culture/nature/structure

Meghan Moe Beitiks

All Contested Phrases: An Aria (2022)

listener · All Contested Phrases: An Aria (Full Live Recording)

University of Florida faculty and community create conceptual aria from censored phrases

In response to efforts to impose censorship by the Provost at the University of Florida, a group of UF Faculty and community members have devised a creative performance using challenged language as the text for a contemporary aria. The aria, based in part on elements of compositions by the twentieth-century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, draws ironic parallels between the actions of a staunchly “anti-socialist” state government and Stalinist legacies of censorship. It was performed April 15th at Dad’s Bar in Gainesville, Florida, local to the university, as well as streamed online. 

In anticipation of political initiatives of the state, the provost of the University of Florida asked university lawyers to review the College of the Arts’ Meta-Strategy. The Meta-Strategy was collaboratively written by college faculty to sharpen the college’s focus, planning, efforts, and funding over the next five years. It included the following phrases:

  • unsettle
  • deeply inequitable access to power
  • systemic change
  • correcting exclusionary and repressive systems
  • undo systemic oppression and marginalization
  • dismantle obstacles to AEI ingrained in our curriculum
  • truth, and reconciliation
  • negotiations of power and privilege as defined by organizational structures in the College of the Arts
  • power analysis
  • racial equity spheres to identify and document institutional practices that are barriers to a thriving pluralistic multicultural diversity
  • micro-aggression 
  • Examine and reposition Western, white, male privilege implicit in the foundations of the style, techniques, and methodologies of historical works and traditional performance and practice. Address cultural differences within the disciplines represented in COTA
  • eliminating discrimination and other forms of oppression
  • AEI criteria at the ULO level
  • provocative participation
  • power and privilege
  • negotiations of power and privilege
  • barriers to a thriving pluralistic multicultural diversity
  • prepare to or continue to engage race and racism curricularly

College faculty were asked by the provost to “reconsider” these terms. In this context, that consisted of a request to rewrite–academic censorship. In response, the faculty voted to convene a committee to review the document.

As a reaction to this pressure, a partially anonymous group of UF Faculty and community members gathered to turn the phrases “of concern” into their own melodic, conceptual performance, giving these words space to breathe on their own terms. 

The music, composed by Florida musician Stephen Germana, combines elements of Shostakovich and Mahler in looping, electronic rhythms. The phrases of concern are sung by Brooklyn-based vocalist Kayleigh Butcher. 

The performance includes projections,  production, and scholarly context by anonymous community members, and a movement-based response from dancer and UF faculty member Trent Williams. 

A live performance of the Aria took place on April 15th at 8pm at Dad’s Bar, a local Gainesville venue supportive of community events: it was also livestreamed on Twitch.tv, Facebook and Instagram. 

For inquiries, contact: Meghan Moe Beitiks, mobeitiks (at) gmail.com

RESOURCES

About the Cast & Crew:

Composer Stephen Germana: https://www.stephengermana.com/aboutnews

Soloist Kayleigh Butcher: http://www.kayleighbutcher.com/

Virtual Dancer Trent Williams: https://arts.ufl.edu/directory/profile/39257

Spoken Word and Projection Design by Kenya (Robinson): https://www.privilegeasplastic.com/

Producer Meghan Moe Beitiks: www.meghanmoebeitiks.com

The support team includes several anonymous members of the UF faculty and community, who have chosen not to reveal their names in order to avoid political backlash from within Florida and UF. 

More on recent legislation on education in Florida. 

Though many of these bills target K-12 schools, their effect on public higher education is felt at the administrative level through pressure from the state.

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