Outstanding Title, and a British Museum Invitation

An Introduction to Islamic Archaeology by History in Art associate professor Marcus Milwright has been named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2011 by Choice magazine. “An outstanding introduction that can be read with profit by general readers as well as professionals,” the listing notes. “Highly Recommended.”

Each January, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries publishes a list of Outstanding Academic Titles they have reviewed during the previous calendar year. That selective and prestigious list—about 10 percent of some 7,000 works reviewed annually—reflects the best in scholarly titles, and brings with it the extraordinary recognition of the academic library community. More than 35,000 librarians, faculty and key decision-makers rely on Choice magazine and Choice Reviews Online for collection development and scholarly research.

Milwright’s An Introduction to Islamic Archaeology (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) was reviewed by C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky of Harvard University, the full review of which follows:

“Outstanding Title! This volume stands alone as a readily accessible, authoritative work on the archaeology of Islam. Milwright (history of art [sic], Univ. of Victoria, British Columbia) fully reviews the continuity of early Islam and late antiquity, the methodological and theoretical concerns of Islamic archaeology, and the important contributions made by the field. Individual chapters detail the archaeological recovery of important cities; their significant remains, i.e., households, palaces, and mosques; the landscape and cultural relations that wed the countryside to the city; the nature of the crafts recovered from excavations; and the nature of trade and communication within the Islamic world. Photos, architectural plans, and line drawings amply illustrate each topic. The evolution of mosques, mosaics, and pottery are among a few of the topics discussed within the context of their historical development. The author uses the archaeological evidence to provide credible interpretations of the early Islamic economic, political, and social worlds, including religious beliefs. A concluding chapter successfully relates the “post-medieval” world to the concerns of more recent times. An outstanding introduction that can be read with profit by general readers as well as professionals. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.”

Choice editors base their selections on the reviewer’s evaluation of the work, the editor’s knowledge of the field and the reviewer’s record. In order to make the Outstanding Academic Title list, the editors apply several criteria to reviewed titles:

  • overall excellence in presentation and scholarship
  • importance relative to other literature in the field
  • distinction as a first treatment of a given subject in book or electronic form
  • originality or uniqueness of treatment
  • value to undergraduate students
  • importance in building undergraduate library collections

Marcus Milwright (Photo: Robie Liscomb)

Given the criteria, it’s clearly outstanding that his book has been included in the 2011 list.

In other MIlwright news, the director of UVic’s Medieval Studies program and associate professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology has also been invited to speak at an international conference devoted to the Hajj, running March 22-24 at the British Museum. “The British Museum has a major exhibition on the history and culture of this Muslim pilgrimage,” says Milwright, “and the conference is associated with it.”

Speaking on the topic of “Trade and the Hajj: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives,” Milwright offers this abstract of his upcoming talk:

“Prior to the advent of mass air travel, Muslims performing the pilgrimage to the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina were faced with long, expensive and often physically arduous journeys by land and sea. The annual movement of large numbers of Muslims along both roads and sea routes naturally brought with it significant economic considerations. Most important was the supply of water and foodstuffs to pilgrims. This paper reviews the evidence for the varied mercantile activity associated with the hajj, with a particular emphasis upon the Mamluk (1260-1516) and Ottoman (1516-1918) periods in Greater Syria. The paper looks at what can be gathered about this trade through the analysis of primary documents (including chronicles, travellers’ accounts, geographical encyclopaedias, and probate inventories) and the data provided by excavations and archaeological surveys. The final part reviews the descriptions in a late nineteenth-century dictionary of the crafts of Damascus (Qamus al-Sina‘at al-Shamiyya) of the commercial activities engaged in supplying the hajj.”

For those keeping up with Milwright’s globetrotting, his London excursion is happening just a few weeks in advance of his April residency at the Shangri La Centre for Islamic Arts and Cultures in Honolulu. Send us a postcard, Marcus!

Kibitz or Kibbutz?

“Community is as much an action as an area,” says Writing prof David Leach in his fascinating 15-minute TEDx Victoria talk, Kibbutzing Your ‘Hood. Drawing from his own experiences living on a kibbutz in Israel back in his 20s, Leach spins a compelling case for how lessons learned from the kibbutz experience can empower communities today, be they urban or rural, suburban or downtown, existent or created. He also explores the link between kibitzing (what he deems “the power of positive gossip in our community”) and the kibbutz.

Part of the TEDx Victoria’s “Cultivating Evolution” day—which also included a talk by UVic psychology prof Jim Tanaka—Leach’s thought about community perfectly fit into the overall program. Take some time to listen to this engaging and entertaining presentation by one of the bright lights of the Fine Arts faculty.

