Celebrating the history and archaeology of Brown University and Providence, Rhode Island

Author: cmoser (Page 1 of 2)

An Evening of Dance at the Celebrate 250+ Performance Showcase. By Emily Chu

This is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

The extent of my knowledge of dance at Brown is limited to invitations to Facebook events for dance shows and peripheral familiarity with members from various dance groups. Thus, I was really excited to see the dance performances at the Celebrate 250+ Performance Showcase on Friday night at Granoff.

The auditorium was full, with people standing outside on the grass watching through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The program for the showcase included everything from Lion Dance to Gilbert and Sullivan, with a hint of belly and tap dancing.

One group I was excited to see was imPulse Dance Company, which is a hip-hop focused company with widespread publicity for its various shows. In honor of Brown’s 250th birthday, the group performed a ‘50s-inspired hip-hop piece, mixing in Kanye West with the Grease soundtrack. I really loved the high energy throughout, present in both the dancers and the cheering audience.

Another dance group I really loved was Badmaash Dance Company, a South Asian fusion dance team. I was astonished by the complex moves and flawless synchronization of the six dancers. Their dancing was delicate, heartfelt, and smoothly choreographed.

Divine Rhythm Step Team was one of my personal favorite performances. I’ve never seen this group, or step dancing in general, so I came in not knowing what to expect. Their stomps, claps, and slaps instantly captivated me. With no music in the background and their steps echoing around the auditorium, Divine Rhythm ensured the focus was on them. It was a small team, but they were all incredibly coordinated and in sync. I loved this unique and entrancing performance and am glad to have had the chance to see them perform before I graduated.

With less than three months left at Brown, I’m trying to immerse myself in the parts of Brown I’ve unintentionally shunned in my three and a half years here: football games, trips to Federal Hill, documentary showings, dance performances. I’m glad to have had the chance to see what I was missing in the vibrant dance community at Brown, and I hope to make it to more dance shows before graduation. I greatly enjoyed this showcase because it represented the amazing and diverse talents of Brown’s dancers. I am continually astounded by my talented classmates here at Brown, and I am appreciative of the 250th anniversary celebration for bringing the community together and instilling in all of us immense school spirit and Brunonia pride.

Wind Symphony. By Darcy Andrews

This is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

On Friday, March 7, the Brown University Wind Symphony performed a concert in honor of the school’s 250th Anniversary. This concert was unique in that the selections reflected years of music produced by the Brown community, showcasing pieces composed by Brown alumni and friends of the university.

The group premiered “Fanfare 250” by George Masso, the title of which directly connects to the anniversary celebration. A generally uplifting piece, “Fanfare 250” reflected the fireworks that were set off on the Main Green, right outside the concert venue Solomon Hall, earlier in the night to launch the anniversary festivities. It stood in stark contrast to Masso’s other composition, “Concertante for Brothers Brown,” that was played later in the night. Named for the two Brown brothers who were instrumental in the university’s establishment on its Providence site, John and Moses, this piece was full of long phrases that slowly crept in and out of the music hall. It also showcased the solo talents of trombonist Alexei Doohovskoy, a Brown graduate of ’98, whose vibrato was reminiscent of the great jazz trombonists of old.

Additionally, the Symphony debuted both a piece called “Brownian Motion” specifically commissioned for the event by the accomplished jazz composer and musician Patrick Zimmerli. He wrote in the concert program that the piece is intended to illustrate the “unpredictable evolution of Brown as an institution,” from its humble church origins to its present state of prestige. Somewhere in the midst of the twists the piece takes he subtly inserted a melody based on the Brown Alma Mater, which then drove the piece towards its climax.

Three other marches composed by historically prominent Rhode Island band composers were played, in addition to a swirling “Fantasy for Wind Symphony” composed and conducted by Eli Fieldsteel ’08. Throughout the night the Wind Symphony’s program offered to the audience various elements of Brown’s history and its connection with the Rhode Island musical community.

