Follow the Reindeer: Hanna Pylväinen's novel tracks missionaries and herders living on the Scandinavian tundra in 1851

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Hanna Pylväinen and her book The End of Drum-Time

How do you know when an action is a mistake or a choice?

This distinction is the question and crux of many turning points in The End of Drum-Time by U-M alum Hanna Pylväinen

As character Risten Tomma reflects on her decision to marry Mikkol:

But was that all it was, then? You said a thing and then it all changed, you lived with another man now, someone else came into your lávvu and slept with you across the fire from your parents. There would be a new dog, and even their dogs would have to learn to get along.

Some changes are anticlimactic, while other changes are catastrophic. 

The sweeping, well-paced novel is set in 1851 in the Scandinavian tundra with missionaries and reindeer herders both vying for their ways of life. Another one of the main characters, Willa, the daughter of the pastor Lars Levi Laestadius, faces numerous life-altering decisions over the course of the book. Early on "she was a kettle left at a gentle boil, and with her heat she did nothing more than make coffee or tea.” Yet, when she starts encountering Ivvár Rasti on her walks, a stronger wave begins to roil in her for him, despite the fact that he calls her “a good little báhpa nieida, good little church-girl.”

Willa steps deeper and deeper into an irreversible series of events in which:

Between the Lines: The City Lines use a mix of Americana, power-pop, and punk to explore emotional 'Memories' on second album

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The City Lines' Skott Schoonover, Bob Zammit, Pat Deneau, Megan Marcoux, and Jason Rhoades perform at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor.

The City Lines' Skott Schoonover, Bob Zammit, Pat Deneau, Megan Marcoux, and Jason Rhoades perform at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. Photo by Sam Harms Photography.

The City Lines’ vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter Pat Deneau links personal stories as a father, husband, firefighter, and tribal member into a perceptive collection of songs on his band’s latest album, Analog Memories.

“Particularly, I like the idea that every song—kind of like city lines—butts up to each other … and continues some sort of throughline,” said Deneau, who is a firefighter with the Ann Arbor Fire Department and a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

“I like how the first tune ‘Different This Year’ opens up with this thought like, ‘OK, a fresh start,’ and I reference [our first album] Waiting on a Win in the second line. It’s this idea of ‘I’m tired of waiting on wins; I just gotta go out and get one.’

“That feeling is carried through to the end of the record on the final song [‘Finding a Way’] where I’m singing to my daughter. The notion there is I have to be better for her and how do you get there? You just have to find a way.”

While wrestling with existential ideas on Analog Memories’ seven tracks, Deneau finds his way forward through spirited choruses, propulsive power-pop-punk instrumentation, and a touch of classic Americana twang.

“There’s a line from ‘Far Enough’ that says ‘Looking back far enough / So I can move forward,’” said Bob Zammit, The City Lines’ drummer. “If you’re going to grab a lyric and be like, ‘Here’s the creative brief for what we’re doing here after the fact,’ I think it’s that.”

The City Lines will bring their Analog Memories tracks to life on June 21 outside the Downtown Library for Make Music Day, a free musical celebration with concerts by musicians across the city on the summer solstice.

Bandmates Skott Schoonover (bass), Jason Rhoades (lead guitar), and Megan Marcoux (acoustic guitar, backing vocals), will join Deneau and Zammit for the performance.

We recently spoke to Deneau and Zammit about their backgrounds, the band’s formation, the creative process for Analog Memories, select tracks from the album, their Make Music Day performance, and upcoming plans.

My Make Music: A personal guide to Ann Arbor's first Make Music Day

MUSIC PREVIEW

Kenji Lee and Olivia Cirisan

Kenji Lee and Olivia Cirisan are two of the 29 acts scheduled for the first Make Music Ann Arbor Day, June 21. Photos courtesy of the artists.

The summer solstice is a day of maximum tilt.

Not just because the Earth's northern hemisphere comes closest to the sun on June 21 but also because cities around the globe will be turning things up to 11 for Make Music Day, which encourages a celebration of sounds in plazas, parks, and porches by artists of all genres—all presented for free.

Make Music started in 1982 as Fête de la Musique in France and has expanded internationally to more than 1,000 cities in 120 countries. The first Ann Arbor edition debuts June 21 with 29 musical acts at 13 venues across town, including the Ann Arbor District Library, which is also the local coordinator of Make Music Day.

