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Simply Fun

Contributed by John Menier

32822In his remarks from the podium, La Jolla Symphony & Chorus Conductor Steven Schick notes that the 2017 edition of the “Young People’s Concert” features music by two composers with differing influences, temperaments, and styles: George Gershwin and Aaron Copland. While acknowledging the contrasts Schick also points out some surprising similarities shared by the two men: both were born to Russian-Jewish parents in Brooklyn, both studied in Paris, both had an interest in jazz and popular music, both experimented with different genres, and both came to prominence in the Jazz Age. First and foremost, Gershwin and Copland were American, with all that implies; as Gershwin put it, “True music must reflect the thought and aspirations of the people and time. My people are Americans. My time is today.”

Perhaps the best expression of what’s been called “the American touch” may be found in two of Gershwin’s most popular scores, “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris.” Both pieces reflect Gershwin’s abiding interest in jazz and blues, two indisputably American art forms, and both touch glancingly upon some of the conflicts and contradictions of American life (then and now). Ultimately, though, the most profound and appealing quality shared by the compositions is that, in the words of the Conductor, “they are simply fun.”

By comparison to the high-stepping confidence of the Gershwin tunes, Copland’s “Quiet City,” originally written for a failed play, reflects another, more contemplative aspect of the American character. One reading holds that the longing and unfulfilled aspirations evoked by this piece warn of the consequences of not being true to one’s self, an ever-present danger in a fast-moving, ambitious society. Perhaps. However one interprets “Quiet City” (if it needs any interpretation at all) there’s no denying the work’s beauty, the result of a perfect balance between string orchestra and two soloists on trumpet and oboe.

Throughout his remarks, Steven Schick notes the empathy and intricate interplay between the various sections of the orchestra, by turns tempestuous and serene as required by the score, and the absolute need to serve the music and the composers.

Watch Young People’s Concert 2017 – La Jolla Symphony & Chorus

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Innovation and Culture at the Border

32822Tijuana – San Diego, Ciudad Juarez – El Paso; these regions share economic and cultural linkages in dynamic cross-border regions. The Institute of the Americas and the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program hosted a fascinating event that highlighted success stories and dynamism in the innovative and creative environment of border regions.

Speakers include Regina Bernal, Entrepreneurship Manager, University of San Diego; Ricardo Mora, Founder and CEO of Technology in Ciudad Juárez; Guillermo Mejía, Managing Director at MindHub in Tijuana; Jim Brown, Bread & Salt and Principal at PUBLIC Architecture and Planning; David Favela, Founder of Border X and artist Jessie Zelayandia.

Watch:

  • Innovating at the Border
  • The Creative Economy
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    Cellular and Molecular Explorations of Anthropogeny

    8232Can we improve the human condition? With the complete genomes of our closest existing and extinct relatives readily available, we stand at the doorstep of deep understanding of the molecular and cellular characteristics that have not only made us distinctly human but have imbued us with uniquely human traits, conditions, and diseases. This symposium explores how studies, including those using stem cells and gene editing tools, are revealing important genetic differences and how they emerged in the human lineage.

    Watch Cellular and Molecular Explorations of Anthropogeny

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    Universities and Cities Working Together to Build Strong Communities

    32240As the former president of the University of Pennsylvania, Judith Rodin understands first-hand the power of universities to impact surrounding neighborhoods and communities. In this Helen Edison presentation, Rodin explores their transformative potential.

    “Over the last few decades, a host of anchor institutions have breathed new life into communities and they have forged new pathways for economic growth in their cities,” says Rodin.

    As she explains when she became president at Penn State, “The blight of the local neighborhood became the plight of the university. Students didn’t feel safe, and parents didn’t feel safe sending them there.” At the time, crime rates had soared, many people lived below the poverty level, businesses closed, and drug dealers moved in. “We knew that we could never have a future as a truly great university in a disintegrating community in an economically weakening city,” says Rodin. “We needed to become a force for strengthening our community.”

    Most importantly, she learned that “in the process of transforming the university and its surrounding neighborhoods, we demonstrated just what a powerful impact a university can have when it accepts that its destiny is intertwined with that of its neighbors.”

    Learn more about how cities and universities can work together to build a strong and inclusive future. Watch Resilient Cities: A Conversation with Judith Rodin.

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    The Water Wars Have Begun

    32822The Water Wars are coming – and according to Executive Producer Lynne Kirby, they’re already here.

    Concerned about what her daughter would drink in the years ahead, Kirby became passionate about water conservation issues. She knew water was going to be a big issue in the decades to come – that water would be the “oil” of the 21st century.

    She pitched the idea of making a documentary of the coming water wars to Alex Gibney, an investigative documentary filmmaker of films about Scientology, WikiLeaks, Enron and others. According to Kirby, Gibney’s the kind of guy who says, I’m coming after you… and you’re going down… and we’re going to peel back the onion and expose you.

    Gibney then approached National Geographic who had been looking for a water project and the rest is history. Water & Power: A California Heist unfolds like a real-life version of the 1974 film noir Chinatown and uncovers the ruthless exploits of California’s notorious water barons, who profit off the state’s resources while everyday citizens endure a debilitating water crisis.

    Watch Water & Power: Discussion of Documentary with host and UCSB Professor of Film & Media Studies, Constance Penley, and Executive Producer Lynne Kirby to hear more behind-the-scenes stories about this incredible documentary.

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