250 Years of Brown University. By Nicholas Fair

This is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

This past Friday I attended the 250th anniversary fireworks display on the main green. Although this was the only event I was able to make it to over the weekend, the general feeling of excitement and fulfillment was apparent in the immense amount of pride that current students and alumni took in being a part of this weekend. Overall, the enthusiasm displayed by everyone involved in this monumental weekend gave me an immense amount of pride in having the opportunity to be a member of this community not just during my four years on campus, but rather far beyond my graduation next spring.

Throughout the course of the weekend, I noticed walking around campus, and just Providence in general that the community was packed with elder alums celebrating the anniversary of the school and furthermore, current students flooding social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook with new status updates, and photos of the weekend’s events over the course of the 72 hours. These various sorts of generational displays of excitement and enjoyment were truly brought to life during the spectacular firework display on Friday evening. Interestingly enough, I overheard a member of the grounds crew mention that this was the first ever instance of fireworks taking place on campus, an interesting fact that I believed served to only further the weekends enthusiasm.

However, I think the most remarkable aspect of the firework celebration on Friday night was the overwhelming presence of non-Brown community members. The main green was flooded with Providence community members, particularly parents with their children on their shoulders, all wanting to be a part of this monumental moment in Brown University history. To me, this represented the strong bond between the school and the Providence community, and how the two entities have mutually benefited from each other over the University’s history. As integral as the link between the school and the University have been, it is reassuring that, despite recent concerns about the University’s impact on gentrification, the community was able to enjoy this occasion along with students, faculty, and employees of Brown. Over the next 250 years, hopefully Brown’s community can continue to grow and integrate with the University’s community, and only further tighten the mutually beneficial bond that has been forged over the past two and a half centuries.

250 Years Opening Night. By Eliot Greene

This is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 years of Brown’s Material Past

Few countries, never mind formal organizations have had the opportunity to celebrate a semiquincentenary anniversary. In honor of this historic occurrence, Brown and its leaders planned a weekend full of fun and excitement to commemorate the university’s past, and, through the slogan “Imagine Brown,” envision its future.

To kick-off the celebration, Christina Paxson, a number of alumni and university representatives, and a small group of students stood upon a stage outside the blue room, each prepared with their own presentation. The crowd must have exceeded the event organizer’s wildest expectations, because standing in even the back half of the mass made hearing the speakers impossible. When I was able to work my way to the front, I heard only the tail end of a spoken word presentation by 4 females and one male Brown student. The content of their presentation seemed interesting (detailing different events and their dates throughout Brown’s history) but their reception was luke-warm at best given that the majority of the crowd was unable to hear the presentation. In a meager attempt to combat the inaudible nature of the presentations, a simulcast was set up in Sayles Hall. However, most people seemed confused as to the purpose of Sayles, and stayed outside. Further, there was a clear lack of security at the entrances and in the crowd of the Main Green. The school should have ensured that sufficient security guards were in place given the public nature of the event. A number of guests that I spoke with after stated their confusion over the amount of security on the streets at all times, while such a public event was nearly unguarded.

The presentations gave way to a fantastic firework display. Though at first it seemed small (many in the crowd using words such as “quaint” and “understated”), it soon picked up and was a spectacle for all present. At the beginning of the display, a massive “2 5 0” was set aflame on the middle of the green. The cries of joy that accompanied this moment offered up the feeling of a theme park, and yet there was a tangible feeling of pride and excitement for being a part of something so old that persevered through the years.

The following evening, I went to the Brown-Harvard Basketball game at the Athletic Center. Though Bruno was seemingly overmatched by the superior Crimson, the team seemed to gain energy and intensity from a larger-than-usual crowd. Brown entered halftime down six, but exploded in the second half to send the game to overtime. Despite Harvard’s dominant record, and inevitable invitation to the NCAA tournament later this month, members of the basketball team fought hard and proved themselves unbending in their resolve. The game concluded in a 98-93 loss for the Bears, but the team was met with a standing ovation from a proud and thankful crowd. More than any Brown sports contest I’ve been to, I felt a strong sense of school pride and togetherness. Based on my conversations, the large contingent of alumni that attended the game were thrilled with the spectacle.

