Percussionists to transform scientific data into music on Feb. 4

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. -- Renowned percussionists Robyn Schulkowsky and Joey Baron will present a concert, titled "Playing the Archive: Experiencing Data Through Visual and Sonic Immersion," in which they will translate scientific data and document archives generated by Penn State researchers into music. The event -- which is free and open to the public -- will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4, in the Ruth Pike Auditorium, 22 Biobehavioral Health Building on the University Park campus of Penn State.

According to Nilam Ram, co-director of Penn State's StudioLab, which is organizing the concert, when music meets scientific data something beautiful -- and, perhaps, even a little weird -- happens.

"We think there is beautiful art that can be made from scientific material, and we also believe that we will be able to hear patterns in the data that we didn't know were there," said Ram, associate professor of human development and family studies.

Ram gives an example of how "playing" data can reveal patterns within it.

"One of the things our statistical analyses are not particularly good at is elucidating differences in timing of onset of a development," he said. "A good example is puberty. Everybody goes through puberty, but some people go through it earlier and some go through it later. In music, you can hear the dissonance in timing right away, but our analytical models don't do a good job of extracting this."

StudioLab is a multi-disciplinary initiative of the College of Health and Human Development and the College of Arts and Architecture that is aimed at facilitating the collaboration of artists and scientists, as well as other types of scholars, with a goal of finding new ways to think about traditional and contemporary work.

"StudioLab is a 'studio' for scientists to refine the aesthetic dimensions of their work and a 'laboratory' for artists to test the performance and impact of their work," said co-director Brian Orland, distinguished professor of landscape architecture.

The musicians Schulkowsky and Baron will visit Penn State from their home in Berlin, Germany. They will spend four days working with scientists and artists to interpret scientific data and translate it into music, which they will then present on Feb. 4.

Schulkowsky is a world-renowned experimental music performer and composer who is engaged in continuous exploration of new sound dimensions and development of new and unusual instruments. She has premiered and recorded some of the most important percussion works of the 20th and 21st centuries. Baron is a world-renowned percussionist who has developed a unique approach to making music that has evolved out of his extended tenures and work with many jazz icons, including Jim Hall, Steve Kuhn and John Abercrombie.

The Feb. 4 event also will include a gallery of interactive, visual, sculptural and sonic representations of data.

"Our goal is to encourage people to open their ears to new ideas," said Ram. "As attendees work with us to make and interpret sounds, we expect they will see the world a bit differently afterward."

Other Penn State participants in StudioLab include Mark Ballora, associate professor of music; Simone Osthoff, professor of art; Tom Lauerman, assistant professor of art; Pamela Cole, research professor of psychology; Kristin Buss, associate professor of psychology; Lisa Gatzke-Kopp, assistant professor of human development and family studies; Cindy Stifter, professor of human development and family studies; and StudioLab staff members Candice Ng, Michael Coccia, Pefeng Yin and Matt Kenney.
 

Last Updated January 21, 2013