Share / Discuss

blue feather


Blue is musical. As an instructor at Swarthmore, Andrew Hauze ’04 has twice performed George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on piano along with the wind ensemble.

“I suspect the title had special resonance for Gershwin, a brilliant amateur painter, whose work so abounds in ‘blue notes’—in which certain notes of the Western scales are lowered for expressive effect—and the influence of African-American musical styles,” Hauze says. “It’s great fun to unpack its many musical influences and to encourage the students to dig in, trying to bring out the vernacular nuances of this many-layered work.”

While people have talked about “having the blues” or “the blue devils” for centuries, the blues as a musical form emerged in the U.S. after the Civil War.

“The expressive power of the blues now pervades so much of our culture, from the great torchbearers of the original style—such as Muddy Waters and B.B. King—to the rock and pop performers deeply influenced by the blues recordings they encountered early in their lives—such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton,” says Hauze. “Musicians around the world now speak of blue notes, though this way of referencing the subtle inflections of blues musicians often oversimplifies a very nuanced practice.” —KC


“I’ve never seen so many different shades of blue as I have looking out over the Grand Bahama Bank,” says Kathleen Moran Hanes ’94. Scuba diving daily, she explored hidden pockets of the watery field site while researching the impact of green turtles and other creatures foraging in seagrass beds.

And so, her first children’s book, Seagrass Dreams, surfaced.

A vibrant and beautiful introduction to counting, the picture book explores life within these important nursery grounds for conch, lobster, shrimp, and crabs. Hanes’s favorite is the perfectly named bucktooth parrotfish, which wields its oversized teeth (really its mouth) to shred seagrass blades and scrape off pink or white algae.   

“Bucktooth parrotfish contain many of the colors of the rainbow and absolutely shimmer when the sunlight strikes them,” says Hanes. “Each of the organisms seems to have its own colorful personality, whether it is a yellow stingray playfully burrowing into the sand to hide or a silvery barracuda menacingly surveying the scene.”

Gentle gray dugongs (a relative of manatees) have a great appeal, too.

“They snuffle along the ocean floor and remind me of cows grazing in a pasture,” Hanes says.

All of this dizzying color is set against the backdrop of hardworking seagrass blades that slow down water currents and provide shelter.

“This creates a calm, protected place for juvenile organisms to hide and feed as they grow,” she says. “I’m interested in all of the organisms that make those colorful meadows their home.”—KC


Listening to music through the color lens—and breaking away from cultural symbolism—opened the mind of Jon Kriney ’20, who created the campus radio show Sound! Color! Yay!

“I found a much more complex emotional relationship to color,” says Kriney, who discovered his favorite was blue ... and not just because of Joni Mitchell.

Although his crusade to curate colorful playlists ( hasn’t quite connected with a large audience yet—the midnight-to-2 a.m. shift for the WSRN 91.5 FM show may have something to do with it, he laughs—it hasn’t dampened his quest, either.

“Doing this show has made me think about color in terms of not just how it looks,” says Kriney, “but how it sounds and smells, and the emotions that are associated with it.” —KC