Fireworks. By Stephanie Harris

This post is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

I decided that I would attend the cake and firework display on Friday night in order to participate in what I saw as the most anticipated event of the 250th anniversary celebration. I had assumed that I would stand somewhere on the Main Green where I could see the large University Hall cake and hear any speakers. However, when I got there, all I could see was a crowd of people. I am not one for crowds—they make me a bit anxious and I can’t stand being jostled around—so I decided to go and stand by the Bear Statue and to wait for the fireworks. While I stood there, I realized how much could be gleaned from just observing the reactions and interactions of the crowd. So, that is the perspective from which this blog post is written.

Standing just in front of the half-wall that surrounds the Bear Statue and a few yards from Faunce arch, I was able to hear and see many people’s first reactions to the Main Green as they entered. The most common exclamation I heard from folks who had just arrived was, “Where is the cake?” and “How will we get cake with so many people?” Behind me, a few children sat on their parents’ shoulders and on the Bear’s pedestal and chanted “we want fireworks, we want fireworks!” Everyone had come for their own reason. They had come to be entertained, or to be fed, or for both reasons. No one in my vicinity mentioned anything about being there for the community or to be amongst the members of Brown’s past, present and future. However, from where I stood, I saw current students, faculty members, alumni, and children all in one place for a brief moment to share in one experience from many perspectives for varied reasons.

None of us who were standing on the sidelines of the Green could hear anything that was said up on the Faunce steps, and my only view of the cake was through pictures texted to me by friends. This didn’t bother me, though. I, like the children behind me, was there for the fireworks. As the beautiful light display began, I was surprised how spectacular it truly was. I had honestly been expecting Brown to have been restricted due to budgeting, but the show proved me wrong. As I was thinking about this, a few of the people around me began to question the parts of Brown’s past and present that were being ignored and pushed under the rug by the dazzling, sparkling fire in the sky.

They wondered about where the money had come from and who had been hired for the set up and break down of the event. They wondered how Brown could convince donors to give so much to a fantastic, but in some ways superficial and gaudy, display of wealth but we had such difficulty finding sources for financial aid for students. Finally, I heard a few participants wonder if there would be an acknowledgement of the involvement of slave labor in the building of University Hall or of the exclusion of people of color in Brown’s early years.

We all came to the event for different reasons. We all had different perspectives of the presentations due, in part, to where we stood. But, in the end, we were all there to represent and to take part in the celebration of Brown’s past present and future. It is important to celebrate the aspects of Brown that make it unique and that have lead to its position as a forward-thinking university. It is also important to acknowledge that the institution that we celebrate is imperfect and has had its hand in systems and policies with questionable ethics. The voices in the crowd spoke for the imagined future of our university, for the experiences of the people who were able to be here on this day, and for the stories of people long forgotten. Whether we knew it or not, while we all gazed up at the artwork in the sky, we were bearing witness to the past, present, and future of Brown.

