Monday, April 09, 2018

March for (Not Just Any) Science (i.e., Elon Musk ≠ Buckminster Fuller)

Earth From Space, collage, Alyce Santoro, 2017

When the public sector is at the service of the private sector, the economic interests of the few are bound to trump the needs of the many. In places throughout the world – regardless of political framework – Earth’s inherent elements have been utilized by humans[1] in ways that are gravely shortsighted.

Indeed, it is now amply evident that practices that have prevailed around the globe for eons have caused cumulative harm, putting at risk the continued viability of all life on Earth. While it could be argued that many humans are complicit by (wildly varying) degrees, dependence on current systems is often by carefully orchestrated design; continued concentration of wealth and power depends upon it.

While we can speculate on the extent to which figures throughout history have been aware of the damage they were wreaking, specific examples of full awareness can now be easily sited. Of one thing we can be certain: on the path to domination, awareness, however acute, could always been justified away through dehumanization and abstraction of those and that which require oppression, exploitation, and extraction.

Given overwhelming current data, it is impossible for anyone acting today to not know.

#ExxonKnew, #ShellKnew, #AlexanderVonHumboltKnew, #BuckminsterFullerKnew, #RachelCarsonKnew, #TrumpKnows, #EverybodyKnows.

“…we can make all of humanity successful through science's world-engulfing industrial evolution provided that we are not so foolish as to continue to exhaust in a split second of astronomical history the orderly energy savings of billions of years' energy conservation aboard our Spaceship Earth. These energy savings have been put into our Spaceship's life-regeneration-guaranteeing bank account for use only in self-starter functions.” – Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1968

“The most alarming of all man's assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous and even lethal materials. This pollution is for the most part irrecoverable; the chain of evil it initiates not only in the world that must support life but in living tissues is for the most part irreversible. In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little-recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world – the very nature of its life.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962

“By felling the trees which cover the tops and sides of mountains, men in all climates seem to bring upon future generations two calamities at once; want of fuel and a scarcity of water.” — Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America: During the Years 1799-1804

In the interest of keeping the wheels of progress greased, theses voices and those of many others who espoused similar sentiments have been meticulously avoided, shunned, and marginalized.

Not knowing is no longer a valid excuse (if it ever was).

Coal mining, alternating current, fast food, commercial airline travel, plastics, factory farming, nuclear power, the atomic bomb, the internal combustion engine, vaccines, antibiotics, Agent Orange, hydraulic fracturing, petrochemical agriculture, weapons systems, rockets to Mars. Are these technologies good, evil…or some of each? While we may at least be able to agree that scientists (people with specialized expertise, interests, and expectations) used science (a system designed to remove bias to the greatest extent possible) to create these technologies, science cannot tell us whether its products are ultimately constructive or harmful or how, when, and whether to use them. Science and its revered “objective” method do not contain ethical components. It is the people practicing science who are now, and who have always been, responsible for determining what research questions are appropriate and worthy of exploration. What is considered conscionable may change over time. The debate about what forms of research are moral and just must be an earnest, ongoing, and inclusive one.

There is not now and there has never been any legitimate question as to whether science as a tool for gathering knowledge is necessary and important. In light of recent data (produced by science) and our growing awareness of the direness of current circumstances, science as an instrument can and will be vital in crafting solutions to problems that science itself, when wielded with a lack of emphasis on possible consequences, had a hand in creating.

Said another way: if we are using science to further our “progress”, and our definition of progress is problematic, science as a vehicle is bound to deliver us to an undesirable destination (case in point: Earth’s biosphere circa 2018).

As we gather to march for science, this can be an opportunity to become clear on our collective definition of progress and unified in our vision of the kind of science (humanitarian, ecologically sound, and just? Or devoted to profit over people and planet?) we are marching for.

Whether and when “science” is revered or reviled and by whom has everything to do with that entity’s interests (self or otherwise). If those interests are primarily economic, then any science that hinders financial gain (i.e.: anthropogenic greenhouse warming; sea level rise; water, soil, and air contamination by toxic effluent, etc.) will be vigorously opposed. At the same time, any science that furthers the entity’s agenda (i.e.: fracking, offshore drilling, weapons development, etc.) will be embraced, promoted…and well-funded.

In the case of the current administration and its advocates: it is not science per se that is being attacked; rather, these groups seek to quell any challenge to the top-down social and economic paradigms upon which their radically self-serving agendas depend.  

