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(54) Research on MUSIC: microsonic.

I will probably repeat this many times, but one of the challenges at Researchista is to keep my excitement down. Since I started this blog and our Facebook page, I met so many interesting people and the things we discuss are sometimes simply mind-blowing (bam) and this is one of these cases… So, from the left to the right we have 1 half musician/Researcher, 1 composer and 1 half Researcher/musician-amateur, who… how should I put it… joined their forces to create music out of the sounds that human body makes. Wait, what? I will stop here and let you discover this on your own… 

..here they are: Eva, Lucas and Ruth.

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They created “Microsonic” – an interdisciplinary project based music and on microbial communication, or shortly: music & microbes, how original is that! 😀

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here is the microbe, here is the music and here is the Researcher 🙂

The story behind: Both artists and scientists seek to understand aspects of the complex world around us. Despite this common ground, artists and scientists are too often separate in their endeavors. The Academy Honours Programme for Young Artists and Scientists (Netherlands) promotes cross-disciplinary approaches and interactions. The idea is to bridge this gap by bringing together ten artists and ten scientists of diverse backgrounds where they can discuss themes, amongst which: the role of art and science in society.

It was here at this workshop back in 2015 where the three of us met. It was already late, we changed the décor in the meanwhile to a pub, when we got involved into a discussion about communication, its musical aspects and how microbial organisms (e.g. bacterias) are communicating.

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source: internet

The beautiful thing about music is that it is an ultimate abstract art form that is not tied to specific images that connect easily with other disciplines from arts and science. And so, the idea to collaborate on a musical project inspired by microbial communication (aka microbes and bacterias) came into being.

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source: internet

Research about microbial communication via sound signals has only received limited attention due to its technical challenges. Even though electronic devices capable of detecting sounds on microscopic length scales get more advanced every day, the technique is still in its infancy. It is already possible to hear the sound of a large group of microbes – which sounds like white noise – but the devices still need to be developed further to be able to hear the sound of single isolated microbes. Because little is known about this form of communication, Lucas saw a role for himself to play as a composer. Since the communication is inaudible for us human beings, Lucas started to explore how a musical composition out of how this microbial world could possibly sound.

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“Microsonic” partition by Lucas Wiegerink

The Opinion article “When microbial conversations get physical”, Gemma Reguera discusses various forms of microbial communication, which formed the basis for the composition. It appears that the microbial microcosm is a rich sound world on its own. Reguera states that “every particle in a cell has a unique natural frequency of vibration and therefore produces a distinctive sound, very much like voice tonality and pitch in humans”.

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source: internet

Sound waves are generated when objects vibrate. Experiments with yeast cells not only demonstrate that intracellular motions were sufficiently strong enough to propagate across the stiff cell wall, but that they could also generate reproducible acoustic signals.

For our project Microsonic, Lucas composed a soft musical piece, as to give the audience the feeling of a hidden sound world. The public is invited to join on a sound journey into the human body. The microbial world slowly fades into their world. A tape with real sounds stemming from the human body is added to the composition to give the translated communication of microbes a real context. The sound journey starts off with a kind of white noise – unclear, almost inaudible and a bit scratchy – and you start wondering what it is. It is the sound of blood streaming through a vein. Then the zooming starts: more and more internal body sounds are heard, including the creaking of human nerves. But also, by further zooming in you will hear the sound produced by millions and millions of microbes. There the musicians come into the picture. The playing instruments symbolize the several sound signals that microbes use to communicate. Slowly, you get introduced into their microscopic world.

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source: internet

More and more pitched signals become distinguished, first only short ones, but as we zoom further, we hear longer ones as well. The microbial sound world becomes richer and richer; higher and lower pitches occur and the dynamic contrasts intensify. When listening carefully, you will hear that microbes make connections and communicate by taking over each other’s signals. So does the musicians – based on live improvisation. It is at this moment that you as human being can get a glimpse of the communication of microbes and maybe even feel part of their conversation. The composed journey ends with a collective ‘vibrational mode’, when a certain group of microbe cells are ‘in tune’.

The challenge for our composer Lucas was that he was used to thinking in terms of melodies and chords. However, microbial communication via sound signals is not a musical process – still produduces patterns and sounds. As a result, he had to change his approach to composing and relinquish control. Instead, he created a number of frameworks in which the musicians had freedom of movement and become part of the creation process. The subject of communication lends itself very well to this way of making music. The musicians improvise while listening and reacting to each other; they have to communicate to let it work.

