This week in Worth A Look, a boundary pushing performance using a digitally enhanced cello, a Zimbabwean author talks about her new book and life as an immigrant in America, and the Palo Alto Art Center displays work from young local artists.
The cello is a versatile instrument, with a range that rises from the bass clef up into the tenor clef -- and sometimes into the treble clef. It can be bowed or plucked. It can even be struck or slapped for percussive effect.
But that's not enough for experimental cellist Nicola Baroni, who has learned to push his cello-playing into the digital realm with the help of motion-sensing software.
In his solo performance tonight, May 2 at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University, Baroni will play "Zadig: Voltaire meets Kaftka," on cello and an instrument known as the "hypercello," a computer-driven system that senses the motion of the player's hands. The system allows the player to move both of his or her hands to control digital effects that are applied to what he or she has played.
In online videos, Baroni can be seen striking dissonant harmonics on his instrument, then flinging both of his hands forward -- resulting in atmospheric whooshes and high-pitched skronks.
Prior to his performance, Baroni and composer Massimiliano Messieri will give a lecture on the instrument and its applications, titled "Interactive composition and Hypercello. Motion tracking and spectral description in real-time."
The lecture will begin at 6 p.m. at the CCRMA Stage, located at 660 Lomita Dr. on the Stanford campus. The concert will follow at 7 p.m. and run until 9 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit ccrma.stanford.edu or call 650-723-4971.
BOOKS: The immigrant experience
Zimbabwean author and current Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University NoViolet Bulawayo will read from her debut novel, "We Need New Names," at the Lucie Stern Community Center as part of the national Made Into America project, which works to collect and highlight immigration stories. The idea was to help families move beyond the sense of "us and them when we think about immigrants," said Elliot Margolies of the Midpeninsula Community Media Center, which is co-sponsoring the event, along with the Palo Alto Library and the Palo Alto Weekly -- "A way to create more bridges the community."
Bulawayo 's book follows a group of children whose lives begin in a shantytown in her native country, before a number of the children depart for the United States, where the main character ends up settling with relatives in Michigan.
While the novel's protagonist leaves a brutal world behind her, she does not always find comfort in her new home, Margolies said.
Margolies said Bulawayo's novel is filled with "gripping" passages that cut to the heart of what it means to be an immigrant struggling to find an identity in a new country. Bulawayo had plenty of personal experience to draw upon when penning these passages. Like the protagonist in "We Need New Names," she also moved from her home in Zimbabwe to Michigan, though she left her native country later in life than the fictional main character in her book, Margolies said.
Bulawayo will answer questions after her reading, which is scheduled for 7 p.m., May 8, at the Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. The event is free, but RSVP is required. For more information, call the Palo Alto Library at 650-329-2436 or the Midpeninsula Community Media Center at 650-494-8686.
ART: Kids create the darnedest things
A pair of exhibitions at the Palo Alto Art Center are highlighting art created by students from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
The first exhibit, Youth Art, showcases works created by kindergarten through high school students from the Palo Alto Unified School District. The titled "The Arts and the Creation of Mind," runs through May 18 and is meant to honor the work of the late Elliot Eisner, a former Stanford art professor who long advocated for art education in public schools. He died in January of this year.
The second show features work produced by the Cultural Kaleidoscope program, which seeks to link the communities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park by bringing arts into the classrooms of the Palo Alto Unified and the Ravenswood City school districts. The organization focuses mainly on elementary school children, and the exhibition of their work continues through May 25. Both exhibits opened on April 27.
According to Karen Kienzle, director of the art center, the impact of these two shows is very powerful for the children who are displaying their work. "The kids get to see their work installed in a professional museum environment," she said. "They leave the art center saying, 'Wow, we're real artists!'"
Given the power of arts to improve a child's education, Kienzle said, reaching children early and giving them an opportunity to show their work in the art center is important.
"Every child is an artist," she said, paraphrasing Pablo Picasso. "The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up." She said she hope these two shows will help children stick with art.
Furthermore, Kienzle added, the exhibit has the potential to move grown ups in the community.
"We have so much to learn from young artists," she said.
The Youth Art exhibit runs through May 18 and the Cultural Kaleidoscope exhibit through May 25 -- both at the Palo Alto Art Center, located at 1313 Newell Road in Palo Alto. The art center is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.;Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.; and is closed Monday. Admission is free. For more information, go to the art center's website or call (650) 329-2366.