‘Till It Happens to You: Addressing College Rape Culture

I’ve stressed over the last few days about what to write about for this post. A lot has happened in politics and pop culture—the Republicans tore each other apart at their second debate, and the Emmys rewarded ‘Veep’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ as this year’s top shows (shout out to Amy Poehler and ‘Parks and Recreation’ for their incredible season. You guys may not have won any awards, but you will always be a favorite). But as these timely events passed into ‘yesterday’s news’ territory, I felt everything regarding these events was already said.

And then Lady Gaga dropped the music video for her single “Till It Happens to You,” composed by Diane Warren, and the anthem for the campus rape documentary “The Hunting Ground.”

When the song first appeared a few months ago, the message was clear—it captured the raw and emotional process of dealing with the aftermath of rape, trying to keep moving forward despite the trauma that comes with that experience. Even with the support from friends, family, and professionals to help you stay strong, you will always carry that lingering pain, and no one will understand that—unless it happens to them.

This does not, by any means, mean that things will never get better. As victims of rape, sexual, physical or emotional assault, the key is to learn to move forward and to know that what happened to you was not your fault, and that you are still able to live your best life. Rape is a terrifying, brutal trauma that no woman should go through (I am purposely singling out women for this particular discussion, however that does not mean that rape does not happen to men), but there are ways to rebuild.

You don’t really get the second part of that message from the song, but as you watch the haunting video, you realize how important it is to offer help and support to victims of rape. I got angry watching the video, because rape culture should not be something swept under the rug—it is real, and it needs to end.

The video opens to black and white shadows in a hall, then shifts to three story lines—a girl in her dorm room, another in the bathroom, two more dancing at a party, all instances where you should always feel safe, and then the attacker is introduced in the scene. (I don’t think I’ll ever shake the predatory look in the eyes of that curly-haired hipster at the party). And without the screams, we watch as these young girls are stripped of their former self, their lives changing in a matter of seconds.

The second half of the five-minute video deals with the after effects of each rape. The girl in the bathroom refuses to shower, because she is too afraid it will happen again. The two girls at the party, who were drugged and raped, lose their friendship because of the incident, resulting in one moving out of the dorm room they shared. Their lives are shattered, and eventually, with the help of friends, they are able to start taking control of their lives again. But that is a process that does not happen overnight—it’s a lifelong effort to repair yourself from something that took only seconds to crumble your world.

What I find so disturbing from this video is that in each story, these girls are supposed to be protected. They shouldn’t have to worry about someone coming in and harming them in their own home; they shouldn’t have to worry about dancing or drinking at a party; but this is the world we live in. And it is not ok.

When I first entered college, my school’s orientation team gave a presentation of issues you would have to deal with in your freshman year. Some were lighthearted, like choosing studying over a party, overbearing parents, or changing your major, but others were more serious, with rape culture looming over the examples. I remember my school warning us about date rape drugs, encouraging us to always keep an eye on our drinks. Even now as an adult, I fear taking my eyes away from my drink at a bar, even if I just have to pick up something on the floor. We are taught to always assume the worst, that rape culture is part of our world and it is our job to protect ourselves from it. But that doesn’t solve the problem that rape is still happening in our colleges, in fact, it teaches us that rape culture is here to stay, and there is nothing we can do about it. THAT is where we need change.

Gaga’s lyrics are right—you won’t know what it feels like until it happens to you. You won’t understand the fear and anxiety that goes into your everyday life. You won’t know what it feels like to sit in your shower, trying to wash away the bruises that constantly remind you of what happened. And even when the physical signs fade, you will always live with that pain.

I think the point of this video, and of the documentary, is to change our perception of rape. Instead of teaching our girls about ways to prevent themselves from becoming victims, we need to educate society as a whole about ways to end rape culture. I don’t think I will ever understand how the use of a date rape drug is a good idea for an attacker. I see no way that rape could be justified. I see no way how it could be blamed on the victim. And yet, this is the world we live in.

All That Jazz

By Kelleigh Welch

The original article in Pro Sound News.

The original article in Pro Sound News.

Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of Pro Sound News.

At 4 p.m., the hall is empty. Everything is ready for the big night—the orchestra’s stands  are perfectly arranged under the stage, the microphones are cleaned to add a little sparkle, her elaborate costumes are neatly arranged backstage—all just waiting for the show to start. The crew is expected at 5:30; the plan is to hold a brief rehearsal, let the musicians settle in, and practice a few numbers with Tony before the doors open.

