December 7, 2014 § Leave a comment


The brain does marvelous things with the variety of sensory “inputs” entering it – light, sound, touch. This program pairs a sage of musical and film “minimalism” who specializes in pieces with very extended pitches, Phill Niblock, with a young master of the way acoustic signals are processed in the brain, Nima Mesgarani from Columbia’s Electrical Engineering Department to lead you to think about sound in unusual ways.

Phill’s music is an exploration of sound textures created in very dense, often atonal tunings. Listen, and you’ll hear things that you cannot imagine could have been heard. Nima designs experiments probing how our brain hears speech, and thinks about interfacing brain signals to machines. He likes to invert things, so he will tell us what a ferret hears when you speak to it. Sounds have textures, they overlay and interlace. And the brain does things with them that you could not imagine!


November 2, 2014 § Leave a comment


Our theme is light and color, showing us the way to understanding. Rob Singer at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine has developed ways to tag individual molecules with tiny fluorescent beacons, and then to observe those molecules in the course of normal living processes. He will show us a remarkable video of molecules traveling in real time in living brain cells of a mouse, while memories are being formed. And how genetic messengers move within us, from one inner zipcode to another.

Color is also a way to penetrate to understanding in the world of Olek. Her art explores communication and sexuality through colors and meticulous detail. Olek consistently pushes the boundaries between fashion, art, craft and public art, fluidly combining the sculptural and the fanciful. If you stand still for a moment, she is likely to crochet around you. Or around your bicycle. Or your mermaid.


October 5, 2014 § Leave a comment


Every austral summer, hundreds of scientists and their support staffs travel to the southernmost continent where they live for several months in stations and field camps. What exactly are they doing? What really happens on the ice?

In Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s novel, The Big Bang Symphony, three women – a geologist, a composer, and a galley worker – take jobs in Antarctica, where they each fall in love and into trouble. “Bledsoe captures the deadly beauty of the southernmost continent….A well-balanced humdinger of a story keeps this unusual novel hurtling along like a skidoo on the ice.” (Kirkus Reviews) Bledsoe has traveled to Antarctica three times, twice as a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Artists & Writers Fellowship.

The Antarctic has been warming dramatically in recent decades with changes seen from loss of sea ice, through trophic levels all the way to penguins. Grace Saba’s research focuses on physical biological coupling and food web dynamics – how changes in the environment reverberate through the food web. She studies how ocean acidification impacts communities of phytoplankton, as well as Antarctic krill physiology. The challenge of conducting field work in such an isolated, harsh place makes for wild and compelling stories.


September 7, 2014 § Leave a comment


We live in a veritable sea of assumptions. They help us frame our ideas about reality – but they can blinker us, too. Flutist Robert Dick is known worldwide for his revolutionary musical visions. He’s utterly dispensed with preconceptions of what the flute should sound like and what music can be played on it. Improviser, composer, author, teacher and inventor, Dick’s solo flute performances have been likened to the experience of hearing a full orchestra. Social therapist Dr. Rafael Mendez leads groups towards transcending self-limiting assumptions. Together, they will share ideas and strategies on breaking free from assumptions and creating pathways to new discoveries and development, both in music and in life.


June 1, 2014 § Leave a comment


Evolution by natural selection is a dynamic force; one that has propelled life from a simple molecule swimming in a primordial soup to a great diversity of beings that inhabit land, air, and sea alike. The term evolution itself stems from a notion of ‘opening out’ and ‘unfolding,’ from the Latin evolution.
Experimenting with movement and music, we’ll explore how natural selection—biology’s most elegant of principles —partners with mutation and recombination to produce a great and complex diversity of life. Biologist Maryam Zaringhalam will guide us through her favorite peer-reviewed art-inspired experiment to show us how we can evolve (mediocre) music out of noise, and what that can tell us about the winding, wayward path to our very own origin.

Movement artist Sophia Treanor will partner with Causings—musicians Derek Baron and Adam Gundersheimer—in improvisational performance in which the evolution of a composition from nothingness is visibly and audibly unfolding. Weaving together impulse, rhythm, and the shared experience of the individuals in the room, an intuitive and spontaneous co-creation will emerge, just one of infinite possible forms.


May 4, 2014 § Leave a comment


Biology is a kind of music about life. Orchestrated complexity, with all the beauty and subtlety of a perfectly-composed song. Take your brain to the zoomed-in world of biologist Daniel Duzdevich, where the very little things inside cells make for the very big stuff of life. And take your soul to the dramatic plane of Stephany Boa and her operatic dissection of great music. Learn how many parts can sing together to create a whole, in science and in art.

Daniel studies how biological molecules interact with each other, and he spends much of his time scheming up tricks to see things that are just really difficult to see. Stephany, aka Vienna Boa, is an operatic singer and songwriter with a love for Mozart, Puccini and classical vocal literature, and a simultaneous sensibility for the modern pop song.


April 6, 2014 § Leave a comment


What is real science? And if it makes the human spirit soar, can we turn the excitement of discovery and creation into song? We will explore that wondrous land twixt philosophy, music, and science with mezzo soprano Hai-Ting Chinn and composer Mathew Schickele. The words of, inter alia, Marie Curie and Natalie Angier, will ring out. And philosopher of science and evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci will be our guide to this territory.


March 2, 2014 § Leave a comment


Smart, sexy, and sassy actor/vocalist Gia Mora, a.k.a. Einstein’s Girl, loves science and storytelling. She brings together beloved jazz standards with standup comedy and original music, taking us on a journey to the edges of the universe and the interiors of our hearts.

For Rachel Rosen, a cosmologist and field theorist at Columbia, the cosmos and gravity are a wondrous playground, and mathematics a way to express its potentialities. When she is not chasing away ghosts. Join us on their journey to worlds far out and within.


February 2, 2014 § Leave a comment


Ann Senghas of Barnard College explores the ways in which language learners and language users create ordered systems from disorder, and specifically the emergence of grammatical structure in a new sign language being created over generations of deaf children and adolescents in Nicaragua.
Jason Kao Hwang, a composer and violinist with roots in jazz and improvisational music, aspires to express life through a voice and language inseparable from that life. He imagines that the Chinese language his parents spoke at home was his formative musical experience. Jason will be joined by pianist Chris Forbes.

Language and music are both learned. But do they need to be taught? Come and hear of the improviser’s primal voice, inseparable from life, emerging through wonderful music and fascinating psychology.


January 5, 2014 § Leave a comment


Not slow and beyond escargot, the sea snails that Mandë Holford, a chemical biologist at Hunter and Research Associate at The American Museum of Natural History, studies are breaking new ground. These snails prey on fish, worms, and, if you get too close, humans. In a twist of nature, the venoms of these snails are starting to outshine their beautiful shells. Mandë will describe how scientists harness the lethal power of snail venom to develop drugs to treat chronic pain and other ailments. Dan Latham, the great Chef at our own Cornelia Street Café will demonstrate that there is much more to edible snails than the standard fare of escargots drowned in oil and garlic. In a tasting adventure of delectable morsels, you’ll experience the varied ways snails from Thailand to Portugal are prepared and served. Good to the last bite, no snail show is complete without words from Roald, who will share a poem dedicated to Stephen Jay Gould or a royal tale of snail indigo. Drugs, cuisine, and poetry… it’s a snail, snail world!

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