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A&E

The Appalachian

| January 24, 2013

| TheAppalachianOnline.com

Artist Roy Strassberg addresses horrors Review: of the Holocaust with pottery, sculptures Parquet by LOVEY COOPER A&E Reporter

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s a descendent of those affected by the Holocaust, its long-reaching effects play an important role in artist Roy Strassberg’s pottery and sculpture. His interest in working with themes related to the Holocaust trace back to 1958, when Strassberg, interim chairman of the Department of Art, recalls seeing a documentary on television with his father in New York. The show, titled “Remember Us,” focused on Nazi concentration camps, a subject that had been often broached by his family but never fully explained. Strassberg said the first images he saw of the camps were “horrific.” “I remember laughing because I was embarrassed seeing naked women being forced to run through the streets of either Poland or Germany – wherever it was – and my father got terribly angry,” Strassberg said. After that interaction, Strassberg began to understand the significance those events held to his personal family history. “We didn’t talk much about the subject, but it’s sort of palpably in the air in terms of the kind of experience I had culturally, growing up where I did with the family I did and

the family history we had,” he said. “My grandparents had huge families, many of whom did not come to America and all of whom perished in one way or another because of the Holocaust.” But Strassberg didn’t always focus his work on the Holocaust. Rather, the sculptor began his career producing more traditional works, pushing aside his initial interest in portraying themes and images related to the Holocaust. After practicing pottery in college, Strassberg realized in graduate school that he wanted to instead shift his focus toward ceramic sculpture. “I got really good at it, and I got really tired of it,” Strassberg said of a period during the 1980s, which he spent his career producing art he calls “almost decorative” and “overly careful.” In 1992, he returned to his earlier work in Holocaust themes. “My career took a trajectory for the worse when I started to work on what I considered to be important,” Strassberg said. “The work is not attractive in a traditional sense. You could call it grotesque, you could call it ugly.” Strassberg said the visual representation of these horrific events is a means to facilitate conversation. “It’s about issues I think that can’t be ad-

Courts’ debut is poetic punk by COLIN MOORE A&E Reporter

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

Courtesy Photo | Spencer Calkins

Interim Chairman of the Department of Art Roy Strassberg works in his studio. Strassberg creates artwork with themes related to the Holocaust.

dressed with the aesthetic response that you would have to different kinds of subjecs,” he said. His work has recently included geometric pots based on aerial views and topographical maps of concentration camps.

In contrast to his earlier sculptures, which he said he thinks “looks like the Holocaust,” the pots are neutral but meant to evoke the same sentiment. “As a person of my ethnic and cultural and religious background, it’s

Maya

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Paul Heckert | The Appalachian

Maya Angelou refers to one of her books during her speech at Holmes Convocation Center that was part of the 29th Annual MLK Commemoration held Tuesday night.

interwoven with lines of poetry and vignettes of her life. Several times throughout the speech the audience stood up to applaud a line or roared a cheer of approval.  In a segment about race, she spoke about a time she walked out of her office to make a point on her first day with 20th Century Fox. “Do not sit in the company of people who use racial pejoratives,” she warned.   “But, I encourage you before you get up and walk out, just make sure you have the keys to your car.”   The audience laughed at jokes such as that one, but she also spoke to the audience about the dark years of her youth after her mother’s boyfriend raped her.  He was beaten to death the

just part of the conversation and perhaps always will be,” Strassberg said. “Somebody has to do it. The story needs to be told. The survivors, most of them are gone, somebody has to tell the story, and it might as well be me.”

day he was released from jail and the experience caused her to quit speaking to anyone besides her brother for years. “I thought that my voice could kill people,” she said. It was during those years that Angelou said she began to read poetry and form an emotional connection with poets such as Shakespeare, James Milton Jr. and Edgar Allan Poe. Poetry taught her that the human condition is a shared condition, regardless of race or creed or gender, she said. “I thought Shakespeare – he’s got to be a black man – a black girl, actually,” she said. “How else could he know how it is to be scorned? You need poetry to tell you you’re just right, that you’re better than you think you are.” At the end of the speech, Angelou sang and recited a few poems, including the one she wrote for the United Nations.

Swift Science frontman JD Rust talks music, band history by R. SCOTT MORRIS A&E Editor

The Boone-based foursome Swift Science has performed at venues ranging from bar shows to a spot at area music festivals. The Appalachian recently caught up with guitarist and lead vocalist JD Rust to discuss the band’s music and development. The Boone area band is set to play at Legends Thursday. The Appalachian: Your Facebook page says that the band is from Boone. Do you think that the area’s history and music scene affected the band’s development? JD Rust: “The area’s history and scene definitely affected our development, but not in a way you would think. Ignoring the fascinating origin of bluegrass in Appalachia, we came to town almost six years ago into a scene dominated by jam bands. Though I loved going to see those bands, it was that density of jam mu-

sic that drove our group toward something a little different. It also has to do with our love of old blues that kept us wanting to write more material with that base influence.” TA: How exactly did you guys get started? JR: “I used to play with a local band in town that was popular at the time, and after they graduated and left town, I found myself itching to get back on stage. I created a Facebook group – back when those existed – called ‘I play an instrument and I live in Boone.’ It was staged as a way to connect local musicians for whatever they were looking for, but I only made it to look for members for a new musical project of mine. Through that, I found our drummer Ben Mercer, and we immediately clicked. We tried out several bass players and finally heard from some local musicians that a guy named Everett Thomas was a great bassist, so we tried him out and he fit perfectly. Three years later