It’s the final night of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s four-night residency at Radio City Music Hall. Tom Young, the long-time production manager for Bennett, invited me to the historic hall before the show to see the set up and talk about working with the two platinum performers on their unexpected collaboration. With only the occasional patter of  footsteps of a venue employee, Young and I saw the silent side of the legendary room—the Art Deco walls echoing back tales of past performers that had passed through—as we dug into just how he helped bring the performance to life each night.

“Radio City—it’s probably my favorite music hall,” Young said, who, as a native of the New York City area, holds extra affection for the 6,000-seat venue. “I was actually a design  consultant when they did the renovations because I had mixed here so much.”

With an age difference of 60 years, the pairing of famous crooner Tony Bennett and pop superstar Lady Gaga might seem an unlikely match, but with her classical training, Gaga really stepped out and showed her versatility in Cheek to Cheek, the jazz album she and Bennett recorded together and released back in September, 2014. As a longtime fan of Gaga, I’ve known her talents from trolling the Internet for underground, acoustic performances, but with Cheek to Cheek, she’s able to really showcase her abilities front and center—breaking herself away from that meat-dress image she created back in 2010. Now on tour, it comes as no surprise that for the New York City stop, Bennett (a native of Astoria, the northern neighborhood in Queens), and Gaga (of New York City’s Upper West Side), would choose Radio City. Acknowledging the setlist of songs that relied on the acoustics of a room, Young said Radio City’s performance hall is capable of supporting that need.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett at the 2015 Grammy Awards

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett at the 2015 Grammy Awards

“The room is so responsive—you can hear everything, even the grooves on the cymbals; that’s my favorite,” Young explained. “My goal is to capture a good performance. I have a lot of experience and I know that every room has its own personality.”

“Tony does this one number a cappella with no mics at all, and the room really helps make that impact even stronger. Tony owns the art of intimacy—it’s like he’s performing just for you,” Young added.

The stage set up for the Cheek to Cheek tour is fairly minimal. For reinforcement, the tour relies on each venue’s house system, so for the Radio City performances, they used a QSC-powered JBL VerTec line array system (which Young was instrumental in adding to the venue during the redesign). Young controlled the PA with a Yamaha PM5D console, while monitor engineer Jimmy Corbin manned the monitors on a DiGiCo SD7.

“The show is really all about the music. We fly sidefills but don’t use wedges for the main stage. Tony’s coming from a singing background and is very comfortable matching to the house PA,” said Young.

Working with Bennett and Gaga’s show also requires careful mixing with the three live bands. Young explained that the tour has three separate show sets, labeled A, B, and C, which are chosen based on the venue. The A show (used at Radio City, Hollywood Bowl in LA, and the Royal Albert Hall in London) includes a quartet on stage right for Tony, a quintet on stage right for Gaga, and a 38-piece orchestra that rises up on the elevator platform at the front of the stage. Show B, which is the most common of the shows, has an extra 13 musicians added to the mix. Show C eliminates the orchestra all together.

“I’ve been doing this orchestra thing for a long time; I know the music and its sensitivity,” said Young. “The challenge is knowing which mics should be on at various times.”

Young has partnered with Bennett for a number of years, and because of this close relationship, Young said, Bennett trusts him with the sound at each show. “He has a lot confidence in what I do,” Young said.

While Corbin has worked with Lady Gaga before, Young noted it is his first time working with the 29-year-old artist. Gaga, known for her eccentric outfits and catchy pop music, took a big turn in her career by partnering with Tony Bennett for Cheek to Cheek, which allowed her to show another side of her talents.

“This is a new genre for her and she’s done really well with it. She’s a legit singer, and you can see it through her performances,” Young said. Of course, even with a change in genre, it wouldn’t be a Lady Gaga show without seven costume changes.

For wireless microphones, both Tony and Gaga use Sennheiser SKM 5200 transmitters with Neumann KK 105 S capsules. Occasionally, Young said, he also uses DPA and Shure microphones when needed.

At the end of the day, Young said his main goal was to make sure everything sounded perfect for the audience.

“Your biggest comparison is trying to make the live show sound as good as the record,” he said, “but what’s gratifying about the live performance is that you have an immediate response from the people and performers.”