedication to social and political figures. Guerrero also reached out to a generation of Hispanic children with 40 albums staring the Spanish-speaking cartoon characters Las Ardillitas (Little Squirrels).

Lalo Guerrero might be best remembered for his biting wit and expressing his contempt for discrimination through a series of parodies. In 1955 Guerrero hit it big with a parody of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” with his own version starring a Mexican character called Pancho Saáchez that sold a respectable 500,000 copies. Other parodies include “Elvis Pérez,” “Tacos for Two,” “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Busboys” and “No Chicanos On TV.”

Guerrero’s last recordings will appear on Ry Cooder’s CD Chavez Ravine, to be released some time this summer.

Mr. Guerrero is survived by his wife, Lidia, four children, two grandchildren and four siblings.

[Photo courtesy of Break Records.]

[Editor's note: You can read more about Lalo Guerrero in his son's words at Mark Guerrero's Web site,]

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Brave New World of Copyright
Creative Commons Is Rewriting Rules of Copyright

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page E01

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- When Chuck D and the Fine Arts Militia released their latest single, "No Meaning No," several months ago, they didn't try to stop people from circulating free copies on the Internet. They encouraged it.

They posted the entire 3-minute, 12-second song and its various vocal, drum and guitar components online and invited everyone to view, copy, mix, remix, sample, imitate, parody and even criticize it.

The result has been the creation of a flood of derivative work ranging from classical twists on the hip-hop piece to video interpretations of the song. The musicians reveled in the instant fan base. They were so pleased that they recently decided to publish their next entire album, due later this spring, the same way, becoming the first major artists to do so.

"No Meaning No" was released under an innovative new licensing scheme called Creative Commons that some say may be better suited to the electronic age than the hands-off mind-set that has made copyright such a bad word among the digerati.

So far, more than 10 million other creations -- ranging from the movie "Outfoxed" and songs by the Beastie Boys to the British Broadcasting Corp.'s news footage and the tech support books published under the O'Reilly label -- have been distributed using these licenses. The idea has even won the support of Hilary Rosen, formerly of the Recording Industry Association of America, and Jack Valenti, the past head of the Motion Picture Association of America, who became known for their aggressive pursuit of people who share free, unauthorized copies via the Internet.

Interest in Creative Commons licenses comes as artists, authors and traditional media companies begin to warm to the idea of the Internet as friend instead of foe and race to capitalize on technologies such as file-sharing and digital copying.

Apple Computer Inc. gave many reason to be optimistic. Music lovers who once spent hours scouring the Internet for free, pirated copies of songs are now showing they are willing to pay for online music; the company says it is selling 1.25 million songs, at 99 cents a track, each day.

Rare is the consumer electronics company or music label that is not experimenting with something similar. Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, EMI and Warner Music Group, for instance, inked deals to distribute songs on a fee-based download service run by Wurld Media, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y., peer-to-peer software company.

At the same time, many of the innovators who touched off the file-sharing revolution are seeking to win corporate support for their work. Shawn Fanning, who as a teen developed Napster, is now working on software that would let copyright holders specify permissions and prices for swapping. Vivendi Universal is a backer.

Perhaps the most significant cooperative effort, however, is the set of innovative new licensing schemes under which "No Meaning No" was released.

The licenses are the brainchild of online theorist Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford University law professor.

Lessig argues that the current system of copyright laws provides little flexibility -- either you give up all permissions for use of your work or you withhold everything. He proposed a solution: a set of copyright licenses that would allow artists to choose to keep "some rights reserved" rather than "all rights reserved."

They could, for instance, choose to allow their works to be enjoyed and copied by others for any purpose, restrict such activity to non-commercial use or allow use of portions of the work rather than all of it. To that end, Lessig co-founded the nonprofit Creative Commons, whose aim, as he describes it, is to "help artists and authors give others the freedom to build upon their creativity -- without calling a lawyer first."

What began as an offbeat legal experiment is now prompting people to reconsider the notion of copyright.

"What we're doing is not only good for society but it's good for us and our business because we get our music out," said Brian Hardgroove, 40, the co-founder of Fine Arts Militia and the band's bass player.

The way Lessig sees it, art has always been about stealing, recycling and mixing: Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin were said to borrow from each other's brushwork. The 1990s hit "Clueless" with Alicia Silverstone was a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen's "Emma."

Technology has given the world an unprecedented ability to digitize works, copy them, take them apart and put them back together again. But Lessig said he worries that the extension of copyright laws is keeping many works out of the public domain, hampering creativity. When the Constitution was written, copyrights covered 14 years, extendable to 28 years. Now, with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, these rights last until an author's death plus 70 years.

Lessig's goal with Creative Commons was to create a body of digital work, which he calls "artifacts of culture," for the public domain, accessible to all.

