Rhythm and Numbers:
Realizing and Crafting Truth in Nature

Friday, September 28 10:30-11:30 AM

Moderator: Carolyn Beans, Biology Fellow


Valeria Guzmán-Verri, School of Architecture, University of Costa Rica
Form and Fact

Erik DeLuca, University of Virginia
Sounding Experiential Fieldwork

Jonathan Haeber, UMASS
Pacific Mythology and Corporate Ambitions in the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition


Valeria Guzmán-Verri, School of Architecture, University of Costa Rica
Form and Fact

According to Poovey’s A History of the Modern Fact, in the nineteenth century statistics came to encapsulate what is characteristic of the “modern fact”. Expressed as arithmetical descriptions, as measurements, or in statistical form, numbers appeared to be a guarantee of impartiality and transparency in the production of knowledge in the modern world. This paper develops further Poovey’s own alignment of the modern fact with the construction of a stylistic convention, in which numerical representation has a privileged position. It is not only number that is at issue here, but the whole graphical arrangement of such numbers. Central to this concern is how these statistical figures are read and interpreted as a graphic configuration. In this sense, what is at stake is the emergence of a new “figure-ground” relationship, that is to say, a “ground” that has the capacity to treat “facts”, the sources of knowledge, as “figures”. The paper will set out the basic requisite elements for this “figure-ground” relationship, which can be read from the nineteenth century onwards in the space of the printed page: the printing press and its connection with graphic form, the emergence in the nineteenth century of the category of “man” and “social body” as objects of study; the role of statistics in the representation and administration of the social body; the rise of statistics as a science and finally, numbers and their relationship with style. Our methodology consists in applying the analytic elements of art criticism to the history of the “modern fact”.

Erik DeLuca; McIntire Department of Music, University of Virginia
Sounding Experiential Fieldwork

In this audio/visual presentation I will discuss my recent activities as a composer/sound artist by focusing on experiential fieldwork conducted over the past four years in the U.S. National Park system. From time spent in Crater Lake (OR), Wrangell-St. Elias (AK), Acadia (ME), North Cascades (WA), Isle Royale (MI), and Denali (AK) I sensed, and gained knowledge of, the resonances and rhythms of environmental systems, cultures, myself listening, and the poetics of place. This gained knowledge is translated into compositions for chamber ensemble, installation, and recorded document rooted in each field of focus. This work (re)presents heightened accentuations of my experience via musical fabrics composed of field recordings, translations of data sets, and sonic renderings of field notes. My hope is that this work creates situations in which listeners have the opportunity to freely navigate these sonic spaces, or frames, arriving at a their own interpretations abstracted from my experiential fieldwork. In this presentation I will discuss key components to my compositional process, issues that arise, and try to answer the following questions: Is this music fact or fiction? Is it a composed truth? Does the music allow a listener to sense the intrinsic qualities found in the fields of focus?

Jonathan Haeber; History Department, UMASS
Pacific Mythology and Corporate Ambitions in the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition

In 1920, the newly inaugurated President of the University of California, Berkeley was treated to a celebratory dinner by the business elite of California. This intimate gathering at San Francisco’s rococo Palace Hotel presented the Pacific Rim as essential to the business interests in the city. “The Pacific Ocean is a theatre of a mighty, new world movement,” the evening’s toastmaster said to the merchants, financiers, and industrialists present. “Eastern and western civilizations are thereby forced into intimate contacts, out of which arise portentious difficulties.”

Solving the Pacific Problem had to wait for its moment in history, however, and the new U.C. President left the hotel thanking his hosts. A decade later the moment came. My research examines the crafting of a Pacific mythology in the San Francisco World’s Fair of 1939. It draws on primary research and ephemera from the fair, as well as WPA project papers, memoirs, oral histories, and photographs.

The Roosevelt administration, eager to provide jobs, accepted a proposal by the city’s business elite to build an island out of the bay. Treasure Island would temporarily become both New Atlantis and Byzantium of the Pacific. The $6 million island would showcase the nation’s scientific and industrial progress much like earlier World’s Fairs. However, it also included another, more subliminal mandate that rallied Americans behind a new style of consumption, all while building San Francisco as mythological center of Pacific trade and commerce. The fair’s messaging, art, and ephemera reveal the construction of a revisionist history which contained its own troubling notions of corporate welfare, racial purity, patriarchy, and Pacific conquest – a calculated effort towards creating a new corporate empire in the Pacific Rim.


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