Category Archives: UC San Diego

War and Reflection

June 2019 marks the centenary of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I after five years of brutal conflict. In recognition of this epochal event La Jolla Symphony & Chorus’ 64th season, “Lineage: A Memory Project,” draws to a fitting conclusion with a program built around the composers and soldiers of the Great War.

Like most French composers Maurice Ravel was suspicious of German music, with one exception: he was an unabashed fan of the waltz. In “La Valse” Ravel develops surprising themes and variations on the distinctive waltz rhythm, and the result is one of the best examples of Ravel’s keen ear for instrumental colors and textures.

Charles Ives’ “From Hanover Square North…” commemorates the sinking of the British liner Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915. That moment when Ives and his fellow commuters heard the news on a Manhattan subway platform became the inspiration for his composition, but in typically idiosyncratic fashion Ives didn’t render the scene realistically; rather, it was the starting point for a musical meditation in which Ives registered the emotional impact of what he had witnessed.

Originally written as the second (slow) movement of a string quartet, Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” became one of the most popular symphonic works of the 20th century in its orchestral arrangement. The solemnity of the Adagio led to its frequent use as mourning music, much to Barber’s dismay since it was not his intention to write a requiem. Whatever its unintentional cultural accretions, Barber’s melody is still both beautiful and powerful after countless hearings.

Commissioned in 1936 to compose a large-scale piece for a choral society’s centenary celebration, Ralph Vaughan Williams instead wrote for them a cantata for soprano, baritone, chorus, and orchestra entitled “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Give Us Peace”) – and it was anything but a celebration piece. This cantata was a protest against war and a heartfelt cry for peace at a time of growing international tension. Sadly, three years later Vaughan Williams’ worst fears would be realized.

Like the Lake Poets, George Butterworth’s works grew directly out of his contact with the English countryside. This is exemplified by “The Banks of Green Willow” with its evocation of pastoral life in all its idealized simplicity and tranquility; indeed, the composer characterized it as an “idyll.” As was common in his music Butterworth based this piece on several old English folk melodies, creating a series of brief fantasias on each of the themes before drawing to a peaceful conclusion.

Watch — Remembrance of Things Past – La Jolla Symphony & Chorus

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What is in the Air We Breathe?

“What we do in my group is we zoom in on the aerosols.”

Vicki Grassian and her team look at aerosols at a microscopic level to determine their impact on our health and our climate. Aerosols can be mineral dust and sea spray from the ocean or created by human activity or stem from any number of sources. They can travel across the globe impacting people, animals, and the planet in their wake.

Grassian’s work seeks to understand how aerosols and other gases not only affect us but how we might harness them for solar geoengineering.

Watch — What is in the Air We Breathe? – Exploring Ethics

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Glaciers and Sea Level Rise

Using helicopters, icebreakers, fishing vessels, and autonomous surface and underwater vehicles for over a decade, Fiammetta Straneo and her group have been probing the edge of massive calving glaciers in iceberg-choked fjords in Greenland to explore what is the Achille’s heel of glaciers – the marine edge where glaciers meet the sea.

Their goal? Collapsing ice shelves and calving of large icebergs in Greenland and Antarctica have recently become major drivers of sea level rise. The rapidity of these changes has come as a surprise, revealing major gaps in our understanding of how ice sheets respond to a changing climate. To a large extent, these gaps are due to a lack of measurements so Fiammetta and her group have probed in these polar environments to improve models of sea-level rise predictions.

Watch — Navigating the Perilous Waters at the Edge of Glaciers to Understand Sea Level Rise – 2019 Keeling Lecture

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Taking the Lead

Madeleine Albright was born in Czechoslovakia and emigrated with her parents to the United States at age eleven. She first rose to public prominence in 1993 as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and in 1997 she was appointed as the nation’s first female Secretary of State by President Bill Clinton. In 2012 she was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama. Now a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University, Albright has remained active as an author, lecturer, and international envoy.

In her Commencement address to UC San Diego graduates Albright stresses the need to build communities, both locally and globally, and the importance of public service – topics on which she is eminently qualified to speak, having spent her adult life as a diplomat and dedicated public servant. As Secretary, Albright was an articulate advocate for democracy, human rights, fair labor practices, environmental protection, and global trade, and in her talk she notes that these core values align precisely with UC San Diego’s institutional philosophy and mission goals.

She urges the assembled students to become actively involved in public life and to assume leadership roles in addressing such serious issues as income inequality, climate change, nuclear proliferation, peace in the Middle East, terrorism, and, of course, immigration reform, noting that in addition to being the first female Secretary of State she is herself an immigrant. Albright emphasizes that the interconnectedness of today’s world heightens the need for thoughtful communal consensus in formulating new strategies and policies, and that UC San Diego graduates are well-disposed to effect those changes.

Watch — UC San Diego All Campus Commencement 2019 with Madeleine Albright

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Women in Leadership 2019

“Where on an imagined clock of equality do we now stand?” asks veteran journalist Lynn Sherr at the start of this year’s Women in Leadership panel.

Listen in as Sylvia Acevedo, Chelsea Clinton, Jedidah Isler answer that question and share their thoughts on the present and future of the role of women in America. Each panelist reflects on her road to leadership and details the support mechanisms and mindsets needed to get there when faced with adversity.

This is the second annual Women in Leadership panel – convened to celebrate and honor the legacy of Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space.

Watch — A Conversation with Sylvia Acevedo, Chelsea Clinton, Jedidah Isler, and Lynn Sherr

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