MIT News - Music MIT News is dedicated to communicating to the media and the public the news and achievements of the students, faculty, staff and the greater MIT community. en Sun, 02 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0500 Singing for joy and service After surgery to correct childhood hearing loss, Swarna Jeewajee discovered a desire to be a physician-scientist, and a love of a cappella music. Sun, 02 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0500 Shafaq Patel | MIT News correspondent <p>Swarna Jeewajee grew up loving music — she sings in the shower and blasts music that transports her to a happy state. But until this past year, she never felt confident singing outside her bedroom.</p> <p>Now, the senior chemistry and biology major spends her Saturdays singing around the greater Boston area, at hospitals, homes for the elderly, and rehabilitation centers, with the a cappella group she co-founded, Singing For Service.</p> <p>Jeewajee says she would not have been able to sing in front of people without the newfound confidence that came after she had transformative ear surgery in the spring of 2018.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jeewajee grew up in Mauritius, a small island off the east coast of Madagascar, where she loved the water and going swimming. When she was around 8 years old, she developed chronic ear infections as a result of a cholesteatoma, which caused abnormal skin growth in her middle ear.&nbsp;</p> <p>It took five years and three surgeries for the doctors in Mauritius to diagnose what had happened to Jeewajee’s ear. She spent some of her formative years at the hospital instead of leading a normal childhood and swimming at the beach.&nbsp;</p> <p>By the time Jeewajee was properly diagnosed and treated, she was told her hearing could not be salvaged, and she had to wear a hearing aid.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I sort of just accepted that this was my reality,” she says. “People used to ask me what the hearing aid was like — it was like hearing from headphones. It felt unnatural. But it wasn’t super hard to get used to it. I had to adapt to it.”</p> <p>Eventually, the hearing aid became a part of Jeewajee, and she thought everything was fine. During her first year at MIT, she joined <a href="">Concourse</a>, a first-year learning community which offers smaller classes to fulfill MIT’s General Institute Requirements, but during her sophomore year, she enrolled in larger lecture classes. She found that she wasn’t able to hear as well, and it was a problem.&nbsp;</p> <p>“When I was in high school, I didn’t look at my hearing disability as a disadvantage. But coming here and being in bigger lectures, I had to acknowledge that I was missing out on information,” Jeewajee says.&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the winter break of her sophomore year, her mother, who had been living in the U.S. while Jeewajee was raised by her grandmother in Mauritius, convinced Jeewajee to see a specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. That’s when Jeewajee encountered her role model, Felipe Santos, a surgeon who specializes in her hearing disorder.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jeewajee had sought Santos’ help to find a higher-performing hearing aid, but instead he recommended a titanium implant to restore her hearing via a minimally invasive surgery. Now, Jeewajee does not require a hearing aid at all, and she can hear equally well from both ears.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The surgery helped me with everything. I used to not be able to balance, and now I am better at that. I had no idea that my hearing affected that,” she says.&nbsp;</p> <p>These changes, she says, are little things. But it’s the little things that made a large impact.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I gained a lot more confidence after the surgery. In class, I was more comfortable raising my hand. Overall, I felt like I was living better,” she says.</p> <p>This feeling is what brought Jeewajee to audition for the a cappella group. She never had any formal training in singing, but in January, during MIT’s Independent Activities Period, her friend mentioned that she wanted to start an a cappella group and convinced Jeewajee to help her start Singing For Service. The group launched with the help of the <a href="">Council for the Arts Grants Program</a>, which supports student arts projects that engage with the MIT community and beyond.</p> <p>Jeewajee describes Singing For Service as her “fun activity” at MIT, where she can just let loose. She is a soprano singer, and the group of nine to 12 students practices for about three hours a week before their weekly performances. They prepare three songs for each show; a typical lineup is a Disney melody, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” and a mashup from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Her favorite part is when they take song requests from the audience. For example, Singing For Service recently went to a home for patients with multiple sclerosis, who requested songs from the Beatles and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After the performance, the group mingles with the audience, which is one of Jeewajee’s favorite parts of the day.&nbsp;</p> <p>She loves talking with patients and the elderly. Because Jeewajee was a patient for so many years growing up, she now wants to help people who are going through that type of experience. That is why she is going into the medical field and strives to earn an MD-PhD.&nbsp;</p> <p>“When I was younger, I kind of always was at the doctor’s office. Doctors want to help you and give you a treatment and make you feel better. This aspect of medicine has always fascinated me, how someone is literally dedicating their time to helping you. They don’t know you, they’re not family, but they’re here for you. And I want to be there for someone as well,” she says.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jeewajee says that because she grew up with a medical condition that was poorly understood, she wants to devote her career to search for answers to tough medical problems. Perhaps not surprisingly, she has gravitated toward cancer research.</p> <p>She discovered her passion for this field after her first year at MIT, when she spent the summer conducting research in a cancer hospital in Lyon, through MISTI-France. There, she experienced an “epiphany” as she watched scientists and physicians come together to fight cancer, and was inspired to do the same.</p> <p>She cites the hospital’s motto, “Chercher et soigner jusqu’à la guérison,” which means “Research and treat until the cure,” as an expression of what she will aspire to as a physician-scientist.</p> <p>Last summer, while working at The Rockefeller University investigating mechanisms of resistance to cancer therapy, she developed a deeper appreciation for how individual patients can respond differently to a particular treatment, which is part of what makes cancer so hard to treat. Upon her return at MIT, she joined the <a href="" target="_blank">Hemann lab</a> at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, where she conducts research on near-haploid leukemia, a subtype of blood cancer. Her ultimate goal is to find a vulnerability that may be exploited to develop new treatments for these patients.</p> <p>The Koch Institute has become her second home on MIT’s campus. She enjoys the company of her labmates, who she says are good mentors and equally passionate about science. The walls of the lab are adorned with science-related memes and cartoons, and amusing photos of the team’s scientific adventures.</p> <p>Jeewajee says her work at the Koch Institute has reaffirmed her motivation to pursue a career combining science and medicine.</p> <p>“I want to be working on something that is challenging so that I can truly make a difference. Even if I am working with patients for whom we may or may not have the right treatment, I want to have the capacity to be there for them and help them understand and navigate the situation, like doctors did for me growing up,” Jeewajee says.</p> Swarna JeewajeeImage: Gretchen ErtlProfile, Students, Undergraduate, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine, Koch Institute, MISTI, Cancer, Student life, Arts, Music, School of Science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Council for the Arts at MIT Scholarships help build an exceptional student body A record $38 million has been raised for undergraduate financial aid in FY19. Wed, 25 Dec 2019 23:59:59 -0500 MIT Resource Development <p>Senior Emily Soice, a talented violinist, has thrived at MIT, pursuing a dual major in civil and environmental engineering and music. “MIT has an amazing music program,” she says. “You really get a rigorous conservatory experience here.” A member of two performance ensembles, she enjoys connecting with others on campus through their shared love of music.&nbsp;</p> <p>In her engineering studies, Soice is focused on the issue of sustainable agriculture. “The wealth of research opportunities at MIT is astounding,” she says. “I’m able to contribute to that research during my undergraduate years.”</p> <p>A scholarship to MIT made it possible for Soice to pursue her passions and seek out solutions to pressing global challenges. “When I got into MIT,” she recalls, “my family had been unemployed for more than a year. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to go to MIT if I didn’t have a scholarship.”</p> <p>As one of only five universities in the United States with need-blind admissions for all students, both U.S. and international, MIT is committed to meeting the full financial need of every accepted student without requiring them to take out loans, according to Stuart Schmill ’86, dean of admissions and student financial services. “Scholarships allow us to attract the best students from around the world, regardless of their financial or geographic background,” he says.&nbsp;</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>This past fiscal year, nearly 5,000 alumni and friends around the country and the world contributed $38 million toward undergraduate financial aid — a record amount for the Institute. Gifts for scholarships ensure that MIT can continue to uphold its commitment to need-blind admissions. A priority of the&nbsp;<a href=";utm_medium=web&amp;utm_term=betterworld-homepage&amp;utm_content=&amp;utm_campaign=mit-core">MIT Campaign for a Better World</a> — launched in 2016 to drive the Institute’s work on some of humanity’s biggest challenges — <a href=";utm_medium=web&amp;utm_term=tag-listing&amp;utm_content=&amp;utm_campaign=undergraduate-scholarships">undergraduate student aid</a>&nbsp;continues to have significant needs.</p> <p>Fundraising for scholarships helps MIT continue to bring the most-promising students to campus regardless of income level. In academic year 2018-19, MIT provided need-based financial aid awards to 59 percent of undergraduate students, with a median scholarship of approximately $53,000, the equivalent of MIT’s 2019-20 undergraduate tuition.&nbsp;</p> <p>Both Soice and Schmill point out that financial aid does more than attract students to MIT. “It also helps them succeed once they’re here,” explains Schmill. “If students are stressed about finances, it’s going to affect their educational choices and their ability to participate fully in the life of the Institute.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“There is so much open to you once you get into MIT,” says Soice. “It’s an amazing place to explore, and having a scholarship has allowed me to explore so much.” After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school, then work for a nonprofit focused on solving problems in agriculture or food systems.&nbsp;</p> <p>Scholarships, according to Schmill, help create “a robustly talented and diverse class in order to enhance the living and learning environment, and therefore the educational outcomes, for all our students. Every scholarship introduces a new mind into the MIT community, and simultaneously enriches the life of the recipient and the campus.”</p> <p>Emily Soice agrees. “Without a scholarship,” she says, “I wouldn’t be here.”&nbsp;</p> An MIT scholarship let senior Emily Soice pursue her passions in civil and environmental engineering and music: “Without a scholarship, I wouldn’t be here,” she says.Image: Bearwalk CinemaCampaign for a Better World, Undergraduate, Financial aid, Music, Giving, Students, Tuition Exploring hip hop history with art and technology With its centerpiece exhibit for the forthcoming Universal Hip Hop Museum, an MIT team uses artificial intelligence to explore the rich history of hip hop music. Fri, 20 Dec 2019 09:00:00 -0500 Suzanne Day | Office of Open Learning <p>A new museum is coming to New York City in 2023, the year of hip-hop’s 50th birthday, and an MIT team has helped to pave the way for the city to celebrate the legacy of this important musical genre — by designing unique creative experiences at the intersection of art, learning, and contemporary technology.</p> <p>With “The [R]evolution of Hip Hop Breakbeat Narratives,” a team led by D. Fox Harrell, professor of digital media and artificial intelligence and director of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality, has created an art installation that takes museum-goers on an interactive, personalized journey through hip hop history.</p> <p>The installation served as the centerpiece of an event held this month by leaders of the highly anticipated Universal Hip Hop Museum (UHHM), which will officially open in just a few years in the Bronx — the future home of the UHHM, and where many agree that the genre of hip hop music originated.</p> <p>“Hip hop is much more than a musical genre. It is a global phenomenon, with a rich history and massive social and cultural impact, with local roots in the Bronx,” Harrell says. “As an educational center, the Universal Hip Hop Museum will have the power to connect people to the surrounding community.”</p> <p>Harrell’s immersive art installation takes museum-goers on a journey through hip hop culture and history, from the 1970s to the present. However, not everyone experiences the installation in the same way. Using a computational model of users’ preferences and artificial intelligence technologies to drive interaction, the team of artists and computer scientists from the Center for Advanced Virtuality has created layered, personalized virtual experiences.</p> <p>When approaching the exhibit, museum-goers are greeted by “The Elementals,” or novel characters named after the five elements of hip hop (MC, DJ, Breakdance, Graffiti Art, and Knowledge) that guide users and ask key questions — “What is your favorite hip hop song?” or “Which from this pair of lyrics do you like the most?” Based on those answers, the Elementals take users through their own personalized narrative of hip hop history.</p> <p>Harrell developed the Elementals with professors John Jennings of the University of California at Riverside and Stacey Robinson of the University of Illinois — artists collectively known as Black Kirby. This visual aesthetic ties the work into the rich, imaginative cultures and iconography of the African diaspora.