Tag: peabody

Baltimore Composer Snags a Pulitzer

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It’s been a good month for the Peabody Institute.  First, a high-profile opera star signed on to teach at the school; now, a Pulitzer!

Kevin Puts teaches composition at Peabody, but he’s far more than just a teacher, as the award shows.  Long considered a “promising composer” by various sources who should know, Puls is no longer getting praise for his promise and potential; now he’s a full-fledged success story. He can set his Pulitzer on his mantel next to a Rome Prize and a composition award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Pulitzer was for Silent Night:  Opera in Two Acts, a piece about the spontaneous Christmas cease fire between French, German, and Scottish troops during World War I (which was previously immortalized in the song “Snoopy’s Christmas”).  After its debut, Opera News weighed in:  “With this remarkable debut, Puts assumes a central place in the American opera firmament. Much will be expected from him.” If you’re interested in seeing some of Puts’ work performed live, you can catch his Symphony No. 4 performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in June, or travel north to see the Opera Company of Philadelphia perform Silent Night during its next season.

Puts first heard about his award when the Associated Press called him asking for a comment at 3:30 a.m. A standing ovation to you, Kevin Puts.

Peabody Snags an Opera Star; Baltimore Gains a Power Couple

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Denyce Graves has sung for Gerald Ford, Ted Kennedy, Marian Anderson, ad George W. Bush. She’s performed for the Supreme Court justices and is a panelist for American Idol Underground. In other words, she’s a real-live opera star — and she’s also the newest voice instructor for  the Peabody Conservatory.

While Graves’ opera bona fides are apparent, the hiring came as something of a surprise. When Graves stopped by Peabody last fall to teach a master class, she wasn’t angling for a job. “She didn’t know she was auditioning,” said Phyllis Bryn-Julson, chair of the school’s voice department (and an opera star herself). But Graves impressed the students so much that the school started considering her for a position with the voice faculty. “Anybody who can pick up her skirt with her teeth while her hands are tied behind her back is on my front burner,” said Bryn-Julson, referring to Graves’ impressive debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1995.

Baltimore’s Own Rubik’s Cube Champion

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A Rubik’s Cube is a seemingly simple object until you start considering the math involved. That there are 43 quintillion possible opening configurations, for one. There are 239,500,800 possible edge arrangements. And if you’re Dan Cohen, you can solve the cube in ten seconds. It takes him a little longer — just over a minute and a half — to complete the puzzle with his feet.

Yes, Dan Cohen is a Rubik’s Cube champion. He’s also 22, and a candidate for a master’s in audio sciences at the Peabody Conservatory. The cube obsession began in high school, and has led him to dozens of competitions everywhere from Germany to Thailand. He placed second in last year’s U.S. Nationals, and 36th in the World Championship.

Even more impressively, Cohen is the best in the nation at the absurdly complex 4×4 and 5×5 cubes, which are a true math geek’s dream — these competitions are less about finger speed and more about understanding the algorithms. The 5×5 cube has 283 duodecillion permutations. Cohen has solved it in under a minute.

Watch a video of Cohen speed cubing here.

This Week in Research: Vinyl NOT Better Than CDs?; Immigration Good for MD

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Anyone who’s ever known (or, worse, dated) a music snob knows the old refrain:  music on vinyl just sounds more authentic. Let them rhapsodize on and it’ll start to sound as though you’re discussing fine wine — LPs have a sound that’s rich, deep, velvety, full. But hold on a second. Scott Metcalfe is someone who should know — he’s the director of recording arts and sciences at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins. And he says he “definitely” prefers CDs. It turns out that the physical limitations of vinyl — its grooves and pre-set disc size — mean that dynamic range often gets reduced. CDs are, simply put, a more useful technology for capturing a wide range of sounds and frequencies. But what about vinyl’s much-vaunted “depth”? Metcalfe has an answer to that:  “In some cases, the depth of field, the depth of sound that people talk about, enjoying about vinyl that they say is missing from the CD may, in fact, be a result of the compression to make that old recording more competitive for the modern market.” And CDs trump even MP3s, Metcalfe says — “there’s a loss of depth of field in a smaller format… Occasionally, I’ll hear somebody playing, you know, through a PA system at a party or, you know, a reception or something from an MP3, and it’s almost painful for me to listen to” However, Metcalfe does grant that old-fashioned records do allow for a more ritualistic listening experience.

