"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lollapalooza rocks, despite the rain

Chicago's Grant Park hosted one of the nation's largest rock music festivals this past weekend. I was lucky enough to attend the festival on Friday, for free, as a volunteer!

First, about my job...I was a volunteer for the "Rock & Recycle" program. A new green initiative began a number of years ago when Chicago began hosting the festival, and the Rock & Recycle program was officially launched in 2008. Eco-friendly activities paved the way for rewards. By filling up a plastic bag with recyclable goods (Lollapalooza invited vendors that serve beverages and food in recyclable containers), festival attendees received a free Lollapalooza T-shirt. Also, by taking one of any number of green actions such as riding a bike or taking public transit to the park or refilling a water bottle, participants earned Green Card stamps. Receiving three stamps entered them into a raffle to win a Honda Insight Hybrid. On “Green Street,” festival guests browsed booths selling eco-friendly and fair-trade merchandise. Lollapalooza partnered up with Green Mountain Energy in order to raise money to counteract effects of ever-day carbon emissions. For $5, participants could buy a souvenir BeGreen™ Fan Tag to help offset their carbon footprint. 8,500 tags were purchased at Lollapalooza 2008, which Green Mountain states had the equivalent environmental impact of taking almost 500 cars off the road.

At my booth, I collected filled recycling bags, stamped cards for completed eco-friendly activities, and directed people to Green Street. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people were enthusiastic about being green, and despite the resulting chill from the rain, they were more than happy to fill up a recycling bag.

One of the best perks about the job was that I was able to request where I was stationed. I asked to be placed the north end of the park (in a tent, sheltered from the rain!), and was therefore able to hear the bands I wanted to while on my shift. Ben Folds rocked on piano and vocals in his usual fun-spirited, youthful way; I love how he still has a bit of nerdy-student look to him with his glasses and occasionally self-deprecating lyrics, like "I'm rockin' the suburbs/Just like Michael Jackson did/I'm rockin' the suburbs/Except that he was talented..." (though the song was released in 2001, the MJ reference is especially striking). The Decemberists put on an impressively strong show, performing their newest album, The Hazards of Love, written in the style of a rock opera, in full. Shara Worden joined the band as the powerful female soloist in this narrative performance. I was also able to hear the mellow Bon Iver from a distance, and was introduced to the Fleet Foxes. I really enjoyed their folk/rock hybrid, and bought their self-titled album yesterday. In the evening, the rain had stopped, and I was free to enjoy the two headliners. I watched about half an hour of Kings of Leon, and enjoyed their drive and southern soul. I headed over to the other end of the park, to hear the darker, 80's British rock band, Depeche Mode. They were powerful and passionate, and we all shouted for more, even after their encore of "Personal Jesus" that we had been craving.

All in all, a fantastic day of environmental activism and music. I even felt, amidst the rain, a touch of Woodstock spirit among us.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Reflections of Interlochen

Sunday, August 2nd, marked the close of another music-filled summer at Interlochen Arts Camp. I always get nostalgic when I think of Interlochen, as I attended the camp as a dance major for three amazing summers high school.

The closing performance takes place in the Interlochen Bowl, the stage of the open-air pavilion filled to capacity with all of the performers of all the advanced instrumental ensembles. It adds up to over 500 musicians! The summer of art and music is concluded with this performance of Franz Liszt's symphonic poem, Les Preludes. During the last six minutes of the piece, dancers suddenly emerge onto the scene! First they are seen walking down the aisles through the audience. Next, balletic couples partner each other on the bandshell. Finally the audience is most surprised when dancers appear on the roof of the bowl itself!

I performed in Les Preludes, once, as one of the dancers walking down the aisle, and the following summer I was promoted to a roof-top dancer. I vividly remember awaiting our musical cue on the back side of the roof, looking down through the skylights on the low-brass section of the massive orchestra. When we entered the "stage," we had to be careful not to overstep the chalk line that is about a foot 1/2 away from the edge! It was honestly a little scary, but more than that, thrilling and truly magical.

I have so many countless memories of my wonderful summers there. Each day was hard work, and dance majors' daily schedules were particularly long. Every student in each discipline worked long and hard at their art, and often spent additional time practicing and rehearsing (especially the music majors spent many hours in the "practice huts.") We were able to reap the rewards of our efforts by our performances. For us dancers, our work concluded with Dance Ensemble, at the end of the session. (I have one bone to pick with Interlochen, and that would be the changes that were brought upon the Dance Department the year after I left, in 2004. There were a number of campus-wide changes, such as making the eight-week camp into a six-week camp. Some of the main consequences fell on the the dancers, and due to the space being occupied, they longer enjoy the luxury of performing in Corson Auditorium. Dance Ensemble now takes place just simply in the studio. Granted, the beautiful dance building sits on the lake with large glass windows overlooking the landscape, however, I feel like there must be a way to collaborate with the rest of the departments. I hope that the future dance students will soon be able to enjoy the professional performing experience like the rest of the artists at the camp.)

When not working hard at one's art, campers enjoy more traditional activities of evening/weekend camp life. I enjoyed being immersed in the arts all around me; almost every night I would hear a band/orchestra/choir concert, see a theatre department play or musical, view an art gallery opening, attend a poetry reading, or catch another artistic endeavor. Often we would go as a cabin or support our fellow cabin-mate's performance.

On nights when I took a break from seeing a show, I might hang out on main campus and get to know my counselor or fellow campers, who became incredibly close to me over the four weeks, take a swim in the late, practice my french horn (which I had brought with me and was inspired by the excellent music majors to practice), or journal-write on the lake at sunset. We were called to our cabins at night by the trumpet "call to quarters," commanded to turn off lights by the sound of "Taps," and risen in the morning by another trumpet sound. I found being surrounded by art in this way to be so incredibly inspiring, and the summers of 2001-2003 became some of the best summers of my life.

At the end of every music performance, the ensemble would play or sing the Interlochen Theme, a piece of Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, "Romantic." Applause is "shh'ed," as the concert traditionally ends in silence, the last notes ringing out into the night void.

At the end of Les Preludes, the conductor (who is always the President of Interlochen, currently Jeffrey Kimpton) breaks the baton, symbolizing the end of another musical season.

Two summers ago I visited the Interlochen campus again, a number of years behind me since I had been a camper. Stepping into view of Kresge Auditorium, the other main pavilion for music performances, proclaiming "Dedicated to the Promotion of World Friendship through the Universal Language of the Arts" across the top of the arch, I felt my eyes mist over. Interlochen will always be home in my heart, and I hope to someday return to teach or somehow be a part of this amazing transforming place again.