</p> <p>Through these conversations with the Elementals they encounter, people can explore broad social issues surrounding hip hop, such as gender, fashion, and location. At the end of their journey, they can take home a personalized playlist of songs.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We designed the Breakbeat Narratives installation by integrating Microsoft conversational AI technologies, which made our user modeling more personable, with a music visualization platform from the TunesMap Educational Foundation,” Harrell says.</p> <p>The exploration of social issues is about as close to the heart of Harrell’s mission in the Center for Advanced Virtuality as one can get. In the center, Harrell designs virtual technologies to stimulate creative expression, cultural analysis, and positive social change.</p> <p>“We wanted to tell stories that pushed beyond stereotypical representations, digging into the complexities of both empowering and problematic representations that often coexist,” he says. “This work fits into our endeavor called the Narrative, Orality, and Improvisation Research (NOIR) Initiative that uses AI technologies to forward the art forms of diverse global cultures.”</p> <p>Through this art project enabled by contemporary technologies, Harrell hopes that he has helped museum leadership to achieve their goal of celebrating hip-hop’s heritage and legacy.</p> <p>“Now, people internationally can have a stake in this great art.”</p> Designed by an MIT team using artificial intelligence, “The [R]evolution of Hip Hop Breakbeat Narratives” is an immersive art installation designed for the forthcoming Universal Hip Hop Museum in New York City.Photo: MIT Center for Advanced VirtualityOffice of Open Learning, Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, History, Arts, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Technology and society, Music, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Engineering Deploying drones to prepare for climate change PhD student Norhan Bayomi uses drones to investigate how building construction impacts communities’ resilience to rising temperatures. Fri, 04 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Daysia Tolentino | MIT News correspondent <p>While doing field research for her graduate thesis in her hometown of Cairo, Norhan Magdy Bayomi observed firsthand the impact of climate change on her local community.</p> <p>The residents of the low-income neighborhood she was studying were living in small, poorly insulated apartments that were ill-equipped for dealing with the region’s rising temperatures. Sharing cramped quarters — with families in studios less than 500 square feet — and generally lacking air conditioning or even fans, many people avoided staying in their homes altogether on the hottest days.</p> <p>It was a powerful illustration of one of the most terrible aspects of climate change: Those who are facing its most extreme impacts also tend to have the fewest resources for adapting.</p> <p>This understanding has guided Bayomi’s research as a PhD student in the Department of Architecture’s Building Technology Program. Currently in her third year of the program, she has mainly looked at countries in the developing world, studying how low-income communities there adapt to changing heat patterns and <a href="" target="_blank">documenting</a> global heatwaves and populations’ adaptive capacity to heat. A key focus of her research is how building construction and neighborhoods’ design affect residents’ vulnerability to hotter temperatures.</p> <p>She uses drones with infrared cameras to document the surface temperatures of urban buildings, including structures with a variety of designs and building materials, and outdoor conditions in the urban canyons between buildings.</p> <p>“When you look at technologies like drones, they are not really designed or commonly used to tackle problems like this. We’re trying to incorporate this kind of technology to understand what kind of adaptation strategies are suitable for addressing climate change, especially for underserved populations,” she says.</p> <p><strong>Eyes in the sky</strong></p> <p>Bayomi is currently developing a computational tool to model heat risk in urban areas that incorporates building performance, available urban resources for adaptation, and population adaptive capacity into its data.</p> <p>“Most of the tools that are available right now are mostly using statistical data about the population, the income, and the temperature. I’m trying to incorporate how the building affects indoor conditions, what resources are available to urban residents, and how they adapt to heat exposure — for instance, if they have a cooling space they could go to, or if there is a problem with the power supplies and they don’t have access to ceiling fans,” she says. “I’m trying to add these details to the equation to see how they would affect risk in the future.”</p> <p>She recently began <a href="">looking at similar changes</a> in communities in the Bronx, New York, in order to see how building construction, population adaptation, and the effects of climate change differ based on region. Bayomi says that her advisor, Professor John Fernández, motivated her to think about how she could apply different technologies into her field of research.</p> <p>Bayomi’s interest in drones and urban development isn’t limited to thermal mapping. As a participant in the School of Architecture and Planning’s DesignX entrepreneurship program, she and her team founded Airworks, a company that uses aerial data collected by the drones to provide developers with automated site plans and building models. Bayomi worked on thermal imaging for the company, and she hopes to continue this work after she finishes her studies.</p> <p>Bayomi is also working with Fernández’s Urban Metabolism Group on an aerial thermography project in collaboration with Tarek Rakha PhD ’15, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech. The project is developing a cyber-physical platform to calibrate building energy models, using drones equipped with infrared sensors that autonomously detect heat transfer anomalies and envelope material conditions. Bayomi’s group is currently working on a drone that will be able to capture these data and process them in real-time.</p> <p><strong>Second home</strong></p> <p>Bayomi says the personal connections that she has developed at MIT, both within her program and across the Institute, have profoundly shaped her graduate experience.</p> <p>“MIT is a place where I felt home and welcome. Even as an Arabic muslim woman, I always felt home,” she says. “My relationship with my advisor was one of the main unique things that kept me centered and focused, as I was blessed with an advisor who understands and respects my ideas and gives me freedom to explore new areas.”</p> <p>She also appreciates the Building Technology program’s “unique family vibe,” with its multiple academic and nonacademic events including lunch seminars and social events.</p> <p>When she’s not working on climate technologies, Bayomi enjoys playing and producing music. She has played the guitar for 20 years now and was part of a band during her undergraduate years. Music serves an important role in Bayomi’s life and is a crucial creative outlet for her. She currently produces rock-influenced trance music, a genre categorized by melodic, electronic sounds. She released her first single under the moniker Nourey last year and is working on an upcoming track. She likes incorporating guitar into her songs, an element not typically heard in trance tunes.</p> <p>“'I’m trying to do&nbsp; something using guitars with ambient influences in trance music, which is not very common,” she says.</p> <p>Bayomi has been a member of the MIT Egyptian Students Association since she arrived at MIT in 2015, and now serves as vice president. The club works to connect Egyptian students at MIT and students in Egypt, to encourage prospective students to apply and provide guidance based on the members’ own experiences.</p> <p>“We currently have an amazing mix of students in engineering, Sloan [School of Management], Media Lab, and architecture, including graduate and undergraduate members. Also, with this club we try to create a little piece of home here at MIT for those who feel homesick and disconnected due to culture challenges,” she says.</p> <p>In 2017 she participated in MIT’s Vacation Week for Massachusetts Public Schools at the MIT Museum, and in 2018 she participated in the Climate Changed ideas competition, where her team’s <a href="" target="_blank">entry</a> was selected as one of the top three finalists.</p> <p>“I am keen to participate whenever possible in these kind of activities, which enhance my academic experience here,” she says. “MIT is a rich place for such events.”</p> Norhan BayomiImage: Jake BelcherGraduate, postdoctoral, Students, Profile, Architecture, School of Architecture and Planning, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Drones, Climate change, Africa, Middle East, Music A new act for opera Emily Richmond Pollock’s book examines creative attempts to refashion postwar opera after Germany’s “Year Zero.” Tue, 01 Oct 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p>In November 1953, the Nationaltheater in Mannheim, Germany, staged a new opera, the composer Boris Blacher’s “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1,” which had debuted just months previously. As it ran, music fans were treated to both a performance and a raging controversy about the work, which one critic called “a monstrosity of musical progress,” and another termed “a stillbirth.”</p> <p>Some of this vitriol stemmed from Blacher’s experimental composition, which had jazz and pop sensibilities, few words in the libretto (but some nonsense syllables), and no traditional storyline. The controversy was heightened by the Mannheim production, which projected images of postwar ruins and other related tropes onto the backdrop.</p> <p>“The staging was very political,” says MIT music scholar Emily Richmond Pollock, author of a new book about postwar German opera. “Putting these very concrete images behind [the stage], that people had just lived through, produced a very uncomfortable feeling.”</p> <p>It wasn’t just critics who were dubious: One audience member wrote to the Mannheim morning newspaper to say that Blacher’s “cacophonous concoction is actually approaching absolute zero and is not even original in doing so.”</p> <p>In short, “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” hardly fit its genre’s traditions. Blacher’s work was introduced soon after the supposed “Zero Hour” in German society — the years after World War Two ended in 1945. Germany had instigated the deadliest war in history, and the country was supposed to be building itself entirely anew on political, civic, and cultural fronts. But the reaction to “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” shows the limits of that concept; Germans also craved continuity.</p> <p>“There is this mythology of the Zero Hour, that Germans had to start all over again,” says Pollock, an associate professor in MIT’s Music and Theater Arts Section.</p> <p>Pollock’s new book, “<a href=";lang=en&amp;">Opera after the Zero Hour</a>,” just published by Oxford University Press, explores these tensions in rich detail. In the work, Pollock closely scrutinizes five postwar German operas while examining the varied reactions they produced. Rather than participating in a total cultural teardown, she concludes, many Germans were attempting to construct a useable past and build a future connected to it. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“Opera in general is a conservative art form,” Pollock says. “It has often been identified very closely with whomever is in power.” For that reason, she adds, “Opera is a really good place to examine why tradition was a problem [after 1945], and how different artists chose to approach that problem.”</p> <p><strong>The politics of cultural nationalism</strong></p> <p>Rebuilding Germany after 1945 was a monumental task, even beyond creating a new political state. A significant part of Germany lay in rubble; for that matter, most large opera houses had been bombed.</p> <p>Nonetheless, opera soon bloomed again in Germany. There were 170 new operas staged in Germany from 1945 to 1965. Operationally, as Pollock notes in the book, this inevitably meant including former Nazis in the opera business — efforts at “denazification” of society, she thinks, were of limited effectiveness. Substantively, meanwhile, the genre’s sense of tradition set audience expectations that could be difficult to alter.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of investment in opera, but it’s not [usually] going to be avant-garde,” Pollock says, noting there were “hundreds of years of opera tradition pressing down” on composers, as well as “a bourgeois restored German culture that doesn’t want to do anything too radical.” However, she notes, after 1945, “There are a lot of traditions of music-making as part of the culture of being German that feel newly problematic [to socially-aware observers].”</p> <p>Thus a substantial portion of those 170 new operas — besides “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” — contained distinctive blends of innovation and tradition. Consider Carl Orff’s “Oedipus der Tyrann,” a 1958 work of musical innovation with a traditional theme. Orff was one of Germany’s best-known composers (he wrote “Carmina Burana” in 1937) and had professional room to experiment. “Oedipus der Tyrann” strips away operatic musical form, with scant melody or symphonic expression, though Pollock’s close reading of the score shows some remaining links to mainstream operatic tradition. But the subject of the opera is classical: Orff uses the German poet Friedrich Holderlin’s 1804 translation of Sophocles’ “Oedipus” as his content. As Pollock notes, in 1958, this could be a problematic theme.</p> <p>“When Germans claim special ownership of Greek culture, they’re saying they’re better than other countries — it’s cultural nationalism,” Pollock observes. “So what does it mean that a German composer is taking Greek tropes and reinterpreting them for a postwar context? Only recently, [there had been] events like the Berlin Olympics, where the Third Reich was specifically mobilizing an identification between Germans and the Greeks.” &nbsp;</p> <p>In this case, Pollock says, “I think Orff was not able to think clearly about the potential political implications of what he was doing. He would have thought of music as largely apolitical. We can now look back more critically and see the continuities there.” Even if Orff’s subject matter was not intentionally political, though, it was certainly not an expression of a cultural “Zero Hour,” either.</p> <p><strong>Opera is the key</strong></p> <p>“Opera after the Zero Hour” continually illustrates how complex music creation can be. In the composer Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s 1960s opera “Die Soldaten,” Pollock notes a variety of influences, chiefly Richard Wagner’s idea of the “totalizing work of art” and the composer Alban Berg’s musical idioms — but without Wagner’s nationalistic impulses.