From a Latin Grammy-nominated musician’s interpretation of Bach’s Cello Suites, to a natty poetry professor’s guide to the pursuit of happiness, SMU faculty produced a wide variety of books and music CDs in 2009 that just might fill the 11th hour gaps in a holiday gift list.
Many suggestions on the SMU list have won public accolades; Others are undiscovered treasures. Those not easily available for purchase either on-line or through traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are noted.
Several musicians in the SMU Meadows School of the Arts produced new CDs in 2009:
Cellist Andrés Díaz was nominated for a Latin Grammy for his 2009 Azica Records recording, Bach Cello Suites, widely recognized as some of the greatest works ever written for solo cello. Producer Alan Bise explains in the two-disc set’s liner notes that Díaz, who has no fear of fast cars or road trips (notice the Dodge Viper on the CD’s cover) drove from Philadelphia to the Chautauqua Institution in New York through a howling snowstorm to make the recording session happen.
"The next couple of days were nothing short of magical," Bise wrote. With roughly three feet of snow on the ground, and frequent interruptions due to the roar of snow sliding off the recital hall roof, " his playing conveyed a sense of lightness, of speed, of dancing, of the motion of Bach." Díaz, who leads the string department in the Meadows School, plays a 1698 Matteo Goffriller cello with a bow made by his father, Manuel Díaz.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram has described pianists (and married couple) Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung as musicians of great sensitivity, " equally matched in virtuosity and temperament." Both released CDs in 2009:
Bax released Bach Transcribed on the Signum Classics label over the summer. Named "CD of the Week" by Classical FM in the UK, it features works by Bach re-invented by Busoni, Godowski, Saint-Saens, Kempff, Siloti, Petri and Bax himself.
Gramophone Magazine called the release a disc no " hyphenated Bach fan" should miss, noting that Bax exhibits a level of technical control that " gives new meaning to the word ‘awesome.’" Bax, who recently was awarded an Avery Fisher Career grant, is an adjunct assistant professor in the Meadows School.
Chung released Camille Saint-Saëns Piano Transcriptions for her first XXI-21/Universal recording. Chung plays six rare compositions by Saint-Saëns spanning a period of 30 years in this release, which was named Discovery CD of the Month in Scena Musicale in November. Her CD may be ordered at http://www.lucillechung.com/?page_id=3.
Never heard of Conspirare? The production manager at one Austin radio station says the usual response he hears from first-time audiences is, " Where did these folks come from, and when can I hear more?" Pam Elrod, director of choral choral activities at the Meadows School, is a member of the eclectic, Austin-based professional choral ensemble. The group was nominated for a Grammy in 2009 in the "Best Classical Crossover Album" category for its CD, Company of Voices: Conspirare in Concert on the Harmonia Mundi label.
The concert was recorded live at Austin’s Long Center for the Performing Arts in October 2008 in cooperation with PBS television station KLRU, and video clips are available for viewing at http://www.klru.org/conspirare/video.html. The concert was released as a DVD for national broadcast on PBS affiliate stations nationwide in March 2009, and then released on CD in June 2009. Both the CD and DVD are available for purchase at http://conspirare.org/?page_id=22.
Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness has charmed readers and reviewers alike since its release by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in late spring. Spiegelman finds happiness on a path that skirts the usual territory between religion and pharmacology, joyfully embracing the old school: reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing.
The Wall Street Journal compared Spiegelman’s approach to John Updike’s belief in happiness spotted from the corner of the eye. " Looking at his pleasures, Mr. Spiegelman does just that, seven times. The eighth pleasure the book provides is in the intelligence and grace he brings to the job," Wes Davis wrote. Spiegelman is Hughes Professor of English in SMU’s Dedman College and has been editor of the Southwest Review since 1984. His students know him as much for his sartorial style as his erudition.
With apologies to Maurice Sendak, any parent with a charge card knows where the wild things are. But Thomas Siems’ 44-page picture book The Dangerous Pet is an unusual way to teach children the perils of debt in words and images they can understand. Siems’ story follows the exploits of a boy who desperately wants the toy of his dreams but must learn about getting out of debt (a big, old-fashioned children’s book monster) the hard way.
Siems is an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and a lecturer in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. The Dangerous Pet, published by Xlibris, may be ordered at http://www.thedangerouspet.com/book.html
Higher Realism: A New Foreign Policy for the United States is Tower Center fellow Seyom Brown’s newest book, produced by Paradigm Publishers. The emerging world order is one in which a variety of powers — states and nonstate actors, large and small, allies and adversaries—have an essential role. Brown calls this the emergent international "polyarchy," and argues that neither the assertive interventionism of the neoconservatives nor the cool, nonideological geopolitics of the conventional realists is the appropriate response to the world we live in now.
Brown is John Goodwin Tower Distinguished Chair in International Politics and National Security Director of Studies at SMU’s Tower Center for Political Studies and a senior adviser to the Security Studies Program at MIT.
It’s been a big year for SMU anthropology chair David Meltzer: He was elected into the National Academy of Sciences this year, and also published First Peoples in a New World: Colonizing Ice Age America.
Humans colonized North America more than 12,000 years ago, but exactly when and how they did so has been one of the most controversial questions in archaeology: Meltzer takes on the challenge in this University of California Press publication. Written for a wide audience, First Peoples in a New World tells the scientific story of the where the first Americans came from, when they arrived, and how they met the challenges of moving across Ice Age North America.
The newest book by John Chávez traces the evolution of "peripheral" ethnic homelands around the North Atlantic, from before transoceanic contact to their current standing in the world political system. Beyond Nations: Evolving Homelands in the North Atlantic World, 1400-2000, published by Cambridge University Press. Beyond Nations tracks the role of colonialism in the transformation of ethnic homelands. For example, the homeland of the Micmac was transformed by the French into the colony of Acadia, then into the British colony of Nova Scotia, and subsequently into a Canadian province.
Chávez is professor of history in Dedman College. His 1984 book, The Lost Land: The Chicano Image of the Southwest, earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination.
David J. Weber, director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, published a compact synthesis of his prize-winning history of colonial Spanish North America through Yale University Press. The Spanish Frontier in North America: the Brief Edition tells the story of Spain’s three-hundred-year tenure on the continent, from the first Spanish-Indian contact through Spain’s gradual retreat.
Howard R. Lamar, renowned western historian and former Yale University President, said of Weber’s book, "For readers seeking to understand the larger meaning of the Spanish heritage in North America, Weber's vivid narrative is a must. This is social and cultural history at its best."
Lackland Bloom, professor and constitutional law expert in the Dedman School of Law, published Methods of Interpretation: How the Supreme Court Reads the Constitution through Oxford University Press. The volume examines various methodologies the Supreme Court and individual justices have employed throughout history when interpreting the Constitution.