English student to present honor thesis in lecture recital

Luis Martinez, News Editor

Eastern’s Student Research and Creative Discovery Conference is Friday, and while students who are participating are getting ready for their individual presentation, one student prepares to show the end results of her research.

Helen Plevka, a senior English Language Arts major, will be giving a lecture recital titled “Something Magnificent Just Out of Reach” which is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Recital Hall. The lecture recital will also feature a musical demonstration by Plevka, and she will be joined by Anna Cromwell, an associate violin professor, cellist Kirstin Landowne, and pianist Kevina Lima.

“I am an English major and music minor, and I wanted to bring these two realms of study together through this project,” Plevka said. “My work analyzes the role of music in Richard Powers’s Orfeo, which is a novel that incorporates several 20th-century compositions into the text, including Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.”

Plevka will also perform select movements from the piece to demonstrate the relationship.

Plevka said her purpose is to share her work with the Eastern community, and to inform the audience about the novel and the music composition all while giving a performance as well.

She said she received immense guidance from her clarinet instructor, Magie Smith, and her departmental honors thesis advisor, Randall Beebe.

The lecture recital performance will consist of two movements of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, the Cristal Liturgy, which is performed by clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, and Plevka will perform a solo clarinet movement called Abyss of the Birds.

“My work considers what music contributes to words, what words contribute to music, and why this relationship matters, and through this analysis, I will speak to the larger purpose of art in our lives,” Plevka said. “Messiaen composed this piece as a prisoner-of-war in WWII, and its complex rhythmic devices reflect his inspiration in an eternal end of time.”

Beebe said Plevka has been very productive in developing her thesis, and she was able to receive a URSCA grant, which helps fund the recital portion of Plevka’s research, and has also been invited to present her research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Asheville, N.C.

“Helen has done an amazing job on her honors thesis,” Beebe said. “She knew she wanted to study the relationship between music and literature. However, she wasn’t sure exactly what that meant or what kind of project she wanted to pursue.”

Beebe said the lecture recital format was Plevka’s own idea and while he pointed her in the right direction a few times, she knew what she was doing during the past few months.

“Helen is a focused, disciplined researcher, and so she was able to work through much of the reading and concepts very quickly,” Beebe said. “I’ve worked with a number of very good honors students over the years, and Helen is right at the top of the list of exceptional students. She’s a superb example of how gifted EIU students can be.”

Smith said Plevka told her about the novel she read and asked her about the quarter piece that was featured in the novel.

“I played it several times in graduate school and I told her it was a great work for clarinet and we should look at it,” Smith said. “Helen’s a great student. I was excited to work with her on this capstone project. I was honored.”

Smith describe the movements Plevka would be performing have a very dark theme to it.

“The entire piece was written in a concentration camp during WWII by a prisoner-of-war, and he wrote the music for the instruments that were available,” Smith said. “There’s a very apocalyptic theme to the entire work. It’s very deep and very dark.”


Luis Martinez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]