</p> <p>Even as it details the nuances of specific operas, Pollock’s book is also part of a larger dialogue about which types of music are most worth studying. If operas had limited overlap with the most radical forms of musical composition of the time, then opera’s popularity, as well as the intriguing forms of innovation and experiment that did occur within the form, make it a vital area of study, in Pollock’s view.</p> <p>“History is always very selective,” Pollock says. “A canon of postwar music will include a very narrow slice of pieces that did really cool, new stuff, that no one had ever heard before.” But focusing on such self-consciously radical music only yields a limited understanding of the age and its cultural tastes, Pollock adds, because “there is a lot of music written for the opera house that people who loved music, and loved opera, were invested in.”</p> <p>Other music scholars say “Opera after the Zero Hour” is a significant contribution to its field. Brigid Cohen, an associate professor of music at New York University, has stated that the book makes “a powerful case for taking seriously long-neglected operatic works that speak to a vexed cultural history still relevant in the present.”</p> <p>Pollock, for her part, writes in the book that, given all the nuances and tensions and wrinkles in the evolution of the art form, “opera is the key” to understanding the relationship between postwar German composers and the country’s newly fraught cultural tradition, in a fully complicated and historical mode.</p> <p>“If you look at [cultural] conservatism as interesting, you find a lot of interesting things,” Pollock says. “And if you assume things that are less innovative are less interesting, then you’re ignoring a lot of things that people cared about.”</p> Emily Richmond Pollock and her book, “Opera After the Zero Hour.”Image: David Kinder and Emily Richmond PollockSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Music, Arts, Faculty, Books and authors, History MIT Sounding 2019-20 explores far-reaching musical frontiers This season of musical performances features a range of Boston premieres and diverse collaborations. Fri, 27 Sep 2019 15:20:01 -0400 Connie Blaszczyk | Arts at MIT <p>Now in its eighth year, <a href="">2019-20 </a><a href="" target="_blank">MIT Sounding</a> presents another season of wide-ranging musical offerings that have found a vibrant home at MIT.</p> <p>“The program feeds the hunger of a diverse audience for music at MIT,” says <a href="">Evan Ziporyn</a>, faculty director of the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) and curator of the series. “We try to give students a sense of exploration, while also developing a larger-scale dialogue with local audiences.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The eclectic journey continues with Boston premieres of music from New York, Czechia, and Nepal, as well as returning artists who have wowed local audiences and who continue to push new musical boundaries. Add a septet of turntable artists, a multimedia score by Tod Machover, and a virtual reality-enhanced, dataset-driven “space opera” by artist Matthew Ritchie, and you have an abundant season of MIT Sounding.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Glenn Branca: New York’s enfant terrible&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The year started with a bang with “<a href="">Branca Lives</a>: The Glenn Branca Ensemble/Ambient Orchestra," an all-too-rare performance of music by the proto-punk legend, who passed away in 2018.</p> <p>“Branca’s symphonies for multiple guitars — sometimes up to 100 at a time — were Brutalism in musical form,” says Ziporyn. “He embraced the energy of noise, distortion, and feedback, but in a carefully organized way, activating overtones and microtones to create amazing, almost hallucinogenic textures. He was thinking orchestrally, building out from the sound of the electric guitar rather than from classical instruments. Then he began to write for acoustic orchestra and found ways to get the same effects.”</p> <p>“Branca Lives"<em> </em>presents the composer’s eponymous guitar ensemble, led by his longtime concertmaster and collaborator, Reg Bloor. Their set will include Branca’s “The Light (for David),” a tribute to David Bowie. Ziporyn and the Ambient Orchestra will open the concert with Boston premieres of two of Branca’s rarely performed orchestral works — “Symphony No. 14 (2,000,000,000 Light Years from Home)” and<em> </em>“Freeform.”</p> <p>“It’s brilliant and surprising music that deserves to be known,” adds Ziporyn.</p> <p><strong>Lochan Rijal shares music of Nepal</strong></p> <p>Despite an ever-shrinking global culture, many musical traditions remain overlooked, including the music of Nepal. “<a href="">काँचो आवाज (</a><a href="">Raw Sounds</a>),” a program that celebrates Nepal’s unique musical heritage, seeks to address that oversight.</p> <p>“काँचो आवाज (Raw Sounds)” features Lochan Rijal, the award-winning Nepali multi-instrumentalist singer and songwriter, performing new and traditional compositions based on his own musical narrative of everyday life in Nepal. The head of Kathmandu University’s Department of Music, Rijal will play the sarangi, a traditional short-necked fiddle, and the Gandharva lute arbaja, recently discovered in Rijal’s research in Nepal.&nbsp;</p> <p>During his residency, Rijal will discuss a temple restoration project and Nepal’s musical traditions in a public lecture.</p> <p><strong>Iva Bittová with MITSO</strong></p> <p>Legendary Czech vocalist/violinist Iva Bittová is a familiar force of nature at MIT, having performed with the improvisational trio <a href="">EVIYAN</a>, and collaborated with the Festival Jazz Ensemble and Pilobolus Dance for MIT One World.</p> <p>Bittová returns this October as composer to launch the MIT Symphony Orchestra’s (MITSO) 2019-20 season in “<a href="">The Heart is a Bell</a>.” The concert pairs two pieces by 20th century Czech female composers: Bittová’s “Zvon” and Vítězslava Kapralova’s “Suita Rustica.” Composed 75 years apart, both works draw on Czech and Slovak folk culture, seen through a modern lens.</p> <p>At once personal and avant-garde, “Zvon” features Bittova’s voice, jazz combo, elements of world music and cabaret, and improvisation by members of the orchestra. “We’re widening the orchestral landscape,” says Ziporyn, who steps in as acting MITSO director this academic year.</p> <p><strong>Additional projects and performances</strong></p> <p>What happens when seven DJs gather, challenged to make music together rather than as solo acts? Audiences will find out this January, in&nbsp;“<a href="">the wave function collapses</a>.” The unique program features harbanger<em> </em>(pronounced “harbinger”), a turntable septet with visiting artists Harry Allen and DJ Rob Swift, known for their work with Public Enemy and <em>The Source</em> magazine. “The wave function collapses”<strong><em> </em></strong>is the culmination of a two-week workshop facilitated by Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology at MIT and co-founder and CTO of Harmonix Music Systems. The 2020 Independent Activities Period (IAP) offering includes two courses: a history of DJ culture by hip hop activist and “Media Assassin” Harry Allen, and hands-on DJ instruction by DJ Rob Swift.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Virtuoso violinist Johnny Gandelsman performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s "Sonatas and Partitas" as part of MIT Sounding’s 2015 season. The adventurous soloist returns this spring to perform “<a href="">Bach’s Cello Suites</a>” on the violin — which can be challenging, given the two instruments’ very different voicings. But this isn’t reinvention for its own sake, says Ziporyn. It’s simply “to get the most from the music, in an enthralling way.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This March brings composer Tod Machover’s "City Symphonies" to Boston for the first time. Rich in visuals and sense of place, “<a href="">Moving Images: MITSO and Film</a>” is part of the MIT Symphony Orchestra’s 2019-20 season. “It’s time to present this music on Tod’s home turf,” notes Ziporyn, who will conduct the ensemble. Audiences can expect a unique evening of music and film, including work developed by Machover and his team in the <a href="">Opera of the Future</a> group at the <a href="">MIT Media Lab</a>.</p> <p>The season closes with a new transmedia work, “The Invisible College,” created by 2018–20 Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist <a href="">Matthew Ritchie</a>. The project refers to the multitude of interactions and collaborations that take place behind the scenes within the university, and brings together a multidisciplinary team of MIT artists, faculty, and students. Based on datasets representing scales of the universe — from nanoparticles to dark energy —<em> </em>“The Invisible College” encompasses a site-specific installation, virtual reality experience, and a May&nbsp;“<a href="">Dark Energy: A Space Opera</a>,” a collaboration between Ritchie, Ziporyn, and Christine Southworth.</p> The first concert of MIT Sounding for 2019-20 was "The Music of Glenn Branca Live: Glenn Branca Ensemble/Ambient Orchestra." Pictured are Reg Bloor and Glenn Branca.Photo: Maria Jose GouveaCenter for Art, Science and Technology, Media Lab, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Music and theater arts, Arts, Music, Special events and guest speakers, School of Architecture and Planning Using math to blend musical notes seamlessly Algorithm enables one audio signal to glide into another, recreating the “portamento” effect of some musical instruments. Fri, 27 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>In music, “portamento” is a term that’s been used for hundreds of years, referring to the effect of gliding a note at one pitch into a note of a lower or higher pitch. But only instruments that can continuously vary in pitch — such as the human voice, string instruments, and trombones — can pull off the effect.</p> <p>Now an MIT student has invented a novel algorithm that produces a portamento effect between any two audio signals in real-time. In experiments, the algorithm seamlessly merged various audio clips, such as a piano note gliding into a human voice, and one song blending into another. His paper describing the algorithm won the “best student paper” award at the recent International Conference on Digital Audio Effects.</p> <p>The algorithm relies on “optimal transport,” a geometry-based framework that determines the most efficient ways to move objects — or data points — between multiple origin and destination configurations. Formulated in the 1700s, the framework has been applied to supply chains, fluid dynamics, image alignment, 3-D modeling, computer graphics, and more.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>In work that originated in a class project, Trevor Henderson, now a graduate student in computer science, applied optimal transport to interpolating audio signals — or blending one signal into another. The algorithm first breaks the audio signals into brief segments. Then, it finds the optimal way to move the pitches in &nbsp;each segment to pitches in the other signal, to produce the smooth glide of the portamento effect. The algorithm also includes specialized techniques to maintain the fidelity of the audio signal as it transitions.</p> <p>“Optimal transport is used here to determine how to map pitches in one sound to the pitches in the other,” says Henderson, a classically trained organist who performs electronic music and has been a DJ on <a href="">WMBR 88.1</a>, MIT’s radio station. “If it’s transforming one chord into a chord with a different harmony, or with more notes, for instance, the notes will split from the first chord and find a position to seamlessly glide to in the other chord.”</p> <p>According to Henderson, this is one of the first techniques to apply optimal transport to transforming audio signals. He has already used the algorithm to build equipment that seamlessly transitions between songs on his radio show. DJs could also use the equipment to transition between tracks during live performances. Other musicians might use it to blend instruments and voice on stage or in the studio.</p> <p>Henderson’s co-author on the paper is Justin Solomon, an X-Consortium Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Solomon —&nbsp;who also plays cello and piano —&nbsp;leads the Geometric Data Processing Group in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and is a member of the Center for Computational Engineering.</p> <p>Henderson took Solomon’s class, 6.838 (Shape Analysis), which tasks students with applying geometric tools like optimal transport to real-world applications. Student projects usually focus on 3-D shapes from virtual reality or computer graphics. So Henderson’s project came as a surprise to Solomon. “Trevor saw an abstract connection between geometry and moving frequencies around in audio signals to create a portamento effect,” Solomon says. “He was in and out of my office all semester with DJ equipment. It wasn’t what I expected to see, but it was pretty entertaining.”</p> <p>For Henderson, it wasn’t too much of a stretch. “When I see a new idea, I ask, ‘Is this applicable to music?’” he says. “So, when we talked about optimal transport, I wondered what would happen if I connected it to audio spectra.”</p> <p>A good way to think of optimal transport, Henderson says, is finding “a lazy way to build a sand castle.” In that analogy, the framework is used to calculate the way to move each grain of sand from its position in a shapeless pile into a corresponding position in a sand castle, using as little work as possible. In computer graphics, for instance, optimal transport can be used to transform or morph shapes by finding the optimal movement from each point on one shape into the other.</p> <p>Applying this theory to audio clips involves some additional ideas from signal processing. Musical instruments produce sound through vibrations of components, depending on the instrument. Violins use strings, brass instruments use air inside hollow bodies, and humans use vocal cords. These vibrations can be captured as audio signals, where the frequency and amplitude (peak height) represent different pitches.&nbsp;</p> <p>Conventionally, the transition between two audio signals is done with a fade, where one signal is reduced in volume while the other rises. Henderson’s algorithm, on the other hand, smoothly slides frequency segments from one clip into another, with no fading of volume.</p> <p>To do so, the algorithm splits any two audio clips into windows of about 50 milliseconds. Then, it runs a Fourier transform, which turns each window into its frequency components. The frequency components within a window are lumped together into individual synthesized “notes.” Optimal transport then maps how the notes in one signal’s window will move to the notes in the other.</p> <p>Then, an “interpolation parameter” takes over. That’s basically a value that determines where each note will be on the path from its starting pitch in one signal to its ending pitch in the other. Manually changing the parameter value will sweep the pitches between the two positions, producing the portamento effect. That single parameter can also be programmed into and controlled by, say, a crossfader, a slider component on a DJ’s mixing board that smoothly fades between songs. As the crossfader slides, the interpolation parameter changes to produce the effect.