Campus News

Cristian Mihut and ‘The Necessary Conditions’ crash Valentine’s Day at Bethel

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Do you hate Valentine’s Day? That may depend on your relational status, of course; singles tend to be more anti-Valentine’s Day than couples. However, the fact that Dr. Cristian Mihut, associate professor of philosophy, is married hasn't stopped him and his band, “The Necessary Conditions,” from hosting what has become a special tradition for the past three years: an annual anti-Valentine’s Day concert at Sufficient Grounds. This year, the concert took place on Friday, Feb. 17. Contrary to what you might think, Mihut didn’t set out with the intention to wage war on paper hearts and overpriced chocolate. In fact, the band grew from Mihut’s own attempts to make philosophy more accessible to his students. “The band kind of grew out of my silliness,” said Mihut. “I construct all sorts of silly songs; I started composing these silly songs just to draw students in my presenting a philosophical argument. So...for the sake of trying to engage the students, I composed songs about coffee or caffeine as my love, or about ‘Valerie,’ this fictional lover, just to illustrate for my critical thinking classes how to illustrate how and build a chain argument.” Mihut went on, “so I never intended for all my songs to be anti-Valentine’s, but some of them just kind of fit naturally, because they give expression to all these hard, vehement feelings against lost loves or something like that. But the band never began as an attempt to take on Cupid. Rather, the band grew out of my own desire to engage students in classes with real arguments, but in a funny way.” “The Necessary Conditions” really started performing as an interim group during the annual Battle of the Bands sponsored each year by student council. The event has since been discontinued, but Mihut still keeps this concert as an annual gig for the band. The name “The Necessary Conditions” naturally comes from a concept in philosophy. “In philosophy, for every concept you must have sufficient conditions and necessary conditions,” said Mihut. “So for instance, for life, when you think about what are the necessary conditions for just having life, you think of oxygen and gravitation being a certain fixed constant. So it was a play on philosophy again. But also you might think music is a necessary condition for just leading (a) good life, music, art, things like that.” The band’s “necessary” members are Mihut, alumnus Michael Baughman and former Bethel professor of philosophy, Jim Stump. The band periodically takes on other members as well. One notable member at this particular concert was Mihut’s own daughter. “She has a phenomenal voice,” said Mihut. “She really raised the quality of that (concert). She only played one song, but she did…a very fine job. Much better than I could have performed that song.” He went on, “She’s very musical. She’s one of my two older daughters, and she’s in a music ensemble at John Adams High School. She’s loved music all her life. She played cello for about three years and tried to learn piano, but now she’s really kind of committed to developing her vocal performance.” Mihut said he enjoyed the experience of being in his daughter’s shadow and said that, while playing, he even went down onto the main floor and watched while she sang. Another guest musician at the concert was Bethel student Spencer French. French wrote about his experience performing in an online interview. “It was fun,” he wrote, “also intimidating because they are all pretty gifted musicians and I was just the person they found at the last second who could say words fast.” Mihut is French’s mentor. When Mihut needed an extra band member for the concert, he asked French to perform. French said the concert itself was a great experience. “I would totally go again,” he wrote, “it was a blast.” Mihut stressed that out of all the band members, he is certainly the least musical. He credited Joseph Baughman, the older brother of Michael Baughman who was invited to play at this concert, as the real musician. Joseph Baughman has multiple published albums. Mihut said that he did the same thing he did when his daughter was performing when Joseph Baughman was performing. “When he was performing, I went down on the floor and just tried to absorb while also playing along, just trying to absorb the glory that was coming from his music and his songs,” said Mihut. Mihut said he doesn’t pay much attention to his own performance while he’s playing. “I really try not to monitor my internal state when I think about performing for students,” he said. “I just kind of go into the zone and I try to block the world, and I just scream into the mic. So I can’t really tell you what it’s like, because…I’m much more fully present to the song and to the whole band than I am to the audience. It’s fun…I think I only experience the high after the show’s over.” Many of the songs the band performed were written four or five years ago. As for whether or not Mihut will include any newer songs along with old favorites, he said he really can’t say. “For me, I have to be stricken by the muse to get back into writing mode,” said Mihut. “And the muse has not appeared lately, but maybe this year will be a good time, especially with this new spring coming up…maybe I’ll be inspired to write some anti-love songs or philosophy songs. I feel that lovers and ex-lovers both will become philosophers one day.” While Mihut doesn’t seem to be planning to include any new hits, he did say he hopes to make this concert a regular occurrence. He even expressed plans to add another concert to welcome new students. “We hope to make this a stable tradition,” he said. ”We also plan to maybe do an event in the fall. Like every fall as the new students are coming in, rolling in, maybe in August, some sort of Bethel reception kind of concert. And maybe I’ll even record some of these songs one day.” But until that day where “The Necessary Conditions” releases their first album, student will always have one decidedly unromantic concert to look forward to every year during Valentine’s week.
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