250th Anniversary Wind Symphony Concert . By Leah Stansky

This post is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

On Friday, March 7th, I attended the 250th Anniversary Wind Symphony Concert in Salomon Hall. George Masso, a Rhode Island composer and jazz trombone player, composed two of the pieces played during the performance and was in the audience during the event. His presence made me ponder about how he viewed the performance of his song and if, like Walter Benjamin probably would have thought, the reproduction of his art had lost its “aura” or “authenticity.” Although Benjamin’s main focus in his article, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, is on art as objects, he does touch upon art as music by quoting Leonardo da Vinci who compares painting and music: “Painting is superior to music because, unlike unfortunate music, it does not have to die as soon as it is born…Music which is consumed in the very act of its birth is inferior to painting which the use of varnish has rendered eternal” (Benjamin 250). By quoting da Vinci, I presume that Benjamin has similar beliefs, but I doubt George Masso would have and I do not either. Although music isn’t a physical being like objects are, this does not mean it “dies as soon as it is born.” In fact, I believe it is just the opposite: music can be born at any time through singing or musical devices, but objects can be destroyed through force. Moreover, I believe music has more of an “eternal” intention than most art objects because part of the actual intent of music is for it to be replayed: whether by the actual composer at concerts, by other musicians, or even (in today’s day) remixed by DJ’s. Benjamin argues that “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be” (Benjamin 220). However, music is the one art form that defies this notion because the element of time and space exists when a song is being played, regardless of whether it is played by the creator or not. I would have loved to talk to Mr. Masso himself about his reaction to the performance as well as his opinion on music reproduction, but I just had to scurry out of Salomon at the end to grab a last slice of cake!

Objects in the Context of Brown University’s History. By Emily Spinner

This post is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

spinner1 spinner

Throughout the semester, the readings that have interested me the most have been those focused on discussing agency; specifically, the tension between objects and humans and gifts and commodities. Therefore, I decided to visit the exhibit in Manning Hall, which housed an exhibit containing various iconic pieces of Brown University’s history. The first and second photos are classified as academic regalia, which “symbolize both social and academic distinctions. Worn in academia’s most important ceremonies, regalia indicates differences of rank, accomplishment, and affiliation. At the same time, it cloaks individuality to refer to an egalitarian ideal. The meanings of gowns, hoods, and caps are governed by codes standardized at the turn of the 20th century.”[1] In normal circumstances, I would argue that in most cases, it is the human who acts as the agent and influences the object. However, the academic gowns on display in Manning Hall made me reconsider. The design, material, and situation in which they are used have been the same for many many years, and though the people clad in these robes have undoubtedly changed, the meaning of the robes has hold steady through time. As Gell describes in Gosden’s article, “The Cultural Biography of Objects,” object can be seen as “social actors, in that they construct and influence the field of social action in ways which would not occur if they did not exist.”[2] In this way, the robes can be seen as the social actors because they influence specific academic ceremonies that have stood the test of time. The individuals who wear these robes earn them – they embody the specific qualities of a leader and rise to the top of the academic hierarchy. Therefore, it can be argued that it is the robes that provide meaning to an academic ceremony, not the people in them.

Though the display in Manning Hall exhibited many Brown University treasures, the academic robes stood out to me because I will soon be seeing them at graduation. In other words, the sight of the robes triggered something inside me – it acted as the catalyst to my sadness. In this case, the object undoubtedly acted as the agent, and I a simple bystander.


[1] Description of object in Manning Hall

[2] Chris Gosden and Yvonne Marshall, “The Cultural Biography of Objects, 173.

Brown University’s 250th anniversary weekend kicked off with a fun-filled Friday night of activities. By Keillor Irving

This post is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

keillor            Beginning the night was a campus reception and film (created by Brown alumna) entitled “The Brown Difference”. The film showcased not only Brown’s history, but also the various aspect of the modern university. Various faculty and alumni were interviewed, each of them discussing what Brown University and the “Brown difference” meant to them and how it helped shape their lives and the world. The film also showed the different elements of student life on campus, from athletics to acapella to lounging on the steps of Faunce Arch. It was an engaging and entertaining film for all, wether they be student, alumni, or not attend the University at all.

After the film there was some spare time before the cutting of the cake. In the meantime I visited the Haffenreffer Museum, which was open to the public, showcasing items from Brown’s history in celebration of its 250th anniversary. The Haffenreffer had ceremonial objects of the University (such as professor’s graduation dress) as well as other objects that represented the University. In one corner, there was even a pair of bear statues, one large and one small (I’m assuming mother and cub bears).

