The Beauty and the students

When five graduate students began working on a journal assignment about aesthetics, they had no idea the project would turn into something described as an “audio masterpiece.”

The Beauty, which began as a simple paper assignment for Joanne Waugh’s pro-seminar philosophy class for first-year graduate students, became a creative outlet for each student’s views about different artistic aspects of philosophy. These students chose beauty for their assignment. They wrote journal entries about a different aspect of beauty and collaborated to form an audio project to accompany the journal for their professor.

Chioke I’Anson, one of the students who worked on the project, said their group was the only group in the class to take the extra initiative.

“Nobody else did a CD,” I’Anson said. “They just did a paper to turn in.”

The disc includes seven tracks in a series of monologues and conversations. The project discusses several types of beauty, beginning with the beauty of a sentence. It goes on to the beauty of death, life, perversion, the method of the project, as well as a conversation in which the students discuss what they think are the most important characteristics of beauty.

“All of us chose something that spoke to our being,” said Jason Campbell, a student who also worked on the project.

Campbell’s focus was the beauty of death. He said he wanted to relay an idea of beauty that might not always be considered beautiful, and he considered the beauty of death an appropriate choice.

“I learned a lot about the different aspects of beauty,” Campbell said. “You just learn to appreciate life a lot more.”

He said the journal was the main focus of the assignment, but the audio endeavor was incorporated because “there is only so far good writing can take you.” He said the five students felt if they put vignettes of The Beauty on a CD, it might reach more people. He said people who are experiencing the project for the first time should listen with open minds.

The journal project for Waugh’s class was modeled after Plato’s Symposium. Whereas Plato reflected on the different aspects of love in Symposium, the class was supposed to choose a topic meaningful to them and reflect on it, Campbell said.

I’Anson said each student’s monologue included elements that would contribute to the conversation heard on track six of the CD.

“Philosophy can’t happen without conversation,” he said.

I’Anson, whose focus was the beauty of perversion, said his portion of the project reflects his main concerns about beauty.

“People manufacture what beauty is,” he said.

His monologue reflects on what shapes an individual’s personal sense of beauty and includes excerpts from others about how the perversion of beauty affects their lives.

Each of the tracks is original, with the exception of “Sentence,” which is a recited passage from one of Hemingway’s works and an audio clip on track seven that is excerpted from the movie American Beauty. The group members selected the passage from American Beauty because the essence of the movie is related to the journal project, I’Anson said.

I’Anson produced the audio portion of the project through his production company, Chismatic Productions. The group used his experience as a production assistant to piece the project together. Producing an album like The Beauty was something he had always wanted to do, he said.

“For me, it was like a dream come true in the middle of the semester,” I’Anson said.

He hopes people will listen and learn about how joyful philosophy can be. I’Anson added that the CD is not going to be mass produced for sale and a price, if any, is yet to be determined, but copies would be made for those interested.

Regarding the group he worked with for the project, I’Anson said, “I think we’d all agree there is nothing better than philosophy.”

Contact Whitney Meersat