</p> <p>Behind the scenes are two innovations that ensure a distortion-free signal. First, Henderson used a novel application of a signal-processing technique, called “frequency reassignment,” that lumps the frequency bins together to form single notes that can easily transition between signals. Second, he invented a way to synthesize new phases for each audio signal while stitching together the 50-millisecond windows, so neighboring windows don’t interfere with each other.</p> <p>Next, Henderson wants to experiment with feeding the output of the effect back into its input. This, he thinks, could automatically create another classic music effect, “legato,” which is a smooth transition between distinct notes. Unlike a portamento —&nbsp;which plays all notes between a start and end note —&nbsp;a legato seamlessly transitions between two distinct notes, without capturing any notes in between.</p> Trevor Henderson in the record library at WMBR, MIT’s student radio station.Image: Melanie Gonick, MITResearch, Computer science and technology, Algorithms, Music, Arts, Technology and society, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering Computing and artificial intelligence: Humanistic perspectives from MIT How the humanities, arts, and social science fields can help shape the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing — and benefit from advanced computing. Tue, 24 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p><em>The MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing </em><em>(SCC) </em><em>will reorient the Institute to bring the power of computing and artificial intelligence to all fields at MIT, and to allow the future of computing and AI to be shaped by all MIT disciplines.</em></p> <p><em>To support ongoing planning for the new college, Dean Melissa Nobles invited faculty from all 14 of MIT’s humanistic disciplines in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences to respond to two questions:&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>1) What domain knowledge, perspectives, and methods from your field should be integrated into the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, and why? </em><br /> <br /> <em>2) What are some of the meaningful opportunities that advanced computing makes possible in your field?&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>As Nobles says in her foreword to the series, “Together, the following responses to these two questions offer something of a guidebook to the myriad, productive ways that technical, humanistic, and scientific fields can join forces at MIT, and elsewhere, to further human and planetary well-being.” </em></p> <p><em>The following excerpts highlight faculty responses, with links to full commentaries. The excerpts are sequenced by fields in the following order: the humanities, arts, and social sciences. </em></p> <p><strong>Foreword by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science and the Kenan Sahin Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences </strong></p> <p>“The advent of artificial intelligence presents our species with an historic opportunity — disguised as an existential challenge: Can we stay human in the age of AI?&nbsp; In fact, can we grow in humanity, can we shape a more humane, more just, and sustainable world? With a sense of promise and urgency, we are embarked at MIT on an accelerated effort to more fully integrate the technical and humanistic forms of discovery in our curriculum and research, and in our habits of mind and action.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Comparative Media Studies: William Uricchio, professor of comparative media studies</strong></p> <p>“Given our research and practice focus, the CMS perspective can be key for understanding the implications of computation for knowledge and representation, as well as computation’s relationship to the critical process of how knowledge works in culture — the way it is formed, shared, and validated.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Bring media and computer scholars together to explore issues that require both areas of expertise: text-generating algorithms (that force us to ask what it means to be human); the nature of computational gatekeepers (that compels us to reflect on implicit cultural priorities); and personalized filters and texts (that require us to consider the shape of our own biases).” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Global Languages: Emma J. Teng, the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations</strong></p> <p>“Language and culture learning are gateways to international experiences and an important means to develop cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity. Such understanding is essential to addressing the social and ethical implications of the expanding array of technology affecting everyday life across the globe.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “We aim to create a 21st-century language center to provide a convening space for cross-cultural communication, collaboration, action research, and global classrooms. We also plan to keep the intimate size and human experience of MIT’s language classes, which only increase in value as technology saturates the world.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>History: Jeffrey Ravel, professor of history and head of MIT History </strong></p> <p>“Emerging innovations in computational methods will continue to improve our access to the past and the tools through which we interpret evidence. But the field of history will continue to be served by older methods of scholarship as well; critical thinking by human beings is fundamental to our endeavors in the humanities.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Call on the nuanced debates in which historians engage about causality to provide a useful frame of reference for considering the issues that will inevitably emerge from new computing technologies. This methodology of the history field is a powerful way to help imagine our way out of today’s existential threats.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Linguistics: Faculty of MIT Linguistics</strong></p> <p>“Perhaps the most obvious opportunities for computational and linguistics research concern the interrelation between specific hypotheses about the formal properties of language and their computational implementation in the form of systems that learn, parse, and produce human language.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Critically, transformative new tools have come from researchers at institutions where linguists work side-by-side with computational researchers who are able to translate back and forth between computational properties of linguistic grammars and of other systems.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Literature: Shankar Raman, with Mary C. Fuller, professors of literature</strong></p> <p>“In the age of AI, we could invent new tools for reading. Making the expert reading skills we teach MIT students even partially available to readers outside the academy would widen access to our materials in profound ways.”</p> <p>Recommended action: At least three priorities of current literary engagement with the digital should be integrated into the SCC’s research and curriculum: democratization of knowledge; new modes of and possibilities for knowledge production; and critical analysis of the social conditions governing what can be known and who can know it.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Philosophy: Alex Byrne, professor of philosophy and head of MIT Philosophy; and Tamar Schapiro, associate professor of philosophy</strong></p> <p>“Computing and AI pose many ethical problems related to: privacy (e.g., data systems design), discrimination (e.g., bias in machine learning), policing (e.g., surveillance), democracy (e.g., the&nbsp;Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal), remote warfare, intellectual property, political regulation, and corporate responsibility.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “The SCC presents an opportunity for MIT to be an intellectual leader in the ethics of technology. The ethics lab we propose could turn this opportunity into reality.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Science, Technology, and Society: Eden Medina and Dwaipayan Banerjee, associate professors of science, technology, and society</strong></p> <p>“A more global view of computing would demonstrate a broader range of possibilities than one centered on the American experience, while also illuminating how computer systems can reflect and respond to different needs and systems. Such experiences can prove generative for thinking about the future of computing writ large.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Adopt a global approach to the research and teaching in the SCC, an approach that views the U.S. experience as one among many.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Women's and Gender Studies: Ruth Perry, the Ann Friedlaender Professor of Literature; with Sally Haslanger, the Ford Professor of Philosophy, and Elizabeth Wood, professor of history</strong></p> <p>“The SCC presents MIT with a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in addressing some of most pressing challenges that have emerged from the role computing technologies play in our society — including how these technologies are reinforcing social inequalities.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Ensure that women’s voices are heard and that coursework and research is designed with a keen awareness of the difference that gender makes. This is the single-most powerful way that MIT can address the inequities in the computing fields.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Writing: Tom Levenson, professor of science writing </strong></p> <p>“Computation and its applications in fields that directly affect society cannot be an unexamined good. Professional science and technology writers are a crucial resource for the mission of new college of computing, and they need to be embedded within its research apparatus.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Intertwine writing and the ideas in coursework to provide conceptual depth that purely technical mastery cannot offer.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Music: Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology</strong></p> <p>“Creating tomorrow’s music systems responsibly will require a truly multidisciplinary education, one that covers everything from scientific models and engineering challenges to artistic practice and societal implications. The new music technology will be accompanied by difficult questions. Who owns the output of generative music algorithms that are trained on human compositions? How do we ensure that music, an art form intrinsic to all humans, does not become controlled by only a few?”</p> <p>Recommended action: Through the SCC, our responsibility will be not only to develop the new technologies of music creation, distribution, and interaction, but also to study their cultural implications and define the parameters of a harmonious outcome for all.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Theater Arts: Sara Brown, assistant professor of theater arts and MIT Theater Arts director of design</strong></p> <p>“As a subject, AI problematizes what is means to be human. There are an unending series of questions posed by the presence of an intelligent machine. The theater, as a synthetic art form that values and exploits liveness, is an ideal place to explore the complex and layered problems posed by AI and advanced computing.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “There are myriad opportunities for advanced computing to be integrated into theater, both as a tool and as a subject of exploration. As a tool, advanced computing can be used to develop performance systems that respond directly to a live performer in real time, or to integrate virtual reality as a previsualization tool for designers.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Anthropology: Heather Paxson, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Anthropology</strong></p> <p>“The methods used in anthropology —&nbsp;a field that systematically studies human cultural beliefs and practices — are uniquely suited to studying the effects of automation and digital technologies in social life. For anthropologists, ‘Can artificial intelligence be ethical?’ is an empirical, not a hypothetical, question. Ethical for what? To whom? Under what circumstances?”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Incorporate anthropological thinking into the new college to prepare students to live and work effectively and responsibly in a world of technological, demographic, and cultural exchanges. We envision an ethnography lab that will provide digital and computing tools tailored to anthropological research and projects.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Economics: Nancy L. Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics and head of the Department of Economics; and David Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics and co-director of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future</strong></p> <p>“The intellectual affinity between economics and computer science traces back almost a century, to the founding of game theory in 1928. Today, the practical synergies between economics and computer science are flourishing. We outline some of the many opportunities for the two disciplines to engage more deeply through the new SCC.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Research that engages the tools and expertise of economics on matters of fairness, expertise, and cognitive biases in machine-supported and machine-delegated decision-making; and on market design, industrial organization, and the future of work. Scholarship at the intersection of data science, econometrics, and causal inference. Cultivate depth in network science, algorithmic game theory and mechanism design, and online learning. Develop tools for rapid, cost-effective, and ongoing education and retraining for workers.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Political Science: Faculty of the Department of Political Science</strong></p> <p>“The advance of computation gives rise to a number of conceptual and normative questions that are political, rather than ethical in character. Political science and theory have a significant role in addressing such questions as: How do major players in the technology sector seek to legitimate their authority to make decisions that affect us all? And where should that authority actually reside in a democratic polity?”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Incorporate the research and perspectives of political science in SCC research and education to help ensure that computational research is socially aware, especially with issues involving governing institutions, the relations between nations, and human rights.