Art Hum and Music Hum: two of the spaces where the normally intelligent, talented citizens of Columbia can gather together and make some of the dumbest comments you will ever hear in a classroom. If you’re nervous about your midterm tomorrow, Bwog’s found some shining examples of visual and aural analysis for you to be inspired by.
Art Humanities: Explorations In Masque
Miley Cyrus’ face in the corresponding image can be seen as a commentary on the concept of masquerade, and further, its role in the greater debate of interiority vs. exteriority. Immediately, we can see the artists’ heavy layering on the subject: non-traditional paints are used, but the color palate is still over saturated. Rather than any attempt at naturalism, the artist makes a bold move toward artificiality by using colors and tones that would never normally appear on a human face.
Most striking at first glance are the shiny red lips. The intense lustre and shade effectively communicate that, indeed, the subject has a vivid and vibrant sexuality, and no you had better not mistake her for a
Disney star Madonna figure ala Raphael. We may go as far as to invoke the Venus of Urbino or Olympia figure.
The next shade the eyes are drawn to is, of course, that of the two-toned hairstyle. The obvious roots growing out are willfully depicted: both the gold of the hair and the bling of the ears advertise the subject’s wealth and high social standing, while the brown roots hearken back to more modest, pastoral beginnings. A modern homage to chiaroscuro, perhaps? And, of course, the borders of the image are subtly cropped to add ambiguity to the otherwise straightforward, frontally oriented image: why, yes, she might be naked. What’s it to you?
The strongest message, undoubtedly, is delivered in the patch of white skin where the subject’s makeup has been licked off over the course of several hours: far from a wardrobe malfunction or error in paint application, this unmasking is quite deliberate. The facade has been removed; a movement toward genuineness pursued and reached. Accessibility and vernacular is explored: the subject has pasty white skin just like you. With this, the artist tosses aside convention of unity of image, ignores suspension of disbelief, throws down, indeed, the entire convention of female beauty in one fell semi-circle. The viewer is left with a final thought from this marking of boundaries, of course: the sheer size of the patch of exposed skin, raising uncomfortable questions about the diameter of the subject’s tongue.
Music Humanities: Through The Veil
For this concert report, I wanted to report on unusual listening experiences. To that end, I sought out a venue not typically used for classical performances: a second-floor college dorm room. The musician, going by “2007 White Camaro,” idled outside of the window, frozen in space as if stopped at a red light. This set was spectacularly conceived: hiding the musician in an automobile lends to the theme of hiding one’s true self behind a hard exterior.
Indeed, the historical context of the music speaks to this point. 2007 White Camaro performed “Worst Behavior” by Aubrey Graham. Graham, a lyric tenor, formed a contested position within the musical canon–while some critics argued that he represented a “tough” singer, others said he leaned more towards “soft.” These terms–“tough” and “soft”–were used among Graham’s contemporaries to describe a performer with either a rash, aggressive personality or a gentler, more emotional one.
In “Worst Behavior,” composed by DJ Dahi with libretto by Graham, his “tough” side is on display. The rolling percussion that dominates the composition, distorted through both the non-ideal speaker system as well as the glass windows of the venue, is threatening in its syncopated rhythm; it incites the listener to anxiety. Dahi employed word painting, stopping the music completely so Graham can shout his plaintive plea: “bitch you better have my money when I come for that shit like O.D.B.”
Graham’s libretto tells the story of a man’s rise to fame and the troubles that come with that. Many artists have spoken to this point before, and Graham acknowledges that, making an allusion to a verse by Mase on “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems,” a popular anthem–like Nabucco’s “Va, pensiero”–in Graham’s genre by The Notorious B.I.G. (It should be noted that, in making this allusion, Graham places himself first among the legend, similar to Dante placing himself among the great litterateurs in The Inferno, and second among his contemporaries like Jermaine Cole, who have also made these allusions.)
Although “Worst Behavior” speaks to dominance in one’s industry and speaks from a high position, the anxiety of the beat shows not all is well at the top. Switching into his upper register, Graham cries out the chorus: “motherfuckers never loved us.” Much like Violetta’s seminal aria “Sempre libera” from Verdi’s La Traviata, this high coloratura chorus indicates the indecision and panic of the singer. While, in a deep lower register, Graham can proudly claim “for all the stunting, I’ll forever be immortalized,” the shouts of “remember?!” that jump nearly an octave and pepper the composition unveil his true internal fears.
Making use of the venue’s space, 2007 White Camaro suddenly exited the stage at a fast pace. This again spoke to the anxiety that riddles the aria, despite the bravado of the lyric tenor. As the performer moved offstage, the highest notes came back to the audience, leaving us with that accusation from Graham, revealing his interior terror: “remember?!”
Drake via Wikimedia Commons