As scientists, we can take into consideration the impact of our efforts, and ask ourselves to what extent our skills and resources are being devoted to humane outcomes. We can, like Buckminster Fuller, imagine what an anticipatory design science would look like.

As concerned citizens and advocates, we can be discerning about the kinds of science we defend. 

Richard Levins, geneticist/ecologist and prominent member of Science for the People, suggested the following rule of thumb, “…all theories are wrong which promote, justify, or tolerate injustice. The wrongness may be in the data, its interpretation, or application, but if we search for that wrongness, we will also be led to truth.”

May our shared love for science and the world it examines lead us to truth.

[1] The Anthropocene is being proposed by some scientists and philosophers as a term to define the current geological epoch. While the word accurately identifies humans as profound influencers of our planet’s biogeophysical systems, it must be constantly stressed that not all humans are equally complicit.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

All contributors to SOURCE: Music of the Avant Garde Magazine by gender

Eleven issues of SOURCE: Music of the Avant Garde magazine were published from 1967 - 1973 at the University of California Davis. This is a list of all contributors by gender. As far as I have been able to discern, only one person of color was featured: Anthony Braxton. I would be grateful to any readers willing to offer comments/corrections!

WOMEN (12)

Kira Gale
Allison Knowles (not featured or mentioned in table of contents, but included in an article)
Annea Lockwood
Mary Lucier (photography)
Eva Lurati
Dora Maurer
Maria Michalowska
Charlotte Moorman (not featured or mentioned in table of contents, but included in an article)
Pauline Oliveros
Jocy de Oliviera
Marilyn Wood
Zorka Saglova

MEN (107)

Dietrich Albrecht
Charles Amirkhanian
Eric Anderson
Robert Ashley
Larry Austin
David Behrman
Mario Bertoncini
Joseph Beuys
Boudewijn Buckinx
Anthony Braxton
Eugen Brikcius
Jacques Brodier
Earle Brown
Allan Bryant
Harold Budd
John Cage
Cornelius Cardew
Barney Childs
Giuseppe Chiari
Phillip Corner
Lowell Cross
Alvin Curran
John Dinwiddie
Peter Donath
Manford Eaton
Robert Erickson
Morton Feldman
Robert Filliou
FLUXUS (women were involved in the movement, including Allison Knowles, mentioned above)
Ken Friedman
Lukas Foss
Peter Garland
Gentle Fire
Tony Gnazzo
Victor Grauer
Gyula Gulyas
Joel Gutsche
Olaf Hanel
Jon Hassell
Sven Hansell
Lejaren Hiller
Dick Higgins
Lejaren Hiller
Stu Horn
Nelson Howe
Jerry Hunt
Toshi Ichiyanagi
Image Bank
Carson Jeffries
Ben Johnston
Bengt Emil Johnson
Zdzislaw Jurkiewicz
Allan Kaprow
Udo Kasemets
Per Kierkeby
Paul Klerr
Milan Knizak
Ed Kobrin
Jaroslaw Kozlowski
Alcides Lanza
Daniel Lentz
Arrigo Lora-Totino
Alvin Lucier
Stanley Lunetta
Janos Major
Tom Marioni
Ken Maue
Stanley March 3
Stuart Marshall
Richard Martin
Harvey Matusow
John Mizelle
Robert Moran
Gordon Mumma
Keith Muscutt
Naked Software
Max Newhaus
The New Percussion Quartet
Nam June Paik
Harry Partch
Portsmouth Sinfonia (in photograph 2 women depicted out of 13 members)
Scratch Orchestra
David Reck
Steve Reich
Jock Reynolds
Roger Reynolds
John Paul Rhinehart
Mark Riener
David Rosenboom
Frederic Rzewski
R. Murray Schafer
Gerald Shapiro
Nicholas Slonimsky
Barry Spinello
Andrew Stiller
Karlheinz Stockhausen
Allen Strange
Alvin Sumsion
Endre Tot
David Tudor
Bertran Turetzky
Jiri Valoch
Don Walker
Christian Wolff
Arthur Woodbury
Wolff Vostell

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"Possibility of Action: The Life of the Score" nine years hence

By chance I recently unearthed materials from Possibility of Action: The Life of the Score, a wonderful exhibition curated by Barbara Held that opened 9 years ago today at MACBA Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.

