Music Is Powerful

“I say I survived for a reason: to tell my story. I believe that…Music is powerful. It is the only thing that can speak into your mind, your heart and your soul without your permission.”
– Emmanuel Jal

The Second Sudanese Civil War from 1983 to 2005 was one of the longest and bloodiest civil wars on record, yet it barely registered in Western media. The war resulted in the deaths of roughly two million people and the repeated displacement of over four million others in southern Sudan alone, constituting one of history’s largest refugee crises. Among the atrocities committed during the war were slavery, rapes, mutilations, mass killings, and the forced enlistment of children as soldiers by all sides.

Emmanuel Jal was one such child soldier. Born in what is now South Sudan, Jal was a young child when the civil war broke out. After his father joined the rebel army (SPLA) and his mother was killed by loyalist soldiers, Jal joined the thousands of Sudanese children travelling to Ethiopia, hoping to escape the conflict and find education and opportunity. Along the way, however, many of the children, Jal included, were forcibly recruited by the SPLA and taken to military training camps where they were taught to kill, in Jal’s words, “mercilessly and efficiently.”

For the next several years Jal and his comrades fought with the SPLA, first in Ethiopia and then back in Sudan, until the fighting and deprivations became unbearable. Jal and some of his friends ran away, and for three months they were constantly on the move, stealing food and dodging roving patrols. Eventually Jal met a British aid worker who adopted him and smuggled him to Kenya, where he attended school. It was in the slums of Nairobi that Jal became a community activist. He also discovered hip-hop and the power of the spoken word; singing and rapping became a form of therapy to ease the pain of his experiences, and his life’s course was set. Over time Jal developed a unique form of hip-hop, seemingly conventional in form but layered with African beats and sung/chanted over African-inspired choruses.

Unlike many of his American counterparts, Jal sees hip-hop as a powerful vehicle to lobby for social justice and political change in a positive manner, rather than as a method of pursuing street credibility. His raps and spoken word pieces emphasize unity and common humanity as motivators for young people and weapons in the fight against the scourges of ethnic and religious divisions, such as those that plague his homeland. This hopeful outlook, combined with his many humanitarian activities, dovetails neatly with the goals of UC San Diego’s Eleanor Roosevelt College, and marks Jal as a suitably inspirational figure to help celebrate the College’s 30th Anniversary.

His dynamic performance is by turns thought-provoking and uplifting, at times almost somber, but also leavened with humor and, yes, with fun. As Jal himself puts it, “Life without fun is no life at all,” a remarkable perspective from one who has suffered much but has refused to give in to bitterness or cynicism.

Watch From War Child to Global Citizen with Emmanuel Jal.

Ann Patchett

Contributed by John Menier

8232Listed by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012, Ann Patchett is a true woman of letters: novelist, essayist, anthologist, and co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville. Patchett is also a frequent and accomplished public speaker, noted for her anecdotes about the literary life, her insights into the creative process, and her wry wit.

One of Patchett’s favorite topics is the ever-changing relationship between readers and books. As an example she cites her own evolution reading (and re-reading) the works of John Updike, Leo Tolstoy, Pearl Buck, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and others, noting that “the books don’t change, but we do.” Put another way, the reader’s evaluation of a particular book is shaped as much by the reader’s life experience and circumstances as by the work’s innate qualities. As such our appreciation (or lack thereof) for a particular title may change over time, but the consistent commonality among the books we treasure is that they never fail to evoke a strong response. Patchett believes the writer’s primary task is to elicit that response by inviting the reader to become an active participant in their story.

Patchett’s approach to the reading public is refreshingly un-elitist. She stresses the importance of what she calls “gateway drugs,” books of dubious literary worth that may encourage readers to explore other authors and genres. She applauds the success of “trashy” pop novels such as “Fifty Shades of Gray” and “Twilight,” no matter their pedigree, for their role in re-vitalizing book sales and energizing the publishing community. What matters most to Patchett as both author and bookstore owner is that the reading habit is fostered and encouraged, and in that endeavor, there’s no place for snobbery.

Click here to watch An Evening with Ann Patchett

Click here for more programs from The Library Channel

Pay Attention – New Documentary Features UCSD’s Stuart Collection

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An eternal question: What is “public art?”

The definition of public art continues to evolve, but at its most basic level public art can be defined as “work created by artists for places accessible to and used by the public.” In other words, there’s no velvet rope ‘twixt the art and the patron. It’s worth noting that the art/public art field distinguishes between “public art” and “art in public places.” The former term implies a contextual, often collaborative approach to the creation of art that takes the site and other local factors into account, while the focus of the latter is on the art itself, not where it will be sited. Put another way, “public art” is site-specific, or designed for a particular environment – for instance, a university campus.

