Northern Soul

By Copeland, Huey | Artforum International, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Northern Soul


Copeland, Huey, Artforum International


AS THE ARREST OF HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. on the steps of his own house made clear, the dynamics of racialized subjection are particularly vexed in ivory-tower towns like Cambridge, Massachusetts. On the one hand, black bodies are continuously surveyed and assessed as either "hood," "Harvard," or "homeless"; on the other, the city and its environs play host to a range of the most visible African-diasporic cultural institutions and practitioners anywhere. Yet there are, of course, much-needed escapes from these specular extremes of life lived black.

It was just this kind of phenomenal experience--of solace and sublimity, communion and catharsis--that Alicia Hall Moran conjured into being for an intimate crowd in February at Cambridge's Regattabar, a jazz venue in the upscale Charles Hotel. A classically trained soprano, Hall Moran has increasingly come to work within the spaces of the art world, collaborating with conceptualist Adam Pendleton on his 2007 performance The Revival and unfurling one of her song installations--a series of site-sensitive vocal interventions--at a soiree musicale, curated by artist Whitfield Lovell. Migration across locales and audiences also undergirds her Motown Project, reprised here after first being presented in December 2009 at the Kitchen in New York. Aptly described by musicologist Guthrie Ramsey as a kind of "Schubertian song cycle," the Motown Project primarily mixes 1960s Motor City classics with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century operatic hits.

In the age of the mash-up, Hall Moran's conceit might sound jejune, but what her arrangements achieved was less a conjoining of opposites than an embodied recombination of musical traditions that somehow yearn for each other across lines of race, class, and nation. Accompanied by an equally brilliant and worldly ensemble--operatic baritone Steven Herring, guitarist Thomas Flippin, bassist Tarus Mateen, taiko drummer Kaoru Watanabe, and Hall Moran's husband, jazz musician Jason Moran, stepping in for harpist Adan Vasquez, on piano--she wended her way through an hour-long set that moved effortlessly among affective registers while pursuing the shared motifs of desire and infatuation that unite the genres: Mozart meets Marvin Gaye.

Hall Moran's navigation of these traditions was as striking as it was clever: After singing the refrain from the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)," which was then taken up by Herring, she launched into "Non So Piu Cosa Son," an aria from 'The Marriage of Figaro about male helplessness in the face of womanly charms. While the rendition of the former tune initially brought appreciative chuckles from the audience, Hall Moran performed both classical levity and pop sweetness with fierce vocal commitment, inexorably pulling in her listeners. In the process, she not only united the two songs and alluded to their unspoken trajectories--the Four Tops later recorded a version of their single in Italian--she also deftly turned them out: The irrationality of opera transformed the clean mechanical sensibility of Berry Gordy, even as Motown's sure melodic pleasures were inflected to fit opera's demands for hyperbolic feeling. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Northern Soul
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.