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here it how body sounds from within…. https://soundcloud.com/user-354620747/research-on-music-microsonic

Our project is an example of how arts and science that both have the urge to understand and express the complex external world can reinforce each other. This demands certain effort, yes, but is even more rewarding. So had our composer Lucas to let go of his usual approach towards composing. And it is exactly this that makes interdisciplinary collaboration extremely interesting – since it questions the usual approach and way of working. But there is more, interdisciplinary collaboration can support inspiration in each other’s work and reinforce the expression of the complex mechanism in our (microbial) world towards a public. All we can say, go out, open your eyes, take the risk to look outside your usual box”.

The post is written  with Eva van Ooij, Ruth Schmidt (Dutch Institute of Ecology) and Lucas Wiegerink, and was presented at the PAS – Parcours of Art & Science Festival of Maastricht University in 2016. Many thanks to the members of Ensemble 88 – an ensemble specialized in contemporary music. The musical performance was accompanied by a presentation on microbial communication by Ruth.

With love for Research,

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More of Lucas’ compositions:

“The occult beauty of the finite is about that realisation that what is dear to us is also fleeting, and the beauty that lies in such transience. I was inspired to write this piece by the illness and passing away of my mother. As her health worsened, I became increasingly aware of the small pockets of beauty in our lives. Living under the illusion that everything lasts forever, these are easy to miss. But as one faces the loss of something precious, the world is brought into sharper focus”.

Being Arthur: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvTeIy4w-xc&feature=youtu.be
Kameroperahuis in collaboration with Dutch Touring Opera and Opera Days Rotterdam

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Academia happiness last years of PhD music passion research Researcher Special Guest

(53) Research on MUSIC: Research with music.

This post is dedicated to all supermen and superwomen out there that manage to combine 2 passions, at which they are both good at, in their everyday life. And this my friend, is a setar.

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Please welcome my multi-talented friend, Nasser Davarzani!

Music helps me to focus better. Sometimes when I don’t have motivation for work, I bring my level of concentration by bringing music. It cheers me up.

My PhD research is about the application of statistics in medicine. Last, but not least, I sing and play Iranian traditional music.

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(and no, this is not a presentation for a conference 🙂 Nasser singing, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Research in music

How research helps you advance with your music? When somebody is working with traditional music, it’s important to know about the history of the instrument and  culture of its country.  You must know about the specifications and abilities of your instruments if you are going to play with another instruments. It helps you  to know with which instrument you can combine it.

Is important to know about the structure of the music and about the instrument itself. It helps you to know more about your instrument and how to mix with other instruments. Knowing more about the history helps you more.

You are a PhD student in statistics while you play professional music, how does that work?

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Source: http://www.actuallywecreate.com/music-work
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UGI team, Maastricht University, Netherlands

Music and Research

Every day I work till 18.00 at the university and then I go to music school and practice 1 hour singing, it takes a lot of energy but when I go out I feel re-energized. Then I go home and I practice 1 hour for my instrument.

At least 2 hours of practice for me is a kind of meditation, because all I think about are the notes, music, voice and sound. Sometimes I close my eyes, and I feel my body fully present in the music. The only thing I think about is the sound and the word I should pronounce and the lyrics that I sing. Iranian music is mixed with very old poems and which are full of spiritual concepts. When you sing these kind of poems, you without thinking go into this kind of spiritual mood and you don t think about the world that you live in.

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Karlsruhe, Germany

Most of the time, Iranian music full of love stories and spiritual concepts and unconsciously when you sing these kind of things you feel it fully with your body and to really sing it best you need to understand what you sing and it helps you to go more deep into spiritual things.

 

Post written by Nasser Davarzani, PhD at the Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering, also Researcher at the Department of Pathology of Maastricht University and the student of one of the best instrumentalist and composer of Iran, Mr. Hamid Motebassem.

With love for Research,

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Academia knowledge music origin research Special Guest

(52) Research on MUSIC: lo(ve) story.

This is the Research on MUSIC month and I have a great pleasure to invite Eva van Ooij, a freelance musician and researcher at Maastricht University, to tell us about her discoveries in music and law. It is more than fun than it sounds! 😉 Here she is playing her cielo

Hi!

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Eva van Ooij, cellist and research fellow at ITEM/Maastricht University

Music is everywhere. We cannot escape form it. We hear it when we switch on the radio, go to a concert or watch a movie, but also when we do our groceries or are on the phone, while being forwarded to another phone. Music is and has been around always. And so are the musicians.

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Source: Eva van Ooij.