Meanwhile, over at the University of Maryland researchers have found that the state’s immigrant population makes a substantial contribution to our economy, especially in the science, information, and medical fields. (Twenty-seven percent of the state’s scientists are foreign-born!) Which is good news, as more than half of the growth in the state’s workforce was due to foreign-born workers. (The national average was 45 percent; in Maryland, it was a full 57 percent.) Nearly 14 percent of the state’s population is foreign-born, which is slightly less than Texas, but more than Arizona and Virginia, and about one-third of those live in or around Baltimore. According to the study, immigrants tend to be clustered either in high-income groups or low-income groups, which is one reason they’re a boon to the economy — they complement the pre-existing labor force. The relatively unskilled immigrant labor force, which is concentrated in the agriculture, seafood, construction, personal services, and tourism industries, also helps out:  “Without the influx of foreign-born workers, expansion in these labor-intensive industries would have been choked off, increasing prices and discouraging growth across the economy,” the report says. In all, the study’s authors urge lawmakers to think twice about leaving immigrants and their children out of education and state services plans: “Most of foreign-born young people in Maryland, regardless of [legal] status, will make up a substantial part of the productive, tax-paying work force in a few short years. We will also depend on them to be informed voters and capable leaders so we can maintain strong and dynamic communities throughout the state of Maryland.”

Baltimore Has One of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

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Flavorwire’s list of the world’s most beautiful college libraries contains a lot of expected things — high ceilings, rows of leather-bound tomes, Cambridge, etc. So it’s thrilling to see Baltimore’s very own Peabody Library in the top ten.

Thrilling, but not surprising — at least if you’ve ever stepped foot in the place. It certainly matches Flavorwire’s description of the ideal university library:  “It is at once a shining emblem of vast, acquirable knowledge, a place for deep discussions and meetings of the mind, and of course, a big building full of books, which, as far as we’re concerned, is exciting enough.” The library, which opened in 1878, has a 61-foot ceiling, five levels of cast-iron balconies, and a lovely, peaceful hush.

The only catch is its limited hours — Tuesday through Thursday it’s open from 9AM to 5PM; on Fridays, it closes at 3PM. Or if you’d rather just look at photographs of gorgeous libraries from Portugal to New Haven, click here. It’s almost as good as studying.

See How Baltimore Sizes Up Against Europe in "Interior Worlds" Exhibition

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If you can find a moment amid the pre-holiday bustle, head on over to the Baltimore Museum of Art to check out Interior Worlds, an exhibition of thirteen large images by German photographer Candida Höfer.

The photos are big, like six feet tall, and present in rich detail architecturally stunning interiors from Europe and America, including two Baltimore locations, the Walters Art Museum and the George Peabody Library.

The scale, symmetry, and fine detail of Höfer’s work make each photograph a soothing, contemplative experience. And it’s nice to see Baltimore hanging next to an image of the Louvre.

Candida Höfer: Interior Worlds is on view at the BMA through February 26, 2012. Admission is free.

Commencement Speakers: The Highlights

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No Oprah- or Obama-caliber superstars will descend on Baltimore this graduation season, but the speakers’ docket is still full of intriguing talent and fascinating lives. This years’ speakers include a soprano, an NFL players advocate, and a bevy of journalists and non-profit executives. A few notable speakers include:

Johns Hopkins‘ university-wide commencement on Thursday, May 26 will feature Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s flagship foreign affairs show, Editor-at-Large of TIME Magazine, columnist at the Washington Post, and New York Times bestselling author.

The SAIS ceremony — also May 26 — will include a speech by Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme.

Slated to speak at Peabody  (May 26 as well) is soprano Marni Nixon, “the voice of Hollywood,” who overdubbed the singing voices in movies including My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The King and I, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

For its May 26 commencement, the Johns Hopkins School of Education snagged Gary Knell, president of the Sesame Workshop, who helped bring Sesame Street to far-flung places including Egypt, South Africa, Russia, and China.

Goucher‘s got Dr. Ian G. Rawson, the managing director of Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti speaking on Friday, May 20.

On Friday, May 13 Stevenson will feature journalist Kimberly Dozier, formerly of CBS News and now with the Associated Press. Dozier recently penned an account of her time as a correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan — and her recovery after being wounded in a car bombing that killed a colleague.

Morgan State‘s speaker is Ruth Simmons, the first female president of Brown University and the first African American to serve as president of any Ivy League institution. The ceremony takes place on Saturday, May 21.

Towson’s commencement on Wednesday, May 25 will include a speech by Scott Pelley, who is slated to replace Katie Couric as CBS Evening News anchor.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, lends some wisdom at the University of Maryland’s graduation ceremony in College Park on Thursday, May 19.

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