The Arts at Amherst

What a fantastic year of collaboration and conversation!  Thanks to everyone who made the 2012/13 Copeland Colloquium: Art in Place/the Place of Art such a success!

Check back in the fall for new content about all of the arts at Amherst at

Clothes that Kill — with Copeland fellow Catherine Masud

In response to the recent Rana Plaza factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh, Copeland fellow Catherine Masud participates on a panel discussing Bangladesh & the US's role in the global garment industry. Thursday, May 9 — check it out!

Arts at Amherst: Faculty Collaborations

This year's series of Copeland Colloquium events will conclude this Saturday at Kirby Theater with "Art at Amherst: Faculty Collaborations".

Faculty & staff from the departments of Music, Theater & Dance, and Art & the History of Art will come together to present new collaborative works. 

The program will include a wide variety of work, including a performance of George Crumb’s “Black Angels” by the locally-based Erebos String Quartet (Sarah Briggs & Joseph Jewett, violins, Delores Thayer, viola, and Rebecca Hartka, cello). Also featured will be a new duet by Theater & Dance faculty Wendy Woodson, performed by Ron Bashford and Paul Matteson. David Gloman will perform an improvisational painting in collaboration with Jason Robinson on saxophone and electronics and Eric Sawyer’s piano duets will be performed by Judith Gordon and Alissa Leiser, accompanied by visuals from Betsey Garand.  

The performance is one night only, at 8 pm on Saturday April 13th at Kirby Theater. Free and open to the public; no reservations required.

April - Upcoming Events

Lots of "Art in Place" going on as we enter April!

April 2, 3, & 4
Mark Santilucito & Steph Robinson's installation Isosteeple will be on display at the Stearns Steeple in front of the Mead Art Museum from 9 AM to 6 PM. If you missed this participatory sound/video installation during the Soundfest, check it out.

April 1 - 11
Finding Place. A multimedia exhibit exploring the realm of physical space and place, featuring local artists from around the Pioneer Valley. There will be a gallery talk on Thursday April 4th at 4:30.
Eli Marsh Gallery, Fayerweather Hall. 

Friday, April 5
Virtual Tour: A Reduced Carbon-Footprint Concert
Jason Robinson, Marty Erlich & Bob Weiner perform on a multi-site networked concert with real-time collaborators at the University of California, San Diego. 
10:00 pm, Buckley Recital Hall, Arms Music Center

Saturday, April 6
Steve Reich's "Different Trains". Performed by the Erebos String Quartet and introduced by David Schneider. The work explores the parallels between the cross-country train trips Reich took as a child and the trains transporting Jews to imprisonment and death during World War II.  
8:00 pm, Buckley Recital Hall, Arms Music Center

Sunday, April 7
Art and Fear: the Perils of Creativity in the 21st Century. 
A presentation / open discussion by Copeland fellow Matana Roberts.
4:30 pm, Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather Hall

Saturday, April 13
Arts at Amherst: Faculty Collaborations
Faculty organizers of this year’s Copeland Colloquium from the departments of Theater & Dance, Music, and Art & the History of Art take the stage, collaborating on a variety of new multimedia works.
8:00 pm, Kirby Theater

Sunday, April 21
A concert of music by composer Harold Meltzer, featuring "Brion", a piece inspired by the sculptured concrete walls, reflecting pools, and unexpected traces of bright primary colors in the Brion-Vega Cemetery in San Vito d'Altivole, not far from Venice, designed by Carlo Scarpa.
3:00 pm, Buckley Recital Hall, Arms Music Center.

All are very attractive additions to your datebooks! Hope to see you there! 

March 30 — SOUNDFEST

They say that March is "in like a lion, out like a lamb". This year's Copeland Colloquium will bid farewell to this month of transition with a program of indoor and outdoor sound installation and performance, as lively and fierce and dynamic as a lion's roar (while we hope for lamb-like weather). We will feature work by Tim Eriksen, Wendy Woodson, Jake Meginsky, Eric Leonardson, Steph Robinson & Mark Santolucito. The event is free and open to the public.

The program will begin at 1pm in the Amherst College Octagon, with Tim Eriksen’s “George Cheney and the Amherst Old Folks”. From there, audience members will be guided around campus to experience a variety of sonic and multimedia environments by a diverse mix of local and guest artists.
Here is an approximate schedule of events.

