Tuesday, August 6, 2013

UNC musicologist Annegret Fauser documents the musical uplift of war.

I first heard of Annegret Fauser’s research through an innocuous UNC press release touting a fellowship she received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to research classical music during World War II. Sounded interesting enough; it wasn’t about swing or boogie-woogie.

I tacked the release to my wall and waited for Fauser to do the heavy lifting—endless hours of research and writing—so I could swoop in and write about her findings. A year or so later, she had written several book chapters but was far from finished. Still, she agreed to chat with me, and we spoke for two hours, enthralled as I was about her subject—the concerted effort of musicians, army brass, and U.S. propagandists to make sure that classical music and classically trained musicians played a vital role in the war effort, more so than any other type of music or musicians.

We published a cover story about her initial research in 2011, back when Endeavors had a cover. It was and remains one of my favorite attempts at featuring the depth of nonscientific research at Carolina.

But I knew, as I always do, that my few thousand words couldn’t capture the whole of Fauser’s findings. Only her book could do that.

And now we have it. Published this spring through Oxford University Press, Fauser’s Sounds of War: Music in the United States during World War II is the definitive work on the scope of classical music’s influence at home and abroad during the war.

In a strange way, it’s fitting that Fauser—a musicologist born in postwar Germany—would be the one to write such a book. When I think of classical music, Europeans come to mind: Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, Handel. Though much of their music was co-opted for the American war effort, according to Fauser’s findings, officials in the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) worked tirelessly to get the works of American composers onto turntables and into concert halls for soldiers and civilians.

Aaron Copeland, for instance, was commissioned to write Lincoln Portrait, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Appalachian Spring for the OWI. Their popularity now transcends their intended purpose—the uplift of soldiers and civilians—but Copeland wouldn’t have composed them without the war.

Though Fauser documents the vast influence American composers and musicians had on the war’s musical landscape, as well as how music as therapy for wounded soldiers gained traction during the war, she also shows how propagandists Americanized European opera for the purpose of uplift. She shows how foreign-born composers and exiled musicians continued to write as refugees to support the American war effort. She also writes of foreign-born singers Ezio Pinza of Italy and Lotte Lehmann of Austria being declared enemy aliens and jailed for their presupposed loyalty to their home countries.

As Fauser says in her introduction:  “… Add to that the complicated history of concert music in the United States, with its unique anxieties over European influence and national identity, and the musical fabric of this period becomes quite difficult to weave.”

But weave it she does over the course of 271 hardbound pages.

Check out a video interview with Annegret Fauser, professor of music in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Also, here’s a video of a lecture she gave at the Library of Congress, titled “Music, War, and the Library of Congress.”

You can read the Endeavors feature here and buy Fauser’s book here or here.

Annegret Fauser is the Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Music and adjunct professor of women’s and gender studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

—Mark Derewicz
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

UNC demographer Jim Johnson tells it like it is regarding the great immigration debate.

When I decided to profile UNC demographer Jim Johnson for Endeavors and the Carolina Alumni Review, I knew part of the story would be about the economic effects of immigration, which he has researched extensively. I did write about that, but those sections never made it into the final draft. Instead, the profile focuses on Johnson’s new model of education for at-risk kids.

I did save those sections on immigration. I think professor Johnson’s research is worth a good look, especially while Congress debates immigration reform. So here they are:

CHAPEL HILL, NC, January 2006—The word in the media is that Hispanics are costing North Carolina a boatload of cash. They’re a drain on schools, prisons, and hospitals. They’re a burden, and many are here illegally.

The demographer in Jim Johnson knows that such issues are better measured by statistical analysis than by opinions in the press. And so he teams up with Jack Kasarda to find out just how much Hispanics cost North Carolina. Their research reveals that, in 2004, the state spent $817 million on education, health care, and corrections for Hispanics. Hispanics paid about $756 million in taxes. So, the net cost to the state was $61 million. 

But Johnson and Kasarda also find that the cost of Hispanics’ living here was overwhelmed by the billions of dollars they spent inside North Carolina. Hispanics, it turns out, add hundreds of millions of dollars to the state’s economy.

