Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Dinner Party Review

Nate Newman

Staff Writer

 

If you enjoy modern jazz and hip-hop, there is a good chance the music by one of these four gentlemen has blessed your ears. Dinner Party is a recently founded group composed of four of modern jazz and hip-hop’s greatest artists.  The collective consists of Kamasi Washington and Terrace Martin, two Los Angeles native saxophonists with a flurry of credits including Kendrick Lamar, longtime producer 9th Wonder who has produced for Jay-Z, Mac Miller and Wale, and renowned pianist/ producer Robert Glasper, whose catalogue spans throughout hip-hop and jazz with artists like Kanye West, Stevie Wonder and Erykah Badu. When the four come together for this eponymous record, the result is a smooth ride of fantastic production and excellent instrumentation. The longtime friendship between the group aids the musical chemistry as the line distinguishing improvised and rehearsed becomes non-existent. In its seven track, 23 minutes run time, Dinner Party showcases each artist’s strength by fusing live instrumentation with vocals from guest artist Phoelix. 

The album begins with “Sleepless Nights,” introduced by Washington’s welcoming saxophone along with fluttering piano from Glasper. The song rises to a chorus with Phoelix addressing the importance of  perseverance in times of self-doubt, and 9th Wonder’s head-bopping percussion. In between choruses, Martin and Washington provide enchanting saxophone riffs. Overall, I think “Sleepless Nights” is a fantastic start to the record and provides the audience with more than enough reason to continue listening.

The record ups the energy with “Love You Bad,” which features a J.Dilla-esque beat complete with dusty percussion, soft piano, saxophone and looping soul vocals. This bopping instrumental justifies why all these artists are in high demand from the biggest names in hip-hop. The third track, “From My Heart and Soul,” is effective in many of the same ways but in less of a rush than its predecessor. The track also shows the more experimental side of these artists with the watery piano behind the swinging percussion and looping, echoing chorus.

“First Responders” comes in as the album’s longest track at 4:50 and uses its time to give Washington all the room to work. 9th Wonder provides an airy beat with soft looping vocal riffs and glittering xylophone. The lightness of the production lets Washington do what he does best. The song builds up to a seemingly nonchalant riff where Washington justifies his place amongst the world’s most prolific saxophonists. The fifth track, “The Might Tree,” although enjoyable, is easily the most underwhelming track on the record as it lacks any substantial variation in its run time and does not feature any stand out vocals or instrumentation.

The last two tracks feature some of my favorites in the collection. “Freeze Tag” comprises a looping “WOO” along with signature 9th Wonder swinging production. Being the most lyrically dense track on the entire project, Phoelix depicts an arrest and provides commentary on the current turmoil surrounding the malicious actions of police officers and the systemic racism that exists in police departments across the United States. The project concludes as smoothly as the introduction. “LUV U” is the most electronic on the record, including echoing 808 and an electronic voice assuring their love for a significant other. All things considered, Dinner Party is an extremely well put together collection of songs and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Why Sidney Sheldon should be on your shelf

Kidi Tafesse

A&E Editor

 

If you have suddenly found yourself swamped with academic obligations and in need of an engaging outlet, then let me do you the honor of introducing Sidney Sheldon. Sheldon is an American director, writer and producer who has, over the span of his life, sold millions of copies of his novels worldwide; he is currently the most translated author to ever exist. Sheldon’s legacy includes a wide array of page-turners that are worth checking out.

First up is Sands of Time, an engrossing tale set in 1976 Pamplona, Spain that oversees the lives of Jaime Miro, a revolutionary whose sole purpose is to gain autonomy for the Basque people, and his two companions who share the same ideal. Although Miro’s zest for freedom fighting and prison breaks create enticing visuals, it is the story of the four nuns turned fugitives that really takes the cake. Each nun has an intriguing backstory. Lucia is the daughter of a formidable mob boss and is hiding within the walls of the Cistercian convent. Graciella, on the other hand, is escaping her past through finding conviction. Megan shares that conviction but unknowingly comes from one of the most powerful families in New York, and Teresa has deemed outside life unworthy due to her misgivings with romance. Overall, this novel explores the dangers of revolt and the hopeful despair that often comes with love in a timeless manner.

A personal favorite of mine is The Other Side of Midnight, a historical novel spanning both World Wars. The novel follows Noelle Paige, an eccentric woman who comes from a low-income family. She seizes control of her life through the mastery of seduction but later falls in love with the wrong man. This is definitely a great book for all fans of the concept that “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” If this does interest you, also check out the sequel, The Dark Side of Midnight.

Now that we have romance and thriller down, it is time we stepped into sci-fi territory with Doomsday Conspiracy. After being sent out on a covert mission to Switzerland by the National Security Agency, Robert Bellamy finds himself thrown into the world of conspiracy theories, uncovered government secrets and the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial life. If you’re a sci-fi geek looking for a touch of environmentalism in a fantastical world, then Doomsday Conspiracy is the novel to read.