1:00 pm — Tim Eriksen’s “George Cheney and the Amherst Old Folks: Community Singing and the College’s First Music Professor” — the Octagon
1:45 pm — Wendy Woodson & Jake Meginsky’s “Rim light” — Studio 1, Webster Hall
2:10 pm — Jake Meginsky’s “Secret Beach” — Holden Theater [on display 3/25-3/30]
2:30 pm — Eric Leonardson’s “Similaria” — Rotherwas Gallery, Mead Art Museum
3:00 pm — Steph Robinson & Mark Santolucito’s “Isosteeple” — Stearns Steeple, Mead Art Museum

About the pieces and the artists:
George Cheney and the Amherst Old Folks: Community Singing and the College’s First Music Professor
by Tim Eriksen
A selection of early American hymns that the College's first music instructor led at concerts involving both students and local residents 150 years ago.

Tim Eriksen is acclaimed for transforming American tradition with his startling interpretations of old songs from New England and Southern Appalachia. He combines hair-raising vocals with inventive accompaniment on banjo, fiddle, guitar and bajo sexto - a twelve string Mexican acoustic bass - creating a distinctive hardcore Americana sound that ranges from the bare bones of solo unaccompanied singing to the lush, multi-layered arrangements on Josh Billings Voyage.

Rim light
Text by Wendy Woodson
Sound design by Jake Meginsky and Wendy Woodson

Secret Beach
2 Channel Installation. steel, transducers, low frequency audio loop.
By Jake Meginsky

“A point beats in your breast: your heart.
 A point beats for your hand: your pulse.
 A point beats in space. Listen.”
— Edmond Jabès 

 I grew up next to an interstate highway. Climbing into the underpass as a child, I could place my head close to the highway foundation to listen as the passing vehicles set the interstate into vibration like a string.  With my head surrounded by the dynamic oscillations of massive amounts of metal and concrete, a distant truck could excite the empty roadway into a beautiful, shimmering microtonal drone, as complex and musical as anything I had ever heard.  This formative listening experience helped to birth and nurture what would become a central idea in my development as a musician: the notion that inside all physical materials exists a frozen sound potential.  With Secret Beach, I am attempting to recapture and formalize this early aesthetic experience.

 Low frequency vibration is transferred to the steel sheets through the transducers. The resonant frequencies of the steel sheets reinforce themselves as soundwaves travel inside the material. As sounds collide, the waveforms of each frequency alternately reinforcing and inhibiting themselves.  If you listen along the surface of the sheets, certain areas contain patches of higher volume as these collisions create standing waves, while other areas of the surface suddenly drop in volume as juxtaposed waves cancel each other out. The piece is meant to activate the hallway as a site for listening, both for the people who choose to spend time in the space reflecting on the work, and the more common use - walking through on the way from one part of the campus to the other.

by Eric Leonardson

This electroacoustic performance uses sounds made with amplified objects and digital processing, with those recorded from the surrounding environment itself to act on multiple levels. They attempt to create a musical experience using the particular social and spatial characteristics of the walnut paneled Rotherwas Room, to transform listeners’ awareness of both physical and imaginary space and time.

Eric Leonardson is a Chicago-based composer/improvisor, sound designer, visual artist and teacher.  Eric’s work relies on a broad understanding of texture, atmosphere and microtones, and includes the invention of the Springboard — an electroacoustic percussion instrument made from readily available materials. Its sounds belie its humble origins, thanks to the rich enharmonic timbres of bowed coil springs and the curious sound of the crude wooden daxophones-all amplified by a single, inexpensive piezoelectric contact mic.

Leonardson is a recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Media Arts Fellowship (2002 and 2006), and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sound design / composition by Stephanie Robinson (also known as sroM ( or
Video projections and programming by Mark Santolucito
Special thanks to Aaron Hayden for performing the carillon during the field recording process

Isosteeple is an immersive and interactive sound environment created for the courtyard space outside of Stearns Steeple.  For its sound elements, Isosteeple features highly processed samples of the carillon located inside of the steeple.  The long history of the carillon as a musical instrument was part of the inspiration for this installation project; compositional elements are based on the medieval and Renaissance technique of “isorhythm,” a method by which composers utilized simultaneous (yet separate) multi-length sequences of both pitch and rhythm as the structuring element behind musical works. 

Participants in this installation will experience isorhythm in multiple guises - one level as an ambient environment, but also on a second level as an interactive environment in which participants can “play” the steeple by triggering portions of an isorhythmic series (sampled from the carillon) with bodily motion.  The installation also features a visual element of projection within the steeple itself, also derived from the isorhythmic technique of the sound materials.

Steph Robinson, electronic sound artist, is also active as a composer, keyboardist, installation artist, recording engineer, and vocalist. She has concentrated many of her recent compositional efforts on theatre projects and works professionally as a theatrical sound designer and composer.  Additionally, she is an active performer of a variety of musical styles and genres, ranging from opera to church music, and performance art to heavy metal.  Currently employed by Amherst College’s Department of Theatre and Dance as a visiting lecturer, Robinson teaches courses on sound design for theatre, installation art, dance, and multimedia.  In her spare time, she is an avid runner of ultramarathon distances of 100 miles…and longer.