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Series prepared by SHASS Communications<br /> Series Editor and Designer: Emily Hiestand<br /> Series Co-Editor: Kathryn O’Neill</em></span></p> Image: Christine Daniloff, MITEducation, teaching, academics, Humanities, Arts, Social sciences, Computer science and technology, Artificial intelligence, Technology and society, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Anthropology, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, Global Studies and Languages, History, Linguistics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political science, Program in STS, Theater, Music and theater arts, Women's and Gender Studies Perception of musical pitch varies across cultures How people interpret musical notes depends on the types of music they have listened to, researchers find. Thu, 19 Sep 2019 10:59:59 -0400 Anne Trafton | MIT News Office <p>People who are accustomed to listening to Western music, which is based on a system of notes organized in octaves, can usually perceive the similarity between notes that are same but played in different registers — say, high C and middle C. However, a longstanding question is whether this a universal phenomenon or one that has been ingrained by musical exposure.</p> <p>This question has been hard to answer, in part because of the difficulty in finding people who have not been exposed to Western music. Now, a new study led by researchers from MIT and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics has found that unlike residents of the United States, people living in a remote area of the Bolivian rainforest usually do not perceive the similarities between two versions of the same note played at different registers (high or low).</p> <p>The findings suggest that although there is a natural mathematical relationship between the frequencies of every “C,” no matter what octave it’s played in, the brain only becomes attuned to those similarities after hearing music based on octaves, says Josh McDermott, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.</p> <p>“It may well be that there is a biological predisposition to favor octave relationships, but it doesn’t seem to be realized unless you are exposed to music in an octave-based system,” says McDermott, who is also a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and Center for Brains, Minds and Machines.</p> <p>The study also found that members of the Bolivian tribe, known as the Tsimane’, and Westerners do have a very similar upper limit on the frequency of notes that they can accurately distinguish, suggesting that that aspect of pitch perception may be independent of musical experience and biologically determined.</p> <p>McDermott is the senior author of the study, which appears in the journal <em>Current Biology</em> on Sept. 19. Nori Jacoby, a former MIT postdoc who is now a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, is the paper’s lead author. Other authors are Eduardo Undurraga, an assistant professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; Malinda McPherson, a graduate student in the Harvard/MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology; Joaquin Valdes, a graduate student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; and Tomas Ossandon, an assistant professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>Octaves apart</strong></p> <p>Cross-cultural studies of how music is perceived can shed light on the interplay between biological constraints and cultural influences that shape human perception. McDermott’s lab has performed several such studies with the participation of Tsimane’ tribe members, who live in relative isolation from Western culture and have had little exposure to Western music.</p> <p>In a <a href="">study published in 2016</a>, McDermott and his colleagues found that Westerners and Tsimane’ had different aesthetic reactions to chords, or combinations of notes. To Western ears, the combination of C and F# is very grating, but Tsimane’ listeners rated this chord just as likeable as other chords that Westerners would interpret as more pleasant, such as C and G.</p> <p>Later, Jacoby and McDermott found that both Westerners and Tsimane’ <a href="">are drawn to musical rhythms</a> composed of simple integer ratios, but the ratios they favor are different, based on which rhythms are more common in the music they listen to.</p> <p>In their new study, the researchers studied pitch perception using an experimental design in which they play a very simple tune, only two or three notes, and then ask the listener to sing it back. The notes that were played could come from any octave within the range of human hearing, but listeners sang their responses within their vocal range, usually restricted to a single octave.</p> <p>Western listeners, especially those who were trained musicians, tended to reproduce the tune an exact number of octaves above or below what they heard, though they were not specifically instructed to do so. In Western music, the pitch of the same note doubles with each ascending octave, so tones with frequencies of 27.5 hertz, 55 hertz, 110 hertz, 220 hertz, and so on, are all heard as the note A.</p> <p>Western listeners in the study, all of whom lived in New York or Boston, accurately reproduced sequences such as A-C-A, but in a different register, as though they hear the similarity of notes separated by octaves. However, the Tsimane’ did not.</p> <p>“The relative pitch was preserved (between notes in the series), but the absolute pitch produced by the Tsimane’ didn’t have any relationship to the absolute pitch of the stimulus,” Jacoby says. “That’s consistent with the idea that perceptual similarity is something that we acquire from exposure to Western music, where the octave is structurally very important.”</p> <p>The ability to reproduce the same note in different octaves may be honed by singing along with others whose natural registers are different, or singing along with an instrument being played in a different pitch range, Jacoby says.</p> <p><strong>Limits of perception</strong></p> <p>The study findings also shed light on the upper limits of pitch perception for humans. It has been known for a long time that Western listeners cannot accurately distinguish pitches above about 4,000 hertz, although they can still hear frequencies up to nearly 20,000 hertz. In a traditional 88-key piano, the highest note is about 4,100 hertz.</p> <p>People have speculated that the piano was designed to go only that high because of a fundamental limit on pitch perception, but McDermott thought it could be possible that the opposite was true: That is, the limit was culturally influenced by the fact that few musical instruments produce frequencies higher than 4,000 hertz.</p> <p>The researchers found that although Tsimane’ musical instruments usually have upper limits much lower than 4,000 hertz, Tsimane’ listeners could distinguish pitches very well up to about 4,000 hertz, as evidenced by accurate sung reproductions of those pitch intervals. Above that threshold, their perceptions broke down, very similarly to Western listeners.</p> <p>“It looks almost exactly the same across groups, so we have some evidence for biological constraints on the limits of pitch,” Jacoby says.</p> <p>One possible explanation for this limit is that once frequencies reach about 4,000 hertz, the firing rates of the neurons of our inner ear can’t keep up and we lose a critical cue with which to distinguish different frequencies.</p> <p>“The new study contributes to the age-long debate about the interplays between culture and biological constraints in music,” says Daniel Pressnitzer, a senior research scientist at Paris Descartes University, who was not involved in the research. “This unique, precious, and extensive dataset demonstrates both striking similarities and unexpected differences in how Tsimane’ and Western listeners perceive or conceive musical pitch.”</p> <p>Jacoby and McDermott now hope to expand their cross-cultural studies to other groups who have had little exposure to Western music, and to perform more detailed studies of pitch perception among the Tsimane’.</p> <p>Such studies have already shown the value of including research participants other than the Western-educated, relatively wealthy college undergraduates who are the subjects of most academic studies on perception, McDermott says. These broader studies allow researchers to tease out different elements of perception that cannot be seen when examining only a single, homogenous group.</p> <p>“We’re finding that there are some cross-cultural similarities, but there also seems to be really striking variation in things that a lot of people would have presumed would be common across cultures and listeners,” McDermott says. “These differences in experience can lead to dissociations of different aspects of perception, giving you clues to what the parts of the perceptual system are.”</p> <p>The research was funded by the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience Program at Columbia University.</p> Eduardo Undurraga, an assistant professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, runs a musical pitch perception experiment with a member of the Tsimane’ tribe of the Bolivian rainforest.Image: Josh McDermottResearch, Brain and cognitive sciences, Music, Behavior, McGovern Institute, School of Science, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Neuroscience, Center for Brains Minds and Machines Machine learning you can dance to MIT grad student startup Samply uses algorithms to help music producers find the perfect sound. Wed, 18 Sep 2019 13:50:01 -0400 Office of the Vice Chancellor <p>Rhythmic flashes from a computer screen illuminate a dark room as sounds fill the air. The snare drum sample comes out crisp and clean by itself, but turns muddy in the mix, no matter how the levels are set. Welcome to the world of modern music-making — and its discontents.</p> <p>Today’s digital music producers face a common dilemma: how to mesh samples that may sound great on their own but do not necessarily fit into a song like they originally imagined. One solution is to find and audit dozens of different samples, a tedious process that can take time to finesse.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of manual searching to get the right musical result, which can be distracting and time-consuming,” says Justin Swaney, a PhD student in the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering, a music producer, and co-creator of a new tool that uses machine learning to help producers find just the perfect sound.</p> <p>Called Samply, Swaney’s visual sample-library explorer combines music and machine learning into a new technology for producers. The top winner at the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing Machine Learning Across Disciplines Challenge at the Hello World celebration last winter, the tool uses a convolutional neural network to analyze audio waveforms.</p> <p>“Samply organizes samples based on their sonic characteristics,” explains Swaney. “The result is an interactive plot where similar sounds are closer together and different sounds are farther apart. Samply allows multiple sample libraries to be visualized simultaneously, shortening the lag between imagining a sound in your head and finding it.”</p> <p>For Swaney, the development of Samply drew on both his research expertise and personal life. Before coming to MIT, he had produced albums with indie musicians including Eric Schirtzinger, a drummer and co-creator of the tool. The two recorded drums in a basement and tried to improvise with cheap hardware and hacks — like hanging rugs from the ceiling to dampen reverberation. “The constraints made us get creative,” says Schirtzinger, who is now a computer science major at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.</p> <p>That creativity was further honed after Swaney completed 6.862 (Applied Machine Learning). He saw an opportunity to rekindle his music production hobby by applying what he had learned from the project-based course, devising a way to automate the search for the right samples when producing a new song.</p> <p>“I figured the computer could listen to samples much faster than I could,” he says. Beyond the clever use of machine learning, the real magic of Samply is that conceptually, it is founded on a deep understanding of what it takes to make music. “We aren’t just AI enthusiasts applying machine learning to music,” says Schirtzinger. “We are musicians who want better tools for making music.”</p> <p>It turns out that at MIT, they aren’t the only ones with a song in their hearts. While presenting Samply at the Schwarzman College of Computing exposition last winter, dozens of faculty, staff, and students gathered around Swaney’s poster and live demonstration to exchange ideas. Some had years of experience producing music with professional software, while others simply appreciated the visualizations and sounds in the demo.</p> <p>Spurred by the interest in Samply at the exposition, Swaney and Shirtzinger are in the process of turning their project into a startup company. As a first step, the two reached out to the Technology Licensing Office (TLO) for advice, which referred them to the Venture Mentoring Service (VMS).</p> <p>Samply joined VMS in April and was paired with two MIT-affiliated mentors and entrepreneurs, Stephen Bayle and John Stempeck. After pitching Samply to his mentors, Swaney received sage advice on a crafting a business plan and sales strategy, and then began making connections with others interested in music technology as a business.</p> <p>Samply has since been accepted into the ELEVATE accelerator, sponsored by the local digital marketing firm HubSpot, and Swaney is applying for seed funding through the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund.</p> <p>“Starting a company as a student can be daunting, but the MIT community gives us confidence,” he says. “If we can’t do it at MIT, then where can we?”</p> <p>In fact, the time and attention he has spent on Samply has had an “almost paradoxical” benefit to his academic life as a graduate student. “I was spending all of my time in the lab,” he says. “When I took a step back to make Samply, I could see the forest from the trees in my research.”</p> <p>Swaney found that focusing on his love of music served as an “emotional outlet,” helping to mitigate intellectual burnout. Although Samply may have taken him away from the lab bench, it has also ended up informing his research. The original idea of visualizing samples, he says, stemmed from “my work on single-cell analysis.” Applying the method to the tool clarified his thinking in the biological realm, leading to a new method to produce better&nbsp;clustering, or a way to better sort, recognize, and visualize groups of cells. “It was a bit like a&nbsp;musical&nbsp;theme and variation, but&nbsp;with&nbsp;my research,” Swaney says.</p> <p>As for Samply, there will be a free beta version of the app launching in September, and a Kickstarter campaign is due in the coming year to fuel future developments.</p> <p>“We want to&nbsp;get Samply&nbsp;into the hands of more producers&nbsp;and content creators&nbsp;so that we can&nbsp;establish a&nbsp;feedback loop&nbsp;that guides&nbsp;our priorities,” he says. “Our technology may&nbsp;also&nbsp;have&nbsp;applications in live&nbsp;music performance, instrumentation, and in film and videography. We are excited to&nbsp;explore those possibilities.”