50 Years of Tuba

A young Eugene Dowling shows his brass

Ah, how the years add up. While Eugene Dowling has been a faculty member of the School of Music for over 30 years now, and spent 25 years as principal tubist with the Victoria Symphony, it’s been a cool five decades since he first took up the tuba.

Even though he’s no longer with the Symphony, he has maintained an active schedule as a soloist, chamber musician, clinician, an avid Dixieland jazz musician and, of course, the local organizer for the ever-popular annual Tuba Christmas event. His career has spanned collaborations with everyone from Peter Pears to the Moody Blues, and from Sarah McLachlan to Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi. He has recorded in a wide variety of styles, ranging from work as a soloist with the London Symphony to supporting local rock band the Laundronauts, and his recording The English Tuba on the Fanfare/Pro Arte label was nominated for a Juno Award and received a number of favourable reviews and North America-wide radio play.

To celebrate this distinguished diversity, Dowling will be hosting a celebratory concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 14, at UVic’s PhillipT. Young Recital Hall. He has chosen a bold program of music by classical composers Dmitri Shostakovich, Bruce Broughton and Anthony Plog, accompanied by pianist Tzenka Dianova and featuring jazz standards by Stephen Brown and the Bastion Jazz Band.

Please join him in celebrating this notable milestone in a memorable music career! Tickets are $17.50 & $13.50 at the door or in advance at the University Centre Box Office, by phone (250-721-8480) or online.


Distinguished Professor, Distinguished Lecture

Harald Krebs celebrates his silver anniversary at UVic

There is much to be lauded of long-time UVic faculty member Dr. Harald Krebs, professor and Head of Theory at the School of Music. While 2011 marked his 25th year at UVic, Krebs was also named a University of Victoria Distinguished Professor in 2010—the highest academic honour the university can bestow on a faculty member. “I am very grateful to the University for this award. It’s wonderful when your own university recognizes you for your research as well as your teaching,” says Krebs, who is using the award to fund research and conference travel, and to invite guest speakers and performers to the School of Music.

As the 11th recipient of the prestigious award, Krebs has been invited to give a public presentation for UVic’s Distinguished Professor Lecture Series. “I am happy to have the opportunity to give a talk on campus. It is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the University,” says Krebs. The talk, intended for a broad audience, grows out of his recent research on how song composers manipulate the rhythm of poetry for expressive purposes.

“It was during this research that I became enthralled with Robert Schumann’s late songs, which are not sufficiently appreciated by scholars and performers. I look forward to acquainting the audience with this wonderful music, both by talking about and performing it,” says Krebs, who will be joined by his wife, soprano Sharon Krebs, for the performance portions of the presentation.

In addition to his work at UVic, in October 2011 Krebs became President of the Society for Music Theory, the primary scholarly society in the field.  Although the position is one of many demands, Krebs finds the work rewarding. “I’m enjoying it all very much—especially because I like and admire all the people with whom I am working,” expresses Krebs, who previously served on several committees of the Society, and as its vice president.

—Kristy Farkas

Harald Krebs’ lecture, Robert Redeemed: The Beauty of Schumann’s Late Songs, will be held on Tuesday, January 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Admission is free.

Writing instructor Madline Sonik shortlisted for $25,000 non-fiction prize

Department of Writing instructor Madeline Sonik has been shortlisted for the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction for her 2011 book, Afflictions & Departures. The Charles Tayor nom comes on the heels of her inclusion on the longlist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for the same book.

The 2012 Charles Taylor Prize jury—authors Allan M. Brandt and Stevie Cameron, and non-fiction publishing consultant Susan Renouf—considered 115 books submitted by 35 publishers from around the world. Sonik is among five authors vying for the $25,000 purse, alongside Wade Davis for Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest (Alfred A. Knopf Canada); Charlotte Gill for Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (Greystone Books); JJ Lee for The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit (McClelland & Stewart); and Andrew Westoll for The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery (HarperCollins Publishers).

Published by Anvil Press, Sonik’s Afflictions & Departures: Essays earned the praise of the jury for being “startlingly original”. “Madeline Sonik’s moving story of her childhood defies all our expectations of memoir. She captures crystalline moments of childhood memory and links them in a daisy-chain with corresponding events of the tumultuous societal change taking place outside her home. It is North America in the 1960s and 70s and her letter-perfect, child’s-eye view of the world brings back that time with such intensity that the reader can almost smell and taste it. Droll, tragic, and absolutely compelling, Afflictions & Departures is a visceral portrayal of a family imploding.”

An award-winning novelist, short story writer, children’s author, poet, editor and non-fiction writer, Sonik’s previous books include Drying the Bones and Arms (both from Nightwood Editions), plus Belinda and the Dustbunnys (Hodgepog) and Stone Sightings (Inanna); her work also appeared in the 2011 collection, Slice Me Some Truth: An Anthology of Canadian Nonficiton (Wolsak & Wynn).