The Make Music website allows you to filter artists by genres and the shows by venues, so I went through and made my own personal festival guide, one that takes me from a forward-looking jazz trio to a forward-looking world-jazz quartet with some Indian classical, Latin-classical, techno, electronic pop, power pop, flower pots, and indie rock in between.

Friday Five: The Biscuit Merchant, Audion, Noah Fishman & Baron Collins-Hill, Time Creep, The Mercer Patterson Quintet

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Art for the albums and singles featured in this week's Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features melodic death metal by The Biscuit Merchant, stripped-down techno by Audion, bluegrass by Noah Fishman and Baron Collins-Hill, indie rock by Time Creep, and jazz by The Mercer Patterson Quintet.

 

Stamps Gallery launches its second annual "Envision" exhibition, which highlights Michigan-based contemporary artists

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

Three pieces by Stamps' Envision 2023 finalists.

Left to right clockwise:
➥ Bakpak Durden, Double Crown of the Distant One, 2022, Khēmia Series. Oil and archival ink on wood panel, 48” x 72” Diptych. Image courtesy the artist.
➥ Levon Kafafian, The Summoner, Hyürabed, 2020. Handwoven cotton, rayon, silk, wool, dye, found fabrics, beads, leather, metal, and wood, 5’7” x 20” x 10.” Image courtesy the artist. 
➥ Parisa Ghaderi, For Dancing in the Streets, 2023. Video installation. Image courtesy the artist. 

The University of Michigan's Stamps Gallery recently opened its second annual exhibit Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative 2023, featuring works by contemporary artists living and working in the state. 

But the finalist for the $5,000 grand prize won't be announced until June 29 at an awards ceremony.

Parisa Ghaderi, Levon Kafafian, and Bakpak Durden are the 2023 Envision finalists and you can see their multimedia pieces on display through July 29. All three artists will make individual appearances at Stamps in July to discuss their work.

You can learn more about the artists and watch four short videos documenting the Envision: The Michigan Artist Initiative 2023 below:

U-M's North Campus Research Complex galleries debut three new exhibitions

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

Images from the NCRC summer 2023 exhibitions

Clockwise from the left, works in the North Campus Research Complex's summer exhibitions by Matthew Zivich, Cristina Joya, and Julianne Orlyk Walsh. Photos courtesy of the Rotunda and Connection galleries.

The University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) is a place for scientists and businesses to develop ideas and projects that can affect real-world change.

The NCRC is also the home of two low-key galleries that run regular exhibitions featuring artists with connections to Michigan (the state and/or the university).

On June 15, 4-7 pm, the NCRC will host a reception for three new exhibits running in the Rotunda and Connection galleries through August 11:

Matthew Zivich, Americana
Cristina Joya, Something Holy
Julianne Orlyk Walsh, Chronicle

Read more about the artists and their works below:

Watch Frederick Ebenezer Okai’s massive sculpture "When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens" journey from Ghana to Ann Arbor

VISUAL ART

Frederick Ebenezer Okai’s When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens

Installation shot of When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens, clay, duvet, light, nylon rope, metal wire, polyurethane glue, 2022. 174.1” x 83.1”. Photograph by Frederick Ebenezer Okai. Museum purchase made possible by the UMMA Director’s Acquisition Committee, 2022.

The We Write To You About Africa exhibition at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) isn't really an exhibition in the traditional sense.

It launched in 2021, both online and in person, and is scheduled to run indefinitely because rather than being a limited-time display of UMMA's art plus borrowed pieces, it's actually a reinstallation of the Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen Gallery of African art with the connected A. Alfred Taubman Gallery II space. The combined rooms double the amount of space the museum can use to highlight art drawn from collections across the U-M campus as well as new additions to UMMA.

The latest work to join We Write To You About Africa is Frederick Ebenezer Okai’s When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens, a nearly 15-foot-tall sculpture by the Ghanian artist that comes in three parts: a vaselike clay body decorated with various patterns, topped by a ceramic depiction of two humans, with clouds hovering over the other sections.