In the year since the licenses were unveiled, a steady stream of works beyond popular music and videos has joined the Creative Commons public domain archive: material for more than 500 Massachusetts Institute of Technology classes, audio of every U.S. Supreme Court argument since 1950 from the Public Library of Science, the archives for Flickr's photo-sharing site, and Cory Doctorow's futuristic novel "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom."

The book's first hardcover run was a sellout -- 10,000 copies in all -- in bookstores, but the number of free electronic copies distributed was much greater. Half a million copies of the science fiction novel were downloaded.

"There is this weird sense that the Internet is broken because it lets people make easy copies. . . . The Internet is a machine for making copies, and artists need to come to grips with that," Doctorow said.

Doctorow's experiment with his first novel went so well that he released his second one, "Eastern Standard Tribe," under a Creative Commons license and hopes to publish a third this spring the same way.

"At every turn in history we see this new model of distribution that people say is going to destroy art itself," Doctorow said. But, he said, such fears been proved wrong time and time again.

Fritz Attaway, Washington general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America, said work licensed under Creative Commons licenses and those released under traditional copyright restrictions can coexist.

"I think it's helpful to educate consumers that there is a place like Creative Commons where one can access intellectual property that has been freely made available to the general public without compensation and that that should be distinguished from sites that are permitting access to infringing material," he said.

Still, even the most optimistic say that Creative Commons will be only part of the solution to ending the long-running battle over copyright. Attaway said he doubts the major movie studios or record labels would ever license large quantities of their work for distribution using Creative Commons licenses because they make plenty of money off the current system.

Hollywood producers Robert Greenwald and Jim Gilliam are among those challenging such assumptions. They released their movie "Outfoxed" under a Creative Commons license. Their controversial documentary accused Fox News of being a propaganda machine for the Republican Party. Just weeks after it was released in theaters, the producers posted 48 minutes of original interviews from the work online.

Gilliam credits the Internet with boosting interest in the movie because it reached a wider audience than it could in theaters alone. He said many of those who viewed parts of the work online ended up ordering a $9.95 DVD.

"This isn't necessarily just some altruistic thing," Gilliam said. "You can make money off of this, too."

It is not always easy for consumers to know when a work is protected by a Creative Commons license. If the work does not identify itself as such, online users can go to and search its archives. In a few months, the developers behind the new Mozilla Firefox browser plan to release an update designed to allow people to search the Web for works of art licensed by Creative Commons.

John Buckman, an entrepreneur from Berkeley, Calif., has used the Creative Commons licenses as the foundation for his new online record label. All artists who sign with his company, Magnatune, must agree to allow free use of their work for non-commercial purposes. The site features 326 albums by 174 artists in six different genres, including classical and heavy metal. He said the company makes 50 percent of its money from downloads and 50 percent from licensing fees.

He said his label's songs are attractive because cash-strapped filmmakers can use the songs as they like for free and have to pay only when they start making money. "As much as musicians are having a hard time making a living, filmmakers and other creative people are having a hard time finding music to use in their works," he said.

And the start-up is making money, he said -- possibly as much as $2 million this year.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Homophobia in Jamaican Dancehall

Village Voice
February 15th, 2005 1:36 PM

Jah Division: Free speech, cultural sovereignty, and human rights clash in reggae dancehall homophobia debate

by Elena Oumano
February 15th, 2005 1:36 PM

Here in New York City, gays in clubs win' up to wildly popular reggae dancehall lyrics like "Fire fi de man dem weh go ride man behind," much as older gays pray in churches that condemn homosexuality. A mere dozen or so protesters picketed the sold-out Hot 97 "On da Reggae Tip Live" at Hammerstein Ballroom last September. Why pay mind to the words when the riddim and the vibe sweet yuh so?
But on Sunday, January 29, JAMPACT, an NYC-based Jamaican American civic group, held a panel at St. Francis College composed of Dr. Gordon Shirley, Jamaica's ambassador to the U.S.; Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch; Jamaican gay activist Larry Chang; and others. Schleifer was asked to address and defend points in her recent report issued by HRW in which she found that widespread homophobia in Jamaica endangers the welfare not only of those at high risk for HIV/AIDS, but also of HIV/AIDS outreach health care workers. Three days later, Amnesty International's OUTfront! program and New York's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center hosted a panel discussion at LGBT's Manhattan headquarters with representatives from the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), as part of J-FLAG's campaign for support in holding Jamaican authorities accountable for failing to protect the human rights of their LGBT citizens. While dancehall homophobia has been fodder for international headlines lately, "at the Forum, J-FLAG made clear that reggae dancehall's homophobia merely fuels Jamaica's widespread cultural bias against homosexuality and bisexuality," says Alisa Wellek, of the LGBT center.
Following widespread cancellations of dancehall concerts, Sizzla was banned in November from entering the U.K., while he and seven other dancehall artists—Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Elephant Man, Vybz Kartel, T.O.K., Capleton, and Bounty Killer—were investigated by Scotland Yard after gay activists asserted that their homophobic song lyrics constitute incitement to actual murder. In the U.S., where free speech is less restricted, "Stop Murder Music" had shut down only 30 or so Beenie Man and Capleton dates this past summer and fall, mostly on the West Coast. Meanwhile, U.K. gay activist group OutRage! shifted its "Stop Murder Music" campaign higher up reggae's food chain to retail outlets and record labels like NYC-based reggae indie VP Records. After months of negotiations, gay activist groups, the labels, and promoters announced early this month that they'd reached an agreement, and that the "Stop Murder Music" campaign had been suspended.