The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction recognizes excellence in Canadian non-fiction writing and emphasizes the development of the careers of the authors it celebrates. Since its inception, the prize has fostered a growing interest in non-fiction, engaged Canadians in the genre of literary non-fiction, and boosted sales of the winning authors’ books. Awarded annually to the author whose book best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception, the prize consists of $25,000 for the winning author and $2,000 for the runners-up, in addition to extensive promotion and publicity to help all books stand out in the national media, bookstores, and libraries.

The trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation are Michael Bradley (Toronto), Judith Mappin (Montreal), David Staines (Ottawa), and Noreen Taylor (Toronto). They established The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction to commemorate the life and work of the late Charles Taylor, one of Canada’s foremost essayists and a prominent member of the Canadian literary community. Charles Taylor was a foreign correspondent with The Globe and Mail and the author of four books: Radical Tories; Reporter in Red China; Six Journeys: A Canadian Pattern; and Snow Job.

The 2012 prize finalists will speak at Ben McNally’s Authors Brunch on Sunday, March 4, 2012. For tickets, please visit www.benmcnallybooks.com. The prize winner will be announced at a Gala Luncheon and Awards Ceremony on Sunday, March 5 at Le Meridien King Edward Hotel. The winner will be featured at the International Festival of Authors in October, 2012.

Trimpin Reinvents the Piano

Not that there’s anything wrong with the piano as we know it, but internationally celebrated sound sculptor, composer and inventor Trimpin has never been one to simply accept things as they are. Now, the Seattle-based Trimpin will be bringing his latest innovation to Victoria this year 2012 with a project titled (CanonX+4:33=100).

Trimpin in his Seattle studio (photo: Kristy Farkas)

In collaboration with Open Space and Dr. Andrew Schloss (head of our Music and Computer Science program), a team of emerging sound engineers, musicians and visual artists from UVic will have the opportunity to work directly under Trimpin’s mentorship while assisting with the creation and installation of the work, scheduled to debut at Open Space on March 16.

With 2012 marking the centennial celebration of some of the most influential composers of the last century—namely John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow—(CanonX+4:33=100) will celebrate a continuum and extension of the important work of both composers. Combining ancient concepts and methods with the latest in digital technology, Trimpin will give new life to an array of transformed abandoned pianos, by constructing visually dynamic and aurally stunning acoustic and electroacoustic sculptures and automatons out of their carcasses.

“The pianos will be ‘prepared’ with mechanical actuators—small robotic devices to play the piano strings in a way which both composers, more than a half century ago, started to experiment with, compose, and perform,” Trimpin explains. “With the tools of today’s technologies, this experimentation can be extended to the next level of investigation.”

Detail of (CanonX+4.33=100). (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Believing in our capacity to experience sound visually, Trimpin will accentuate this concept with the use of video cameras and sensors to translate movement and colour into gestures that activate the instruments.

Trimpin will visit UVic from January 17 to 20 to introduce the project, conduct workshops with participants, and host a free screening of Peter Esmonde’s 2009 documentary, TRIMPIN: the sound of invention (8pm January 18 in Visual Arts room A146, featuring the music of the Kronos Quartet). He will then return in March to install (CanonX+4:33=100) at Open Space, as well as present an artist talk and perform with the UVic collective, MISTIC. Until the close of the installation on April 28, the UVic team will lead demonstrations and workshops, as well as have the opportunity to develop unique methodologies for activating and “performing” the installation as an enormous musical instrument.

Trimpin's "IF VI WAS XI: Roots and Branches" (photo: EMP Museum)

Enormous instruments are nothing new to Trimpin, who is perhaps best known in the Pacific Northwest for his towering instrumental sculpture “IF VI WAS IX: Roots and Branches,” which dominates the main level of Seattle’s Experience Music Project Museum. Constructed from more than 500 musical instruments and 30 computers, “Roots and Branches” offers a dynamic, engaging and historical journey into the origins and evolution of American popular music—thanks to the earphone-equipped computer touch-screens that guide visitors through various sound permutations the sculpture is capable of realizing.

After years of formal training in brass and woodwind performance, the German-born Trimpin completed an apprenticeship in electrical engineering and later earned a Master’s degree in social pedagogy. As he explains on the Experience Music Project website, “I had to study what goes on physically when different brains are working. I needed all this information to get to the point where I could execute my ideas. It wasn’t available in literature, because none of these books existed. So from the beginning I always had to do it on my own.”

One of the most stimulating and inventive forces in music today, Trimpin’s  (CanonX+4:33=100) will skew your everyday assumptions about sound and technology and engage your senses of perception, surprise, and joy, in an extraordinary and intricate audio-visual experience unlike any other.

