Dear New England Conservatory Community, Friends, and Visitors,
Welcome to the second issue of Hear Here!, NEC’s student academic journal. To create this year’s issue, a dedicated group of five NEC student editors—Samantha Bennett, Sojourner Hodges, Joseph Mannarino, Isabella Mensz, and Lucy Tan—reviewed the many submissions we received, offered discerning feedback on each entry, held a lively discussion of the pieces, selected essays for potential publication, and outlined recommended revisions for each selected author. All the while, our production editor, Nell Shaw Cohen, helped us meet deadlines and stay organized as she designed the print and web versions of the issue. Our contributors, equally dedicated, met with faculty advisors to refine their work before resubmitting it for publication. Their essays, fiction, and creative nonfiction not only demonstrate each author’s talents but also reflect the process of collaboration crucial to creative endeavors. In this issue, we invite you to explore the artistic, social and political, and interior lives that have captured the interest of NEC students.
Section One: Artistic Lives
The four essays in this section examine music, visual art, and literature. In “French Horns: What Lives Inside,” Eileen Coyne posits that the pure and refined appearance and sound of the French horn masks the potentially malignant microorganisms festering inside. Disgust will be the pivotal factor in changing instrumentalists’ habits, she argues. Brass and wind players, take note!
Like Coyne’s essay, Nell Shaw Cohen’s “Finding Music in the Life and Paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe” seamlessly integrates personal experience with academic analysis. Cohen recounts her firsthand research process at and around O’Keeffe’s New Mexico home. Cohen not only presents an original account of O’Keeffe’s interest in music by bringing together disparate sources but also articulates the relevance of music to visual art, and of visual art to music. Both of Cohen’s essays delve into problems of representation; her second piece, “Liu Dan’s Vision of the Honorable Old Man,” uncovers the ways a contemporary Chinese artist reworks the intellectual and spiritual tradition of rock viewing not only to create a new work of art but also to illuminate the intricacies of artistic and visual experience.
Referencing sociological accounts of immigrant life as well as artistic renditions of urban wastelands, Samantha Bennett’s “Sublime Wastelands: Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle” provides a bridge to the Social and Political Lives section that follows. Bennett explicates Sinclair’s portrayal of the early-twentieth-century industrial landscape as a sublime scene signifying infinite national and individual hope for newly arrived immigrants who only later experience it as a dangerous wasteland.
Section Two: Social and Political Lives
The three essays in this section tackle contemporary social and political problems in national, local, and cyber spaces, respectively. In “Religion, Race, and Political Polarization in America,” Dorsey Bass sifts through the complicated factors influencing recent voting patterns. He concludes that polarized liberal and conservative political stances cannot be explained by religious affiliation alone; rather, experiences of racial discrimination and privilege, entrenched in perceptions and actual outcomes of social and economic policies, have had a more powerful influence on the current-day political landscape.
Bringing us right to Huntington Avenue, Yuan Zhuang’s “What Prevents Asian Students from Stepping into American Life?” addresses a conundrum I hear students discuss again and again: the segregation between international students and domestic students in the social life of NEC. Assessing her own experiences, interviewing her peers, and discussing research on cross-cultural adjustment and theories of community, Zhuang not only identifies several of the roots of this problem but also proposes ideas for overcoming it. Her attention to stress, fear, exclusion, and possibilities for community-building may help students see this problem in a new light.
Also considering barriers to community, Cecilia Tregelles’s essay “Internet and Ego” tracks the social consequences of constant internet connectivity. Tregelles contends that while the internet offers us some advantages in communication, we easily overlook the ways it undermines intimacy, threatens our capacity for empathy, and bolsters narcissism. You may just recognize yourself in one of her examples—and we challenge you to read the essay without any electronic interference!
Section Three: Interior Lives
The essays, memoir, and short story in the final section of this issue investigate the ego and other facets of self by exploring internal landscapes. In “Freud’s View of Artists and Their Influences,” Chris Irvine outlines Sigmund Freud’s interpretations of several literary and visual artists’ psyches. However complex these portraits of interior selves are, Irvine notes, they are based on limited accounts of the artists’ lives. As he develops his arguments to support his theories, Freud provides not only an explanation but also an evaluation of these artists’ works, and his psychoanalytic conclusions reflect his opinion of the given artistic productions.
JeeHae Ahn’s “Jekyll and Hyde: Repression and Expression” also pursues problems of psychic conflict. Ahn emphasizes that the inner turmoil of characters in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde results from the failure to express the self honestly or fully. Ahn argues that Stevenson presents self-understanding and expression as the keys to healthy psychological development.
Inner conflict also charges Katherine Althen’s memoir “We I.” This honest, raw account of a young woman’s struggle with perfectionism and body image—and her battle against an inner voice that insists on a dangerous notion of perfection—exposes the ways that seemingly rational and intensely emotional appeals can lead us astray. Some promises of affirmation, support, and control, Althen finds, may in fact erode the self. Her narration powerfully reclaims that self.
A moving meditation on loss and lostness, Lucy Tan’s story “Anonymous Diary” offers another window into an interior life. Beautifully interweaving abstract images with scenes of mundane life, and cold reality with haunted thoughts, Tan shows how loss shapes an individual’s perceptions of and experiences in the world.
We hope you enjoy hearing what students have to say here at New England Conservatory.
Jill Gatlin, Department of Liberal Arts