A dress made of the striped edition of Sonic Fabric (woven from cassette tape recorded with a collage of looped and layered sounds) was included. Each of the colors in the pattern represents one of the 12 tones in the Western scale, with two additional colors representing rests (silence). 
Ensemble created for Experimental Musical Instrument Day at Lincoln Center, 2005

The pattern in the fabric was composed visually; I didn't know what it would sound like until it was notated, which happened later. I didn't think of using this method of composition again until recently...and even then, I didn't initially connect it to the sonic fabric stripe pattern...

In 2015 the Tonal Relativity project began to take shape...this ongoing series of works started out as a way of illustrating modes and intervals in a 12-tone musical system using a language of shape and color. The first set of sketches – scrawled in pencil on a 3x5 card – were created for my own use, as a reference tool that could be drawn upon in improvisational settings. A logical next step was to experiment with composition using the set of 12 colors. Any color can be used to represent any tone, with all other colors/tones in the spectrum being relative.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Performance of Wayne National Forest by Brian Harnetty

Early this year I downloaded Notes from Sub-Underground, a collection of music, sound, and assorted aural ephemera contributed by 50+ artists and compiled by Object Collection, with all proceeds to benefit ACLU Nationwide.

One of the tracks on the album – Wayne National Forest by Brian Harnetty – particularly struck me. In doing a bit of research on the composer, I came upon a series of articles at NewMusicBox about Brian's engagement with the coal mining and fracking industries in Ohio.

I learned that Wayne National Forest is under threat, and that this piece had been inspired by the struggle to preserve it.

I hoped there might be a way that this spare, sublime work could be included in a concert program I was developing to augment Imagining Sound, an exhibition of my 2- and 3D illustrations of tonal relationships at Central Features Contemporary Art. I wrote to Brian to inquire about the performance possibilities – he very generously provided us with the score and encouraged us to arrange it according to the instrumentation we would have available:

Wayne National Forest was truly a joy to play. Thanks so much to musicians Julian Mock, Elizabeth McNutt, and the Death Convention Singers, and thanks to Brian Harnetty for composing this moving work, and for the opportunity to perform it.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Tonal Relativity Games & Experiments at UNM ARTS Lab on April 29

Tonoscore 1: Season, a work for 3 or more players by Alyce Santoro

On April 29, 2017 at 7pm at UNM ARTS Lab, conceptual/sound artist Alyce Santoro, guitarist/composer Julian Mock, flutist Elizabeth McNutt, and members of the Albuquerque-based Death Convention Singers collective will present the auditory component of Imagining Sound, Santoro's current exhibition of painting and sculpture at Central Features Contemporary Art

The 2- and 3D pieces in the exhibition are part of the Tonal Relativity project, an approach to the visualization of intervals and modes in a 12-tone musical system. The concert program sonifies these concepts,  featuring works of sound and music that leave open space for listening, improvisation, and chance operations.

Aleators, colorized dice to illustrate musical intervals and facilitate chance operations. Alyce Santoro, 2017.


Worldwide Tuning Meditation by Pauline Oliveros1960 #7 by LaMonte Young
Wayne National Forest by Brian Harnetty
Game by Mario Lavista
The premier of Tonoscore 1: Season, a visual score by Alyce Santoro
Squaring the Circle of Fifths by Julian Mock
& several new frameworks for improvisation by Prepared Ear.


Alyce Santoro & Elizabeth McNutt – flute
Julian Mock – guitar

Death Convention Singers:
Marisa Demarco – voice, electronics
Clifford Grindstaff – bass guitar, bass clarinet
Drake Hardin – clarinet
Rosie Hutchinson – violin
Ariel Muniz – cello
Alan Zimmerman – pitched percussion
The concert is free and open to the public.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Imagining Sound at Central Features in Albuquerque, NM

Modes of the Major Scale, acrylic on canvas, 24" x 28", 2017

Edgard Varèse suggested that "music is organized sound". Physics suggests that matter is also organized sound.

The Tonal Relativity Series offers a way of organizing sound visually...wavelengths of light evoke wavelengths of sound in the mind's ear. 

The TRS is an "open work" (see Umberto Eco) – musicians and non-musicians alike are invited to experiment with the concept. The immaterial part of the project is freely available here.

Material and quasi-material parts of the project (in the form of works on canvas, objects, and sound) will be presented at the end of this month through the end of April in Albuquerque, NM. 

"Imagining Sound" opens at Central Features Contemporary Art on March 24 from 6 - 8pm. 