At the risk of veering too much into the romantic section of Sheldon’s work, The Stars Shine Down is simply a must-read. With roots in the mining districts of Nova Scotia and an eventual lead-up to a dazzling life in Chicago’s real estate scene, Lara Cameron’s character is a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire novel. Through her life story, we see the complexities that come with being a successful businesswoman who still grapples with difficulties of past poverty and future hopes and dreams. The Stars Shine Down is perhaps Sheldon’s least jarring book due to its minimal gore and violence, but it contains a sweet touch   that you won’t find in many of his other novels.

 

 

Music ensembles adopt safe practices for COVID-19

Z Martin

Contributing Writer

 

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country and the world, colleges like ours have had to take some drastic measures to keep students as safe as possible while still providing opportunities for academic achievement in a variety of fields. One of the most challenging fields to regulate has been music. 

Beyond the obvious need for bands and chorus groups to be able to clearly hear each other while spreading out enough to maintain social distancing, studies show that singing and playing brass or woodwind instruments drastically increases the number of dangerous aerosol particles released into the air, resulting in an increased need for social distancing. As a result, music departments such as ours have had to devise clever workarounds that balance these opposing needs.

I spoke with our Director of Bands Joel Graham, who described some of these methods, starting with the use of Performer’s Protective Equipment (PPE). According to Graham, “Each student has a set of specialized performance masks that allow the student to play without taking the mask off and a fabric bell cover that goes on the bell of each instrument to reduce the spread of aerosols.” He also described socially distancing practices, which include bands being divided into smaller groups. These groups practice in blocks, with downtime reserved between each block so that the space can air out, leaving no aerosols remaining when the next block arrives. In addition, the marching band is practicing entirely outside and, in lieu of public performances, working on pre-recorded performances to be released later this fall, with the first recording sessions scheduled for next month.

Gracie Shreve ’23, a music therapy major and one of the three student managers for the Wooster Chorus, further clarified another form of PPE that Graham mentioned. “For singers,” she said, “masks are created almost in a duckbill fashion to create more room for jaw movement, lip placement and taking adequate breaths; for instrumentalists, masks are double-layered in a garage door manner where an outer flap covers the mouth and nose while still providing enough space for the mouthpiece and breathing.” 

However, because individual choral students need to practice unmasked, some very interesting methods have been devised. According to Shreve, “Many members of the faculty have given up their offices to be used as spaces for vocalists to have distanced lessons. The offices have been issued low-latency video and audio equipment which runs between two rooms at a time. The masked professor and accompanist work in one room and the unmasked vocalist in another. This way, the vocalist can still sing with their piano accompaniment and also receive visual critiques from the professor in real-time.”

In summary, although Shreve did mention some communication latency between students, teachers and administration, it seems that our faculty and administration have created creative and innovative solutions to support the musical arts while keeping students safe.

Maggie Rogers’ debut album comments on change

Lily Kate Harpham

Contributing Writer

 

In her debut studio album Heard It in A Past Life, Maggie Rogers turns two years of constant creation into 45 minutes. The album features twelve songs, including “Light On,” which ranked as the thirteenth th best song of 2019 on the Billboard charts. Released on Jan. 18, 2019, Heard It In A Past Life debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 in its first week; by April 2019, it reached 400 million streams.

The overall theme of Heard It in A Past Life is change. Change in relationships, in others and in yourself, change in the world and change in the seasons. The first track on the album is “Give A Little,” an empathetic and lighthearted song intended to “reintroduce” Rogers to her listeners. Inspired by the national school walkout for gun control, Rogers channeled all her love, fear and confidence for the future into this song. Starting with the strong words, “If I was who I was before / Then I’d be waiting at your door / But I cannot confess I am the same” — Rogers tells her listeners that everything is different about her and the world. Calling out to her listeners to “… Open up your heart/Drop your weapons, drop your guard/Just a little trust is all it takes,” Rogers encourages empathy and mutual respect for others, no matter their background.

Another song that is notable on the album is “Alaska.” In an interview with Pitchfork, Rogers described “Alaska” as being written about “… a time in my life when I was really lost, and it, in turn, has provided so much clarity for me.” Once again, we have a song about change, this time personal; with the soft and sturdy rhythm inspired by the sound of her jeans brushing against each other and the crumble of leaves heard while hiking in Alaska, this song is a beautiful mixture of layered vocals and light drums with snapping fingers. In fact, during his Artist-in-Residency at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2016, Pharrell Williams listened to “Alaska” and was brought to tears by the song. The video of Williams’ response to hearing “Alaska” went viral, and with it so did Rogers.

The twelfth and final song on the album is “Back In My Body,” a song about “coming home to yourself.” Plucking experiences from her time spent abroad in Europe, Rogers paints the picture of someone watching their life change around them. The chorus, complete with deeply rhythmic drums and beautiful layered harmonies of Rogers’ soft voice, is a beautiful conclusion to the album. In the chorus of “Back In My Body,” Rogers sings, “This time, I know I’m (Back in my body) / Lost you in the border town of anywhere / I found myself when I was going everywhere.” “Back In My Body” is infectious, as is the rest of the album. You can never be mad about having a Maggie Rogers song stuck in your head; they are just too good.