Johnson and Kasarda do the same kind of study for Arkansas, another state with a burgeoning Hispanic population. There, the money spent on Hispanics versus the money they paid in taxes resulted in a $19-million surplus for Arkansas. Tack that onto the $2.9 billion Hispanics added to the economy through purchases from local businesses, and it’s clear that Arkansas benefitted from its immigrant community.

In a nutshell, Johnson says that for every dollar that Arkansas spent on health care, corrections, and education of immigrants, it received ten dollars in revenue. That was before the recession. Now, according to Johnson and Kasarda’s latest work, it’s more like six dollars back for every one dollar spent. Still a good deal.

CHAPEL HILL, NC, March 2013—In a boardroom on Europa Drive, academics and administrators quiet down so Jim Johnson can speak the truth:

“The discussion about illegal immigration gets hijacked because we assume that the only people here illegally are Hispanics. Not true,” he says. “There’s a group of immigrants here called ‘nonimmigrants.’”

At least, that’s what they’re called by the part of the government that collects and organizes demographic statistics.

“They include people we invited to come here on a temporary basis,” Johnson says. “There are at least 68 categories of these folks—tourists, students, foreign diplomats, international baseball players—and all of them end up here on visas. Ladies and gentlemen, if you come to United States on a 90-day visa and stay 91 days, what are you called? You’re what the government calls a ‘visa over-stayer.’ But in reality you’re an illegal immigrant.”

About 40 to 45 percent of illegal immigrants are so-called “visa-over-stayers.”

“They walk through our door with papers from the federal government,” Johnson says. “When it’s time to go home, they stay.

“Remember the terrorists of 9/11. Six had temporary visas that hadn’t expired. Three were ‘visa over-stayers.’ Six, we don’t know how the heck they got here. One came on a student visa. He was supposed to go to California to learn English but instead went to flight school in Florida. We learned after the fact that the flight school reported this cat to Immigration Services and the Federal Aviation Administration. To anyone who’d listen, the flight school said, ‘We got this guy who can’t speak English but he wants to be a pilot.’

“Why don’t you hear much about this population of illegal immigrants—these visa over-stayers? Well, it’s big business for us. Tourists—that’s $3,000 to $5,000 per visit. International students—that’s $12.8 billion annually to our economy. Foreign baseball players make big dollars.” And so do the teams they play for.

“My message to you is that the immigration debate is far more complicated than the debate you hear,” Johnson says. “If you’re really worried about homeland security, it’s probably not a poor Mexican you should be worried about. It’s probably about visa over-stayers because they’re far more likely to be well-educated and sitting right beside you in some of the most sensitive areas of your organization. And you’d not even know it.”

~ ~ ~

Then there’s the side of the immigration debate that has everything to do with the baby boomers and our foundering health-care system.

“Every state in this country is in the midst of an unprecedented demographic change, a set of circumstances that will have enormous implications for all social, economic, and political institutions,” Johnson says. “These changes are going to irrevocably transform everything, including K–12 education.”

The stats are mindboggling.

Some 80 million baby boomers will leave the workforce over the next 25 years at a rate of about 8,000 a day. “And it’s not just an American thing,” Johnson says. “In Japan they’re selling more diapers for seniors than for babies.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, there are fewer and fewer workers in the 25–45-age bracket. One reason, Johnson says, is that the disability rate has doubled since 1969. The sorts of chronic illnesses people used to get in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, they’re now getting in their 20s, 30s, 40s. Diabetes, cancer, heart disease. “If people get debilitating diseases in their 40s, we could lose nearly 30 years of productivity,” he says. If they’re not productive, then they’re not kicking into the system—taxes, Social Security, etc.

During his research, Johnson found that, on average, we’re losing 14 years of productivity—per person—due to early onset of diseases.

 “This is the problem nobody is talking about,” he says. It’s not just that a lot of baby boomers are about to collect Social Security; it’s also that a lot of younger people aren’t working.

And this is one reason why Johnson says we shouldn’t be anti-immigrant. “Look at Alabama,” he says. “That state has put policy in place to drive away immigrants—taxpayers the state desperately needs. Alabama has five counties where there are 153 dependents for every 100 workers. It’s simply not smart to be anti-immigrant.”

