Arts + Letters

Setting Misery to Music: Collaboration Lets Listeners “Hear” Effects of Climate Change

As the 2015 U.N. climate change conference continues in the outskirts of Paris—pursuing a global agreement to slow down the devastating effects of global warming—there will be graphs. There will be charts. There will be slideshows.

But if presenters really want to tug at a world leader’s heartstrings, they might want to bring a violin. Break out a synthesizer, a keyboard, and play a snippet of what climate change sounds like: Earth, out of tune and distorted, an orchestra gone a little haywire.

Nesting Instincts: In Japan, Cal Architectural Students Reinvent the Community Center

Imagine a community center that’s not your typical chunk of cinderblock—instead it’s an architecturally avant garde space where neighbors gather to grow, cook and eat food. That’s the concept behind the breezy structure “Nest We Grow,” an experiment designed to connect a community’s social spaces and growing spaces.

Biographer in the Bancroft: Writer Pursues Clues to Ms. Didion, in the Library, With a Pen

In 1976, Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner tapped Joan Didion to cover the Patty Hearst trial. What a match-up. What a saga. California royalty caught in surreal counterculture chaos, narrated by a star of the New Journalism, herself a daughter of the Golden West.

Didion signed on, and announced that she wouldn’t be spending much time in the courtroom.

Preludes and Fugues: Choreographer Twyla Tharp Still Laying Down Her Legacy

“I had to become the greatest choreographer of my time,” Twyla Tharp has declared. “That was my mission, and that’s what I set out to do.”

With a reputation as a workaholic and perfectionist, Tharp has indeed become a world-renowned choreographer and is currently marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of her dance company with a 10-week, 17-city tour. But this is no mere retrospective—at age 74, Tharpis determined to keep expanding her oeuvre and laying down her legacy.

Totally Radical: A New Initiative from Cal Performances Aims to Gather New Audiences.

Venezuela’s Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of two international orchestras at just 34 years old, is often called the poster child for how early exposure to music and the arts can nourish and lift one toward a better life. Growing up with musician parents likely helped shape his career path, but Dudamel credits much of his success to El Sistema, a Venezuelan program started in 1975 that offers musical access to all.

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Coming to a Theater Near You! Again: Do We Live Vicariously Through Reboots and Sequels?

The Transporter: Refueled is coming out on Friday, and it’s the fourth reboot in the Transporter franchise (if you don’t count the television series reboot of 2012). It rehashes the same concept of a man transporting something, with a few changes—one of those being Ed Skrein taking the place of Jason Statham, the actor who created the role of Frank Martin and played him in the other three Transporter movies released between 2002 and 2008.

To Hear History: High-Tech Project Will Restore Recorded Native Americans Voices

Decades of wear and tear haven’t been kind to the 2,713 wax cylinders in UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, which linguists and anthropologists have used for over a century to study the languages and cultural practices of Native California. But a new project promises to revitalize these old, fragile recordings — the first of which was recorded by famed anthropologist Alfred Kroeber in 1901 — with cutting-edge optical scanning technology.

Trading in Tropes: Video Mashup Shows What TV Writers Think of “Berkeley”

As the 2015 enrollment data shows, the real UC Berkeley is an extremely diverse place. But UC Berkeley as depicted on television? Not so much.

TV Land has been slow to surrender its use of Berkeley as code for Birkenstock-wearing, bean-sprout-loving, radical feminist tree-huggers. Only a few shows are acknowledging the contemporary reality of an institution perennially ranked at or near the top of the public universities worldwide.

On the Money: Which Bill Is Fitting for a Woman? And Which Woman Fits the Bill Best?

Your Facebook feed has probably already told you this, but the public response to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s decision to feature a woman on a redesigned $10 bill has been overwhelming—he says the Treasury has received nearly a million and a half comments and tweets about it. Not everyone is happy, particularly those who campaigned to get a woman on the more popular $20, and are still fighting to change his mind.

Sex, Drugs, Revolution: 50 Years On, Barbarians Gather to Recall The Berkeley Barb

The inaugural edition of The Berkeley Barb hit streets on Friday, August 13, 1965—incendiary times. It was the first days of the Watts riots, and the conflict in Vietnam was beginning to play out in living rooms on the nightly news. That week TV viewers watched as American GIs casually torched Vietnamese villages with their flamethrowers and Zippo lighters. Meanwhile, all across the United States, disillusioned young men were beginning to take those Zippos to their draft notices.

Speech Saver: Anticipating Upheavals, Project Aims to Preserve the World’s Languages

You’ve probably experienced that unique combination of loss and rage when your computer’s hard drive suddenly crashes, erasing years of work files, financial records, and precious photos in an instant. What if that happened, asks linguist Laura Welcher, of the nonprofit Long Now Foundation, on a civilizational scale?

“Over the span of millennia, you have to expect there to be upheavals in society, times when knowledge is lost,” she says. (Think the Library of Alexandria.) How do we safeguard human knowledge from these future upheavals?

From the Summer 2015 Confronting the Future issue of California.

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