ACUMEN Spring 2022

COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES 5 PICTURES FROM HISTORY / GETTY IMAGES Concertos Nos. 1 and 5, Emperor, in which he is both soloist and conductor. Recorded in Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall, the performance is a celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday. The dual role of performing while conducting at the keyboard was common during the classical period but largely disappeared in the 19th century with the growth of dedicated conductors and large symphonic orchestras. Concerto No. 1 was Beethoven’s first concerto, while Emperor represents the declining days of composers conducting from the keyboard. On this recording, Albulescu reprises the soloist/conductor role and leads the ensemble from the piano. The premise of the recording was to see and hear how the interpretation of these works might differ from what might be done otherwise, when subjected to the treatment of conducting from the keyboard, and what can be gleaned specifically in terms of interpretation from that experience, he says. “These two pieces bookend [Beethoven’s] career,” says Albulescu, associate professor of music. “You can trace between these two how [he] changed and how some of the ideas about conducting from the keyboard changed, which is part of my research. My background as a pianist and conductor enabled me to have experience with both of these works in these specific roles. “I have played these works since I was a teenage soloist, and these works have become some of my ‘old friends.’ I have subsequently performed them frequently as soloist while conducting from the keyboard, as is the case in this recording.” Albulescu brought together a collection of friends to make this soundtrack. The orchestra was compiled from an established association he maintains with the orchestra of the Ballet Guild of Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, which annually produces The Nutcracker. Albulescu has conducted that production and drew on members of the ensemble, together with faculty colleagues in Lehigh’s music department and professional artists who are members of such organizations as the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, MET Orchestra and New York City Ballet. “Through our time playing together, we have come to know each other quite well musically and are good friends. The pandemic was really bad for the arts. Working on this project with friends was one good thing to come out of it,” he says. MODERN LANGUAGES DICE AND GODS What do dice and gods have in common? In her latest project, Constance Cook is part of a collaborative effort to track dice divination across the Silk Road through a detailed study of the culture, poetics and ritual processes of dice divination in Chinese, Tibetan, Indian and Turkic contexts. The work traces the evolving identities of gods, dice, divination books and divination over time and space. In her book, Playing Dice with the Gods, Cook, along with colleagues at Georgetown University and New York University-Shanghai, delves into a 10th-century codex from the Dunhuang cave complex in Gansu, China, containing divination and medical texts, including one called the Divination of Mahe´svara. This text is in medieval Chinese but draws on a combined tradition of Inner Asian influences. Under the authority of a version of Indian god Siva, diviners cast four-sided oblong pa- ´saka dice to derive a numerical trigram, which, in turn, invoked a god and a fortune. The pantheon of gods was a local, perhaps Dunhuang-specific, collection of Indian and Chinese gods and spirits. Such methods place the text in a long tradition of Chinese numerical trigram divination on the one hand and within Indian dice divination traditions on the other. “It’s very complex and interwoven,” says Cook, professor of Chinese in the department of modern languages and literatures. “I had to decode all these different gods that each of these dice combinations would refer to. One level of interpretation involves figuring out where these different deities came from and how they interacted with the dice and the people who read the text. Then, there was the need to understand the cultural context of reading the manuscript itself and the history of overlapping divination, religious and cultural traditions of the medieval Dunhuang community. And so, it was a multilayered project and very fascinating.” Ultimately, the team hopes the work adds to a deeper understanding of how ancient cultures interacted and influenced each other.