Musicians travel while reaching their public, playing on a special occasion or place… This has been the case since many centuries and worked well. For example, London in the 18thCentury was a magnet for music lovers and music producers. In the opera and theatre houses many foreign musicians composed and played, while bringing their own knowledge and way of interpretation…. The same is true for Vienna, Paris, New York…. They just did it. Without any Schengen Agreement or European right to free movement of persons. Huh? Where does that pop-up from?

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“Bouffon au lauth” (1623-1624) by Frans Halls, source.

Well, music and EU law have both my interests and belong to my profession. When meeting new people, it is not unusual to have a puzzling face in front of me when I say that I am a musician and researcher in EU law. Often the statement that these two disciplines are not related and have a very different approach of work follows quite soon afterwards.

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Source: http://www.athensmusicjunkie.com

There is some truth in that – at the same time not. Music is everywhere, and so is law too. My research is about the fundamental right of free movement of persons and the pattern of work of very mobile EU citizens – such as many musicians – and how this affects the social security position of this mobile worker. Tensions between laws occur in this more irregular way of working, which results often in unclear situations and an administrative hassle for the person concerned.

 In this post, however, I would like to highlight another cross-over between the musical and legal world, but to do that, we need to go back in the time. Take Italy in the 17th century. This was divided among Spanish domination and governance by the pope and many small free cities in the North. The lack of political unity in Northern Italy made that there was no central organised high court of justice, neither a lawgiver who developed national law.

All rules were local or provincial subjected to the power-game of local notables, which made the legislation occasional and changeable. Still, exchange and trade went on and it where the law professors who helped out in case of misunderstandings or disputes. These learned and wise men kept this mediating and powerful position for quite a long time: till the end of the ancient regime in 1789. It was at this time that the first universities in Europe where created in Italy, which attired persons from well-off sections of the population to study Roman law in Italy. This is still noticeable today and the influence of the Roman law applied by the law professors can be traced back in the law systems of many other countries in and outside Europe.

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(Italy around 1650, showing the cities that were the main centres for music)

In the same period, there were flourishing days for the arts and music in Italy. Several rulers, cities and leading families in the North were competing for prestige by the way of supporting music and the arts. This stimulated not only the occurrence of new music genres such as the opera, but also created the first classical music education system and the development of craftsmanship in high quality musical instruments – think about the ateliers of Stradivari or Amati. This made Italy having a dominant influence on the European music scenes lasting till even the mid-eighteenth century. And as everyone knows, Stradivari string instruments are still the most desired instruments of today.

Today, we know quite sophisticated legal systems that provide us the playing rules of our societies. Some rights are the same (think about universal human rights); others may differ more or differ less. A clear example here is the gay-marriage, which is totally legally here in the Netherlands, but still unthinkable in societies like, for example, Poland or Bulgaria. Different choices have been made within these societies. We may think that is caused due to a different approach to matters, to a different culture. Or maybe not?

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Source: www.industryweek.com

In his book Judges, Legislators and Professors Van Caenegem opposes exactly this more traditional view that legal history is shaped by and is a part of cultural history. He proposes an interesting and bold perspective, namely: the form of the legal system with all its duties and rights, regulations and decisions is created by the political development within the various European nations. He shifts the idea that culture is at the core of how our societal structure is shaped.

But, what then about the purest expression form of our culture: the arts and music? Could we then also say that political history can be held responsible for the development of these? When having a closer look at for example the musical developments in the baroque and classical music, we can actually come to a similar conclusion. Observing both the legal and musical developments in Italy, we can say that for a long period of time, the Italian developments where progressive for their time and have been of significant influence in Europe. And indeed, it was the way of political organisation that made these developments flourishing within the domain of the arts and legal organisation. Of course, developments are not black and white. However, reflecting on the maybe bold statement of Van Caenegem and comparing this to the music historical development in the baroque/classical era, it shows us that political organisation had an enormous impact on the development of the legal order and cultural life for a long-time and with a wide geographic reach. A good reminder I would say, since it shows us how important political organization is.

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At the time of writing of this blog it is a very topical issue. Just observe the strong reoccurrence of nationalism, terrorism and other developments, such as the upcoming Brexit, an American president that is first and foremost interested in itself and not to mention the recruitment of the Turkish minister of Dutch/German/Austrian/…..–Turkish nationals for the upcoming referendum in Turkey…. I have to admit that politics are not my domain as researcher. Yet research, particular in law and culture is built on the values of enlightenment. To defend an open, rational and democratic society is not a choice as a researcher, but a duty in itself.

Post written by Eva van Ooij researcher at Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross border cooperation and mobility / ITEM regarding cross border mobility of artists, new forms of employment and their social security position.

Music with us more next Monday!

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With love for Research,

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