Paper #5

Fifth paper: A Personal Response to a Work of Art

The work for this paper is Scott Carrier’s photo taken in the basement of a fortress in Afghanistan during the war against Taliban forces.


It is your “reading” of the photo that will be interesting here.

The paper should have two parts (which can be interwoven, if you wish, in your essay). The second part is the real heart of the exercise:

1)You should note details and analyze the photo as you have done with earlier works. Pay close attention to what you see, to what is there, asking questions about what you see. Answer the questions with good analysis.

2)Most critically for this paper, write about what the photo makes you think, what it makes you feel, what questions it raises about your life. What does the photo teach you about yourself, about the society of which you are a part? In short, write personally and thoughtfully about your own interactions with this work of art.

Obviously, we are all different people and our responses will vary greatly. There is no right or wrong set of responses here. There are, however, more thoughtful and less thoughtful responses, and on that basis I’ll evaluate the papers.

About 2 pages. Email it to me during finals week, by the latest on December 15, or bring a copy by my office, CB 311E.


Paper #4 on Jazz

Descriptive Analysis of Two Jazz Performances

Much of music is technical, almost like mathematics. It is not our purpose to think about the performances in those terms. Our task is to listen carefully, much as we looked carefully at the paintings we discussed. Repeated listening, listening with specific questions in mind, will open the music to our ears and minds in ways that will help us understand the music better.

Write one page about each of the two performances.

Although it is very important to the experience of listening to music, in this case do not write about your responses to what you hear. Do not try to put the performance in historical context. Do not write about the biographies of the musicians. Do not draw from any source other than your own listening. Simply describe the performance in detail.

Describe the “head.” Is it long or short? Harmonious or dissonant? Played by a single musician or shared in some way? Does the “head” return at the end? Do you hear phrases from the “head” during any of the solos? If it is repeated in the solos, how is it changed or played with?

Describe the first solo. If it is played by a pianist, describe how his or her two hands are working together or alone. Is the solo made up primarily of chords? Is it a sequence of single notes? Are the single notes distinct or sometimes struck simultaneously with the adjoining note, creating a dissonance, bending the note? Are there runs? Whole sections of notes struck by a forearm? Are there repetitions? Repetitions with changes? Is the solo smooth? Percussive? Both? Is the solo fast? Slow? Alternating speed? Is it loud? Soft? Alternating?

If it is played by a saxophonist or trumpet player or sung by a vocalist, are the notes clear? Dusky or rough? Are there lots of notes(whole sheets of very fast notes) or a slow progression of notes? Does the soloist “bend” notes? Does the solo seem playful? Thoughtful? Does it move across octaves to contrast low and high notes, or does it work with notes close to one another?

During the first solo, are any of the other musicians “comping” (playing along, commenting on the solo, just saying “Hi, I’m listening, thinking along with you”? Is the “comping” extensive, sparse? Intrusive? In the background?

Describe the second solo (if there is one). How do the musicians move from one solo to the next? Does the first soloist signal he is done by restating the head? Or is the exchange more random? Does the second soloist repeat any of what the first soloist did? Can you tell he was listening to the first solo by how he plays his own solo? Think also about the questions you answered for the first solo.

Are there any short solos exchanged between musicians (“trading fours” or “trading eights”)? How do they work together or against one another? Describe any subsequent solos, repeating any of the observations that fit. If the solo is by the bass player or the drummer, how are these solos similar or different from the other solos? Is the bass player playing “arco” (with a bow) or plucking the strings with fingers? Is the drummer playing with brushes or with sticks? Does he emphasize a tom-tom, bass, snare, cymbals, Hi-hat? How does the tune end? Carefully? Precisely? With scattered, individual flourishes? What is the effect or the effects of the various things you have described? What is the mood of the performance? The moods?