I'll be giving an talk on the project at ARTS Lab New Mexico at 5:30pm on on March 22

Then, on the evening of April 29 (the exhibition's closing day), Prepared Ear (composer/guitarist Julian Mock and I) will present a concert at UNM ARTS Lab in collaboration with members of the Albuquerque-based Death Convention Singers and University of North Texas flute professor-pioneer/Sounds Modern co-founder Elizabeth McNutt. The program will feature works by Pauline Oliveros, LaMonte Young, Mario Lavista, and Brian Harnetty, as well as several frameworks for improvisation developed by us especially for the Tonal Relativity project. We are honored to have the opportunity to present this particular combination of works with this phenomenal group of practitioners at this particular moment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

List of Ideas Complied During Individual Studio Visits with Undergraduate and Graduate Visual Art Students at Georgia Southern University

"A reflection on a year and its effects on the landscape and those within it." Hand-lettered inscription in "Dance Around the Sun", a 'zine  consisting of photocopies of etchings by Ray Pettit.

Dear All,

I want to thank each of you so much for sharing your work with me, and for the opportunity to share mine with you! It was heartening to share a moment in the midst of these strange and tumultuous times.

During many of the individual meetings, I found myself offering up little tidbits of information that came to mind during our discussions. Next time, I plan to carry an old-fashioned receipt-type book with carbon paper between the pages so I can take notes in duplicate! Since I did not do that, I have been trying to recollect many of the items and to put them into list form...I thought the ideas as a collection might be fun to share with the whole group.

With Sincerest Best Wishes,

1. Every film Andrei Tarkovsky ever made:

2. Films by Alexandro Jodorowsky. In particular, Alexandro Jodorowsky's DUNE.

3. DIY stop-motion animation tutorial with Monty Python's Terry Gilliam.

4. Brainard Carey is an artist who specializes in coaching other artists. Lots of free resources on his website.

5. If you need short-term housing in NYC, this is a good resource (artist oriented/artist run).

6. The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf

Caveat: I do have some problems with this book (one of the main ones: the author blames the reason Humboldt is not better known in the US on anti-German sentiment after WWII. I argue that Humboldt was swept under the rug because his ideas do not jibe with exploitative capitalist ideology.

I have not read this book yet, but it is on my wish list!
Plants & Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World by Londa Schiebinger

7. My brilliant writer friend Quince Mountain, a trans man:

"Cowboy for Christ"
Short essay: "Is Loving Trans People a Revolutionary Act?"
Qunice and his fiance Blair Braverman recently offered rides to the polls in a cart pulled by sled dogs.
A story by Blair: "What I've Learned from Having a Trans Partner".

8. Anthroposophical Art Therapy (Rudolph Steiner).
Kate Temple, a visual artist and friend who draws on these ideas.

9. Agnes Martin as an example of an artist for whom the work was more about being present than about any highly-developed or contrived concept.

10. Write an artist statement from the perspective of yourself in 10 years, as if you had already achieved many of the things you envision for yourself.

11. Solar cookery!

12. Come visit Marfa, TX!
Chinati Foundation
Judd Foundation

Sunday, November 06, 2016

TONAL RELATIVITY: Solo Exhibition at Georgia Southern University, November 7 - December 9

Set of Pentatonic patterns, visualized in a repeat pattern.

On Thursday November 10th at 5pm, I'll be giving a talk to accompany a solo exhibition at Georgia Southern University. The show will feature the latest iterations in the Tonal Relativity series, most as works on canvas. Sixteen pieces will serve as visual illustrations of sonic relationships within a 12-tone musical system.

Throughout my own life, the kind of egalitarian, intuitive, non-verbal communication that comes out of sonic improvisation with one or more fellow earnest listeners/musicians/soundmakers has inspired much of my thinking and and efforts in all realms. 

This project was developed as a way to improve my own skills as an improvisor and listener, and to help me to overcome habitual ways of thinking and seeing. I hope that others – musicians and non-musicians alike – may also use it to discover new pallets of possibility.

This video offers both an audio and visual demonstration of the first six intervals in the series:

More here on the project:
There is much, much more to come...

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Interview on New Music Pioneer

One year ago I had the great pleasure to meet flutist Elizabeth McNutt exactly when she and composer Andrew May of Sounds Modern invited local musicians to participate in the debut of UNSET, Andrew's site-specific sound composition for Donald Judd's works in concrete at the Chinati Foundation.

I was first impressed by Sounds Modern – and Elizabeth's flute-playing in particular – in 2013 when they brought a sublime performance of Morton Feldman's Crippled Symmetry to Marfa. 

