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ARTSCIENCE

CHURCHILL COLLEGE


CHURCHILL COLLEGE IS AN OUTWARD LOOKING ACADEMIC COMMUNITY NOT BOUND BY TRADITION. AN INHERENT INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH CAN BE FOUND THROUGHOUT THE WORK OF CHURCHILLIANS. THIS PROJECT LOOKS AT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CREATIVITY AND SCIENCE AT CHURCHILL COLLEGE.

COVER IMAGE: BULLARD PAPERS CHURCHILL ARCHIVES CENTRE


IMAGE: DRAWING OF A NEUTRON STAR PROFESSOR TONY HEWISH FRS NOBEL PRIZE WINNER FOUNDING FELLOW OF CHURCHILL COLLEGE CHURCHILL ARCHIVES CENTRE


IMAGE: BENEATH EUSTON STATION PROFESSOR KENICHI SOGA FREng CHURCHILL FELLOW & PROJECT LEADER CENTRE FOR SMART INFRASTRUCTURE & CONSTRUCTION


IMAGE: BENEATH EUSTON STATION PROFESSOR KENICHI SOGA FREng CHURCHILL FELLOW & PROJECT LEADER CENTRE FOR SMART INFRASTRUCTURE & CONSTRUCTION


AN INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSOR WALLY GILBERT PHYSICIST, BIOCHEMIST, MOLECULAR BIOLOGY PIONEER, NOBEL LAUREATE, ARTIST, PHOTOGRAPHER & CHURCHILLIAN BY LIVIA ARGENTESI

LA: How do you view the relationship between Science and Art within your work? WG: I do not try to connect the Art I do with the Science I have done. I do not seek images that are related at all to Science but rather try to create images that satisfy my sense of beauty and that can have an emotional impact on the viewer. I do see a strong parallel between the creative impulse that drives both the scientist and the artist. As a scientist, one’s creative impulse is to find new knowledge about the world. This search for novelty is conditioned as a search for truth, but truth in a form ultimately defined as meeting a social test of reproducibility by one’s peers. (The experimental findings have to be reproducible, the theoretical work has to be accepted by the community, and preferably has to predict some new connection or discovery that the community of one’s peers will agree with and accept). As an artist, one’s creative impulse is find new images or make new objects, again a search for novelty, but here conditioned as a search for beauty or emotional impact. The beauty or impact may be solely in the artist’s eyes, although if the artist is to be successful, other people have to want the art. IMAGE: FOUR LINES COLORS #1 WALLY GILBERT 2011


LA: Where do you find inspiration, are there any Artists and/or Scientists in particular that inspire you? WG: Both in Art and in Science, there are large elements of personal style. In Science both the choice of problems and the presentation of findings or solutions involves style, elegance, and even beauty. But the dominant search is for truth. The inspirations are from the great scientists of the past. Einstein, Feynman, — I was originally a theoretical physicist, Abdus Salam was my thesis adviser in Cambridge, but after I went back to Harvard, and was on the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Physics, Jim Watson got me interested in Biology — by showing me something very interesting going on in his laboratory, and I joined in with him doing experiments. I then changed to an experimental Molecular Biologist. I started doing the art when I discovered that I could make large images using a small digital camera (about 2001 — in those days a 2 megapixel camera) — and that the large images carry an emotional impact on the viewer. (I have always had an interest in art as a consumer — and a long interest in Modern and Contemporary Art, as well as an interest in the classic Greek and Roman Antiquities). But I started doing the photography as an Art form when I became personally pleased with the images I could make. I like many artists. In some ways Aaron Siskind struck me as a master (after I had started my own work).


LA: How do you think your academic research influences your creative process? WG: I have a strong visual sense. The academic work was either quite abstract mathematical physics or experimental molecular biology — where the experiments were either biochemical or phage genetics (counting plaques). (I did not do a pictorial science — like microscopy, or the appearance of organisms). But my visual sense was used in thinking visually about the results of experiments and about relationships. There is a sense in which the Art that I do is an experimental form. I do not conceive of the result beforehand--as a complete visual conception to be worked out later — but rather I work with the material — an image on the computer — or an image framed in the camera — as the beginning of a process-changing it and examining what I have made, repeatedly, to create a series of changed forms from which I pick the ones that I like.

IMAGES: DIGITAL CONSTELLATIONS EXHIBITION WALLY GILBERT LINDAU CITY MUSEUM 2013


IMAGE: BANDS #10AB WALLY GILBERT 2011


THE HEAD AND HEART BY MARK GOTHAM ARTIST BY-FELLOW & DIRECTOR OF MUSIC MAKING AT CHURCHILL COLLEGE

I enjoy a wonderfully varied working life engaged in a range of musical activities and it is an interesting challenge to characterise this in terms of an ‘art-science’ pairing (or polarity.) I conduct (choirs and orchestras in diverse repertoire); I compose music (of a ‘contemporary classical’ idiom, broadly defined); and I undertake technical, theoretical, academic work on characterising aspects of compositional technique and the musical experience. These might seem to be easily organised in relation to art and science. One might suppose that conducting (indeed all performance) is an intuitive, spontaneous pursuit – something quintessentially ‘artistic’ (according to one definition of the term). Conversely, music scholarship – like all systematic, pursuit of knowledge – can be easily conceived as a science. Finally, composition is frequently described as a kind of balancing act between a form of quasi-scientific, structural planning and (artistic) self-expression. Though these opinions doubtless reflects a partial truth, I find the reality much more richly complex and interrelated than that. For instance, I prepare scores for conducting in a very analytical way and, in turn, my academic work is almost invariably driven by practical, artistic questions that have arisen in the course of conducting or composing music.