—Kristy Farkas and John Threlfall, with files from the EMP Museum

Don’t miss the free screening of TRIMPIN: The Sound of Invention—featuring Trimpin himself as host—at 8pm Wednesday January 18 in room A146 of UVic’s Visual Arts building.

Year of Edugyan

In the no-big-surprise department, former Writing instructor, celebrated alumna and 2011 literary It-girl Esi Edugyan appeared in a number of year-end best-of lists for her Giller Prize-winning and Man Booker/ Governor General/ Writer’s Trust-nominated sophomore novel, Half-Blood Blues. (Heck, my mom even got it for Christmas!)

Adrian Chamberlain of the local Times Colonist newspaper noted that “Victoria’s writerly reputation was confirmed dramatically” by Edugyan’s “astonishing year,” Mark Medley of the National Post named her one of the two Canadian authors of the year (along with fellow multi-nominated writer Patrick DeWitt) and John Barber of the Globe and Mail said that, with the collapse of publisher H.B. Fenn and its Key Porter imprint, “2011 began ominously for independent Canadian publishers and then quickly turned to roses. Rescued from the Key Porter wreckage, Half-Blood Blues became the most popular title ever published by Thomas Allen & Son, with 100,000 copies on the market and a stable perch overlooking James Patterson and Stephen King on Canadian bestseller lists.”

Quill and Quire also reports it was the most popular title in the Toronto Public Library in 2011, with Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table in second place and DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers rounding out the top three. Alas, if you were hoping to check it out of the Greater Victoria Public Library system, you’d better get in line—as of this post, there are 399 holds on 82 copies . . . but you could always reserve Edugyan’s debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, which currently only has 41 holds on five copies.

Edugyan also appeared on the year-end cover of local entertainment weekly Monday Magazine, where writer Reyhana Heatherington said she “learned from some of Canada’s top literary stars” while studying here at UVic.

“I studied with so many great teachers,” Edugyan is quoted as saying. “Patrick Lane was my first great teacher. I found myself following poetry because he was so inspiring. The calibre of guidance was so amazing. Jack Hodgins, Lorna Crozier, Bill Gaston—such a high level of instruction. They can’t teach you to write if you’re not inclined that way. But what [school] does is cut the apprenticeship time down. Peer reviews prepare writers for working with an editor in a professional capacity.”

And in the January 8, 2012, edition of the Times Colonist, Adrian Chamberlain ran a new interview with Edugyan, a long profile featuring insights from her former Department of Writing instructors, Bill Gaston (“You always say, ‘this one could be the next Michael Ondaatje.’ You can’t predict, but she was one of those”) and Jack Hodgins (who was “amazed at her ability to inhabit the voices of vastly different characters authentically.”) Chamberlain also mentions rumours of a Half-Blood Blues film adaptation, about which a “close-lipped” Edugyan says, while noting there is nothing concrete, “There’s some discussion—yeah, actually.”

Phoenix Productions Picked as Year’s Best

Daniel MacIvor's Inside wins Best New Play

The winners in the 10th annual Critics’ Choice Spotlight Awards were announced on December 29, 2011, and Phoenix Theatre was once again in the top tier with seven nominations and two wins.

Chosen from all local productions playing from September 2010 to Fringe 2011 by Victoria’s leading theatre critics (including the Times Colonist, Monday Magazine, On The Island and CVV Magazine—formerly Culture Vulture Victoria), the world premiere of Daniel MacIvor’s Inside nabbed Best New Play and director Linda Hardy’s swinging ’60s revamp of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night picked up Overall Community Production.

David Lennam, critic for CBC Radio One’s On The Island, felt Phoenix had a strong season last year, calling both Twelfth Night and Inside as “both absolutely superb and from complete opposites of the spectrum.” Forced to choose, he came down on the side of Shakespeare and director Hardy, calling her Twelfth Night “the best I’ve seen—full of new ideas and staging.” Former Monday Magazine critic Amanda Farrell-Low also noted that Twelfth Night was “one of the best things I’d seen at UVic in quite some time.”

Among the other Phoenix nominees were Cat Haywood (Costumes, Twelfth Night), Kesinee Haney (Performance in a Community Production, Twelfth Night, Yerma), Inside (Overall Community Production) and both Linda Hardy (Twelfth Night) and David Ferry (Inside) for Direction—a category that was ultimately won by UVic Theatre prof Brian Richmond for his turn at the helm of Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Phoenix alumni also factored heavily in the overall nominees, including the likes of Janet Munsil and Erin Macklem (Influence), much of the cast and creative team behind Atomic Vaudeville’s Ride The Cyclone, Kate Braidwood (Grim & Fischer), Clayton Jevne (Moscow Stations) and Ingrid Hansen (Chalk).

Check out CVV Magazine for the full list of nominees and winners.