Four days: As we countdown to Easter Sunday, we are talking some time to really live through our senses. Let’s reflect, celebrate and love life (before, during and after the peeps and mini-eggs).
For me, one of the saddest moments of the fall semester was learning of Lou Reed’s death. Reed was a songwriter and musician whose work I had long admired. I was especially sorry that I had never gotten to see him perform live (you can get a taste of what I missed out on in the above video). While his fame stretched worldwide, less well-known was the fact that he was an English major. No doubt, Reed’s English background helped him in writing such great lyrics, lyrics that even were published on their own in the book Between Thought and Expression.
Sadly, there might not be too many more Lou Reeds in the future, as the English major itself seems to be following Reed in departing the Earth. As college gets increasingly more expensive, students increasingly choose more directly vocational majors, so they can get what they perceive as a more immediate payoff on their investment (however, there is nothing more worthless than a vocational degree when the employment marketplace shifts in another direction in contrast with a liberal arts degree that prepares students more broadly for life). Reed graduated in 1964, likely near the zenith of English majors. In 1970, not long after and the first year for which I could find reliable statistics for American higher education, out of 839,730 graduates, 63,914 were English majors, 7.6% of the total. Near when Reed died and the last year for which I could find data, 2010, out of 1,650,014 graduates, 53,231 were English majors, 3.2 % of majors. So, with essentially a doubling of students graduating from college, even fewer of them chose English. With the pressures leading students to choose other majors showing no signs of lessening, that trend will likely only continue, making a choice of major in English truly a “walk on the wild side.”
However, in some strange way, this trend actually works somewhat to the benefit of the brave few who choose to walk on the wild side and be English majors. Society will likely always value those who can communicate well and think critically, and, though majoring in English certainly isn’t the only way to develop those skills, majoring in English is a good way to develop those skills. In fact, even in an article on the current societywide drumbeat for more science, technology, engineering, and math majors (STEM), one can find a CEO being quoted that “the factor that most distinguished those who advanced in the organization was the ability to think broadly and read and write clearly,” which sounds to me a lot like the characteristics of an English major. In fact, pairing English as a major or minor with a STEM major or minor, or even any other major or minor, is often a good decision since the combination provides students with a knowledge domain beyond English along with communication and thinking skills beyond those of most of the others in that same discipline.
But, as Reed demonstrates, just choosing an English major alone can be a way to guarantee an interesting life. Unfortunately, these days, with the increase in college costs (an issue that would take a whole other blog post to discuss, so I won’t go into that issue here), people often only view college in economic terms, which is a shame since college should be about more than money, especially personal development and civic leadership. Nevertheless, for those only motivated by money, English still has something to offer you. Look at Mitt Romney. He was an English major as well.
If you are a Dave Matthews Band fan like me, you certainly noticed the news this week that fans stopped to help a man who had a bike with a flat tire on their way to a DMB concert and found that the person was Dave Matthews. The fans placed his bike on their bike rack and gave Dave Matthews a ride to his own concert. Being the gracious person that he is, Dave showed his gratitude with front row seats, back stages passes, a meeting with the band, dinner, and of course, a shout out during the concert. Jealous? I am!
The Dave Matthews Band has become iconic in the world of rock. Although there have been long breaks between album releases, the band tours year after year, and their fan base continues to grow. Beyond the unique beat and brilliant tones produced by this eclectic band, the lyrical focus and continued grappling with life’s mysteries is a significant draw for the listener.
A continuous theme found in the music is the idea that focusing on the afterlife, or what is beyond us, has left humanity failing to recognize the sacred that is in the here and now. We are so preoccupied with trying to attain what comes after this physical life that we fail to notice all that surrounds us in the present. In the song “Don’t Burn the Pig,” DMB poses the question, “Is this blessed sip of life not enough?” Without debating the existence of a life beyond the physical world, these lyrics have demanded that we take notice of the beauty in our daily lives and experience God as God is present.
I can’t help but think of Catholic Imagination when I hear this song which views creation as sacramental. Creation in all its forms reveals something about God and thus brings God among us. Consequently, this life is “blessed” and should be embraced as such. Too often we waste away our days in search of something that should remain a mystery and fail to recognize the divine that permeates our everyday lives. The music of DMB acknowledges this calling its listeners to realize and be conscious of the sacred in all its forms and to have gratitude for all that is experienced in this “blessed sip of life.”
Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a theologian, ethicist, and Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College.
Fashion is constantly evolving with every shift in society’s taste, often directed by the current aesthetics of art and music. As quoted by student, Stephanie Pratt (a Visual Communications Design Major with a minor in Studio Arts): ”[Art and music] are interconnected. You can’t have fashion without basic design concepts which are found in art, architecture, and the natural world.”
The influence of fine arts on fashion design could not be more evident than as observed during the recent fashion field study trip to University Circle lead by Dr. Korosec, Chair of Ursuline College’s Fashion Department. Students visited the Western Reserve Historical Society’s “Dior & More” exhibit, the Cleveland Art Museum, and the “Rolling Stones–50 Years of Satisfaction” exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in search of these connections to the fashion industry.
The “Armor Exhibit” at the Cleveland Art Museum demonstrates the use of artistic design principles and elements which continue to be echoed in modern apparel design. While armor served a function as a means to protect a knight in battle, it was also fashioned to be aesthetically pleasing. Design principles such as unity, balance, and proportion make a suit of armor beautiful as well as making a garment successful. The repetition of pointed, angular shapes found throughout the metal plating seem to “answer” each other and maintain proportionality and harmony of the silhouette. This cohesion is pleasing to the eye on all levels. In terms of the functionality of the armor, it is also similar to the art of designing a garment on a 3-Dimensional form, which must accommodate the shape of the body and allow for ease in movement. Each carefully crafted piece of armor must be fitted to the knight’s body allowing him to move, but protecting his body as much as possible.
The junction of each piece of the suit is done so in a decorative manner with bolts, rivets, and leather buckles. Likewise, the decorative darts and pleating utilized by fashion designers also add beauty to the garment.
Moving on to the Rolling Stone’s exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the influence of music and costume design on the fashion industry is just as evident. The use of color, texture, line, shape, etc. is taken into careful consideration when designing for a musician. Designers consider the effects of the stage lighting and special effects when creating a garment to give the musician the desired look or statement they are aiming for. Rock and Roll music was thought to lead to the “degradation of society” and decline of conservative values which I suppose is true. One particular example in the stones exhibit was a costume worn by Mick Jagger, a cape constructed out of an American flag which at one time in history would have been considered a crime—it was considered defacing a flag to wear it when nowadays flag-themed plates, merchandise, and clothing are popular around the holidays signifying a change in society’s values and beliefs. Other costumes in the exhibit varied from simple to ostentatious, and were just as differentiated as the genres of music they represent.
Finally, the culmination of art, music, and fashion came alive during our visit to the “Dior & More” exhibit at the Historical Society museum as the changes in society’s values as well as the lifestyles of Cleveland’s elite were reflected throughout the display.
A quote featured in the display seemed particularly relevant “Clothes after all speak not just to who we are, but who we would like to be”–Robin Givhan. We all like to surround ourselves in what satisfies our idea of beauty, and in a sense fashion has always been thought of as wearable art. Just as students feel empowered playing “dress-up” in
Ursuline’s Historical Fashion Study Collection, so too does a rock star become all he or she ever dreamed of being simply by wearing his or her wearable statement of art. Thus, the “right” outfit helped attribute to the fame, fortune, and success of our greatest musicians, rock stars, high class women, as it can also change YOUR own destiny.