Hope to see you at the Soundfest! 





Tuesday March 12 — "Art in Research / the Place of Research in Art"

Please join us Tuesday afternoon, 4:30 pm, in the Reading Room of Amherst College's Frost Library, with Copeland Fellows Idan Cohen, Eric Leonardson, Matana Roberts, & Artist in Residence Rebekah Tolley.

The panelists will discuss varying modes of “research” in their multidisciplinary work, exploring how their creative process shapes the works they produce.

Idan Cohen, Eric Leonardson, Matana Roberts & Rebekah Tolley

About the panelists:

Idan Cohen was born and raised in Israel in Kibbutz Mizra, a socialist community. The kibbutz lifestyle has had a wide effect on his artistic life and work. He danced with the world-renowned Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. Since 2005, Idan has been performing, creating and teaching as an international award- winning choreographer.

A psychological sensibility, a keen sense of musicality, and a profound understanding of cultural context, lend Idan Cohen’s work a rare combination of analysis and compassion. Idan has toured with his work internationally and been invited as a guest artist and teacher worldwide. 

Eric Leonardson is a Chicago-based composer/improvisor, sound designer, visual artist and teacher. Eric’s work relies on a broad understanding of texture, atmosphere and microtones, and includes the invention of the Springboard — an electroacoustic percussion instrument made from readily available materials. Its sounds belie its humble origins, thanks to the rich enharmonic timbres of bowed coil springs and the curious sound of the crude wooden daxophones-all amplified by a single, inexpensive piezoelectric contact mic. 

Leonardson is a recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Media Arts Fellowship (2002 and 2006), and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Matana Roberts is a Chicago-born, New York-based saxophonist, improviser and composer who works as a soloist and a multimedia collaborator. Matana’s current sound project, COIN COIN, brings a genealogical history of Africans in America together with research into her own ancestry.

She says of her work, "COIN COIN is a compositional sound language that I have been developing since 2006. My initial interest in creating this work came from my childhood fascination with ghosts, spirits, spooks, and the faint traces of what they leave behind. I have a deep interest in old, antique objects of human existence, mostly because of the variety of story that can be created, factual or not, from the possibility of their being. This project is a combination of those interests as well as my delight in musical communication , ritual adornment, and the genealogical 20th century history of Africans in America. In some instances I am using information that I have gleaned from research into my own ancestral history, as inspiration and area of creative consideration. The musical root of much of this work also stems from my continued attraction/repulsion to certain aspects of the American Jazz tradition(s) which I am deeply involved with as an alto saxophonist."

Various movements of the piece have already been composed, workshopped and performed. The first movement, Chapter 1 "Gens De Couleur Libres (or free people of color)," was recently released as an audio album.

Rebekah Tolley is a printmaker and digital media artist. Her work uses traditional printmaking and digitally-generated imagery in animated sequences that are projected onto sculptural forms. She is represented in collections such as the Hood Museum, Library and Archives Canada, The National Library of Quebec, The Boston Public Library, the Amity Art Foundation and the Kohler Library as well as numerous other public and private collections. Her work has been exhibited in galleries in Canada, France, China, Japan and across the United States. She received her BFA from Concordia University in Montreal, and her MFA from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, Colby-Sawyer College, Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in Vermont, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Davidson College, and is currently Visiting Artist in Residence at Amherst College.

Co-sponsored by the Copeland Colloquium & Frost Library. Part of a Frost Library series exploring the intersections of research, the arts, and cultural production. The Copeland Colloquium 2012/13 is sponsored in part by the Amherst Art Series Fund.

Rescheduled to April 7 — Matana Roberts presents...

This presentation has been rescheduled to Sunday, April 7, at 4:30 in Pruyne Lecture Hall, Fayerweather Hall.

The ART IN PLACE series presents: "Art and Fear : the perils of creativity in the 21st Century." This is a presentation / open discussion with saxophonist, composer & Copeland fellow Matana Roberts. 

Matana Roberts 1

The artist in her own words:

Matana (m(a)-ta-na\) Roberts; 
internationally documented, chicago born, mixed media sound conceptualist/composer/improviser and performer. main instrument: alto saxophone. working in various mediums of performance inquiry; some recent work focused on the place/problem of memory/tradition as recognized, deciphered, deconstructed, interrogated through radical modes of sound communication, alternative styles of musical notation, and multi genres of improvisation; based in new york city

Art, Community & Social Justice @AC

This weekend, March 1 & 2, internationally renowned artists of theater, dance, music and visual art will join us in Amherst for a weekend of discussion and workshops. 

