Chicago composer to host talk on race and identity

By The Daily Illini staff report

Renée Baker, a Chicago composer and the founding director of the Chicago Modern Orchestra, will hold a lecture discussing race and identity issues as reflected on art media on Wednesday.

Baker’s lecture, “Exploring the Unspoken Silences that Define Us as Individuals and Communities,” covers race and identity issues reflected in the past and present through art.

“I’m using images from media, which is from film and in particular ‘Birth of a Nation’ from 1915 to talk about prejudice in media and how we perceive each other as people,” Baker said. “This conversation needs to be had in order for us to understand similarities as well as differences.”

Baker said the art arena is inclusive of mediums, music and films that can help people understand each other and help engage the conversation about who they are as people.

The arena will bring out similar and dissimilar identities through the exploration of art, she said.

According to Scott Schwartz, archivist for Music and Fine Arts and director of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, part of the lecture will consist of watching sections from two historic silent films with sound scores written by Baker. Then, Baker will connect the idea of identity as depicted in the films to issues of identity today.

Schwartz thinks it is important for people to have conversations about race and identity because of the lack communications amongst people.

“We’re still shouting at each other,” he said. “We saw this even (on Tuesday) at the elections — it’s the most impolite experience of the country because it’s a political election. It’s the mindset we have.”

Because Schwartz wants people to continue the conversation on race and identity, Baker will return to the University to discuss another film.

It helps us talk openly about issues,” Schwartz said. “If we do, we’re moving in right direction at that point.”

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