For instance, one of the academic projects I am currently working on is a model to suggest the tempo (speed) at which it is easiest to perceive a given metrical structure. Almost all known music relies on some kind of hierarchical organisation of its temporal disposition (such as counting in regular units ‘1-2-3-4–1-2-3-4-’), yet relatively little work has been undertaken to uncover the intricacies of this parameter. Here’s an easy ‘experiment’ you can do at home to gain some insight into the process.

1. Clap along with the second hand of a (silent) clock. 2. Look away from the clock but keep clapping for a few seconds at the same speed. 3. Look back to see how accurately you’ve kept that pulse going.

In all likelihood, you will have done quite well with this part. Now try doing the same, but clapping only every 2 seconds. This longer pulse is much harder to maintain and inaccuracy tends to set in much sooner. If you do this experiment with a room full of people it quickly degenerates into total disorder. This kind of pulse projection is an important part of all metrical behaviour, and metrical structures in music usually compromise a rich hierarchy of different pulses. My model assesses the speed at which it is easiest to maintain the relevant combination of pulses in any different metrical context.


This is just one example of how a practical question has inspired an academic pursuit of mine. It is not prescriptive, (note that I don’t discuss ‘the best tempo’) but I consider it a useful benchmark against which to make artistic decisions, like how far to deviate from that ‘easiest’ speed when writing or performing a passage. I would even go so far as to say that this model provides an improved means for defining what it means for music to be ‘fast’ or ‘slow’. Of course, I am by no means the only one working at the intersection of practical and theoretical pursuit. Performers, composer, and scholars are constantly asking questions of this ilk. At the Festival of Ideas, I look forward to sharing a few insights into the inner workings of some Twentieth Century music – composers making use of technical ideas to realise creative, (artistic) ambitions. I hope to see some of you there!

Mark Gotham is the Director of Music-Making at Churchill College and a Newton Trust Scholar at the Faculty of Music. He will be presenting ‘The Frontiers of Modern Music’ on the morning of October 30 (Faculty of Music, 11 West Road).


Knell

of the

Nymph

No matter if naivety’s the goal, Eventually, life will take its toll. The mellow ringing of the somber bell Will mark the start of fleeting virtue’s knell. I seemed to dig until a massive hole Had shifted layers of my broken soul. What started as the deepest pit of hell Became the healing wisdom of a well. What once was split apart is now a whole, With clarity as to my current role. Thus, I emerge into a newfound shell And sing the dirge of demons that I quell.

‘“I FIND METAMORPHOSIS IN INSECTS FASCINATING. IT IS REFRESHING TO SEE SOMETHING SO VIVID EMERGING FROM A BRITTLE, “DEAD” SHELL. DESPITE ANY PREVIOUS INTERNAL TURMOIL (IN THIS CASE LITERALLY, AS TISSUES DEGRADE AND REARRANGE/REDEVELOP), THE ANIMAL IS READY TO TAKE FLIGHT AFTER A PERIOD OF SOME PERSONAL STRUGGLES, I WROTE THE POEM WITH THAT IMAGE IN MIND FOR INSPIRATION.” -SUZAN OK


SUZAN OK POSTGRADUATE STUDENT AT CHURCHILL COLLEGE, GENESTICIST, POET, WRITER & PHOTOGRAPHER

IMAGE: METAMORPHOSIS SUZAN OK 2013


PALACE OF STONE

Down below, The iridescent fields Teem with vitality. Spiked arms seek to unlock Porcelain chests that Conceal orbs of nacre. Beaks of beauty break apart stone, Gathering nutrients from tiny flowers. The benthic bird flaps its wings, Narrowly missing the armored grouch, Who scuttles over a soft, porous cushion, Only to be attacked by a cousin wielding a prismatic club The crowned, sedentary glutton with sticky fingers Finds entertainment in attendant striped comedians, While poised, patient sentinels cling to their leafy posts As they hover against the backdrop of acrylics.

of destruction.


“AT TEN, I PICKED UP VIOLIN. THE ONE I HAVE TO THIS DAY IS 120 YEARS OLD AND MADE IN GERMANY, THE LAND OF THE UMWELTFREUNDLICH – ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY. BUT THE WOOD IS FROM THE RAINFORESTS OF BRAZIL. BRAZIL AND TURKEY ARE MY OTHER HOMES. SPECIFICALLY, THE WATERS OF THE ATLANTIC AND THE MEDITERRANEAN ARE WHERE I FIRST EXPLORED NATURE. LOGGERHEAD TURTLES BREAKING THE SURFACE; FLOUNDERS BARELY VISIBLE ON THE OCEAN FLOOR; ISOPODS LEAVING HOLES IN THE SATURATED SAND. MY TRAVELS HAVE INFORMED BY THIRST FOR SCIENCE AND ART. THE POEM: “PALACE OF STONE” STILL STICKING TO VISUALS WITH CONCRETE POETRY…” -SUZAN OK


WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL OF THE CHURCHILLIANS INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT.

ARTSCIENCE CHURCHILL COLLEGE DEVELOPMENT OFFICE CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY FESTIVAL OF IDEAS 2013 ALUMNI@CHU.CAM.AC.UK

ARTSCIENCE  

As part of the Festival of Ideas - Churchill College is taking a look at the relationship between creativity and science.

ARTSCIENCE  

As part of the Festival of Ideas - Churchill College is taking a look at the relationship between creativity and science.

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