Reggae may have started out as a poor man's party—a turntable, homemade speakers, and a public light source—but it's grown into Jamaica's survival dream, one shared by politicians, businessmen, and scrawny boys rocking toothbrush microphones. Now that the worldwide debate over what should be a universal right—to love and/or sex the adult of your choice—is focused on that live wire of an island, the dream is threatened, big-time.

New Yorkers—even those who get Jamaican patwah—may dismiss the batty man/chi chi lyrical craze as senseless babble over wicked beats, "but they don't understand what those words mean for us here," says Dr. Nesha Haniff, a volunteer physician with Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS). What those words mean for Jamaica's gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and those trying to help them is detailed in a 79-page report issued November 16 by Human Rights Watch. Titled "Hated to Death: Homophobia, Violence, and Jamaica's HIV/AIDS Epidemic," it roundly condemns Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, a law mandating up to 10 years hard labour for buggery, the national health ministry, the police force, churches, and the average Jamaican on the street for homophobia so endemic that efforts to control Jamaica's HIV/AIDS epidemic are dramatically compromised. Dancehall is not exempted. The report concludes with sample homophobic song lyrics—in patwah and English translation.

Jamaican scholar Carolyn Cooper, author of Sound Clash, describes the JA dancehall as a place of clashes "for sound systems contending for mastery," and "more broadly . . . [as] a trenchant metaphor for the hostile interfacing of warring zones in Jamaican society." This controversy speaks to an even harder three-way clash—between free speech, cultural sovereignty, and human rights. Should an artist's voice ever be censored? And when is it OK to violate a nation's boundaries, literally or culturally?

Immediately following the one-two punch of "Stop Murder Music" and HRW's report, Jamaica's usually fractious society linked arms—churchman with Rastaman, policeman with ruffneck. Together as one, the nation informed the world, at least in its "outside voice," "First yuh must clean up yuh own backyard before yuh come clean up a next man own, and fi dem backyard more dirty than our own."
That outrage is less surprising than how long it took for dancehall's shit to hit the fan . . . again. The early-'90s furor ignited by Buju Banton's "Boom Bye Bye" had fueled reggae's long-standing (and mostly justified) paranoia by adding "gays who control the international entertainment industry" to the enemies list. Big men a foreign telling we what to do? Come, make we wheel and come again!

Jamaica is playing the neo-colonialism, figurative-expression, and religious-belief cards, but they're no match for universal rights—especially since OutRage! launched "Stop Murder Music" only after a plea for help from J-FLAG, an organization with a necessarily secret membership and HQ.

"Homophobic utterances are among the quickest and easiest ways to get a 'forward' [cheers, lighters, and flaming torches]," says dancehall singer Tanya Stephens. "I have seen this industry go through so many phases of stupidity, I no longer even pay attention. It would seem as if it's a moral issue based on our religious heritage, but in the midst of all the 'batty man' burning, many guys handing down 'moral' judgments are openly discussing threesomes they happily partake in with two girls!"
Yet Jamaica can't be dismissed as a bunch of third-world yahoos impeding the march of the Enlightened to higher ground. Jamaicans are a unique people in unique circumstances, and it's in the details of their story that some deeper understanding of the global debate about homosexuality can be drawn.

We're talking about an island of nearly 4,500 square miles, holding 2.7 million descendants of Africans who drifted 4,000 miles from home, tuned into Miami and New Orleans radio as well as to Cuban airwaves, and created a musical culture that's become a central pillar in the world's continuing refusal of the neo-colonial Massa.
From the first days of slavery, communities of Maroons—escaped slaves and free blacks—fought back, first against the Spanish, then the British. From hiding places in mountain bush, Maroon guerrillas rolled on the ground and leaped in the air. One shooter seemed like several to British militia struggling single file up steep trails, terrorized by taunts, beating drums, the abeng horn's eerie call to arms, and the certainty of being picked off, one by one. By the mid 1700s, the colonial government was forced to treat with the Maroons, granting them freedom and a limited sovereignty they retain to this day.

The dancehall DJ is heir to Maroon resistance, making him not only a voice of the people, but also a taunting griot-warrior, and making the Jamaican dancehall more than a "forget your troubles and dance" party, more than even economic survival. Dancehall is a place of national myth, of rituals affirming triumph over the oppressor.