In North Carolina, Johnson says, 33 counties have a death rate higher than the birth rate. There’s a brain-drain in many counties where young people seek work elsewhere, leaving behind an aging population. “Those counties can’t sustain themselves,” Johnson says. “It’s a train wreck in the making.”

Statewide, he says, the median age of a white female is 42. The median age of a Hispanic female is 22. “Completed fertility occurs between 40 and 44,” he says. There are 49 live births per 1000 white women. There are 101 live births per 1000 Hispanic women. “It’s not sociology, folks,” Johnson says. “It’s biology. The white population is aging out.”

The result, he says, is this: “In 2011, a profound shift occurred: for the first time in history, non-Hispanic white births were no longer the numerical majority.”

Many of those births were from immigrant women. Not just illegal immigrants from Mexico, but immigrants from across the world, some of whom came here with proper paperwork and some of whom didn’t. “Regardless,” Johnson says, “we’re gonna need every single one of them kicking into the system. We’re gonna need all that talent in the years ahead.”

Jim Johnson is director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, and the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. He’s also a senior research fellow at the Carolina Population Center and an adjunct professor of public policy, sociology, and geography in the College of Arts and Sciences.

—Mark Derewicz
Thursday, June 27, 2013

Geologist Roger Putnam creates the first-ever high-resolution map of Yosemite’s El Capitan

Most rock climbers visit Yosemite National Park to conquer El Capitan. UNC grad student Roger Putnam went there to map it. Well, that’s not entirely true, because to map El Capitan, Putnam had to climb it several times. And he had to chisel out samples without ruining the traditional routes that elite rock climbers use to scale the 3,000-foot, sheer wall of granite.

“My biggest hope for the map,” he told National Geographic magazine, “is getting people thinking about the complexity of the granite that makes up Yosemite. I hope it will reveal complex processes happening tens of kilometers below the Earth’s surface.”

Putnam suspended himself thousands of feet from Yosemite’s floor so he could chip off tiny samples of rock no one had studied up close and take them back to his UNC lab.

“I took every effort to sample in a way that could not be noticed by any climbers, because as a climber myself I would be loath to hear of someone chipping away at a route,” Putnam told the magazine. Not only do climbers want the route up a rock to remain the same, but chipping samples could pose problems for climbers beneath Putnam or for hikers at the base.“Even a piece of rock the size of a sugar cube could really hurt someone down below,” he says. “So I couldn’t just hammer away.”

Using the samples, photographs, and laser topographic scans, Putnam and colleagues in the lab of UNC geologist Allen Glazner could build a three-dimensional model of El Capitan, as well as traditional 2-D maps.

The park plans to use the maps, which will supplement the old ones that geologists made after viewing El Capitan through telescopes a hundred years ago. Glazner told National Geographic that the map can help climbers understand the types of rock they’ll confront. Researchers in Switzerland are using the maps to study rockfalls. And the park has plans for Putnam’s research, too.

Park geologist Greg Stock told National Geographic that he wants Yosemite’s park service to make interpretive displays based on the map to show visitors the complex history of the granite and how rockfalls change the face of El Capitan.

Roger Putnam is a master’s student in the lab of Allen Glazner, professor and chair of the Department of Geological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. Their research was supported through grants from the National Geographic Society.

—Mark Derewicz
Monday, June 24, 2013

Novelist Daniel Wallace is back with another whopper

The best novelists seem to will their stories into creation, as if they fully formed the plot and characters in their minds and then merely put their ideas to paper when the spirit moved them.

Nonsense. Writers aren’t seers. They’re ditch diggers. They fret over word choice, sentence style, story structure, tone, pace, plot twists, character development. It’s a laborious process, producing a book, that only the great ones can make look easy. The hard truth is that some of the best writers don’t even know what sentence will come after the one they’re currently conjuring.

This brings us to the mind of Daniel Wallace, UNC professor and author of five novels, including Big Fish, which director Tim Burton made into a movie in 2003.

