Rob Bowman assesses Michael Jackson on CBC’s ‘The National’

Rob Bowman, professor of ethnomusicology in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, spoke about Michael Jackson’s place in popular culture on CBC TV’s “The National” July 7 following the memorial ceremony to the pop singer. Below are some of his comments.

Now, in this case, we have a man who is an icon, a massive star…. I thought Reverend Al Sharpton was incredibly impressive…and I loved the message that he gave to Michael’s children, that “there was nothing strange about your daddy, it was strange what he was put through.”

Today’s coverage [of Jackson’s death] doesn’t surprise me. I guess it’s the coverage since a week ago Thursday that is a little dismaying. It’s, I guess, a product of the proliferation of media channels we have now, a product of cable television, a product of people in competition simply to fill airspace. We don’t just see it with Michael. We see it with any major event anywhere in the world. It gets done to death, back and forth, inside out. It strikes me as very parasitic, in fact, and it strikes me that the type of coverage we have had has largely not talked about Michael as a musician, Michael as a, you know, groundbreaking video artist, Michael as an unbelievable master of dance, if you will. The guy introduced the robot. The guy introduced moonwalking. His contributions to expressive culture have not been the focus. Instead, it’s been lurid details that might surround his death…. This is something unfortunately print and electronic media have been doing for a long, long time, and I think it’s terribly unfortunate and does say a lot of dismal things about our culture at large.

I’m hoping that the coverage that does follow from this day of closure is coverage that focuses again on his immense contributions to the world of popular music. He transformed popular music, and that seems to get lost in this voracious, vicarious, voyeuristic…need that people seem to have to find lurid details, and that’s what I find totally disgusting.

York student sings at Carnegie Hall

It was a surreal moment for North York’s Jacklin Falconer (BFA Spec. Hons. ’07) when she found herself singing on stage at famed Carnegie Hall in New York City last month, wrote the North York Mirror July 7.

Falconer was one of 13 York students and alumni who took part in the Carnegie Hall Concert Series by MidAmerica Productions June 28. The York University Singers were one of six choral ensembles who performed Mozart’s Requiem with the New England Symphonic Ensemble, under the direction of guest director John Rutter.

“Carnegie Hall has such a long history of great performers who have performed there,” said Falconer, a York University grad student studying choral conducting. “It was really exciting to be in the building. It has such tall ceilings and it was the largest audience I have ever performed in front of.”

Under the direction of Lisette Canton, music professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, the York University Singers began rehearsing for the New York City performance in the fall, perfecting their sound as the only Canadian choral group performing at Carnegie Hall.

A vocal student since age nine, Falconer said she was drawn into choral music while at York University. “I have an undergrad jazz degree and I still love jazz, but with classical music I have the chance to be a leader,” said Falconer, a conductor and one of Canton’s teaching assistants.

Canton said she received a call from MidAmerica Productions last summer asking if she could put together a choral group for the Carnegie Hall performance.

“It was a wonderful experience to be part of,” she said, adding the York University Singers are made up of alumni, graduate students studying choral conducting and music majors. “Anytime you tour it really bonds people. Anytime you do these kinds of things it gives you inspiration to keep going. It’s hard when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and we definitely saw a big light. It’s put York’s name on the map for sure.”

In defence of Jackie Tran

Jackie Tran committed serious crimes and has served the jail time imposed by the courts of this province, wrote Osgoode Hall Law School student Raj Sharma in a letter to the Calgary Herald July 8. Unlike a citizen however, he will be punished twice for those crimes if he is deported from Canada and separated, perhaps permanently, from his family here. The comments made with respect to a Herald article detailing Tran’s efforts to remain indicate that there is little or no sympathy for his plight. Much like an unwanted adopted child, we now seek to return him to his birthplace.

Sharma, a former immigration hearings officer currently completing his LLM at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, is representing Jackie Tran before the Federal Court of Canada, noted the Herald.