On Campus: Faculty News

Music Professor Publishes New Edition of Popular Mendelssohn Oratorio

Michael Cooper

When Felix Mendelssohn’s “St. Paul Oratorio” was first performed in 1836, it marked a milestone in music history.

The oratorio, which deals with Paul’s transformation from a persecutor of Christians to an evangelist for Christianity who is ultimately persecuted himself, was the first major oratorio to be published in nearly 40 years. It resurrected the art form, and inspired other composers such as Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann and Richard Wagner to write their own oratorios.

The St. Paul Oratorio was first performed in the United States in 1838, and has been performed continually ever since.

“Mendelssohn did for the oratorio as a genre what Beethoven did for the symphony,” says Michael Cooper, associate professor of music and holder of the Margarett Root Brown Chair of Fine Arts.

However, like many pieces published 100–150 years ago, the St. Paul Oratorio as it is now performed bears little resemblance to what Mendelssohn approved for use. Music enthusiasts will soon have the opportunity to hear the oratorio as Mendelssohn intended thanks to more than a decade of work by Cooper.

Bärenreiter-Verlag, a leading German publisher of classical music, released a new edition of the St. Paul Oratorio this fall that was prepared by Cooper. The two-volume score is nearly 900 pages and includes 230 pages of music that has never been heard before.

Cooper began researching Mendelssohn’s St. Paul Oratorio in 1992 as part of an independent research project. In addition to the oratorio’s importance in music history, Cooper says it is important because of the commentary it provided on a social issue that was raging during Mendelssohn’s youth—namely, the persecution of Jews in Europe.

“In the early 19th century, Jews in Europe were treated much like African-Americans in the United States were treated up until the Civil Rights era,” Cooper says. “They were very much segregated.”

Cooper says the oratorio reflects Mendelssohn’s personal belief in the importance of tolerance and the evils of persecution for religious beliefs. He inherited this belief from his grandfather, Moses Mendelssohn, who was a prominent Jewish philosopher and influential advocate for Jewish emancipation in the Enlightenment.

“This oratorio was an opportunity for Mendelssohn to bring together his personal experience, his grandfather’s cause (in which he believed) and contribute to contemporary discourse,” Cooper says.

Cooper traveled the world trying to locate surviving manuscripts, letters and diaries that could help him reconstruct the oratorio. He found them in libraries in Germany, Poland and England, as well as several in the United States.

In addition to adding 35–40 minutes of new music to the oratorio, the new edition features a completely new English text.

“Although the oratorio was originally published in German and English, over the years the original English text has been almost completely lost,” Cooper says. “No one in our lifetime has heard the complete text of the English words Mendelssohn approved.”

The public will have two opportunities to hear Cooper’s version of the St. Paul Oratorio next year. Kenny Sheppard, professor of music at Southwestern, plans to perform the piece with Chorus Austin March 29 at the Northwest Hills United Methodist Church. For more information on this concert, visit www.chorusaustin.org.

The piece will be performed in Georgetown June 8 as the finale to the 2008 Festival of the Arts, which is focusing on works of Mendelssohn. The Southwestern University Chorale and the San Gabriel Chorale will join Chorus Austin for this performance. For more information on this concert, visit www.georgetowntexassymphony.org.

The new edition of Mendelssohn’s St. Paul Oratorio is one of six critical editions of Mendelssohn choral works that Cooper was commissioned to edit in preparation for the 2009 bicentennial of Mendelssohn’s birth. Cooper is one of the world’s leading scholars on the music of Mendelssohn, who is often considered to be the 19th-century equivalent of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Southwestern, Canadian Researchers Collaborating on New Generation of Anti-Cancer Drugs

Frank and Lynn Guziec

Since the 1970s, a drug known as Doxorubicin has been one of the mainstays in treating solid tumors such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer. Although effective in treating cancer, the drug has a dangerous side effect: too much exposure can damage heart muscle.

“Doxorubicin is a very useful drug, but people can only take a certain amount of it in their lifetime,” says Frank Guziec, a professor of chemistry and holder of the Dishman Chair in Science. “Beyond that it becomes far too toxic.”

Guziec and his wife, Lynn, an assistant professor of chemistry, are collaborating with Brian Hasinoff, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Manitoba, on new drugs that would have the effectiveness of Doxorubicin without the toxicity.

Like many other anti-cancer drugs, Guziec explains, Doxorubicin works by binding to the DNA of cancer cells, which prevents the cancer cells from replicating. Unfortunately, the drug also interacts with other cells, particularly heart tissue.

While others have tried to modify Doxorubicin, the Guziecs have been able to synthesize new compounds with a totally different structure that will not react with heart tissue, but still retain their anti-tumor activity. These compounds, called anthrapyrazoles, are cyclic, flat molecules that can slide into the DNA structure in a process called intercalation, preventing cell growth.

The collaboration with Hasinoff began in the summer of 2004, when the two Southwestern professors spent the summer working in his lab in Winnipeg. They had already been developing similar compounds in their lab at Southwestern for about eight years.