I'm very grateful to Elizabeth for inviting me to respond to a few very thoughtful questions for her New Music Pioneer blog! Here's the interview:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WARPED at Museum of Craft, Creativity, and Design

Photo Courtesy Museum of Craft, Creativity, & Design

My Tell-Tail Sails (After Hurricane Sandy) – woven from cassette tape recorded with sound-samples collected on and under the streets of NYC – are included in "Warped: An Exhibition on Sound and Weaving" at The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design in Asheville, NC.

"Practitioners have long observed the relationship between sound and weaving. Appalachian master weaver Lou Tate (1906-1979) remarked how the weaving draft pattern resembles the five line musical staff. Indeed both composing and weaving are time-based endeavors that require significant planning, and are often recorded with the intention of being repeated, replayed, or replicated. Contemporary artists continue to investigate this intersection, mining the connections between sound and weaving for material, visual, and conceptual properties. The six artists included in this exhibition demonstrate a range of approaches inspired by the overlap of sound wave and thread, instrument and loom, composition and draft pattern, sound and weaving."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mentoring Advice for Those Interested in Hybrid Art/Science Practices

Members of the YASMIN(Your Art Science Mediterranean Network) discussion list were recently invited to offer mentoring advice for emerging young professionals interested hybrid art science careers:

1- what is your background as a scientist? In the arts, design or humanities?

As a young person fascinated by science and nature but with a penchant for the arts (including music...inspired by Laurie Anderson's tape-bow violin, I had an electric pick-up installed in my flute during my early teens), I decided that my life's mission would be to communicate about the wonders of science and nature through art. Not knowing exactly what this would look like and having no mentor to guide me (in the mid-1980's, a high school student with an interest in what may now be referred to as interdisciplinary education was steered into "liberal arts"...but this did not quite seem to fit the bill for me...I wanted to be a "real" scientist...), formulated a plan: I would gain a formal education in science first, followed by training in scientific illustration.


As an undergraduate I pursued a BS in Biology at Southampton College, part of Long Island University (this campus and its excellent math, chemistry, and physics-heavy marine biology program unfortunately no longer exists). I am so grateful to have received this rigorous education...from it I learned the kind of critical/analytical thinking and experimental design that informs every aspect of my current work. 

After Southampton I went directly to Providence, RI where I enrolled in Rhode Island School of Design's Graduate Certificate program in scientific illustration. This too was a rigorous curriculum that, in addition to providing solid training in traditional illustration, allowed me to explore other media, such as sculpture and printmaking. Providence in the early 1990's was a fertile place for artists...lofts in old factory buildings were cheap, and silkscreeners, bands, painters, industrial designers, and other creative practitioners lived and worked in close proximity, willingly sharing studios, skills, and equipment. To support myself while going to school at night, I was fortunate to secure a job as a research assistant on a biochemistry and aquaculture project at the University of Rhode Island. I felt like a bit of an impostor in both day, my friends at the lab thought of me as some crazy artist, and by night, my artist-friends saw me as a professional scientist who happened to make art. 

Not long after graduating from the RISD program, I got hired as a seagoing oceanographic research assistant on the Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (GLOBEC) project. I spent three months total a year at sea, in increments of three weeks at a time, floating around Georges Bank in the North Atlantic, for over four years. This was a pivotal time for me...which leads to the next question...

2- when and how did you become involved in a hybrid art/science practice?

While at sea, I had lots of time to think, read, draw, write...and converse with my fellow scientists (this was in the mid-1990's, before the internet was available on ships at sea!). Over the course of the years that I worked on the GLOBEC project, it was becoming clearer that things in the North Atlantic were amiss...counts of zooplankton and larval fish appeared to be dropping. I asked the lead scientists whether and how this information should be communicated to the public. I came to understand that our job as scientists should be to collect data, not necessarily to interpret it. Logically, I could see how scientists putting any "spin" whatsoever on data – no matter how dire the results may appear – could be taken as bad practice. I felt conflicted...I wanted to be a good scientist...but if the scientist's job isn't to sound the alarm bells...whose job is it? I believe that because there have historically been so few individuals in the position of "science communicator"...not just a journalist or an illustrator, but someone whose job it is to cross fluidly between those worlds, and understands what it means to be a "good scientist"...this is in part why we are now in the mess we find ourselves in re: climate change. Fear of bias has actually led to extreme bias...the vast majority of media on science comes from the corporate media, the kind of media that has a vested interest in suppressing the reality of what is happening. 