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we decided that we wanted to add a new variable to our sound and settled on finding a banjo player. I posted a status, again on Facebook, saying we were looking for a banjo player, and after a few offers we had Patty Finnen audition. He was already a fan of ours, and not only did he sound great, but he was a guy we all liked. So after writing some new material with Patty, here we all sit.” TA: What does Swift Science’s songwriting process look like? Is there one person in particular responsible for it, or is it more of a collaborative process? JR: “I almost always come up with a melody and guitar line for the songs. I get a rough version with some scratch lyrics and present it to the band. If they don’t tell me that it’s awful, I tell them the ideas I had for their parts, and they make them better. That’s pretty much how it’s always been, though a few songs have surfaced from jams.”

TA: How often do you play in the Boone area? Have you played at Legends before? JR: “We try to only play once a month in Boone, but it becomes difficult because we have made some great friends at a lot of local venues and want to play at them all. Sometimes, outside of paying venues we will do a few house shows in order to gain some younger fans that may not yet be able to come to our bar shows. We have played at Legends once before and are very excited to be back there.” TA: You released an album in April of last year. What can you tell us about it? JR: “We are very proud of our album we released. It has poor sound quality, and I still think our song writing at that point wasn’t strong enough, but we worked extremely hard to make it. We recorded it on Garage Band with only one microphone,

track-by-track. Considering that, it sounds incredible. We had zero abilities to correct mistakes other than trying to play or sing it perfectly, so when we finally had a finished product with no outside help, it made us very proud.” TA: Are there any further albums planned so far? What do you see in the band’s future? JR: “We are currently working on a new album with a friend of ours who is a producer in Los Angeles. He is from Charlotte, and flies back periodically to record us. Needless to say, the sound quality is much better. We are recording it as we write the songs, so we honestly have no idea when we will be able to release it, but we have released one song as a teaser on our Facebook page called ‘Calm Down,’ and you can find it at www.facebook.com/ swiftscience.” Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $4 in advance and $6 at the door.

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Some refer to 1991 as “The Year Punk Broke,” a euphemism for mainstream acceptance of various genres related to punk and post-punk, largely due to the commercial success of bands such as Nirvana. While so-called “alternative rock” hasn’t really disappeared from the mainstream, it’s arguably evolved into something distant from its vital, energetic roots. In other words, it’s been a long time since “The Year Punk Broke,” and it may be time for it to break again. Parquet Courts, a quartet of former Texans who are now Brooklyn-based, are but the most recent and fascinating group in this vein. Their debut album “Light Up Gold” is excellent and refreshing. “Gold” is primarily a very catchy, enjoyable record. The production is loose and gritty without being lo-fi and the tracks flow into each other to provide a compact, engaging 33-minute listen. The angular riffs and jittery rhythms found here are reminiscent of bands like Wire, but when filtered through hooky melodies and poetic lyrics, Parquet Courts often resemble literate 1990s indie rock like Pavement. However, reducing Parquet Courts to a list of influences is somewhat counterproductive. “Light Up Gold” is its own fresh take on independent rock, different from other bands, with strong messages about insecurity and cynicism. The album starts off strong with opener “Master of My Craft,” a snarky character study of a pretentious businessman anchored by catchy guitar lines and a sarcastic vocal from frontman Andrew Savage. “Craft” ends by dropping immediately into the incredible “Borrowed Time” with a shouted “Two-three-four!” “Time” is an irresistibly hooky slice of guitar pop with a pitch-perfect lyrical theme of motivation neglect. Parquet Courts continues this existential post-collegiate angst throughout the album with each track serving as a sometimes caustic and more often hilarious commentary on what Savage sees as a society with misplaced ideals. Other highlights include the rip-roaring “Yonder is Closer to the Heart,” which uses mundane imagery of crumpled receipts and pocket lint as a catalyst for a carpediem-style epiphany. The longest song, “Stoned and Starving,” starts with one of the album’s best riffs before managing to become funny and relatable. “Starving” is a testament to Parquet Courts ability to marry their considerable songwriting skills with unique, complex lyrics.

Rating:

3.5 out of 4 stars

Ren Now t !

Thursday, January 24  

Check out the Thursday, January 24 edition of The Appalachian

Thursday, January 24  

Check out the Thursday, January 24 edition of The Appalachian

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