</p> Chemical engineering graduate student Justin Swaney is applying machine learning to music production. “There’s a lot of manual searching to get the right musical result, which can be distracting and time-consuming,” says the co-creator of a new tool to help producers find just the perfect sound.Photo: Lillie PaquetteVice Chancellor, Chemical engineering, Venture Mentoring Service, School of Engineering, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Machine learning, Startups, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Technology and society, Students, Undergraduate, Music The music of the spheres MIT hosts &quot;Songs from Extrasolar Spaces,&quot; a musical melding of art and science inspired by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Fri, 09 Aug 2019 13:25:01 -0400 Ken Shulman | Arts at MIT <p>Space has long fascinated poets, physicists, astronomers, and science fiction writers. Musicians, too, have often found beauty and meaning in the skies above. At MIT’s Kresge Auditorium, a group of composers and musicians manifested their fascination with space in a concert titled “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces.” Featuring the Lorelei Ensemble — a Boston, Massachusetts-based women’s choir — the concert included premieres by MIT composers John Harbison and Elena Ruehr, along with compositions by Meredith Monk and Molly Herron. All the music was inspired by discoveries in astronomy.</p> <p>“Songs from Extrasolar Spaces,” part of an MIT conference on TESS — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April 2018. TESS is an MIT-led NASA mission that scans the skies for evidence of exoplanets: bodies ranging from dwarf planets to giant planets that orbit stars other than our sun. During its two-year mission, TESS and its four highly-sensitive cameras survey 85 percent of the sky, monitoring more than 200,000 stars for the temporary dips in brightness that might signal a transit — the passage of a planetary body across that star.</p> <p>“There is a feeling you get when you look at these images from TESS,” says Ruehr, an award-winning MIT lecturer in the Music and Theater Arts Section and former Guggenheim Fellow. “A sense of vastness, of infinity. This is the sensation I tried to capture and transpose into vocal music.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Supported by the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology’s Fay Chandler Creativity Grant; MIT Music and Theater Arts; and aerospace and technology giant Northrop Grumman, which also built the TESS satellite, the July 30 concert was conceived by MIT Research Associate Natalia Guerrero. Both the conference and concert marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing — another milestone in the quest to chart the universe and Earth’s place in it.</p> <p>A 2014 MIT graduate, Guerrero manages the team finding planet candidates in the TESS images at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and is also the lead for the MIT branch of the mission’s communications team. “I wanted to include an event that could make the TESS mission accessible to people who aren’t astronomers or physicists,” says Guerrero. “But I also wanted that same event to inspire astronomers and physicists to look at their work in a new way.”</p> <p>Guerrero majored in physics and creative writing at MIT, and after graduating she deejayed a radio show called “Voice Box” on the MIT radio station WMBR. That transmission showcased contemporary vocal music and exposed her to composers including Harbison and Ruehr. Last year, in early summer, Guerrero contacted Ruehr to gauge her interest in composing music for a still-hypothetical concert that might complement the 2019 TESS conference.</p> <p>Ruehr was keen on the idea. She was also a perfect fit for the project. The composer had often drawn inspiration from visual images and other art forms for her music. “Sky Above Clouds,” an orchestral piece she composed in 1989, is inspired by the Georgia O’Keefe paintings she viewed as a child at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ruehr had also created music inspired by David Mitchell’s visionary novel “Cloud Atlas” and Anne Patchett’s “Bel Canto.” “It’s a question of reinterpreting language, capturing its rhythms and volumes and channeling them into music,” says Ruehr. “The source language can be fiction, or painting, or in this case these dazzling images of the universe.”</p> <p>In addition, Ruehr had long been fascinated by space and stars. “My father was a mathematician who studied fast Fourier transform analysis,” says Ruehr, who is currently composing an opera set in space. “As a young girl, I’d listen to him talking about infinity with his colleagues on the telephone. I would imagine my father existing in infinity, on the edge of space.”</p> <p>Drawing inspiration from the images TESS beams back to Earth, Ruehr composed two pieces for “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces.” The first, titled “Not from the Stars,” takes its name and lyrics from a Shakespeare sonnet. For the second, “Exoplanets,” Ruehr used a text that Guerrero extrapolated from the titles of the first group of scientific papers published from TESS data. “I’m used to working from images,” explains Ruehr. “First, I study them. Then, I sit down at the piano and try to create a single sound that captures their essence and resonance. Then, I start playing with that sound.”</p> <p>Ruehr was particularly pleased to compose music about space for the Lorelei Ensemble. “There’s a certain quality in a women’s choir, especially the Lorelei Ensemble, that is perfectly suited for this project,” says Ruehr. “They have an ethereal sound and wonderful harmonic structures that make us feel as if we’re perceiving a small dab of brightness in an envelope of darkness.”</p> <p>At the 2019 MIT TESS conference, experts from across the globe shared results from the first year of observation in the sky above the Southern Hemisphere, and discussed plans for the second-year trek above the Northern Hemisphere. The composers and musicians hope “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces” brought attention to the TESS missions, offers a new perspective on space exploration, and will perhaps spark further collaborations between scientists and artists. George Ricker, TESS principal investigator; Sara Seager, TESS deputy director of science; and Guerrero presented a pre-concert lecture. “Music has the power to generate incredibly powerful emotions,” says Ruehr. “So do these images from TESS. In many ways, they are more beautiful than any stars we might ever imagine.”</p> <p>TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by Goddard Spaceflight Center. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. More than a dozen universities, research institutes, and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.</p> The Lorelei Ensemble performs in "Songs from Extrasolar Spaces: Music Inspired by TESS" on July 30 in MIT's Kresge Auditorium.Photo: Danny GoldfieldArts, Center for Art, Science and Technology, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Kavli Institute, Astronomy, NASA, TESS, Music, Faculty, School of Engineering, Satellites, Exoplanets, Theater, Special events and guest speakers, Technology and society, Space, astronomy and planetary science, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Alumni/ae Translating proteins into music, and back By turning molecular structures into sounds, researchers gain insight into protein structures and create new variations. Wed, 26 Jun 2019 08:00:00 -0400 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office <p>Want to create a brand new type of protein that might have useful properties? No problem. Just hum a few bars.</p> <p>In a surprising marriage of science and art, researchers at MIT have developed a system for converting the molecular structures of proteins, the basic building blocks of all living beings, into audible sound that resembles musical passages. Then, reversing the process, they can introduce some variations into the music and convert it back into new proteins never before seen in nature.</p> <p>Although it’s not quite as simple as humming a new protein into existence, the new system comes close. It provides a systematic way of translating a protein’s sequence of amino acids into a musical sequence, using the physical properties of the molecules to determine the sounds. Although the sounds are transposed in order to bring them within the audible range for humans, the tones and their relationships are based on the actual vibrational frequencies of each amino acid molecule itself, computed using theories from quantum chemistry.</p> <p>The system was developed by Markus Buehler, the McAfee Professor of Engineering and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, along with postdoc Chi Hua Yu and two others. As described today in the journal <em>ACS Nano</em>, the system translates the 20 types of amino acids, the building blocks that join together in chains to form all proteins, into a 20-tone scale. Any protein’s long sequence of amino acids then becomes a sequence of notes.</p> <p>While such a scale sounds unfamiliar to people accustomed to Western musical traditions, listeners can readily recognize the relationships and differences after familiarizing themselves with the sounds. Buehler says that after listening to the resulting melodies, he is now able to distinguish certain amino acid sequences that correspond to proteins with specific structural functions. “That’s a beta sheet,” he might say, or “that’s an alpha helix.”</p> <p><strong>Learning the language of proteins</strong></p> <p>The whole concept, Buehler explains, is to get a better handle on understanding proteins and their vast array of variations. Proteins make up the structural material of skin, bone, and muscle, but are also enzymes, signaling chemicals, molecular switches, and a host of other functional materials that make up the machinery of all living things. But their structures, including the way they fold themselves into the shapes that often determine their functions, are exceedingly complicated. “They have their own language, and we don’t know how it works,” he says. “We don’t know what makes a silk protein a silk protein or what patterns reflect the functions found in an enzyme. We don’t know the code.”</p> <p>By translating that language into a different form that humans are particularly well-attuned to, and that allows different aspects of the information to be encoded in different dimensions — pitch, volume, and duration — Buehler and his team hope to glean new insights into the relationships and differences between different families of proteins and their variations, and use this as a way of exploring the many possible tweaks and modifications of their structure and function. As with music, the structure of proteins is hierarchical, with different levels of structure at different scales of length or time.</p> <p><iframe allow="autoplay" frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src=";color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p><span style="font-size:10px;">The new method translates&nbsp;an&nbsp;amino acid sequence of proteins into this sequence of percussive and rhythmic sounds<em>.</em><em style="font-size: 10px;">&nbsp;</em>Courtesy of Markus Buehler.</span></p> <p>The team then used an artificial intelligence system to study the catalog of melodies produced by a wide variety of different proteins. They had the AI system introduce slight changes in the musical sequence or create completely new sequences, and then translated the sounds back into proteins that correspond to the modified or newly designed versions. With this process they were able to create variations of existing proteins — for example of one found in spider silk, one of nature’s strongest materials — thus making new proteins unlike any produced by evolution.</p> <p><iframe allow="autoplay" frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src=";color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p><span style="font-size:10px;">The percussive, rhythmic, and musical sounds heard here are&nbsp;generated entirely from amino acid sequences.<em>&nbsp;</em>Courtesy of Markus Buehler.</span></p> <p>Although the researchers themselves may not know the underlying rules, “the AI has learned the language of how proteins are designed,” and it can encode it to create variations of existing versions, or completely new protein designs, Buehler says. Given that there are “trillions and trillions” of potential combinations, he says, when it comes to creating new proteins “you wouldn’t be able to do it from scratch, but that’s what the AI can do.”</p> <p><strong>“Composing” new proteins</strong></p> <p>By using such a system, he says training the AI system with a set of data for a particular class of proteins might take a few days, but it can then produce a design for a new variant within microseconds. “No other method comes close,” he says. “The shortcoming is the model doesn’t tell us what’s really going on inside. We just know it works.”</p> <p>This way of encoding structure into music does reflect a deeper reality. “When you look at a molecule in a textbook, it’s static,” Buehler says. “But it’s not static at all. It’s moving and vibrating. Every bit of matter is a set of vibrations. And we can use this concept as a way of describing matter.”</p> <p>The method does not yet allow for any kind of directed modifications — any changes in properties such as mechanical strength, elasticity, or chemical reactivity will be essentially random. “You still need to do the experiment,” he says. When a new protein variant is produced, “there’s no way to predict what it will do.”</p> <p>The team also created musical compositions developed from the sounds of amino acids, which define this new 20-tone musical scale. The art pieces they constructed consist entirely of the sounds generated from amino acids. “There are no synthetic or natural instruments used, showing how this new source of sounds can be utilized as a creative platform,” Buehler says. Musical motifs derived from both naturally existing proteins and AI-generated proteins are used throughout the examples, and all the sounds, including some that resemble bass or snare drums, are also generated from the sounds of amino acids.</p> <p>The researchers have created a free Android smartphone app, called <a href="" target="_blank">Amino Acid Synthesizer</a>, to play the sounds of amino acids and record protein sequences as musical compositions.</p> <p>“Markus Buehler has been gifted with a most creative soul, and his explorations into the inner workings of biomolecules are advancing our understanding of the mechanical response of biological materials in a most significant manner,” says Marc Meyers, a professor of materials science at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved in this work.