“UCSD may not have a football team, but it does have the Stuart Collection.”
– A UC San Diego student

Established in 1982 by retired businessman James Stuart DeSilva, the Stuart Collection of public art at UC San Diego is unique in several respects:

Commissioned Works

Whereas other collections – for example, UCLAs Murphy Sculpture Garden – consist of acquisitions, all works in the Stuart Collection are commissioned; prominent contemporary artists are invited to survey the campus and develop proposals based on their site selection. Proposals are reviewed and approved by an Advisory Board, and most of the works are constructed on-site rather than in a studio.

Self-Funded

The Collection also differs in its funding model. Other collections, such as the J. Michael Bishop Art Collection at UCSF Mission Bay, typically rely on a percentage of construction budgets (1% is common) allocated for public art, but the Stuart Collection is entirely self-funded by grants and donations.

Variety of Forms

An unusual emphasis on variety is another hallmark of the Stuart Collection. Unlike a conventional sculpture garden the works span a variety of forms, materials, genres, etc., and are often “one of a kind” in relation to the artist’s body of work. As the pieces are varied, so too are the artists themselves, ranging from painters (Elizabeth Murray) to installation artists (Nam June Paik) to composers (John Luther Adams). Several of the artists who’ve created pieces for the Collection are not otherwise known for public art (John Baldessari, William Wegman, Terry Allen).

However varied in their form and function, all of the pieces in the Stuart Collection share a common goal. They don’t proselytize or attempt to define “good art” but, in the words of artist Bruce Nauman, they do ask the viewer to “pay attention,” to regard their familiar environment in a different way and, in the process, perhaps see themselves in a new way as well.

Watch Pay Attention: The Stuart Collection at UC San Diego, then browse more programs that explore UCSD’S Stuart Collection.

In Their Own Words: Writers and Authors

8232Explore new interviews and readings from your favorite authors as well as up and coming authors and students from the University of California.

Writers explain in their own words the process of creation, how they stay motivated, and what it takes to go from an idea to a completed piece of writing. Listen as they read new and popular excerpts of their work and discuss the writing life during in-depth interviews. From poetry to prose, memoirs to fiction, screenplays to blogs – whether your passion is reading, writing, or both – with our latest collection, you’ll discover new books to explore and perhaps find the inspiration to write one of your own.

Featuring:

Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates
Jane Hirshfield
Jane Hirshfield
Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis
Joseph Stiglitz
Joseph Stiglitz
Destin Daniel Cretton
Destin Daniel Cretton
Lysley Tenorio
Lysley Tenorio

… and more!

Browse our collection of Writers & Authors today!

Fourth Season of Script to Screen a Big Success

8232The UCSB Script to Screen series just completed its fourth and most successful season to date. We hosted three special Academy screenings (Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, and The Grand Budapest Hotel) where we connected Oscar nominees with students and the Santa Barbara Academy/Guild community. We also expanded our series to include a focus on television with our 10th Anniversary of Lost with Executive Producer/Director Jack Bender. This season our guests of honor shared key lessons about the importance of personally connecting to the material as well as having a family-esque support system to help bring the script to the screen.

Here are some special quotes from our guest artists:

29040The Theory of Everything with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten:

“In 2004, that was the real catalyzing moment for me when I read Jane Hawking’s auto-biography. Everything I thought I knew about Stephen Hawking was displaced by everything I didn’t know. This was a unique, emotional insight into his private life. This incredible love story, very much one of a kind, unprecedented in some ways, challenging, heartbreaking, triumphant. I thought if I can get the rights to that book and marry it with the public world and what we know of Stephen and his public story, you know we would really have something special.”

29315Whiplash with Oscar-nominated writer/director Damien Chazelle:

“I was a drummer when I was in high school, and I had a teacher that was very much in this mold. It was the sort of thing where drumming had been this sort of hobby for myself that I did not take that seriously. As soon as I got in the orbit of this conductor/this teacher and his big band that he ran, he suddenly felt like life or death everyday. I felt the worse thing possible would be to screw up a hit or a beat. I just remember the daily dose of dread that I would feel during that time. I don’t play that much anymore, but you get a lot of fodder from that sort of emotional experience. It occurred to me that there might be a subject for a movie there.”

28922500 Days of Summer with screenwriter Scott Neustadter:

“This was very much a cathartic thing. I’d been broken up with, didn’t understand why, could not accept that it was just that she didn’t feel the same and then a minute later she got engaged, and I was like, What in the world? I was writing to put it all out there.”

The UCSB Script to Screen series returns in October 2015 for its 5th season. This coming year we will be expanding to include more actors on the stage with the screenwriter. Plus, we are currently planning a major event with a frontrunner to the 2016 Best Picture nominee and with a very special guest.

Browse all programs in the Script to Screen series.