Slavery and colonialism are gone, but Jamaica's 1962 independence masked the economic abandonment of an absentee plantation worked past profitability. The queen gifted her former colony, though, bequeathing Jamaica her church, Bible, and buggery laws. That little-old-lady-in-the-Cotswolds mentality is more recent, and therefore, more vivid in the Jamaican consciousness than any dim genetic recollections of pre-colonial Africa. Even the Rastaman who rejects church as part of the Babylonian West is not immune. Folded into his message of black self-reliance (and for some, separatism) and an African utopia is good old-fashioned King Jamesian fire and brimstone for Babylonian abominations like homosexuality. Yet mounting academic research suggests that the West's legacy to Africa is homophobia, not homosexuality. Yes, Buju, Beenie, and Bounty—gays, lesbians, and bisexuals lived comfortably alongside heteros in many African tribes, long before the white man.

The U.S. hasn't served its neighbor well either. After undermining Jamaica's socialist economic policies in the '70s, then offering International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans with onerous terms that tanked that nation's economy, we unleashed a flood of X-rated images on Jamaica via satellite and cable TV. Suddenly, Jamaicans were witnessing gays revamping straights, Oprah freaking over the "down low," and HBO flinging the window open on all manner of sexual kinkiness. JA's newspapers used to report relatively mild tales of country virgins seduced by parish preachers. Now the tabloids are bursting with sex ads and accounts of bisexual and gay orgies, ghetto boys selling their bodies, unsuspecting women infected with HIV/AIDS by bisexual partners, and Christmas barrels sent home stuffed with foreign porn.
Jamaica's own leaders also have a lot to answer for. In the '70s, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) armed their respective voting blocs. One day, kids from Trench Town's First and Eighth streets were shooting marbles together; the next, they were aiming guns at each other across jagged glass-topped concrete walls. When Jamaica became a major stop along cocaine's route from South to North America, gang leaders spun out of the politicians' control and became drug posse dons. Kingston's downtown devolved into a series of bleak, end-of-the-world districts run by dons with loose alliances to ministers of parliament, like Rema, with its four-story "high rises" that allow gunmen to fire on enemies below and its blood-soaked field that ends where a rusted-out car chassis blocks the lane leading into enemy turf. A huge percentage of the young men in Kingston's inner city is unemployed, education is a luxury, and the per capita murder rate has skyrocketed to more than five times that of the U.S. Yet Kingston's ghettos have a raw glamour of their own, mostly from a mother lode of reggae musical talent—"more stars than Hollywood," says Bunny Wailer.
Reggae may be a testament to the transforming powers of a conscious underclass, but the day-to-day ghetto grind testifies to countless ills bred by poverty and post-traumatic slavery and colonialism disorder. Young men unable to make a living and raise families suffer from a fragile sense of masculinity. With no outlet for all that cyclonic energy, what's left but church, territorial warfare, and/or controlling women with your big bamboo? Homosexual sex doesn't fit this picture; it becomes yet another way to rob the black man of his manhood.
Dancehall and its artists come from this place of dispossession and loss, not from the palm-shaded civility of Kingston's gated uptown communities. And young ghetto girls and boys are prey to those uptown top rankings. "A lot of guys come into the ghetto and influence little boys with clothes and shoes and them things, then molest them," says Beenie Man, who claims his lyrics target child abusers only. "I man nah response fi who you want, as long as him a big man. It's all about the youth." Beenie Man was born and raised in Craig Town. Elephant Man and Bounty Killer come from Seaview Gardens, Buju from Barbican, Sizzla from August Town, and so on.

Beenie Man's argument may be disingenuous, but the dancehall fraternity answers to forces far more powerful than record labels, Human Rights Watch, and a gay entertainment lobby combined. That fraternity is so spooked by potential fallout at home that some "out" each other as a preemptive strategy. But onstage homophobic tirades and self-inoculation don't always work. Beenie Man is a prime target both of gay activists and his peers. After a mid-'90s appearance on The RuPaul Show, rumors questioning Beenie Man's sexuality whipped around Planet Reggae and persist to this day. Even PJ the PM is not immune. During the 2002 election, opposition JLP leader Edward Seaga adopted T.O.K.'s "Chi Chi Man" as his campaign theme song and strongly implied in speeches that the prime minister is gay. Like PJ, who felt compelled to state publicly that Jamaica's buggery law will not be repealed, dancehall's eight are stuck between the rock of OutRage! and the much harder place of their constituency.
Some Jamaicans opine that the island's usual tolerance for all manner of outré self-expression was beginning to extend to the island's homosexuals before OutRage! forced its hand. Angelo Ellerbee, an NYC African American publicist who's worked over the decades with Bounty Killer, Shabba Ranks, and others, is openly gay and always states "at the door that this is who I am; you can buy or not." They've always bought. Gays work and party with members of the Dancehall Eight—no problem, mon.
But no one's stepping out of reggae's closet yet. "Jus' 'low one" has yet to extend to open cruising, drag queens and kings parading down Jamaica's streets, or even simple statements of identity. Women who "act like lesbians" risk rape, and gay men risk blackmail, especially by the police. One Kingston attorney says his client roster always includes at least one man faced with that dilemma.
Yet when you consider that England only abolished its buggery laws in 1967 and the American Psychiatric Association deleted homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders a mere six years later, it's a wonder this tiny and youthful nation with its own tremendous cultural energy doesn't implode from all the self-righteous outside pressure.