Ping Chong

FRIDAY 3/1: Red Room, 4:30 — Meet and see presentations by Ping Chong, Amie Dowling, George Mathew and Eric Gottesman in which they share discoveries they've made in their work with alternative and marginalized communities around the globe. A meet-and-greet with the artists in Converse Lobby will follow.

SATURDAY 3/2: Practical workshops, open to all students, faculty, staff & community members. Email to reserve a place! Studio 1, Webster Hall. 

10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: "Performing Arts and Community Exchange" with Amie Dowling.
In this experiential workshop, writing, movement, and theater exercises will be introduced that can lead to collaborative creative work with men and women who are, or have been, incarcerated. "Performing Arts and Community Exchange" is designed for participants who are interested in merging activism, performance and teaching.

2 to 5 p.m.: “Introduction to Socially Engaged Theater” with Ping Chong and Company.
This workshop will explore techniques used in Ping Chong & Company's interview-based theater project, the "Undesirable Elements" series. Participants will learn methods of gathering stories within specific communities.

Amie Dowling

About the guests:

Ping Chong, known for his innovative multidisciplinary works that explore the intersections of history, race, art and technology in the modern world, will speak about "Undesirable Elements," an ongoing series of community-specific, interview-based theater works that examine issues of culture and identity of individuals who are outsiders within their mainstream community.

Amie Dowling, associate professor in dance and social justice at the University of San Francisco and artist-in-residence at the San Francisco Jails, will talk about her collaborations with incarcerated individuals on the creation of original dance/theater pieces; a most recent project is the dance film "Well Contested Sites," filmed on Alcatraz Island.

Eric Gottesman, photographic artist and organizer, will speak about a new multimedia project he is working on in Ethiopia (in collaboration with actors, writers and filmmakers) based on the life and fiction of assassinated political journalist Baalu Girma.

Singaporean-born Indian conductor George Mathew, founder and artistic director of Music for Life International and Ubuntu-Shruti, will speak about his work as a conductor in the classical music world bringing symphonic music to focus on global humanitarian issues and crises at the beginning of the 21st century.

Hope to see you there!

A film and a talk this weekend

This weekend there are two (2) exciting events to attend. There is a screening of an award-winning film from Bangladesh, produced by Copeland Fellow Catherine Masud, and a talk by Erik Ehn, an experimental playwright, puppeteer, and pedagogue. 

Friday, Stirn Auditorium, 4:30 — "Matir Moina" (The Clay Bird) (95 min)


A feature film based on director Tareque Masud’s own childhood, set in rural East Pakistan during the turbulent years leading up to Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. A young boy, Anu, is sent off to a strict Islamic school, or madras, by his deeply religious father Kazi. Far from his family and the festive pagan culture of his village, Anu struggles to adapt to the school’s harsh monastic life. As the political divisions in the country intensify, an increasing split develops between moderate and extremist forces within the madrasa, mirroring a growing divide between the stubborn but confused Kazi and his increasingly independent wife. Touching upon themes of religious tolerance, cultural diversity, and the complexity of Islam, "Matir Moina" has universal relevance in a strife-ridden world.

Originally banned in its home country, the film won the Critics’ Prize at Cannes in 2002, and became Bangladesh's first-ever entry to the Oscars. It is presented in celebration of producer, co-writer and editor Catherine Masud’s fellowship this semester at Amherst College. Masud will introduce the film & answer questions after the screening.

Sunday, Pruyne Lecture Hall, 4:30 — Strangeness & Healing: a lecture by Erik Ehn.


Experimental playwright & puppeteer Erik Ehn will visit Amherst College to discuss experimental art practices which use strange or unknowable images & texts to address trauma and recover historical memory, specifically touching on his own work. Ehn holds the position of Director of Writing for Performance at Brown University. He is an Artistic Associate at Theatre of Yugen, a graduate of New Dramatists, and a former Dean of the CalArts School of Theater.

Ehn’s work is imbued with a passionate interest in social issues. He conducts annual trips to Rwanda/Uganda, taking students and professionals in the field to study the history of these countries, and to explore the ways art is participating in recovery from violence.

“My interest is in populations at risk, or responding to violence or to kinds of brokenness; people farming the extreme edges of spirituality. Those are the kind of situations that demand a play. … I’m very joyful as a writer. The subject matter is difficult, but I have such faith in the ongoing conversation and in the community that builds around social idealism that writing is light for me, even though it’s serious.”

Hope to see you there!