Student finds harmony in music and language

While many students at Colby like to discuss their academic endeavors, some students pursue passions outside of his or her major or minor. In the case of Brett Ewer ’14, academic and extracurricular pursuits are combined. A classics and classic civilizations major, Ewer is very interested in ancient communities. However, what makes this particular student interesting is the way in which he integrates his affinity for music with his major.

Ewer is a busy student: he plays the trumpet and the recorder, sings in the chorale and is on the chorale exec board. In addition, Ewer is on the Student Advisory Board for the Center of the Arts and Humanities, tutors student in Latin and Greek and is a member of the International Artwhistling Philharmonic Society.

Ewer has been passionate about music since before he can remember. “I sang before I was able to really speak… music is really only extracurricular for me. I really like music because it ties into my area of academic study, which is Classics and primarily the language side of things,” Ewer said. He continued, “What I find really interesting is that…music is a language…of sound and space… As we’ve evolved and spread out as humans across the globe, we all develop our own tune… And I kind of try to bring that to whatever I’m studying.” Ewer’s approach to music translates into his extracurricular activities and his academic courses. “Whether I’m in Chorale or Jazz Band, I like to think about how this is a language… and how each thing is really interacting with each other. When I’m translating Greek or Latin, I like to think about what is the rhythm of what these people are saying.” Greek and Latin aren’t the only languages that Ewer focuses on; he is also interested in how Americans speak. He explained, “When we are speaking, we are making a sort of music. We don’t really think about it, but think about how much more pleasurable someone’s voice is when they speak slowly and deliberately and they don’t have too long of pauses, but they have a constant flow, and there’s a crescendo, and then it comes back down. There’s a prosody.”

The idea of rhythm and language ties into another of Ewer’s interests: politics and government. “In the way that politicians speak, they have their own meter, and that really affects how people perceive them… We don’t realize how susceptible we are to the musical underpinning of our language… English is very suited to iambic pentameter… If someone strays from that meter, it gives a different effect.” Ewer tied this into current politics, explaining, “Obama, for example, uses a lot of trochees. It’s fascinating to hear how he switches up his meter, and when he wants to make a point, he’ll use a spondee: a long, long. It gives a settling effect.”

Ewer’s interest for music and language is encapsulated in his overall interest in rhetoric. Ewer is fascinated on “how music plays into rhetoric and philosophy of language and how that has effects on all of us, especially at the core of the operating center of our society, which is the government.”

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