Dancehall's eight will not—cannot—apologize, despite a collective income loss, according to OutRage!, of over $9 million, and the agreement isn't asking them to. In a country that boasts of more churches per capita than any other, few artists can do more than reflect their culture. But biblical citations re homosexuality aren't washing with OutRage!, particularly since dancehall overlooks the Bible's Mosaic law permitting slavery. And it doesn't help to explain that sound bwoys have been threatening to "murder" each other with music at mobile disco clashes ever since Coxsonne Dodd's set first took on Duke Reid's.

Sizzla's arrest under Jamaica's Town and Country Act for "using bad words" during his performance at Jamaica East Fest on Christmas is not the first: Lady Saw and Bounty Killer were arrested under the act several years ago. The government's sudden renewed interest in dancehall could be a sign that it's about to clamp down on any performer whose words threaten to kill off the reggae dancehall cash cow.
"They've won," says VP Records consultant Maxine Stowe, of "Stop Murder Music." Stowe would like to see more summits between gay activists and Jamaicans, especially since the current agreement is fragile. The U.K.'s Guardian wrote on February 5 that the reggae industry has "agreed to ban future material that could be seen as inciting violence against gays and lesbians."
But VP Records CEO Randy Chin says, "This agreement is not about censorship. To interpret it as such distorts the intent and substance of the agreement. It's about consensus, cooperation, and working together on resolving issues as they come up. We've acknowledged there's issues with some songs, but reggae is bigger than that. Neither side has an interest in continuing the 'Stop Murder Music' campaign."
In the U.S. and U.K. at least, "Jus' 'low one" ("just allow a man"—live and let live) got the last word. Dancehall's eight have been handed a way out of this mess. Sizzla once asked if he could "make it in America." Yes, he and the other artists in question can: but only if they leave the "inside voice" at home.

Elena Oumano is working on a book about dancehall culture.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Sexual Harrassment in Music Programs

From the issue dated June 7, 2002

Music's Open Secret


In music schools, the relationship between professor and student is extraordinarily intimate. Hours are spent one on one, behind closed doors in soundproof practice rooms. Touching is often necessary, as the professor teaches students how to breathe or place their fingers on an instrument. The lines between personal and professional may blur, particularly when a young musician is dependent on a professor's approval for career success, and when the mentor grows accustomed to the feelings that admiration and power can bestow.

And that special relationship explains music schools' not-so-secret secret:Sexual affairs between male professors and female students are common, and so is unwanted physical attention.

"The teacher and student relationship in music has virtually no comparison in other academic fields," says William Osborne, a composer and outspoken critic of classical music's treatment of women. "It is essentially a master and apprentice relationship. It is not supervised or witnessed by anybody else, and so the potential for issues involving sexual harassment is great."

Although colleges distribute pamphlets telling students how to report sexual harassment, and offer training for professors on how to behave, it is rare for word of actual instances to surface outside the practice-room walls. Yet there is anecdotal evidence that sexual harassment is a serious problem, and recently the issue became public when two music schools were hit with formal charges.

These cases, according to female music students, raise the question of whether universities are either unaware of the sexual climate in their music schools or unconcerned about policing their professors. They also send a warning that, even though a student must prove that a university showed "deliberate indifference" to a complaint to win in court, institutions are susceptible to such charges.

At the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, a former oboe student, Maureen Johnson, now 26, won $250,000 in damages in April as a result of her lawsuit claiming that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by a visiting professor. The university has said it did everything possible to try to stop the harassment and will appeal the jury's verdict. But Ms. Johnson, who dropped out of music school following the events, says her victory sends a message that colleges are responsible if their professors create a hostile environment.

Here at the University of Texas, Monica Lynn, 37, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, charging that the music school's most prominent composition professor repeatedly made off-color jokes and remarks that made her uncomfortable. In the last several months, a handful of current and former students, both male and female, have joined Ms. Lynn in protesting the atmosphere in the department. Their complaints paint a picture of a boys' club in which some music professors joke about strip clubs, sing songs about the male anatomy, comment on the physical appearance of female performers, and carry on sexual relationships with students.

The university has said Ms. Lynn's charges have no merit, and professors say she's simply angry because they refused to admit her to the music-composition program. But Ms. Lynn, who earned an undergraduate degree in music theory last spring, says it's more complicated than that. "I never had a chance to find out if I was a composer, because I had to deal with so much abusive behavior. I couldn't stand the thought of leaving this school and knowing that every young woman who comes here and wants to study composition is going to be destroyed."

