Student Produced Aural Capacity
by Kathryn Antognini

Aural Capacity is the kind of album that isn’t listened to but is experienced, taking the listener on a moody journey from jazz to acoustic to electronica. This isn’t the new Radiohead; Aural Capacity is the first collaborative record of Conservatory student works.
“It was one of those ideas that was in the air for awhile,” said Tom Lopez, who coordinated the album’s production. “[The faculty] all kind of realized at the same time that we should do something like this.” Lopez, assistant professor in the TIMARA department, may have not initially foreseen the time and effort such an undertaking would entail.

During the year following the project’s conception, a committee was created to choose which student submissions should be included on the CD. Lopez said with a laugh that the judges were looking primarily for “good work.” They were not selecting for pieces that fit a certain style or theme. In the end, eight works were chosen, representing the jazz, composition and TIMARA departments. Sarah Lauren Maurand, an art student, was also selected to design the graphic art on the cover and insert of the CD.

Meanwhile, Paul Zinman, OC ’84, a well-known New York producer, became involved in the production of the CD. Many of Zinman’s orchestral and chamber music recordings have been nominees for and/or won Grammy Awards.
Although Lopez said it was often hard “to keep the whole project to its scheduled timeline,” two years after the CD’s birth as an idea, thousands of sky blue covers were finally printed and put in shiny jewel cases.
The completed CD cannot be summarized in a neat phrase, as each piece is quite different from the rest. Some tracks are very conceptual and free of the usual musical constraints, such as melody. For example, “Myrmaridae,” cleverly composed by senior Wally Scharold, chronicles the short life of a microscopic parasitic wasp. The protagonist, depicted on the saxophone by fifth-year David Reminick, is conceived with a bang, grows from a larva, eats, mates, and is finally killed in a flurry of groan-like notes by its mate.
Other pieces like “Shrouded” by senior Erin Hollins, perfectly capture a certain mood or emotion. In “Shrouded,” Hollins presents the issue of women’s oppression in cultures across the world. She drowns a female voice in a sea of heavy noise and male voices, evoking the loss of control a woman might feel. For Hollins the creation of this song was bittersweet, although she was proud of her achievement. “There was a huge amount of backlash from others,” Hollins said. Some interpreted her piece as an attack on Islamic Religion because she mentions Islamic traditional female dress. “[The reference was] an example of the oppression that is widespread in varying degrees all over the world,” Hollins said.

Sophomore Jim Altieri’s “Thirty-two Feet Per Second Per Second” is also able to capture raw emotion with a few simple sounds. As three piano notes are repeated in the background Altieri’s voice gradually grows from a barely audible whisper to a deafening scream.
“Spatial Organization,” composed by senior Kendra Juul, and “Q” by fifth-year Raja Das are probably the most atmospheric pieces on the album. Through the use of synthesizers and convoluted instrument samples these composers are able to create works that fit together as if they have three-dimensional shape, like a painting or sculpture.

The remaining pieces, “A Time for Healing” by fifth-year Ez Weiss, “Avec et ‘Cetra” by Du Yun, and “1X4=1” by senior Stefan Tcherepnin are all well-crafted and utilize many more instruments than the others on the album.

Despite the variety of styles and artistic goals presented on Aural Capacity, Lopez still feels there is “something” that makes the album fit together into a cohesive whole.
“It has a very Oberlin flavor,” Lopez said. “I think it’s maybe the willingness to experiment that comes through.”

September 28
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