A story about PhD candidate Devanney Haruta's Piano (de)composition project. “I think there’s something beautiful about a very simple idea that gains complexity over time,” Haruta said. “The idea to put something outside, that in itself isn’t a very complex idea, but then the complexities emerge from watching and observing and playing and interacting,” she said.
Starting with the question of what happens when a piano is placed outside, now she has more questions about how a piano is made. She has questions about the environmental impact of pianos and how materials are used. She has questions about the attachments people form with their instruments and why a piano outside elicits such an emotional reaction from so many people.
Though it’s relatively new to Brown’s arts scene, the Black Music Lab — an in-development hub that works to amplify both artists on campus and beyond — has already managed to establish its presence on College Hill.
Currently housed within the Brown Arts Institute, the lab was founded in fall 2022 by Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, the project’s faculty director, and Charrisse Barron, an ethnomusicologist who has taught at Brown and is now an assistant professor of music at Harvard.
“We noticed or recognized that there were so many amazing programs happening on campus in terms of Black musical performance and study, but it was kind of dispersed,” Lumumba-Kasongo said. Forming the lab was a way to both amplify artistic projects occurring on campus and connect them to creative work being done in the greater Providence community, she added.
When does a musical instrument die? When it no longer produces sound? When it’s in poor playing condition? Or perhaps, simply, when there’s no one around to play it? Anyone who has walked past the Orwig Music Building on the Brown University campus this year may have found themselves pondering these queries after stumbling upon “Piano (de)composition,” a project by Class of 2016.5 alumna Devanney Haruta, who is now a doctoral student at Brown.
“Open again a turn of light,” written by Brown faculty members Eric Nathan and Sawako Nakayasu, will premiere on Saturday, Oct. 21, part of the inaugural public performance at The Lindemann Performing Arts Center.
Composer and Brown University Associate Professor of Music Eric Nathan is Appointed Artistic Director of Collage New Music, the longest-standing contemporary music ensemble in New England, as of the 2024-25 Concert Season. Nathan Replaces David Hoose Who Held the Position for 32 years.
A band cobbled together before classes started freshman year has performed onstage in front of 3,000 people, opening for Blues Traveler. What’s next for Chance Emerson ’24 and his bandmates? First, homework.
“I’ve always been interested in storytelling,” says composer and pianist Wang Lu. “We all crave stories.”
Wang’s latest composition, “The Nothing Man and Other Tales,” taps into this human hunger by recounting a series of stories she discovered in a children’s book that her daughter has been enjoying. Her musical treatment transforms these tales into adventures for adult ears.
Seattle Modern Orchestra will give the world premiere of Wang’s new piece at Town Hall on June 3 as part of its final concert of the season. Commissioned for SMO by the Barlow Foundation, “Nothing Man” marks the second collaboration between Wang and the Seattle-based chamber orchestra, which co-artistic directors Julia Tai and Jérémy Jolley founded in 2010 to perform music from the 20th and 21st centuries. SMO balances works by local and out-of-town composers.
Since late February, students passing by the Orwig Music Library have been greeted by a sight familiar to most musicians: a piano. But the instrument on display under the library’s pine trees is no ordinary piano — it’s a decomposing one. This outdoor piano display is the work of Devanney Haruta ’16 GS, who titled her project “Piano (de)composition.”
For Haruta, the project challenges the assumption that instruments only hold value in their traditional forms. She hopes that the piano will allow her to better understand the life cycle and construction of instruments, but she also encourages community members to engage with it in any creative capacity they wish.
Haruta, who is pursuing a PhD in musicology and ethnomusicology, first came across the discarded piano after the music department had decided to throw it out. She saw the project as an opportunity to give the instrument “a second chance at life.”
Maureen Loughran, Brown University PhD in Ethnomusicology '08, was named Director and Curator of Smithsonian Folkways effective March 27, 2023. Loughran, a career music producer, archivist and scholar, is currently the senior producer of American Routes, a nationally distributed public radio series featuring the diversity of vernacular musical traditions. Loughran becomes the fourth director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways since it was established in 1987.
Clifford Murphy, Brown University PhD in Ethnomusicology '08, has been named the director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, effective April 10. Murphy, a career academic and public servant, is currently the director of folk and traditional arts at the National Endowment for the Arts.
“As an educator, public servant and musician, Cliff has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to preserving and promoting the world’s rich cultural traditions,” said Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie G. Bunch III. “As director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Cliff will demonstrate the broad diversity of living traditions, how they have shaped us and what they mean for our future.”
Wang Lu’s “Surge,” given its world premiere at the top of the show, is the product of an initiative by the League of American Orchestras to commission new works from six composers — all women — that will be guaranteed performances from ensembles across the country.
Autodesk published this article about research by Jay Loomis, PhD candidate in Musicology & Ethnomusicology. The article details the purposes behind the research as well as the technical process of creating the instruments.