December 2, 2007 § Leave a comment


Hiram Pines’ one-man show, The Day the Universe Came Closer, travels gently and with wit through science, epistemology and religion tries to make a darn good case for the brilliance of the human instrument. Hiram, who recently moved to New York, will perform about half of the 45-minute stage play, focusing on a funny little thing that messed with our heads for hundreds of thousands of years.

Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux, from the Center for Neural Science at NYU, author of “The Synaptic Self” and “The Emotional Brain,” will talk about the separation of cognition and emotion in the brain and the consequences that has for our interpersonal (and international) relations. He will emphasize fear as the main example. LeDoux is also one of the founding members of the stellar downtown rock group, the Amygdaloids.

And Aud Wilken, a wonderful new voice from Denmark, will sing some of her beautiful songs for us.


November 4, 2007 § Leave a comment


What do galaxies, grapes, soil food webs, Zen ensos and dance troupes have in common? They are all patterns made of interacting parts. Tonight environmental scientist (and patternologist) Tyler Volk of NYU explores the nature of patterns in nature, culture, and the rest of the universe, and asks if there could be a science of everything based on patterns. His thoughts spin on the complementarity between patterns and their functions, for remarkable convergences are born when the forms that are woven by diverse scales of nature and culture (and even our minds) share common roles.

And, you ask, what more quintessential patterns of culture are there than dance and music? When Claude Debussy chastised Erik Satie, remarking that the eccentric composer ought to “soigner sa forme”–pay better attention to form–Satie replied, not in words, but in music. His riposte is the “Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear,” a short suite for piano four-hands whose witty irony (not without a touch of sarcasm) is already signaled by the fact that the music consists not of three pieces, but seven.

Choreographer Christopher Caines, together with members of his dance company, presents excerpts from a new work in progress (specially arranged for the Cornelia Street Café) exploring this pivotal score in Satie’s oeuvre. Caines, a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, should prove the ideal choreographer to illuminate questions of structure, form, and pattern in the relation of dance to music.


October 7, 2007 § Leave a comment


The nineteenth century witnessed an incredible spurt of musical creation. And, in the same period, physicists and musical instrument makers, working together with composers and performers, tried to understand the nature of musical genius and virtuosity, the underlying physics of acoustics, and the instruments themselves. Myles W. Jackson, the new Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology at Polytechnic University, tells us of this exciting period. And talented young musicians, Pico Alt (Violin); Christina Courtin (Viola), and Jeremy Turner (Cello), play a Beethoven string trio for us.


July 1, 2007 § Leave a comment


Channelling the Sound of the Cosmos with cosmologist and sax player Stephon Alexander and his trio. Plus, the interactive musical systems of Robert Rowe, composer and music theorist.
Ever since the discovery of the ‘quantum fluctuations’ in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation in the early nineties, people have tried to figure out how the primordial structures in the universe emerged from ‘nothing’. Stephon Alexander, a cosmologist at Penn State as well as a superb sax player and composer, will explore with us the origin and persistence of large scale structure formation in the universe. And, with his group, reinterpret this process through jazz improvisation, resonance and rhythm.

He will be paired with composer and NYU music theorist Robert Rowe, whose work has two main strands: the programming of music composition and improvisation, and interactive music systems, in which composition is influenced by a machine analysis of human musical expression during live performance. If you will, a search for large- and small-scale structure formation in improvised and composed music over time.


June 3, 2007 § Leave a comment


The Face in the Mirror: Reflections of the Animal Mind

Do other animals share with us a sense of self? How big and complex a brain does it take to recognize that the one staring back at you in a mirror – is you! Diana Reiss, cognitive psychologist at Hunter College and senior research scientist at Wildlife Conservation Society presents her compelling work showing that dolphins and elephants, along with great apes and humans are members of an exclusive club whose members recognize themselves.

And can elephants make art and music? We’ll explore this question with a brand-new video of musician Dave Soldier teaching and conducting the Thai Elephant Orchestra, and a presentation of elephant art by David Ferris, director of the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project.


May 6, 2007 § Leave a comment


She’s a top art historian in a world famous museum. He’s a distinguished professor of chemistry. She searches for artistic truth through connoisseurship; he finds scientific fact through cold material analysis. Between them stands the object of her affection: a revered classical statue long thought to be a roman original…and he just proved it to be a 16th century cast. But is it now worth less? Is it now less beautiful? As personal rivalries and professional reputations clash, how far will each go to prove the other wrong?

Renowned chemist and playwright Carl Djerassi will engage his biting wit to illuminate the background behind his new play PHALLACY, which is based on real events in a major European museum. Actors Lisa Harrow and Simon Jones will then preview a scene from PHALLACY, which will run at the Cherry Lane Theatre from May 15 – June 10.


April 28, 2007 § Leave a comment


Richard R. Ernst, a scientist who later won the Chemistry Nobel Prize, discovered by accident in 1968 the beauty of Tibetan painting. He will share his personal fascination with Tibetan art through slides that reveal another cultural world; its philosophical and religious background will be touched. The attraction of Tibetan art comes from a highly perfected pictorial language that allows the painter to express eternal truths in vivid, easily understood images. This is an art of nearly limitless creativity. And it is difficult to escape its colorful attraction. The speaker cannot, will not fully hide his own professional interests when he speaks also about pigment analysis and conservation of the delicate paintings.

The evening will feature a performance by Yungchen Lhamo, a compelling performer of Tibetan song, who explores with talent and deep feeling the country’s traditional themes of spiritual pilgrimage and delight in nature. Yungchen has been called “a voice from the skies.”


April 1, 2007 § Leave a comment


Construction crosses the natural-synthetic divide, for we are destined to build – temples and music and molecules – just as nature assembles its generous complexity. There be building blocks, propensities, but most assuredly the process is dynamic, a coming on and coming off, a riff on the way to rich structure.

Self-assembly is the subject of our evening. Molecular architect Shuguang Zhang, from MIT’s Center of Biomolecular Engineering, shows us how nature and we build on the molecular scale, from the bottom up. And Lisa Karrer and David Simons perform music that assembles and re-assembles itself in real time, triggering sounds in unpredictable ways, asking the listener to create their own connective tissues of meaning.


March 4, 2007 § Leave a comment


No, not the denizens of the Cornelia Street Café, but life-saving and controversial drugs.

Herb Meltzer will describe his own journey from the chemistry lab to treating and studying schizophrenia, ground-breaking studies which revolutionized the treatment of this disorder. He’ll give us his views of the current critique of antipsychotic drugs, where schizophrenia research is headed, and also what listening to music and schizophrenia have in common, at least with regard to brain chemistry.

Which brings us to the other component of this evening, the Amygdaloids. The rock band that really gets into your head is made up of four NYU scientists: the son of a Louisiana butcher (neurobiologist Joseph LeDoux), a former Israeli army soldier (cognitive neuroscientist Daniela Schiller), a dome builder (environmental scientist Tyler Volk), and a philosophy major (cognitive neuroscience researcher Nina Galbraith Curley). As Newsday says, “Heavy Mental.”


February 4, 2007 § Leave a comment


Life exists only as one mirror image! Playing macro (our heart on the left, our liver on the right), or micro (all proteins and nucleic acids), nature chooses just one. In Denmark vs Superbowl, a great organic chemist from Aarhus, Karl Anker Jørgensen, tell us how we, emulating and contending with nature, may control the making of one of the mirror-image forms of a molecule. And trumpeter and composer Poul Weis gives us his take on the mirror-image world in and around us.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the 2007 category at Cornelia Street Café.