Looking toward the stars

Looking toward the stars

Posted by: on July 12, 2016   |Comments (0)|Veritas Grant


My name is Cecelia Lahiff, and I am a humanities/art history major with a classics minor. I am from Goshen in Orange County New York.

This summer, under the guidance of my mentor Dr. Fred Drogula, I will be writing a research paper entitled “Wet Stars: Ancient Conceptions of Stars in the Golden Age Latin Poetry.” This project will include an in-depth look into the writings of Vergil (Virgil) and how he understood astronomy in his time.

Since this is not an already well-researched topic, I am excited to add some insight into the field of classics! Stay tuned for more updates as I try to be as eloquent as possible, while keeping my head in the stars!

Vale! (or farewell in Latin)

Hi! My name is Cecelia Lahiff, and I am a humanities/art history major with a classics minor. I am from... MORE

Understanding the beginnings of Russian chant

Posted by: on July 5, 2016   |Comments (0)|Veritas Grant

music-pieceSometimes, opportunities arise from the most unlikely occasions. When I applied for this grant back in February, I was visiting Ireland with the Providence College Liberal Arts Honors Program. One morning at the hotel — surrounded by books on choral masterworks and 20th century musicians and typing away furiously on an iPad Word document that I would eventually polish up into my grant application — I was approached by one of the theology professors who had accompanied us on the trip and who was curious as to what I was working on during vacation.

I explained the premises of my project to her and what I hoped to accomplish if I was awarded a grant. Before breakfast was over, she had told me she knew of a Russian hymnographer with whom I could get in touch if I received the grant. Grant-in-hand a few weeks later, I began reaching out to Mr. Nicholas Kotar — a fantasy author, Russian translator, musician, and hymnographer with a seemingly bottomless wealth of knowledge on Russian chant history and characteristics. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Kotar while in upstate New York and speaking with him about my research.

We met in Cooperstown, a quaint little village about five hours southwest of Rochester, where I was conducting more research at the Sibley Library at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. Outside a local café and market, Mr. Kotar gave me a rundown of the history of Russian chant music — detailing for me when and how it developed. Unlike most other traditions, the Russian Orthodox liturgical practices stemmed solely from Russian folk music and the influences of the Byzantine church presence in the area. This is because the pagan religions, which dominated the area prior to Christianization, had no musical tradition of their own. This explains why some of the Russian chant music still sounds vaguely familiar to more Western ears — it is essentially Byzantine chant with a characteristically Russian spin on it.

Znamenny chant, the first truly Russian liturgical music, developed soon after and is strikingly similar to Stravinsky’s works. Its characteristic elements include melismas (long lines sung on one syllable of text) and thetas (added syllables), both of which elongate important words in the chant. This focus on words would remain central to the compositional style of Russian chant, which always emphasized a conveyance of the text over melodic beauty. As such, sonorities that were unacceptable in the Roman Catholic liturgical tradition were allowed in the Russian canon, including open fourths and fifths, parallel seconds, and closed voicing with frequent voice crossing. When polyphony was introduced into the chant repertoire, Znamenny chant developed into Strochnoe chant, which translates to “line” or “horizontal” singing. This is an extremely appropriate descriptor, since these pieces involve a middle voice singing the original Znamenny chant surrounded by two outer voices that ornament the melody line but have no clear cut relation to it — creating a three-part piece in which each voice is independent. Similar tendencies can be seen in Stravinsky, especially in the interactions between his vocal and instrumental lines, which often are remarkably independent of each other. The included image is one such example. While the vocal lines in rehearsal three are clearly informed by each other, the accompanying instrumental line is largely independent of the vocal movement and either part could be easily taken out of the texture without destroying the other.

Supplied with these, and several other characteristics of Russian chant, thanks to the knowledge of Mr. Kotar, I have begun to create a spreadsheet analysis of the pieces — going through each measure with a fine tooth comb to look for patterns and characteristics that will be helpful in pinpointing how and when Stravinsky’s writing is influenced by Russian Orthodox chant.