The Southwestern researchers prepare the compounds and Hasinoff tests them on cell lines he grows in his lab. Hasinoff’s lab even has heart cells that can be used to test whether the compounds are damaging heart muscle.

“Neither of us could do this research alone,” Frank Guziec says. “This is the best kind of collaboration.”

The Southwestern researchers are working on developing about 12 different compounds.

The process involved in synthesizing the compounds involves many steps and is very technically demanding. It takes about a month to make each compound.

Hasinoff uses “molecular modeling” to predict whether certain modifications to the structure of compounds will make them more effective.

The team has published two papers so far and has recently completed a third. Earlier this year, the researchers received a “provisional patent” on their work, which gives them a year to prove the principle behind their work.

Currently, the Guziecs are trying to develop a next generation of the compounds that will be more stable. “The compounds need to stay around in the body long enough to be effective,” Frank Guziec says.

If the researchers can develop more stable compounds, their goal is to partner with a pharmaceutical company that would have the resources to produce large quantities of the compounds and carry out further testing. The University of Manitoba’s Technology Transfer Office is seeking potential Frank and Lynn Guziec partners on the project, and recently listed the team’s work as its featured “Hot Technology.” (see http://www.hot-technologies.ca/newsletter/fall_2007/sept_2007.html)

If the concept can get fully patented, Guziec says, a company would have 20 years to bring it to market.

Several Southwestern students have been involved in the research project over the years. Jennifer Lang ’02 and Kimberly Lawson ’04 were involved in making the first generation of the compounds and Kyle Marshall, a senior chemistry major, is working on the next generation of compounds for his honors thesis in chemistry. Marshall presented a paper about how a new series of compounds were made at the August meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

Professor Launches Podcast on the History of Science

Elizabeth Green Musselman originally wanted to be a science journalist and although she ultimately decided to go into academia and teach history, her love of science never faded.

Green Musselman, associate professor of history, recently launched a podcast on the history of science, medicine and technology. Podcasts are radio programs that are available online, usually for free, for listening at any time. “The program is designed to help make my discipline more accessible to a wider audience,” she says.

Her podcast, “The Missing Link,” is released monthly. Her first podcast was called “Stranger than Fiction” and considers some of the ways that science fiction has drawn inspiration from planetary science. Her second podcast was called “Opposites Attract” and examines the issue of men and woman as opposites. The third episode features the history of science and medicine in Berlin.

The podcasts are available online at http://missinglinkpodcast.wordpress.com/ and through iTunes. Each episode is approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Many of the podcasts also feature audio essays by students in Green Musselman’s History of Science classes. “As final projects, the students research, design and record essays on topics of their choosing,” Green Musselman says. “I am encouraging listeners and fellow historians to contribute their own material as well.”

Green Musselman says that within the first two months, her podcast gained an international following. Listeners from 18 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Sweden and Taiwan have visited the site, as well as listeners from all over the United States.

Green Musselman says she became interested in podcasts while knitting—a favorite hobby of hers. “Podcasts are beneficial for people who are looking for things to feed their mind during other activities,” she says.

Although it takes a while to master all the technology required to produce podcasts, Green Musselman says they have many advantages for students and faculty members alike. “Podcasts can help free up class time for more one-on-one interaction,” she says. “For scholars, they also allow the immediate and inexpensive release of information.”

They also give students an opportunity to get their ideas out. “The students are scared at first because their ideas are going to be seen and heard by others besides their professor, but once they get into it, they really enjoy it,” Green Musselman says.

Shannon Winnubst

Shannon Winnubst Named to Endowed Chair

Shannon Winnubst, professor of philosophy, has been named holder of the Carolyn and Fred McManis Chair in Philosophy.

The McManis Chair in Philosophy was established in 1972 by the trustees of the McManis Trust. Fred McManis was a friend of former Southwestern President John Score and president of the W-K-M Company, a Houstonbased company that made valves for the oil industry. As holder of the chair, Winnubst will receive extra funding to develop programs on campus or to further research projects.

Winnubst holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an M.A. and Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University. She has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 1994. In addition to her responsibilities as a professor of philosophy, Winnubst ON CAMPUS has taught numerous First-Year Seminar classes and served as chair of Women’s Studies (now Feminist Studies) from 1999–2001.

Faculty Favorite Five

Members of the “Faculty Favorite Five” included (l-r) Vicente Villa, Martha Allen, Weldon Crowley and Eric Selbin. At right are the sons of Frederick Gaupp— Peter and Dieter Gaupp. Not shown is Jesse Purdy.

Who are the most popular faculty members among Southwestern alumni? This year’s Homecoming activities included voting for the “Faculty Fav Five.” Six all-time favorite faculty members ended up being selected due to a tie. The recipients were:

  • Martha Allen, professor emeritus of history;
  • Weldon Crowley, professor emeritus of history;
  • Frederick Gaupp, professor emeritus of history;
  • Jesse Purdy, professor of psychology and chair of the Animal Behavior Program;
  • Eric Selbin, professor of political science and University Scholar; and
  • Vicente Villa, professor emeritus of biology.

The “Fav Five”—or rather, six, were honored during a reception at Homecoming.