A Humdinger of a Project
You don't have to know the words to join in Silver City Humming.
David A. Fryxell
Don't be surprised if someone comes up to you this month and asks, "Do you have a song that reminds you of your childhood?" If you say yes, expect this unusual request: "Could you hum it for me?"
Welcome to Silver City Humming. Through the end of May, an artist collective, organized and led by Dr. Suk-Jun Kim, professor of sound art in WNMU's Department of Interdisciplinary Expressive Arts (IDEA), is collecting hummings for a public sound installation project next fall.
Silver City Humming is an artistic exploration of Silver City and its people, Kim explains. Usually, we try to understand a place and its people through various scientific and sociological tools. "But I, being a composer and sound artist, feel that it is the sounds the place and its people make that tell us what the place is and who these people are — more importantly, how they have become what they are now," says Kim.
"I have always been interested in the relationship between people and place and how people's memory plays a role," Kim goes on. "Most of my compositions concern our experiences in real and imaginary places, and particularly, my installations attempt to address how we re-materialize and re-occupy places that are in memory."
So what are those sounds in Silver City that tell us what it is? For Silver City Humming, the artist collective — Kim and IDEA students — is interviewing people and asking them to hum one song that reminds them of their childhood. The collective has also created a blog (silvercityhumming.wordpress.com) and writes about their engagement with Silver City and its people, their observations and thoughts that might emerge during the activities. There is a page on the blog called "Humming a Day," where you can listen to the humming that people offered each day.
"Silver City Humming is a public sound installation, and all of my IDEA students have never done a public installation, let alone public sound installation," says Kim. "I already hear a lot of enthusiasm from our students who are a part of the artist collective. This will be an excellent opportunity for them to engage in a public art that uses sound as its medium. Moreover, this is a community project at its heart. We are collecting people's humming and present it back to the community. This whole process, from the preplanning to the actual installation, invites people in Silver City to listen to the community."
The artist collective hopes to gather hummings from 300 or more people. Silver City Humming will be installed at the WNMU campus and open to the public on Sept. 7. Silver City Humming is funded by a WNMU Faculty Research Grant and is an official event of the New Mexico Centennial Commemoration. For more information about Silver City Humming, and if you want to participate in the project or offer your humming, contact Kim at email@example.com or (575) 583-6617.
Echoes of a Shooting
A Columbus resident who was teaching at Kent State in 1970 compiles a book of student letters.
May 4 marks the 42nd anniversary of the shootings of students by National Guard troops at Kent State University in Ohio. When those now-infamous shots were fired in 1970, Barbara Becker Agte was teaching English at Kent State. Now living in Columbus, NM, Agte has recently published a collection of her student's writings about the shootings, which left four antiwar protestors dead, Kent Letters — Students' Responses to the May 1970 Massacre (Bluwaters Press, $13.95).
After the shootings by members of the Ohio National Guard, the Kent State campus was immediately shut down. All students and faculty were sent home. The remainder of the quarter was canceled. But Agte wrote to all of her students and told them a reply of any kind from them about the killings would be enough to complete the interrupted quarter and earn them an "A." Kent Letters compiles the collected replies of those students; many letters are photographed in part, showing the handwritten pages.
"The replies are as varied as any cross-section of American opinion would be," says Agte. "This collection of thoughts and opinions of undergraduates caught up in the turmoil of the protests against the Vietnam War provides a unique look at what it was like to be young in 1970 in the middle of America. Students' opinions vary, but whether they supported the war or not and whether they condoned the civil disobedience or not, they were all shocked and horrified by the killing of four classmates by Ohio National Guardsman."
The killings at Kent State have never been adequately explained, Agte goes on. "The pathetic official investigation that followed the massacre remains the last official word," she says. "No one knows who ordered the Guard to open fire. No one has ever stepped forward. No one knows why members of the Guard were carrying weapons loaded with live ammunition (a type of ammunition internationally banned by the Geneva Accord)."
At just 124 pages, Kent Letters is a small book, she adds: "It will not change the world. It doesn't even try. It doesn't bother trying to answer the 'money questions': Who did this? Why did this happen? Who is responsible? Instead, Kent Letters gathers the thoughts, feelings and ideas of the friends and fellow students of the dead and offers them to the rest of us to be arranged and appreciated or dumped like picked flowers."
Mustangs on the Move
WNMU reaches out to alumni in the Mesilla Valley.
With the inauguration of WNMU's new president, Dr. Joseph Shepard, there's a "renewal of energy, vision and regional community outreach in the wind," says Abe Armendariz, president of the university's Mesilla Valley alumni chapter. The newly energized Mesilla Valley group hopes to bring some of this Mustang spirit to the Las Cruces area. As part of that outreach effort, the WNMU alumni chapter has started holding "meet and greet" gatherings the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at Emilia's Restaurant, 2290 Calle de Parian in Mesilla.
The meetings are open to all alumni and their spouses. No prior confirmation is necessary. There are no dues at this time and no fees. Ordering a meal or drinks is optional.
According to Armendariz, the ultimate purpose of the group will be determined by the entire alumni membership. "What's so really exciting about revitalizing our regional alumni chapter at this time is that we have a new and very dynamic president that wants to involve alums, local and extended communities, businesses and so on to participate in the future growth of the university.
"Dr. Shepard not only needs, but wants our input in this endeavor," Armendariz adds. "He also wants to bring in additional sports to the university, i.e. women's swimming, baseball and other sports. He also has plans in redesigning the academic structure of the entire university."
For further information on the group, call Armendariz at (575) 202-0671 or contact WNMU Alumni Director Danielle Moffett at (575) 538-6675. For directions to Emilia's Restaurant, call (575) 650-0771.