A World Outside of the Big House

Over the course of the past week, I decided to expand my horizons. Instead of obsessing over the sports programs here at the University of Michigan, pamphlets plastered about the Union peaked my interest to explore new things. So, I attended a Women’s Glee Club Concert as well as a lecture about Imperialism and the World Wars of the Twentieth Century last week. Although the events were less riveting than hooting and hollering with over 100,000 of my closest friends at the Big House, these extracurricular opportunities were nonetheless proof of the University’s ability to captivate students in a variety of ways.

I was absolutely riveted by the performance of the Women’s Glee Club. Although I am not usually a fan of A Capella style music, the precision and vocal range of the performers were amazing. Listening to the performance seemed transcendent, as I experienced a variety of emotions. Some songs made me sad, while others made me feel elated. Darn it. Maybe this is no different from a football game. Maybe, musical performers experience the “magic ring” like athletes. In fact, they do and I think Huizinga would agree.

Hill Auditorium

Play must serve something which is not play, that it must have some kind of biological purpose.” Some may ponder why they enjoy music. I know many of times I have questioned why songs make me feel certain ways or how I can inherently classify a song as being a “sad” song or a “happy” song. The reason we are able to associate feelings with music can be explained by biology. “We developed an ear for the tones common in human vocalizations, the same way a sommelier might develop a taste for fine wines. Those are the tones we find most appealing and thus, the ones we made into our musical art.”

Just for fun: the Evolution of Music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lExW80sXsHs

Music, itself, is very powerful. In some cases, music is used to promote healing. The American Cancer Society uses music to help their patients. “There is evidence that music therapy can reduce high blood pressure, rapid heart beat, depression, and sleeplessness. There are no claims music therapy can cure cancer or other diseases, but medical experts do believe it can reduce some symptoms, aid healing, improve physical movement, and enrich a patient’s quality of life.”

As soon as the show was about to start, the lights dimmed and the conductor came out from behind the curtain. The rest of the Glee Club followed suit and lined up. With a simple wave from the conductor, the singing began. Throughout the performance, the conductor provided a variety of directions regarding pitch and timing. Then, with a swift closing of the hand, the girls immediately stopped. In Huizinga’s explanation of the “magic circle” he describes a separation from the outside world where “players” are forced to abide by the rules of the game. In this situation, the girls were completely entranced by the conductor’s movements as they sung, completely focused on their notes and pitch. Not only were the girls in the “magic circle,” but so was the audience. The packed auditorium could hear a pin drop as every spectator sat jaw dropped, watching the performance take place. Speaking for myself, listening to the performance took me to another place within my mind. In this place, I did not fret about exams or laundry. No. In this place, I was focused on the voices of the performers and the lyrics to the songs.

Speaking of which, there was a poem during the performance that caught my interest. The poem was called “Women” by May Swenson. The poem was a satire, taking note of the many stereotypes surrounding women in society. “Women should be pedestals moving pedestals moving to the motions of men.” Throughout the ages, women have been viewed as inferior to men. Many stereotypes surround women’s abilities as family providers, intellectuals, and as athletes. For example, we recently discussed the gender identification issue regarding famous South African Olympian Caster Seymena. Controversy erupted because of Seymena’s physical appearance and its correlation to her outstanding performance. A test was administered to see if Seymena was a biological women and the results showed she did not have ovaries, but she did have underdeveloped testes. This debate sparked world-wide attention as historic gender determining “guidelines” were ridiculed as being ignorant and insensitive. Professor Manty of the University of Michigan also discussed these differences in groups (men and women) and excellence in his essay “The Playing Fields of Eton: Equality and Excellence in Modern Meritocracy.”

Picture of Caster Seymena at the Olympic Games

Thus, I argue that as long as a person is capable of experiencing the “magic circle” they have a right to enjoy themselves without social biases or prejudices. As meritocracy in sports and competition continues to evolve, society has become more of an authority figure in administration. For example, society had placed stereotypes and biological labels on what it means to be a man and a woman. Because of this, participants in sports, like Caster Seymena, are facing the consequences of being unable to pursue their passions. If all individuals are equals, why are there gender labels? I watched those women in the Hill Auditorium transcend into a musical aura. Their talent and hard work made the performance as special as it was. Women. Men. Everyone deserves the right to their own “magic circle” without external societal pressures, whether it be in the classroom, on the stage, or in the stadium.