The information I’m gathering ranges from the seemingly obvious, like what instruments are used and when, to the less conspicuous harmonic structure over the course of an entire movement or even the entire piece. Ultimately, this type of analysis will allow for the evaluation of Stravinsky’s composition in a way that will highlight the abundant similarities between Russian liturgical chant and the works of Stravinsky.


Sometimes, opportunities arise from the most unlikely occasions. When I applied for this grant back in February, I was visiting... MORE

Summer Study: Finding deeper meaning from student-teaching experience in Italy

Posted by: on June 23, 2016   |Comments (0)|Veritas Grant

abroad pcitureHello Readers!

My name is Meaghan Creamer, and I am going into my senior year at PC as an Elementary/Special Education major. In the fall of 2015 I had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy, as part of the Elementary Special Education Diversity in Education program. Once a week, for an hour, I taught Italian students in elementary school how to speak English. I learned how to instruct in a way that is straightforward with high energy. It did not matter that we spoke different languages, the students were excited about me being there, and I couldn’t wait to teach them.

While I was teaching, I found that my intercultural competence was growing, and I was becoming a cultured global citizen. That being said, I loved the program and wanted to look into it on a deeper level. This is where my research for the summer comes in. Dr. Hauerwas and Dr. Skawinski have been working on a research project titled “Culture, Language and Teaching: The Longitudinal Impact of an International Teaching Practicum,” and I asked if I could help out in any way. Dr. Hauerwas and I worked together and decided I should look into the reciprocal benefits that the program has for the Italian children and their teachers. I will be focusing my analysis on the impact of the American university student on the children’s English language skill and global understanding.

How do I do this? Well, while we were in Florence the children filled out a research questionnaire for Dr. Hauerwas that asked 10 questions about their experience having us as teachers. Of course, they responded in Italian, so the first step was having someone translate them to English. Since that step is completed, I now am taking their answers and using a qualitative research coding system called Hyper Research in order to find patterns within their responses. We take every sentence the students wrote and code it into a codebook based on what is said. For example, a sentence such as “They taught me how to pronounce my words better” would go under the code “pronunciation.” This week, we are establishing the reliability of our coding process. At the end, we will be able to see different patterns and then put meaning to those patterns. There are just about 1,500 sentences that need to be coded, so we are busy!

Throughout this process I also am keeping in mind the paper that will be written at the end of the summer to summarize the results! In order to inform myself, I am reading literature that has to do with service-learning programs, abroad programs, and student learning in the classroom. I can’t wait to see the results! I will keep you posted on how it goes!


Hello Readers! My name is Meaghan Creamer, and I am going into my senior year at PC as an Elementary/Special... MORE

Studying the Influence of Russian Chant on Stravinsky

Posted by: on June 16, 2016   |Comments (0)|Veritas Grant

musicTwo works comprising eight movements, 92 pages, and 785 measures. These compositions, Mass and Symphony of Psalms, are at the heart of what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. Having received my scores from London, I made a preliminary sketch of the pieces, noting their overarching construction, marking cadences, and identifying the general forms used. I also studied the texts used in the works — where they come from, their purpose, and how often they have been set in the past. Basic sketches like this allow me to get a feel for the piece without getting too bogged down in chord function or voice leading — acting as an aural-big-picture, if you will.

With a basic understanding of the pieces in mind, I traveled to the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale University, where I began to study the characteristics of early Russian polyphony and liturgical chant. This can be a difficult area of study because the neumatic system of notation used in the earliest transcriptions of Russian chant are still largely enigmatic to scholars. But fortunately, in 1772 the Holy Synod published a book of liturgical chants used by the Russian Orthodox Church in a modernized notational system, which gives us a glimpse of what the original chant notation may have indicated.

While at Yale, I studied some chant excerpts and listened to several recordings of monastery choirs performing liturgical chant. Much like Stravinsky, who was once quoted as having claimed to free music from the bar line, Russian liturgical chants are sung very freely — allowing the words and their meaning to take prominence over any sense of strong or weak beats. This same feeling is established in Stravinsky’s works, notably in the Gloria of Mass, where Stravinsky constantly changes the meter in which he is composing, while simultaneously utilizing sixteenth note triplets and quintuplets that break down the sense of rhythmic stability we generally associate with music.