</p> <p>Meyers adds, “The focusing of this imagination to music is a novel and intriguing direction. This is experimental music at its best. The rhythms of life, including the pulsations of our heart, were the initial sources of repetitive sounds that engendered the marvelous world of music. Markus has descended into the nanospace to extract the rythms of the amino acids, the building blocks of life.”</p> <p>“Protein sequences are complex, as are comparisons between protein sequences,” says Anthony Weiss, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biotechnology at the University of Sydney, Australia, who also was not connected to this work. The MIT team “provides an impressive, entertaining and unusual approach to accessing and interpreting this complexity. ... The approach benefits from our innate ability to hear complex musical patterns. Through harmony and discord, we now have an entertaining and useful tool to compare and contrast amino acid sequences.”</p> <p>The team also included research scientist Zhao Qin and Francisco Martin-Martinez at MIT. The work was supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the National Institutes of Health.</p> Artist’s impression depicts the conversion of the structure of a protein molecule into a musical passage, as is done in the MIT researchers’ system.Image: Christine Daniloff, MITResearch, Nanoscience and nanotechnology, Proteins, Civil and environmental engineering, School of Engineering, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, Music, Apps, Arts, Technology and society Communities in the cloud PhD student Steven Gonzalez studies cloud computing with the eye of an anthropologist. Wed, 05 Jun 2019 13:45:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The cloud’s very name reflects how many people think of this data storage system: intangible, distant, and disentangled from day-to-day life. But MIT PhD student Steven Gonzalez is reframing the image and narrative of an immaterial cloud. In his research, he’s showing that the cloud is neither distant nor ephemeral: It’s a massive system, ubiquitous in daily life, that contains huge amounts of energy, has the potential for environmental disaster, and is operated by an insular community of expert technicians.<br /> <br /> <strong>Who's tending the cloud?</strong><br /> <br /> “People so often rely on cloud services,” Gonzalez notes, “but they rarely think about where their data is stored and who is storing it, who is doing the job of maintaining servers that run 24/7/365, or the billons of gallons of water used daily to cool the servers, or the gigawatts of electricity that often come from carbon-based grids.”<br /> <br /> The first time Gonzalez walked into a server farm, he was enthralled and puzzled by this giant factory filled with roaring computers and by the handful of IT professionals keeping it all running. At the time, he was working with specialized sensors that measured air in critical spaces, including places like the server farm. But the surreal facility led him back to his undergraduate anthropological training: How do these server spaces work? How has the cloud shaped these small, professional communities?</p> <p>Gonzalez has been fascinated with visible, yet rarely recognized, communities since his first undergraduate ethnography on bus drivers in the small New Hampshire city of Keene. “In anthropology, everyone is a potential teacher,” he says, “Everyone you encounter in the field has something to teach you about the subject that you’re looking at, about themselves, about their world."<br /> <br /> <strong>Server farms are high-stakes environments</strong><br /> <br /> Listening — and a lot of patience — are skills with which Gonzalez cultivated the technical expertise to understand his subject matter. Cloud communities are built around, and depend upon, the technology they maintain, and that technology in turn shapes their behavior. So far, Gonzalez has completed his undergraduate and masters research and degrees, and is currently wrapping up PhD coursework en route to his dissertation. He’s visited server farms across North America and in Scandinavia, where farm operators are seeking to go carbon-free in order to cut the cloud’s carbon emissions, which comprise up to 3 percent of greenhouse gases, according to Greenpeace.<br /> <br /> The server-farm technicians function in an extremely high-stakes world: Not only is a massive amount of energy expended on the cloud, but even a few moments of downtime can be devastating. If the systems go down, companies can lose up to $50,000 per minute, depending on what sector (financial, retail, public sector, etc.) and which server racks are affected. “There’s a kind of existential dread that permeates a lot of what they say and what they do,” Gonzalez says. “It’s a very high-stress, unforgiving type of work environment.”<br /> <br /> <strong>New technology, o</strong><strong>ld gender inequity</strong><br /> <br /> In response to these fears, Gonzalez has noted some “macho” performances in language and behavior by cloud communities. The mostly male cloud workforce “tend to use very sexual language,” Gonzalez observes. For instance, when all the servers are functioning properly it’s “uptime”; “They’ll use sexualized language to refer to how ‘potent’ they are or how long they can maintain uptime.”<br /> <br /> The cloud communities aren’t exclusively male, but Gonzalez says visibility for women is a big issue. Women tend to be framed as collaborators, rather than executors. Tied up in this sexist behavior is the decades-old patriarchal stereotype that technology is a male domain in which machines are gendered in a way that makes them subordinate.<br /> <br /> Although anthropological research is the focus of his academic work, Gonzalez’s interests at MIT have been expansive. With the encouragement of his advisor, Professor Stefan Helmreich, he’s kept his lifelong interest in music and science fiction alive by singing in the MIT Jazz Choir and Concert Choir and taking coursework in science fiction writing. He also enjoyed exploring coursework in history, documentary making, and technology courses. Anthropology is the first among several passions he first discovered during explorations as an undergraduate at Keene State College.<br /> <br /> “For me, what makes anthropology so capacious is just the diversity of human experience and the beauty of that,” says Gonzalez. “The beauty of so many different possibilities, different configurations of being, that exist simultaneously.”<br /> <br /> <strong>The open doors of MIT</strong><br /> <br /> Gonzalez was born in Orlando, Florida, to Puerto Rican parents who made sure he always had a connection with the island, where he would spend summers with his grandmother. A first-generation college student, Gonzalez says it was never a given that he would even go to college, let alone earn a doctorate: “I never would have imagined that I would have ended up here. It’s a sad reality that, as a Latino person in this country, I was more likely to end up in prison than in a place like MIT. So I had — and I still do — immense respect and awe for the Institute. MIT has a mystique, and when I first arrived I had to deal with that mystique, getting over the sense that I don’t belong.”<br /> <br /> He had big expectations about entering a hugely competitive institution but was surprised to find that, in addition to its competitive edge, the Institute was incredibly supportive. “The thing that surprised me the most was how open everyone’s door was.”<br /> <br /> Gonzalez has&nbsp;become more and more deeply involved with the campus goings-on: he's now&nbsp;a Diversity Conduit for the Graduate Student Council Diversity and Inclusion Initiative and is also part of&nbsp;an MIT student initiative that is exploring Institute ties and possible investments in the prison-industrial complex.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h5><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Writer: Alison Lanier</em></h5> MIT grad student Steven Gonzalez is showing that the cloud is neither distant nor ephemeral: It’s a massive system, ubiquitous in daily life, that contains huge amounts of energy, has the potential for environmental disaster, and is operated by an insular community of expert technicians.Photo: Jon Sachs/MIT SHASS Communications School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Cloud computing, Diversity and inclusion, Energy, Ethics, Gender, Internet, Music, Technology, Women in STEM, Profile, Students, graduate, Graduate, postdoctoral, HASTS Leaving room for a little improvisation At the piano and in the lab, double major Tony Zhang is driven by curiosity and creativity. Tue, 14 May 2019 14:40:01 -0400 Brittany Flaherty | School of Science <p>Senior Tony Zhang says his curiosity about physics was piqued by an unlikely source: a rubber band.&nbsp;</p> <p>“When I was little, I would stretch rubber bands across cabinet and drawer handles,” says Zhang. “A rubber band produces a different pitch when you pluck it, depending on the material and depending on the tension. So I wondered if I could make an entire scale.” When he succeeded, Zhang says he wanted to know how it worked.&nbsp;</p> <p>Zhang has since pondered the science behind many more observations — and played scales of a more traditional variety. At MIT, he is double-majoring in physics and mathematics with computer science, and minoring in music. Zhang says his double major allowed him to pursue all three of his academic interests, forming what he calls a “math and friends umbrella.”</p> <p>“What draws me to these academic fields is that I tend to be pretty analytical,” he says. “Computers are cool and math is fun, but I really like this particular way of thinking — being able to understand something from first principles.”</p> <p>Trying to understand the science underlying an observation is something Zhang thinks about often in everyday life. Once, while playing a board game with some friends on the 30th or so floor of an apartment building, Zhang says the group noticed that the sun seemed to be setting later than would be expected. Someone suggested it was because they were up so high.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Usually people will think, ‘Maybe that’s it,’ and move on,” says Zhang. “But I do physics, so that is not an acceptable answer.” While everyone else carried on playing the game, Zhang says he worked out that the sunset should be delayed by a few minutes at their current height. “Sometimes problems just stick and then you just have to solve it,” he says. “Or you want to solve it just because you can.”&nbsp;</p> <p>A desire to understand the world around him is what drives Zhang’s studies, as well as his research. Since his junior year, Zhang has worked in the lab of Isaac Chuang focusing on quantum information, as well as atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) physics. As Zhang explains, while everything is made up of atoms and molecules, AMO physics examines the uniquely atomic and molecular properties that occur at very low temperatures, or when a single atom is trapped in free space, for example. His current research involves trying to implement a simple quantum algorithm in real life through an experiment on a single ion of the element strontium.&nbsp;</p> <p>He also enjoys seeing physics come to life. “Your professors weren't lying when they say atoms behave really weirdly,” Zhang says. “Experimental AMO is an opportunity for you to see all the wacky things they promise you happen in physics theory classes. You can actually see and measure that behavior in real life.”</p> <p><strong>A different note</strong></p> <p>While he came to MIT confident in his academic pursuits, Zhang said he expected to have to give up playing the piano in order to focus on his studies. But Zhang had played since he was 7, and said he started to realize how much he enjoyed it. Impressed by all he learned about MIT’s music program, he auditioned for an Emerson Scholarship. He was selected for the program, which helps fund piano lessons for talented students. He has largely studied with David Deveau, a senior lecturer in music at MIT.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Slowly, instead of phasing it out, piano became an even larger part of my life than it was before coming here,” Zhang says.&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s even become a priority for Zhang to learn about the music departments in the schools he’s applying to for graduate work.</p> <p>“People will ask you whether music informs physics or vice versa. I think the answer is: not really, but I think they're very complementary,” Zhang says. “It’s just very nice to have something completely unrelated to academics to think about and work on.”</p> <p>Beyond the break it affords, Zhang says playing piano was a great way to connect with new people. He says he met one of his closest friends, a violinist, in a piano trio on campus, and that he has found the MIT undergraduate student body to be very musical.&nbsp;</p> <p>During his first year at MIT, Zhang surprised himself by signing up for yet another activity outside of academics. After a friend convinced him to audition, Zhang joined the MIT Asian Dance Team. “I had absolutely zero experience with dance coming into MIT,” he says. “But now I have been dancing my whole time in undergrad — poorly, I will add.”</p> <p>In addition to acting as stress reducers and opportunities to work hard physically, Zhang says these non-academic activities helped him grow as a person. Music, he says, helped him become more observant about how he spends his time and makes decisions about how to maximize his study and practice time. Both music and dance helped him look at himself differently. “I came into MIT not necessarily shy, but also perhaps maybe not fully comfortable with myself,” Zhang says. “I think working on piano very deeply and trying out dance, both have done a lot in helping me feel more confident and comfortable as myself.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Zhang also joined the MIT Association of Taiwanese Students (ATS), and eventually became co-president for his sophomore and junior years. While Zhang isn’t Taiwanese, he said joining ATS was more about building community and spending time with people with similar interests.&nbsp;</p> <p>“There is something so nice about sharing unique parts of your culture with other people who may not have grown up with the same culture, but who also find it interesting,” he says.&nbsp;</p> <p>While each of his pursuits added to his MIT experience, Zhang says he’s the first to admit that it was sometimes more than he could readily manage. “I spent most of my time at MIT doing way too much,” he says. “I was always thinking about commitments.”&nbsp;</p> <p>As a senior, Zhang has a slightly lighter course load and fewer extracurricular activities. He says this reduced plate has allowed him to catch his breath a bit and enjoy his final year at MIT.&nbsp;</p> <p>“College is important to set you up for your future, but it also is an experience to be enjoyed in and of itself,” he says. “It’s amazing to have more free mental time.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Plus, Zhang says, “it's where a lot of unexpected breakthroughs happen.” During rehearsal for a piano trio he was a part of, for example, Zhang remembers a special moment when he let his intuition guide his playing. “I suddenly thought, what if I add pedal, but just like a very small amount of pedal? Maybe it will sound better,” he says. “And it did. If I were just drilling, drilling, drilling sections, I wouldn't have had that realization.”