The two performances:

Blue Monk Monk (piano), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass), Shadow Wilson (drums) ͞Blue Monk͟ 1957, Carnegie Hall

Autumn Leaves Evans (piano), Scott LaFaro (bass), Paul Motian (drums) ͞Autumn Leaves͟1959

Paper #3 on Dance

Watch this film of “Lamentation,” coreographed by Martha Graham in 1930. It begins with her reminiscence, followed by a performance of the dance.
Write about the dance. Answer, most broadly, the two questions we have been working with: What story does the dance tell? and How does the dance tell that story.
Base your analysis (as in all our papers) on your own observation, on your own questions that arise out of your repeated viewing, based on details that raise questions. Your analysis (and it may have several parts) will be your answer(s) to the questions. You may want to consider some of the following:
What does “lamentation” mean?
Why is most of the dance done on a bench?
Why that kind of costume? How is the dance different than it would have been if she had been wearing a leotard or tutu?
Why the music, that music, that kind of music?
What kinds of feelings and/or thoughts do you have as you watch the dance?
What specific things about the dance make you have those feelings?
Watch carefully and repeatedly. Make notes about meaningful details, about questions that arise out of the details. Answer the questions on the basis of the language of the dance. This is the same process we have followed in analyzing painting and sculpture. Look carefully. Ask good questions. Answer them by interpreting the details/the language of the dance.
As always, reference to any other analysis will result in failure. No secondary work. No biographical work. Just watch the film and write about it.
Write a first draft. Then revise that draft. A third full draft will be full of good ideas, well expressed, if you have paid good attention.

Paper #2 on Sculpture

(Check syllabus for details — pages required, etc.).

As we noted in class, the word “statue” has as its root *sta, and thus means in the root sense something standing. Herbert Read writes in his book The Art of Sculpture that 9/10ths of all sculpture is of the human body.

View the following four statues:

1. Der Gestürzte (The Fallen One), 1915/16, by Wilhelm Lehmbruckürzte.2.jpg

2. Femme qui marche, Walking Woman, 1932 or 1936, by Alberto Giacometti

This is the address but if for some reason is doesn’t work, go to wiki commons   and search for Femme qui marche and Giacometti you’ll find the image from the Tate Museum

3. Reclining Figure, 1951, by Henry Moore

Henry Moore and Reclining Figure 1951

If that link doesn’t work, search the wikimedia commons site you used for the Giacometti image, looking for Henry Moore, Reclining Figure 1951.

Catafalque, 2011, by Sean Henry

Take notes as you look carefully at sculptures (the way we have done in class as we try to see exactly what is there).

1.Write down questions that arise as you try to make sense of the sculpture, questions like the following: What kinds of human beings are these? What do you feel as a result of the specific form of the human body? Why did the sculptor depict the human body in this fashion?

2.Use the details from your notes to answer the questions in another set of notes.

3.Repeat this process for the other sculptures.

4.Now write down notes about how the four sculptures are similar. How are they different? Only at this point should you actually start to write your paper. Only now will you have the first ideas that you can turn into an analysis.

Write an essay (about 2 pages, although you may need 3) that compares and contrasts the four representation of the human body. Do not do any secondary research whatsoever for this assignment. We’re not trying to find what others have said about the sculptures. We’re not trying to figure out how the works fit in the context of other sculptures by the same artist. We’re not interested in anything but our own careful analysis. That’s exactly what you’ll get credit for—your own insights based on your own analysis of the statues.


Archaic Torso of Apollo

Archaic Torso of Apollo

Rainer Maria Rilke

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.


From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library.

Leslie Norris: The Twelve Stones of Pentre Ifan


The Twelve Stones of Pentre Ifan


The wind

Over my shoulder

Blows from the cold of time.


It has

Shaped the hill,

It has honed the rock outcrops


With the

Granules of its

Rasping.  When the old ones


Were born

They dropped in dark-

ness, like sheep, and hot animals


Howled for

The afterbirths.

I watch the great stones of


Faith they

Moved in the flickering

Mountains of their nameless


Lives, and

See once more the

Points of adjusted rock, taller


Than any

Man who will ever

Stand where I stand, lifting their hope


In still,

Huge stone, pointed

To the flying wind.  The sea ebbs again


And round

The endless brevity

Of the seasons the old men’s cromlech



Its hard shadows.

The four great stones, elate and springing,


And the

Smaller stones, big

As a man, leaning in, supporting.


Leslie Norris (Walking the White Fields: Poems 1967-1980)