At this point the building had to be evacuated in preparation for the fireworks. Everyone gathered on the main green in front of Faunce for the cake-cutting ceremony. President Paxson welcomed everyone to the weekend and spoke about Brown, its history and its future. Various members of Rhode Island’s political scene spoke about Brown, and then a group of students recited a poem highlighting Brown’s role in pioneering diversity and rights. The University’s chaplain, Reverand Janet Cooper Nelson, then delivered a prayer for Brown in 250 syllables. President Paxson closed the speeches by declaring Brown the “Ivy League champion of fun”, and then proceeded to cut the cake while the fireworks began.

The fireworks were definitely the highlight of the evening’s events. It wasn’t terribly cold out, so the fireworks were enjoyable. The entire main green was filled with people, from Faunce Arch all the way to the fence at the other end of the green, which made for a great atmosphere. There were many different types of fireworks exploding above College Hill (all cool), but the most exciting part of the show was the ignition of “250+” in sparklers on the front of University Hall. The fireworks were an impressive display, although I wondered how high the risk of University Hall catching fire was. Overall it was a very entertaining and enjoyable evening, the perfect way to begin Brown’s 250th anniversary celebration.

Cake and Fireworks. By Valerie Langberg

This post is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Pastlangberg langberg2

I went to the cake and firework ceremony Friday night, and it was a lot of fun!  My friends and I arrived just before 6:30 and at first we were waiting just outside of Sayles, hoping to meet up with a few other people.  We couldn’t see or hear from there, so after a few minutes we decided to make our way closer to Faunce.  The main green was incredibly muddy and icy, but we managed to make our way through the crowd in order to be close enough where we could at least see the stage.  The cake looked amazing, and President Paxon was talking about something that we couldn’t understand.  Surprisingly, we found a few other friends and all huddled together for warmth.  By this point, a few students were up on stage speaking.  We couldn’t really tell wheat they were saying, but every now and then one of them would get really loud and emotional.  I thought they were trying to get the crowd riled up and excited about something, but apparently it was spoken-word poetry.  I really wish we could have heard them better, because I’ve been to poetry slams at Brown before and everyone there was super talented!  Sadly, I couldn’t hear anything from where I was so my friends and I just watched the people dancing in the windows of Faunce and joked about how cold it was.  Finally, the band started playing and Paxon cut the cake.  My group of friends burst out into “Happy Birthday,” but it didn’t catch on with the rest of the crowd.  Then it was time for fireworks!  That display was amazing.  The colors were great and there was a nice variety of style.  The giant 250 on the side of University Hall was super cool, and it was hilarious to see all the phones and cameras immediately go up over people’s heads to get pictures.  Most people dispersed pretty quickly after the finale, but two of my roommates and I decided we needed cake.  Again, we worked our way through the crowd toward the stage.  A few scattered people around us were holding plates of red velvet cake and it looked delicious.  We also hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so we were determined to succeed in our adventure.  And it was such an adventure.  Every time one of the waiters came down off the stage with another tray of servings, the crowd would cheer and wave to get them to bring the cake to their section.  It was clear the caterers were having a great time watching us push and scramble for a tiny piece of mass-produced cake.  At one point, one of my roommates tried to give up.  She declared that it wasn’t worth the wait and she was going to leave.  She turned around and saw a wall of hungry students behind her with absolutely no path to the back of the crowd.  My roommate and I started laughing because we knew she was stuck with us.  After about thirty or forty minutes we got to the front and grabbed some cake.  Getting out of the crowd was fun, because we had to convince people to make a path while trying not to drop the cake, the fork, or the entire plate.  We enjoyed our victory on the steps of Sayles.  It was surprisingly tasty for what it was!  As we finished up we noticed Bruno taking pictures with students, and we realized none of us had ever gotten pictures with him.  Naturally, this was the perfect opportunity.  We threw out our plates and forks and entered yet another crowd of excited students waiting to get a picture.  Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long for our turn.  As we left the main green, we discussed how strange it is to be seniors at such an old school.  We also talked about how lucky we are that during our time at Brown we got to experience both the changing of the presidency and a milestone birthday.  All around it was a great event!

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