Craving Approval

The black-and-white photographs that line the walls of the dean's office in the College of Fine Arts here tell the history of women in music. In three pictures -- a 1911 portrait of John Philip Sousa's band, a 1947 photo of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a 1963 picture of Princeton University's music department -- only one of the musicians is female.

The photos are here because they feature male family members of the dean, Robert Freeman. Missing from the group are any shots of his mother playing the violin with the Boston symphony. That's because when she auditioned in 1951, the conductor told her the orchestra already had two female members, Mr. Freeman recalls.

The situation for women in music has certainly changed in the last 50 years, but not as much as some would like. That's particularly so in composition and orchestral conducting, two of music's most male-dominated fields. The charges of sexual harassment at Austin center on the music-composition department, where all four faculty members are male. Of the department's 18 undergraduate majors, one is a woman, and of its 37 graduate students, five are female. Nationwide, of the 1,850 professors of music composition listed in the College Music Society's 2001-2 directory, only 178 are female.

The small number of women in the field can make female musicians feel isolated, and cultivate an environment where sexual harassment -- and discrimination -- are allowed to flourish. Linda Dusman, a composer at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and one of the few women to head a music department, says these issues are "enormous" in music. But that doesn't mean anyone talks about them, she says, because "people have their heads in the music, and that's what's considered important."

Perhaps because so much of musical training is based on criticism, students crave their professors' approval. "If there is someone who can tell you, 'Yes, you've got it,' that invites intimacy, and it invites trust and dependence," says a woman who earned her master's degree in vocal performance from the University of Kansas and asked not to be identified.

Outside the classroom, after concerts and rehearsals, students often seek out more contact with professors. "For graduate students, casual time with the mentor is like gold," says Ms. Dusman. "It's part of the culture. If you have a teacher who promotes your music, that will be incredibly helpful in getting your career started."

At many music schools, stories abound of male professors who greet female students with a kiss on the mouth, make sexually explicit comments, and ask them out on dates.

Some female students consider such personal contact and crude behavior part of the territory. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, who runs an electronic-mailing list on gender and music technology and is writing a book about the history of women composers, says "putting up with the crap" is just part of the road to success. "There are women who say that's a crime and wonder why they should have to do that, and my personal opinion is, because you do."

Ms. Johnson, the former University of Michigan musician, refused. She started her graduate work at Ann Arbor in 1997, playing first-chair oboe in the School of Music orchestra. Pier Calabria, a visiting professor from Italy, was the orchestra's associate director. Ms. Johnson says he came to the campus library where she worked and repeatedly asked her for dates and told her how sexy she was. After she spurned his advances, she says, Mr. Calabria demoted her to fourth chair and told her she didn't have what it took to be a musician. Ms. Johnson dropped out before finishing her degree, then filed a lawsuit against Michigan for failing to deal with the problem. In April, she won the award when a jury agreed with her complaint. The university has said it does not tolerate sexual harassment, and contends it did everything it could to stop the harassment. Mr. Calabria was not named as a defendant in the case because he has returned to Italy.

"Conductors have so much power, and no one questions their authority, ever," says Ms. Johnson, who is now a telecommunications engineer in Denver.

A Hostile Atmosphere?

Monica Lynn moved to Austin to earn an undergraduate degree in music composition in the early 1990s. She was divorced and had earned a bachelor's degree in nursing. She attended music courses part time while working at local hospitals.

Ms. Lynn says she knew from the beginning that the way male professors at UT treated female students wasn't right.

"I'm a really strong person," she says. "I'm older, and I have a grasp of what's acceptable and what's legal."

Her problems began during her first semester of music composition in the fall of 1995, when the graduate teaching assistant who taught the course made dirty jokes in class, she says. Another male teaching assistant, she says, advised her to use her "feminine wiles" to get ahead in music, stared at her legs during class, stroked her hair as he walked by, and put his arm around her. Although anyone is allowed to enroll in music-composition courses at Austin, students who want to declare it their major must pass a jury, where professors assess the quality of music they have written. In the fall of 1998, after earning an A in two composition courses, Ms. Lynn failed her first jury. During the evaluation, she says, Dan E. Welcher, a professor of composition, noted that she was a nurse, and commented that now "he would know who to call when his back was hurting."

Bigger Than Life

Over the next two years, Ms. Lynn came to consider Mr. Welcher her biggest opponent in the music-composition program, and attributed his behavior to the fact that she rejected his personal attention and refused to laugh at his jokes. She failed her final jury in the spring of 2000. During the 15-minute session with Mr. Welcher and two other professors, she says, Mr. Welcher asked her not about her music, but about her job as a neonatal-intensive-care nurse. Had she heard about a benefit held in a city park for a new "milk bank" that supplied donated breast milk to premature infants? she remembers him asking. "I just envision women pulling out their breasts in the park and breast-feeding people right then and there," Ms. Lynn recalls the professor saying with a snort of laughter.