Alarmed by this, I started making art about the foibles and hubris of science. I began designing "experiments" and making "laboratory equipment" to study the intangible, the parts of reality and the human experience that are unquantifiable. In other words, I became a kind of philosopher...

3- what have been the major obstacles to overcome?

As others have already mentioned, one persistent obstacle is the prevailing view in our culture of "art" as something "extra", an embellishment, something that exists in a support capacity for science but not as something integral, with equal importance or value. The STEM to STEAM movement has been extremely helpful, and "sci-art" and "eco-art" have become much more common and widely accepted in recent years. But there is still much work to be done to dispel the idea all these neat categories are really anything more than convenient descriptors that, upon closer examination, are not nearly as neat in practice as they are in theory.

In addition, perhaps like many people on this list, I work in a nebulous, sort of "genre-free" zone. Some of my work involves sound and music, some of it is sculptural, much of it is ephemeral or conceptual....I tend to use whatever medium I feel is necessary to convey a particular idea. It's the ideas that are, to me, important...the pieces are just artifacts of a concept....and the concepts are free for the taking. For me the joy – and the point – is that ideas should be freely exchanged, open-source, collaborative...information is power, and everyone should have equal access to it. This leads to a variety of problems: a) the work doesn't fit neatly into any handy category that makes it easy to show, sell/buy, or write about, b) it does not tend to generate a significant amount of income.

4- what have been the greatest opportunities/breakthroughs?

Delighted to read that others have mentioned Goethe here! When I first learned of his concept of "delicate empiricism", it was a breakthrough for me. Confirmation of my hunch that we are not as separate from our experiments as we make ourselves out to be...and that "bias", or intuition based on sustained, earnest reflection might actually be useful...these assurances gave me permission to further develop my own "hypotheses". 

5- what would you do differently, knowing then what you know now?

I would have abandoned my role as a "good scientist" and embraced my role as one whose job it is to act as a liaison between scientists and the public sooner...I would have helped sound the alarm bells about climate change in the mid/late-1990's when I could see what was happening and was discouraged from speaking out.

Although my plan to study biology first and scientific illustration later ultimately worked out in its own way, I wish I'd known sooner of other options for someone who wanted to become well-versed in both art and science. I would have liked to pursue a PhD so that I could eventually teach, but I am only just now discovering PhD programs that seem to accommodate interdisciplinary studies. 

6- any advices to someone who may want to walk in your footstep?

• People who understand science and can communicate clearly and/or creatively about it are more urgently needed than ever. Thus far, the problems of our time – when conveyed accurately at all – have been presented in cold, detached ways that have not tended to inspire action on the scale necessary. In my view, "the poetics and aesthetics of science communications" could be a course of study unto itself. A young person looking for ways to combine art and science might consider seeking out or self-directing such a program. 

• Without creativity, there can be no innovation in art, science, technology, or anywhere in between...and if we are to effectively confront the challenges we currently face, we need to teach, learn, and practice creativity. 

• For those whose practices are not well-defined or well-compensated, living simply and staying out of debt are strategies that can result in greater freedom, time, and flexibility.

• A couple of offerings for anyone who may wish to know more about my path in particular:

This is a talk I gave for incoming freshman at the New School in NYC in 2005 on "The Art of Science, The Science of Art". 

My book Philosoprops: A Unified Field Guide, which was written with a young reader setting out on a path to combine art and science in mind, is available as a free download (the download button is at the bottom of the page).

7- Add other questions and your responses you think are relevant.

Added question: What are you working on now?

In collaboration with my husband guitarist/composer Julian Mock I am working on developing a means of visualizing the intervals and modes commonly used in the Western 12-tone musical system. This method employs a tertiary color wheel to depict tonal relativity and shapes to depict intervals. As a musician who is constantly seeking to improve my skills and pallet as an improvisor, I developed this method out of frustration for the ways that the modes are taught in most standard music theory books. More on this project here:

• For Issue #25 of Leonard Music Journal, I asked 20 composers of new and experimental music the same single question that SOURCE: Music of the Avant-Garde asked of 20 composers in 1969: "Have you, or has anyone, ever used your music for political or social ends?"