UMMA released a video that follows the journey of When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens from Accra, Ghana to Ann Arbor and its installation at the museum. Check it out below:

Ice Capades & Identity: Caroline Huntoon’s “Skating on Mars” follows a nonbinary middle schooler trying to find their place in the world

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Skating on Mars book on the left; author Caroline Huntoon on the right.

Author photo by Hannah Holland.

In the new middle-grade novel Skating on Mars by Ypsilanti writer and educator Caroline Huntoon, Mars is a nonbinary figure skater who is not only navigating how to be who they are but also grieving their father and experiencing the tumult of middle school friendships.

One of Mars’ challenges is to figure out how to express themselves in different aspects of their life, from revealing their preferred name and pronouns to their mom and sister to dealing with critical peers. Even though skating has always been a refuge for them, one of their coaches pushes them to bring their own style to their skating program. After demonstrating, Dmitri clarifies his request, which Mars questions: 

“See, that’s not you,” Dmitri says.

“What?” I ask.

“It was the same steps, but not what you did before. And not what you should do in your own program.”

“Okay…” I’m still not sure what he expects from me. 

“You have to find yourself. And the rest will come.”

“Yeah,” I say, my voice flat and low. In my head, I’m screaming, JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO! And somewhere else altogether, I feel this horrible uncertainty about what Dmitri is telling me to do. Find myself? I’m not lost. That’s not the problem. Not really. 

This issue is one for which Mars must live their way into an answer. The book chronicles their journey in first-person narration by Mars, including their perspective on their sport, friends’ betrayals, a first crush, and emotional processing. 

Mars’ competitive nature sets the scene for a showdown with another skater and for pushing the gender boundaries on the ice. Whether they can manage the pressure, shift their family and friend’s understanding of who they are, and continue doing what they love become ongoing questions through the book. One thing is clear: Mars cannot chart their own path solely by themself. 

AADL’s Downtown Library is hosting Huntoon for a reading, Q&A, and signing Thursday, June 15, at 2 pm.

I caught up with Huntoon for an interview. 

Friday Five: Music From the Once Festival, Evan W, We're Twins compilation, Sultana, Ownee

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Art for the albums and singles featured in this week's Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features experimental music from Ann Arbor's Once Festival (1961-1966), synth works by Evan W, noisy hijinks from the latest compilation excavated from the We're Twins label, and dance mixes by Sultana and Ownee.

 

Holistic Healing: The Prog-Rockers in Cat Lung Find Slivers of Hope and Connection on “Fragments” Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Cat Lung's Pamela Benetti, David Beauchesne, Diane Crang, and Steven Crang stand outside near two tree stumps with a group of trees behind them.

Cat Lung's Pamela Benetti, David Beauchesne, Diane Crang, and Steven Crang make a plea for healing on Fragments. Photo courtesy of Cat Lung.

After feeling torn apart during the pandemic, Cat Lung assembled a holistic approach to healing on Fragments.

The Ann Arbor prog-rock quartet replaced shards of disillusionment and loss with slivers of hope and connection on its sophomore album.

“I was doing a lot of the lyric writing over the pandemic, and there was a lot of stuff that was going on—societal unrest, oppression, violence, climate change—you name it,” said Diane “Impi P.” Crang, one of the band’s vocalists and a multi-instrumentalist. “There’s so much nastiness in the news, and that’s where the lyric ‘what a world’ came from.’”

That lyric repeatedly appears in Cat Lung’s insightful title track, which features guitarist Pamela “Pammy Whammy” Benetti, bassist Steven “Even Steven” Crang, and drummer-percussionist/vocalist David “Dr. David” Beauchesne with Diane “Impi P.” Crang trying to process a divisive world alongside chaotic instrumentation.

Crang sings, “What a world, what a world / What a world we’re living in / When does sanity begin? / Patience gradually wearing thin / Graciousness can be found within.”

“The music for this track was initially written by Pam about 30 years ago, and we dusted it off, polished it up, and I wrote lyrics for it. The song is an observation, as well as a plea for us all to do better—for ourselves and for each other,” said Crang, who joined the band after husband Steven Crang, Benetti, and Beauchesne met through two different craigslist ads in 2016. “The four of us are all pretty done with the ugliness in the world and hope for better days ahead. In the end, Fragments being the title of the album was one on which we could all agree.”