Later in the year, at a holiday party, she says Mr. Welcher asked her to go to the Yellow Rose, a local strip joint, an invitation she refused. She remembers him announcing in a loud voice, "Hey, Monica will be dancing tonight. She'll be wearing her dog collar and chain."

In December 2000, three days after the party, Ms. Lynn filed a sexual-harassment complaint with the university, charging that Mr. Welcher's comments created a hostile environment for female students.

Mr. Welcher, who is not married, denies he made any of the statements Ms. Lynn complained about. He is a larger-than-life figure at Austin's music school. He directs its New Music Ensemble, a group of about 20 advanced instrumentalists and singers. He has been at the university since 1978, and has written more than 80 works for opera, symphony, and chamber orchestras. His Web site calls him one of the "most played composers of his generation."

Mr. Welcher refused to speak to The Chronicle, but sent several statements by e-mail. He vigorously denies making the comments that Ms. Lynn has attributed to him, and contends that she has concocted a story of sexual harassment out of bitterness over her academic failure.

"The only 'reputation' I have is that of a very demanding teacher," he wrote in one e-mail message. "I do sometimes intimidate certain kinds of students with my directness and my
candor about their music. But none of this has anything to do with sexual harassment."

In a letter to the university, Mr. Welcher made it clear that he believes Ms. Lynn lacks talent. "A would-be composer who lacks sufficient musical skills, a good ear, or the ability to produce competent music after three years of study must face the unpleasant fact that she is not suited to this career," he wrote. "If the student cannot accept this, it is her right to go elsewhere and try again -- but not to malign the faculty with libelous statements."

Russell F. Pinkston, an associate professor of music composition at Austin, says Ms. Lynn's charges amount to a "smear" campaign against the faculty here. "The irony is, we are bending over backwards to support and encourage female composers," he says. "If you have anything going for you as a woman composer, you can write your own ticket here."

Female musicians who have been successful here say that, while male professors can be crude and rude, they don't believe that amounts to sexual harassment. "Dan Welcher shoots his mouth off," says Larisa Montanaro, who is finishing up her doctorate in vocal performance at the music school. "He could use a few lessons."

But nothing Professor Welcher has done qualifies as sexual harassment, in her book. "There are women who really experience sexual harassment, and that's what bugs me most," says Ms. Montanaro. "If these women [at UT] were expecting to go through life without these kind of men in the world, they need to get a grip. They're everywhere."

In fact, legal experts say that while unwanted touching and aggressive sexual behavior are considered sexual harassment under the law, so are comments and suggestions that are unwelcome and that create an atmosphere of hostility.

The university's own policy seems tailor-made to root out the very behavior Ms. Lynn complained of. It says "gratuitous comments of a sexual nature such as explicit statements, questions, jokes or anecdotes" can be considered sexual harassment. Under "sexual misconduct," the university lists "repeatedly engaging in sexually oriented conversations, comments or horseplay."

The university's investigation this spring into Ms. Lynn's charges was conducted by Lee S. Smith, associate vice president for legal affairs. According to documents obtained under the state's open-records law, Mr. Smith asked Mr. Welcher and his colleagues whether he had said the things Ms. Lynn alleged. All of the professors said no. Mr. Smith won't discuss the investigation, but from the documents, it appears that he did not interview students.

Other students have complained about Mr. Welcher. One woman who is currently enrolled in the doctoral program in music composition wrote a letter to the civil-rights office at the Education Department about a dinner she and a male graduate student had at Mr. Welcher's home last summer. The professor sang a song called "Isn't It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?"and showed the students pictures of his trip to Greece, the woman wrote. In one photo, Mr. Welcher was naked, she said, and in another a cat was sitting alone on a sidewalk. Mr. Welcher, she wrote, explained that he'd taken the picture of the female cat because it had just been "gang banged" by several male cats. Mr. Welcher told The Chronicle that he did nothing inappropriate that evening and that the student exaggerated and misconstrued the events.

Consensual Relationships

Ms. Lynn's case also prompted Katie Jahnke, who graduated this spring, to fire off a letter to the OCR. In March 2000, Ms. Jahnke filed a sexual-harassment complaint with the university about Daniel M. Johnson, who directs the music school's Early Music Ensemble. Ms. Jahnke says she had a sexual relationship with Mr. Johnson for about 10 months in 1996, when she was a freshman in music performance and sang in the ensemble. Ms. Jahnke was 19; Mr. Johnson, who is not married, was 45.

After she ended the relationship, Ms. Jahnke says, Mr. Johnson refused to give her solo opportunities. Although their relationship was consensual, Ms. Jahnke says she later came to believe it amounted to sexual harassment, in part because Mr. Johnson retaliated against her for ending it. She dropped out of music and became a government major.