• I am one of the co-founders of Defend Big Bend, a group here in the high desert of far West Texas that is resisting against the 42" high-pressure Trans-Pecos Pipeline. I mention this because the fight is putting all of my skills as both an artist and a scientist to the test – I find myself serving in the capacity of environmental journalist and creative direct-action/social media other words, "science communications poetics/aesthetics"! Fascinatingly...local scientists on the ground here whose jobs are funded through the government – including Big Bend National Park employees, UT-funded astronomers, and state funded archeologists – have been silenced by the pipeline company. In other words: the very experts who could comment most authoritatively on threats to this region's plants and wildlife, aquifers, dark skies, etc. have had their jobs threatened by an industry that pours money into the state's coffers. Who is left to fight, and to point out this conflict of interest? The answer is artists, students, self-employed and retired people, and others without affiliations or anything much to lose. This is not just happening here – this is the story of what has been happening on a national and global scale for many, many years. Again, I implore any young person to bear this in mind when choosing a career path: those who can understand the gravity of the issues we are facing and are willing and able to speak out on them eloquently and are urgently needed! 

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Third Eye Sunglasses as Philosoprop: Protection for New Organs of Perception

Third Eye Sunglasses, 2016
 "The human being knows himself only insofar as he knows the world;  
he perceives the world only in himself, and himself only in the world.  
Every new object, clearly seen, opens up a new organ of perception in us."
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The idea to design a set of glasses that can provide shade for delicate, newly-forming organs of perception first occurred to me in the Peruvian rainforest in 2002. I didn't get around to actually creating a set until 2008, blogging about them for the first time in 2009. In 2013 one of my sets of Third Eye Sunglasses was included in an exhibition in NYC. In 2015 it was both a surprise and a delight to discover that Prince had developed the same idea.

I have long imagined that brains may be like satellite dishes, and ideas like ambient waves that can be tuned into if the frequencies between transmitter and receiver align.

In the case of the concept for an apparatus that softens the glare of mystical illumination, it seems it has been floating around in the aethers for quite some time...

Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel tweeted this 1970 photo of Swedish prog artist Ardy Strüwer.

I can't be sure exactly what the idea of sunglasses that protect the third eye means to Mr. Strüwer or meant to Prince, but for me I think it may have something to do with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

The conventional scientific method requires that the scientist conduct her or his experiments in as detached, objective a way as possible. Goethe, however, believed that strict objectivity is a literal impossibility, as the observer is not, in fact, separate from that which is being observed...while there may be an illusion of separateness, both existences are intertwined and interdependent. Goethe called a kind of study that would take into account both the quantitative as well as the qualitative "delicate empiricism". He believed that coming to knowledge through all the senses, including empathy and intuition, is not only valid, but vital.
In modern Western culture, we are taught from an early age to perceive ourselves as autonomous entities...separate from one another, and from  the world we inhabit. When we begin to recognize that this separateness is not the reality of our experience new organs of perception open. This may be accompanied by feelings of euphoria...but it may also be overwhelming, frightening, or painful. Hence the need for an apparatus that can soften the glare...
Several pairs of Third Eye Glasses are now available in the Philosoprop Shop...including a brand new type that – instead of softening the glare, prismatically enhances it (please use with caution).

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Interview with Jon Hassell for Leonardo Music Journal #25, Politics of Sound Art

Jon Hassell in the January 1969 Issue #5 of SOURCE: MUSIC OF THE AVANT GARDE Magazine

In July 1969 SOURCE: Music of the Avant Garde magazine asked twenty innovative composers the same single question: "Have you, or has anyone, ever used your music for social or political ends?"  

For the 2015 Politics of Sound Art issue of Leonardo Music Journal, I got to ask the same question of twenty composers working today 

One of those composers is seminal composer/trumpeter and progenitor of Fourth World music Jon Hassell. I first contacted Mr. Hassell in 2014 to express my glee at having been able to "perform" his MAP2, which I happened upon in the January 1969 of SOURCE. I am grateful to him for seeing fit to continue our correspondence!

I have been featuring individual responses from composers included in the LMJ article here on the blog until May 2016, when the entire series of interviews will be made freely available on the Politics of Sound Art page.

Have you, or has anyone ever used your music for political or social ends?

I'm for full-on pleasure in listening with no excuses necessary – "Les Baxter and Beyond". I'm lightyears away from any idea of "political" with regard to music. But that's my personal credo. This canonization of the chorus-verse form (and all the other conventions that come with it) is unstoppable. It's a colossal loop. (See Simon Reynolds - Retromania - Pop Culture's Addiction to its Own Past). What would Guy Debord have to say about iTunes and Spotify?

And here's the secret – Music is Invisible. It exists only as an interior experience in an individual. Who can say what this or that person is experiencing? We inevitably try to get close with word descriptions but that is essentially a language experience about a musical experience. In discussing a painting, one can actually touch an area and say, "This is quite Picasso-like" – it's visible – there's a common database for visual culture.