LANY lyrics inspire from coast to coast

Chloe Burdette 

Editor in Chief

 

The first time I ever heard the musical genius of the band LANY was my first year of college at a John Mayer concert. (His music is, without a doubt, a guilty pleasure for most. Just admit it.) It was 2017, and Mayer gave the opening slot of his “The Search for Everything” tour to a drummer named Jake Goss, a guitar player by the name of Les Priest and a vocalist and songwriter named Paul Jason Klein together known as LANY.

At concerts, I never really paid even the slightest bit of attention to the openers — mainly because my attention span was short, and I never had the patience to wait for the main act. But this day was extremely different. LANY took advantage of all of the stage lights, videoboards and design right as they stepped foot onto the stage and forced absent-minded Mayer fanatics to pay attention. The first song they sang to the crowd on that night, “Hericane,” weirdly wasn’t memorable for its powerful vocals, the flashy video background or the stage production. Instead, the performance itself was memorable because of the emotional aura that Klein created. He gripped the microphone like it was his lifeline, and the way he controlled the stage was like none other. Cheesy, over-the-top love songs are normally the bane of my existence, but this one struck a chord in most of the audience by the silence he elicited. 

Once Klein sang the last lyric of his original song, I whipped out my phone to Google search LANY’s almost-blank Wikipedia page. I knew in that moment, I was roped into a new love affair of edgy, yet mellow love songs that I would inevitably blast through the speakers of my 2007 Hyundai Tucson during midnight drives

If you fast forward a couple of years, LANY has now captured many hearts through their relatable lyrics on struggling relationships, family ties and the real emotions that come with these issues. For me, one of the most notable tracks that frontman Klein has created is “If This Is The Last Time,” which is sung from the perspective of Klein as he pays homage to his parents for raising him, even when times were difficult and fights ensued between them. Klein sings, “Sorry for the nights when I made the wrong choice. Life is flying by and it’s hitting me now …  I hope it’s not, but if this is the last time please come close, I love you with all my heart, you know …” This song not only inspires me to stop and appreciate the good and bad moments that have morphed me into the person I am today, but to hug my loved ones just a little tighter anytime I get the chance. 

Many things have changed since I first saw LANY in concert. I am soon to be a college graduate, I am searching for real-world jobs and I am not at all equipped emotionally to leave The College of Wooster within the next year. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the resonance of LANY’s songs, no matter what stage of life I am in. So, for now, I will just be taking the world by “Hericane” instead of storm, one Klein lyric at a time.

Tenet is Nolan’s most ambitious film yet

Colin Tobin

Contributing Writer

 

Tenet is the latest movie by writer and director Christopher Nolan. The film stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh. It follows a character only known as “The Protagonist” as he explores the world of espionage and is tasked with saving the world from a new technology that can manipulate time. I’m going to try to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers.

Christopher Nolan might be the most ambitious blockbuster filmmaker working today, and Tenet certainly reflects that. I’m not the biggest Nolan fan, but I respect how he makes these visually stunning, mind-bending experiences. That being said, I think this is probably the most ambitious project of his career. The action set-pieces are extremely well-directed and perfectly choreographed. From what I’ve read, there was no green screen use and barely any visual effects shots, which is extremely impressive considering the scale of some of the scenes. The production team also bought and blew up a real 747 airplane, reflecting their commitment to realism. Nolan even consulted with a theoretical physicist to try to make the story as close to theoretically possible as he could. The numerous moving pieces in the movie are handled well, in general, and it’s very well-paced for being two and a half hours long. The way that time is used in the plot is something that I’ve never seen before. The entire cast is great. John D. Washington further proves himself as a leading man and Kenneth Branagh’s acting is over-the-top in the best way possible. In the absence of Hans Zimmer, Ludwig Göransson’s score stands out and drives the energy of each scene.

Where the film lacks is in its character development. The biggest thing we learn about the characters is that Debicki’s character has a son she cares about. I can’t say that I really cared about anyone, but I think Nolan was aiming for a plot-driven movie. If you’re familiar with Nolan’s other work, like Inception, Interstellar, and Memento, you know how confusing his plots can be. Tenet blows these films out of the water in comparison. I’ve seen this movie twice so far and I think I understand only about 80% of what happened. To me, Nolan can trip over his own feet in his writing and things just aren’t clear on screen. Some helpful details are hidden in a line or two, then it moves on and expects you to catch up. Taking on a project like this likely means there are going to be a good bit of plot holes, and Tenet is no exception, but there is nothing that invalidates the overarching plot. To fully understand it, you need to rewatch it at least two or three times.

This was my first trip back to an actual movie theater in about six months, and things have obviously changed in how things operate. From what I could tell, the theater was very safe and cleaned often. There were hand sanitizing stations in the halls and wipes to use to clean your seat to ensure that it was germ-free. The four total people in the theater, including myself, wore masks the entire time and the experience honestly wasn’t much different than normal.

Tenet is a great way to welcome back the theatrical experience. The visuals and intriguing ambition make up for the lackluster characters and puzzle-box of a plot. Despite being in the bottom half of Nolan’s filmography for me personally and giving me a headache, I still had a good time.