"My whole perception of how my voice sounded was affected by that relationship," says Ms. Jahnke, who graduated this spring. Although the university found that Mr. Johnson had dated at least three female students, including Ms. Jahnke, while they were taking his classes -- something UT-Austin's policy discouraged -- and that he had lied to the university about his sexual affairs, the college decided that his behavior did not amount to sexual harassment. Mr. Johnson did not respond to requests for an interview.

Mr. Freeman, the fine-arts dean, says he'd like to crack down on consensual relationships between professors and students. "Wait until she graduates," he says he tells male professors. "We have a kind of sacred trust to the students," he explains. "They're coming here to get us to evaluate what their abilities are and what their future could be. These relationships poison the whole academic well."

Still, Mr. Freeman insists that nothing he's seen or heard about at Austin is different from what goes on in schools of music elsewhere: "There certainly isn't a plague of problems."

The civil-rights office, which visited the music school in April to talk to students and faculty members, won't comment on its investigation. Last year, it considered 46 complaints of sexual harassment in all colleges nationwide. Although the agency has the power to cut off federal money to universities it finds guilty of ignoring harassment complaints, that hardly ever happens. If the office finds problems, it usually merely asks a college to fix them.

"The hard reality is that sexual harassment, in the workplace and on college campuses, just is not going away," said Frank Vinik, a lawyer and risk manager with United Educators, a member-owned insurance pool for colleges and universities. This spring, in the Bates Recital Hall at UT-Austin, Ms. Lynn held a recital of songs she has composed. Because she graduated last spring with a bachelor's degree in music theory, she didn't have to put on the recital, which is required only for composition majors. But she wanted to do it anyway. For an hour, her friends and relatives listened to the percussion and vocal pieces she had spent years crafting.

"I've been writing songs since I was 6 years old," she says. "If no one ever heard a note, I'd still be writing."


This article from The Chronicle is available online at this address:
Copyright 2002 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

About that song that keeps repeating in your head...
Technology & Science
Cosmic Log
by Alan Boyle

Annoying songs take root in your auditory cortex

• March 9, 2005 | 7:20 p.m. ET
Where the earworms live: At one time or another, everyone's had a tune pop into their head and stay there, even though you wish it would just go away. Those meddlesome melodies are known as sticky songs, or "earworms," and over the past couple of years, hundreds of Cosmic Log readers have sent in contributions to the earworm list.

In Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, researchers report that they have discovered the place in the brain where earworms hide out. It should come as little surprise that the center for earworm activity is the auditory cortex, the same place where sounds are perceived.

Researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Aberdeen worked with 15 experimental subjects to develop individualized playlists — including songs with lyrics, such as the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," as well as instrumental pieces such as the theme from "The Pink Panther." (Are those earworms working on you yet?)

Each listener tagged certain tunes as familiar, and others as unfamiliar. Then the tunes were played while the listener was lying in a magnetic resonance imaging scanner. At various points in the soundtrack, the music went silent for 3 to 5 seconds, and researchers watched how the brain responded.

During the gaps in the unfamiliar music, activity in the auditory cortex diminished. But when there was a gap in a familiar tune, the auditory cortex kept working away.

"It's like the brain is still hearing the music," one of the researchers, Dartmouth's David Kraemer, told me today. "It's still activating that part of the brain that’s activated when you’re hearing the music. ... And it's interesting to note that we didn’t instruct them to imagine the silent part. It's something that they just did spontaneously."

The researchers also saw a difference between the vocals and the instrumentals: Songs with lyrics activated an area known as the auditory association cortex, or Brodmann's area 22 — which links sounds with other aspects of experience, such as word recognition. The instrumental tunes sparked a more basic level of processing in the primary auditory cortex.

Kraemer speculated that when you hear a song with words, you use the words as a shorthand for the full melody — while a wordless melody forces your brain to go farther back to the notes themselves. "You react only as far back as you need to, to reconstruct the relevant part of the experience," he said.

Perhaps this explains why songs with lyrics tend to be "stickier" than instrumental tunes, and why it's so hard to stop an earworm in its tracks. Your auditory cortex wants to run through the entire experience of "Who Let the Dogs Out," even though the rest of your brain is longing to stop the music.

Earworms per se are not the focus of Kraemer's research interest. Rather, he and his colleagues are trying to understand the parallels between sensory perception and sensory memories. Kraemer said the research supports the view that mental imagery is "perception in reverse": that the process of remembering an experience retraces the neural route that was involved in perceiving that experience.

There's already evidence that visual imagery works that way — and now auditory imagery appears to follow a similar process.

Does knowing all this render you immune to earworms? Not on your life, Kraemer said.

"It happens to me all the time — 'Yellow Submarine' has to be one of the most recurrent themes," he said. "If you find any way to get it out of your head, I'd be very interested in hearing about it."



Welcome to my new music and culture blog, a repository for articles and limited musings.