Though by its nature this project is much more grounded in music theory than in musicology, I have also spent some time at Providence College’s own Phillips Memorial Library — studying Stravinsky himself and learning what he had to say about the composition of his Catholic liturgical works. Though he never specifically said he was looking back to Russian Liturgical Chant, Stravinsky did admit that he was composing these works with the intent of looking back into the past. We can also be certain that he did have exposure to early polyphonic chant, since he was not only a member of the Russian Orthodox Church himself, but also a student of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who was instrumental in the resurgence of traditional Russian chant following a period of expansive Western influence. Additionally, Stravinsky was exposed to several examples of Georgian chant, which he studied and transcribed and which continued to fascinate him throughout his life.

Later this week, I will be continuing to delve into my research, traveling to Rochester, New York to visit the music library at the Eastman School of Music and to speak with a Russian hymnographer in Cooperstown, New York. I look forward to being able to flesh out my understanding of Russian chant and to use that knowledge to continue discovering the influence this tradition had on Stravinsky’s compositions.

Joan Miller

Two works comprising eight movements, 92 pages, and 785 measures. These compositions, Mass and Symphony of Psalms, are at the... MORE

Redemption and the Civil War

Posted by: on April 20, 2016   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War – Nicholas Lemann

Redemption – “the act of making something better or more acceptable”

colfax2The dictionary definition of redemption seems pretty self-explanatory, but how about redemption in relation to the Civil War? A book I read recently dealt with this concept in terms of what happened once the war “ended.” Yes, the quotes around “ended” are deliberate because, after reading this book, I questioned whether or not the war ended in 1865 with Lee’s surrender to Grant in the Appomattox courthouse. After reading this book, it would seem that the war continued on — but in a different and crueler way.

This cruelty can be seen in Colfax, Louisiana, which was the site of what became known as the Colfax Riot. I bet when you first read the name nothing came to mind – which happened to me. It holds significance that cannot be overlooked or forgotten, but most people have no idea what happened. As the picture included shows, the riot is commemorated by a sign that reads, “On this site occurred the Colfax Riot in which three white men and 150 negroes were slain. This event on April 13, 1873 marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South.”

Yikes. The simplicity with which this even is remembered is kind of shocking — even more so once the whole situation is known. On Easter Sunday 1873, eight years after the “end” of the Civil War, a riot broke out in which politics was the main culprit again. Voting was the actual issue, but underneath lay the tensions that caused it all. After 1865, with the “end” of the war and the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, slavery was abolished and voting rights were given to all men. On the surface, this seemed to solve the problem, but it did not. The inherent racism that was carried out by many White Americans continued, and they simply found other ways to oppress Black men and women.

The Colfax Riot was a prime example of this because it showed the corruption that ensued even after the creation of those amendments. The election for governor of Louisiana was contentious because White, Southern Democrats created shadow governments behind those that were legally in place and created an institution called the White League. Members of this group intimidated and attacked Republicans in the South, as well as Black citizens. The tensions came to a head with the election of governor. Requests were sent to Washington when it became obvious that the White League was going to show no mercy and eventually almost all Blacks that were part of the riot were murdered.

President Grant was contacted, but he did not send troops, and that worried Black residents of the Southern states. The political Civil War had ended, but the social Civil War was still raging on in the South. But, in a way, that was less overt. Many White southerners used intimidation, as seen in Colfax, and eventually loopholes that allowed them to continue to suppress members of the Black population — without technically breaking the law. Redemption then becomes another battle for Black residents, and one that is necessary for their safety in the free country they called home. They did not feel like redemption was being worked toward, and nothing was getting better for them. If anything, their lives were getting worse.

Abby Norberg

Definition: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/redemption

Picture: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/53/Colfax_Riot_sign_IMG_2401.JPG

Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War – Nicholas Lemann Redemption – “the act of making something better or... MORE