But the Entertainment Industrial Complex knows how to spot an opportunity to supply the "missing" visuals and descriptions to keep those clicks and dollars pouring in. "Political"?  What is NOT political in the megamarket?

PS: To underline the fact that there is an area called "Music as Art" – I've proposed the idea of a SEMINAR around the question, "What is the musical equivalent of a Gaudi?" This question asks those with a visual sensibility refined enough to appreciate the surreal, storybook aspect of Gaudi's architecture to also think about what in their musical universe is conceivably equivalent? All of us, including those of visual literacy and refinement, have grown up with a corporate-supplied background track to our adolescent years that loops forever in movies and online. Without a real effort at broadening the experience of music, they (we) have no idea of what a Gaudi could sound like in the imagination. (Charles Ives? Ravel? Gamelan?) Again, highlighting the gap between visual and musical imagination and sophistication.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Interview with Frederic Rzewski for Leonardo Music Journal #25, Politics of Sound Art

Photograph by Michael Wilson
In 1969 SOURCE: Music of the Avant Garde magazine asked twenty innovative composers the same single question: "Have you, or has anyone, ever used your music for social or political ends?"  

In 2015 I asked  the same question of twenty composers working today for the Politics of Sound Art issue of Leonardo Music Journal. Two of those composers – Terry Riley and Frederic Rzewski – also answered the question when it was asked 46 years ago

I am featuring the responses of individual composers here on the blog until May 2016, when the entire series of interviews will be made freely available on the Politics of Sound Art page.



Have you, or has anyone ever used your music for political or social ends?

The political use of music (there is no other use for it, really, except that it can make you feel good): Music is used all the time for political purposes. What is significantly absent is the inverse: some kind of musical influence on politics. Wagner, you might say (but it really isn't clear, in this case, who is influencing whom). One could imagine a politics in which music was not merely "used", but was a basic element: a "jazz politics", for example. A politics in which art, music, and poetry were given priority because they brought enormous savings to the economy, as spiritual activities which reduced violence and hastened the coming to adulthood of the species.

But it is true that, before this can happen, there must be a fundamental change in the common perception of what is necessary for the survival of the species: individuals, or communities?

Music must become conscious of its powers. At the moment it is roving amok, not knowing where it is going and why. If music does find a direction, it could have enormous consequences. Already its power to influence behavior has been demonstrated in history: it played a huge role in influencing public opinion towards the Vietnam War, for example. It seems strangely absent now, when war threatens to become the permanent state of the society. There is nothing now to compare with Dylan's "Masters of War".

Music may or may not be able to change the world. Probably not. But it would be nice if it could. So I think we musicians should act as if it could, even though we know it probably won't. We should not act as if we didn't care. Because, in fact, we do care. Music could really have a significant influence on the course taken by humanity in the next few decades. We are really are living through a critical period in our evolution; and, like it or not, the inevitable revolution has already begun. Will it be musical? Or will it be like all the others? (As Mark Twain remarked: "Prophecy is really hard, especially when it's about the future.") But there are grounds for optimism, since the stakes are so high and the dangers so great. Therefore (with Gramsci): pessimism in thought, optimism in action. The revolution will not be televised, but it might well be musical.

As for improvisation: after fifty years of blather, we have finally come to realize that, when we talk about it, we don't really know what we are talking about, any more than we did fifty years ago. We improvise when we cross the street, and although it is necessary for survival, it is not sufficient to change the world. We can't cross the street without a plan either. We need both of these things; and that's precisely what we don't have.

(The last time I saw Elliott Carter, just a few months before his death, we talked, as we always did when we met, of serious issues facing the world. At one point he said, "The real problem in this country is that there is no communist party."  Carter was not a communist, but he was a highly cultured man, and in this case he was right on the button.)

Musicians, like most artists, are frequently refuseniks, in whatever political system. But equally frequently they are collaborators, all too ready to collaborate with the system that feeds them. Some become famous and use their fame to exert political influence, sometimes admirable, sometimes questionable. Others remain in obscurity, although their work is no less important. The great composers are not solitary geniuses creating out of nothing, but simply those who put their names on the collective products of traditions which may be hundreds, even thousands of years old.

The way musicians relate to each other in the production of music can be a model for the way people relate to each other in any social situation. In this way, music is the revolution. The more we can develop it to a higher stage, the more we will be helping the revolutionary cause. As for what the final consequences may be, refer to Mark Twain.