When I interviewed Wallace for an Endeavors profile back in 2008, he told me why Big Fish ended up feeling different than most novels. Some chapters are just a page long; others feel very independent. That’s because Wallace was taking care of his one-year-old son and could only find time to write when Henry was napping. The myths of Big Fish started off as standalone tales. Only after Wallace wrote them could he see how they might coalesce into a novel of mythic proportions.

But now Henry is grown up. Wallace, who has four more novels under his belt, finds more time to write these days, though he still approaches his craft in much the same way he did in the 1990s. And that’s one sentence at a time.

In the case of his latest novel, The Kings and Queens of Roam, it all started—as these things do—with a sentence that he wrote many years ago:

“Rachel McCallister and her sister, Helen, lived together in the home they grew up in, and as far as anyone could tell (Rachel and Helen included), this is where they would die as well.”

That’s all Wallace had. “All I knew is that somewhere out there another sentence was waiting to come after it, and after I wrote that second one, the third, the fourth, the fifth.”

As the sentences came, so did the story. Booklist describes it as “an eerie fairy tale for grown-ups … a melancholy yet enchanting pastiche of love, loss, redemption, and revenge.” And as Kirkus Review says, “A tale of love, magic and reconciliation … a fanciful story layered in symbolism and ripe with lyrical language.”

That fanciful-fairy-tale bit is vintage Wallace. I wouldn’t call it his shtick, but he’s become known for spinning fantastical yarns, and The Kings and Queens of Roam is no different. In a way, though, he simply takes what all novelists do to a stranger level.

“I think that every novelist strives to create a world all its own, something self-sustaining, an idiomatic ecosystem—a world brand-new and dangerous that feels, at the same time, familiar, warm, hospitable, a place a reader might want to hang out for a while,” Wallace says. “Doing both, that’s the big trick. This is why, to the degree I succeeded doing it, I think of Roam as my first novel. It’s a place you’ve never been to before, and neither have I.”

And yet, Wallace writes it as the all-knowing narrator with a style all his own, and that makes the journey through Roam all the more entertaining.

Daniel Wallace is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences.

—Mark Derewicz
Friday, May 17, 2013

UNC undergrads come into their own with a daily newsmagazine.

Carolina Connection sounds a lot like the name of a program you’d hear on NPR, only a bit more hip. There’s a good reason why—the UNC students who run Carolina Connection receive ample training from NPR veteran Adam Hochberg, who teaches a course on how to produce radio segments from soup to nuts and then how to broadcast them on a local radio station: Chapel Hill’s WCHL 1360.

Hochberg isn’t interested in teaching students how to become NPR producers or correspondents; he wants them to have their own styles. But he also wants them to keep certain journalistic principles at the forefront of their work. This is not talk radio.

For instance, the segment introducing UNC’s incoming chancellor, Carol Folt, featured several sources from Dartmouth, where Folt had served as president, provost, and dean. The first few sources told Connection producer Kirsten Chang why they admired Folt’s leadership skills. But Chang also tracked down some of Folt’s detractors and contextualized their grievances with facts, giving listeners much-needed background information.

In the end, Chang wrapped up her segment as she saw fit—with a source telling listeners that any good leader who faces tough decisions during a long tenure will likely ruffle some feathers along the way.

That’s good reporting. Chang didn’t give equal weight to both sides; she tried to suss out the truth and paint an accurate picture for listeners.

Carolina Connection began back in 2004 and hasn’t missed a week since, except during summer and winter breaks.

In the past two years, the reporting has gotten sharper while the focus has broadened. UNC is still the main beat, but Hochberg encouraged students to search for stories, including investigative pieces, away from campus.

In April, UNC student Mark Haywood reported from Asheboro, North Carolina, on human trafficking. While reporting on a particular trafficking case, he found out that North Carolina has become a top destination for women who’ve been brought to the United States against their will.

Segments like that and the overall production quality of Carolina Connection have earned it the Most Outstanding Student Newscast Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009, 2010, and 2012.

And stuff like that—as well as Hochberg’s involvement—got the attention of producers at WUNC’s The State of Things. On April 25, Host Frank Stasio interviewed Hochberg and UNC students Mike Rodriguez, James Kaminsky, Haywood, and Chang. Take a listen.

—Mark Derewicz

annegret fauser_2013

Amnnegret Fauser, UNC musicologist