</p> <p>Leaving room for improvisation is just one of many lessons Zhang says he’s learned at MIT. “I decided to come because I thought there would be a lot of people I would click with, and I thought this would be the best place for me to grow,” he says. “All of that has been borne out by the past four years.”</p> <p>After graduation, Zhang plans to attend graduate school to continue studying physics and satisfying his curiosity about the natural world. In physics, he says, there’s still so much to explore.</p> <p>“That’s why science is cool in general: Everything just gains an extra dimension of cool when you know how it works,” Zhang says. “Or when you know that nobody knows how it works."</p> Tony Zhang, a double major in physics and mathematics, says that improvisation is important in science and the arts.Photo: Steph StevensSchool of Science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Profile, Students, Undergraduate, Physics, Mathematics, Music, Student life, Music and theater arts Cultural curator Graduate student and New York City DJ Rekha Malhotra draws inspiration from the intersection of art and activism. Tue, 07 May 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Bridget E. Begg | Office of Graduate Education <p>Rekha Malhotra joined MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program as a master’s student after 20 years as a flourishing New York City DJ. She has also accrued major accolades for other artistic endeavors: She was the sound designer for a Tony Award-winning Broadway show and a New York University artist in residence, and she has been inducted into People’s Hall of Fame in New York City.</p> <p>All of these laurels arose from <a href="">Basement Bhangra</a>, a wildly popular monthly club night that Malhotra began in 1997. The show mixed traditional Punjabi dance music, called bhangra, with old-school hip hop, a fusion Malhotra helped to bring from the U.K. to the U.S. in the 1990s.</p> <p>At the time, she says, many club owners discouraged or outright banned the genres because South Asian producers didn’t want to hear black music or the “lower-class” bhangra. But Malhotra was undeterred. “I love these two styles of music, and I didn’t want to water it down. I didn’t want anybody to tell me what I can and can’t play,” she explains. Her perseverance paid off: Since then, Malhotra has DJ’ed everywhere from celebrity weddings to the Obama White House to the historic Women’s March on Washington in 2017.</p> <p><strong>“You always open”</strong></p> <p>Not only a musical artist, Malhotra is also an activist at her core. She was a founding member of the <a href="">South Asian Youth Organization</a> in 1996. In college, she was part of a South Asian political rights organization that was formed in response to <a href="">racial violence in Jersey City</a>, in which one person was killed and one left for dead at a fire station. None of the accused were convicted. The experience politicized her.</p> <p>For Malhotra, blending bhangra and hip hop was always about more than just producing innovative mixes. In creating her club nights, she also intended to create a space for her audience — and by extension, to support a community of South Asians, dancers, and community activists. She was particularly galvanized by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.</p> <p>“9/11 was a very significant moment in New York,” Malhotra says. “People of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent were real targets. Nine days after 9/11 we had a party on the books and I really had to think about DJ’ing when there was a collective mourning in the city. And the venue was only a mile from [the World Trade Center]. This neighborhood had finally opened again, and the question was ‘Do we open?’ And the answer is: ‘Yes.’ You always open. … Fundamental to my work is not just playing music, but creating a space to play the music.” Malhotra sees herself as not just a DJ, but as a cultural curator, because of how her activism intersects with her performances.</p> <p>Ultimately, it was this community work that brought Malhotra to MIT. She had heard about the CMS program from professors and graduates whom she met in New York. At the same time, Malhotra found that she was craving more intellectual engagement with her work.</p> <p>“Definitely in the pace and the hustle of New York there wasn’t always time to think,” she recalls. “I wanted to reflect on the work I was doing, to gain the qualifications to eventually teach more, to gain an opportunity to write critically and reflect, and also to be in a community of other people who are also thinking and writing and engaged.”</p> <p><strong>Innovation over tradition</strong></p> <p>At MIT, Malhotra works with Associate Professor Vivek Bald in the Open Documentary Lab on the <a href="">Lost Histories Project</a>. The first year of the CMS program is highly structured with coursework, colloquia, and lectures, but in the second year, students are encouraged to sample many of the intellectual resources at MIT and Harvard University. Malhotra relishes the flexibility of the program and has taken full advantage of the broad array of available coursework, including 21M.361 (Electronic Music Composition), 11.S948 (Writing About the Modern City), MAS.S62 (Principles of Awareness), and Harvard’s WOMGEN 1212 (Beyoncé Feminism and Rihanna Woman).</p> <p>She also appreciates the diversity of the students and faculty in CMS. “I feel like I’ve been able to be myself here,” she says. “And I think that the uniqueness of our program is that there are so many different kinds of people. … We’ve got filmmakers and gamers and scholars and anthropologists. And our professors have so many different interests and backgrounds. They’re in the world and in their academic space too. It’s such a rich community of people.”</p> <p>As her June graduation nears, Malhotra is working on her thesis, which examines the mythologies around DJ’ing as a cultural practice. She’s weaving in ideas about the physical practices of DJ’ing, gender in DJ’ing, and the concept of authenticity and tradition in club music. “There’s a certain sense of ubiquity around DJ’ing, but what do we really understand about it and how is it actually practiced?” she says. “Is it about cutting and scratching? Is that really how people perform or consume music? It’s one technique and it’s one small part of the spectrum of DJ’ing, and that’s turntablism, which is very specific. A scratch interrupts the flow, but it’s demonstrative. I’m interested in that.”</p> <p>As an artist who melds the strong cultural touchstones of bhangra and hip hop music, Malhotra also contends with traditionalists. “Once you introduce recording, how does the medium change the art — or does it?” she says. “For any style of culture, there’s often someone saying that it’s being morphed into something that’s not original. But the nature of culture is to keep changing — according to me.” She pauses, adding, “I try to go from a more aesthetic place: Does it sound good? Will it make people dance? That’s my guiding principle. I don’t have any hang-ups around what’s traditional.”</p> <p><strong>New York, New York</strong></p> <p>Though a die-hard New Yorker, Malhotra has a fond appreciation for her temporary home in Cambridge. “I try to get immersed in the state of mind and where I’m living. I try to follow local happenings and newsletters. I feel like it’s important to know about the community you’re in. Cambridge really cares about itself.” She smiles. “So much so, that you can’t park a car here! Yes, I’m a grumpy New Yorker and I’d like things to stay open later, but it’s been manageable.”</p> <p>Luckily, Malhotra can commiserate with several friends from her New York South Asian activist and artist community who are also pursuing work at Harvard and MIT. She also attends an open mic nights organized by SubDrift, a community of Boston-based South Asians. Although she has focused deeply on her academic work while at MIT, she’s made some time to DJ in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts Late Night, MIT Sloan, and an all-ages party called Local Beats in Somerville. &nbsp;</p> <p>After graduation, Malhotra plans to continue the bhangra music <a href="">podcast</a> she began in 2011, as well as her DJ gigs. She will also attend a <a href="">Feet in 2 Worlds</a> audio workshop called “Telling Immigrant Food Stories,” for which she was awarded a scholarship. She looks forward to returning to her beloved Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens, where she has a place on the board of Chhaya CDC, a community organization supporting New Yorkers of South Asian origin. But she is also embracing any new opportunities that come her way.</p> <p>“The world is open in some ways, but I want to be more intentional and think about what I want to do in the world,” Malhotra says. “I’m in a great space of privilege in having an art career and now having this educational experience. Coming [to MIT] has definitely opened doors in opportunities and in my way of thinking.”</p> Rehka MalhotraImage: Joseph LeeStudents, Profile, Graduate, postdoctoral, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Arts, Music, India, Asia MIT Program in Digital Humanities launches with $1.3 million Mellon Foundation grant Among the program&#039;s offerings, the Digital Humanities Lab applies computational tools to humanistic research — and builds a community fluent in both languages. Wed, 17 Apr 2019 16:45:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>Before computers, no sane person would have set out to count gender pronouns in 4,000 novels, but the results can be revealing, as MIT’s new digital humanities program recently discovered.</p> <p>Launched with a $1.3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Program in Digital Humanities brings computation together with humanities research, with the goal of building a community “fluent in both languages,” says Michael Scott Cuthbert, associate professor of music, Music21 inventor, and director of digital humanities at MIT.</p> <p>“In the past, it has been somewhat rare, and extremely rare beyond MIT, for humanists to be fully equipped to frame questions in ways that are easy to put in computer science terms, and equally rare for computer scientists to be deeply educated in humanities research. There has been a communications gap,” Cuthbert says. “That's the genesis of this new approach to computation in humanities.”</p> <p><strong>Educating bilinguals: students fluent in the humanities and computation</strong></p> <p>While traditional digital humanities programs attempt to provide humanities scholars with some computational skills, the situation at MIT is different: Most MIT students already have or are learning basic programming skills, and all MIT undergraduates also take some humanities classes. Cuthbert believes this difference will make MIT’s program a great success.</p> <p>“What we have that's an amazing opportunity is a large number of people who love building things with computers and want to connect those to their interests and make an impact,” he says. “Our students very much want to change the world.”</p> <p>They can do that — even as first-year students — because humanities research has many open questions that can be solved with just six months or a year of programming skills, he says.</p> <p>“The wonderful thing we can do is implement a lot from scratch because we have the programming skills to do that,” says Stephan Risi, one of two postdocs who works in what the students informally call the “Digital Humanities Lab,” or “DH Lab” for short. This gives the MIT researchers more latitude to explore new questions as they arise. “We’re not bound by software others have produced.”<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>A novel research project</strong></p> <p>To illustrate the kind of work the lab can do, the program enlisted a team of 24 students (mostly first-years) through the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) to study gender representation in 19th century English literature. The team assembled metadata, applied grammar-parsing tools, did web scraping, wrote analysis tools, and ultimately examined 4,217 books — a total of 326.9 million words.</p> <p>One interesting finding from the <a href="" target="_blank">"Gender/Novels" experiment</a> was that — regardless of the sex of the author and "no matter how we cut the data,” as Cuthbert says — roughly two-thirds of all male pronouns were in the subject position, whereas women were more often the object of the sentence. What these new data tell us — about men, women, and society — is up to human scholars to decide, but this project provides a window into the ways computational work can support humanities research.</p> <p><strong>Detecting research with high social value</strong></p> <p>This first project also illustrates the pedagogical benefits of working in the lab.</p> <p>“One of the interesting things about the lab is it's hard to sift through which ideas have merit,” says lab UROP and first-year student Dina Atia, contrasting the humanities research to her work in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. “Most STEM research is very fact-based but can lack important social takeaways.”</p> <p>Fellow UROP and first-year student Ifeoluwapo Ademolu-Odeneye says she enjoyed the opportunity to put her computer skills to work outside the classroom. “I have developed a lot as a computer scientist doing this,” she says, adding that she has also learned to apply critical thinking skills to make decisions about the humanities content. “At first, I asked Professor Cuthbert about everything. Later he threw questions back at us, which has been good for developing as a researcher myself.”</p> <p>First-year student Mayowa Songonuga, who just started her UROP in the lab this spring and is working on a new project — The History of Computing at MIT — agreed that the hands-on work is very valuable. “There is more to it than just the technology,” she says. “I haven't had the chance to research something like this before.”</p> <p><strong>The productive sw</strong><strong>erve in research</strong></p> <p>While the UROP students were designing algorithms and building a website, they also read and analyzed 19th century English literature and tackled questions such as how to teach the computer the difference between a novel and a travel log. The lab intentionally fosters this dual-stream process, Cuthbert says, because it provides rich opportunities to change the direction of research to follow some newly discovered path.</p> <p>This ability to make what Cuthbert calls “a productive swerve” is often critical to fruitful research, but has been hampered in the digital humanities to date because complex digital projects are too often done by computational experts at a remove from the humanities scholar.</p> <p><strong>Students collaborate with leading humanities scholars</strong></p> <p>To further entwine the disciplines, the program next plans to bring humanities faculty on board for joint projects with students. In 2019-20, associate professor of literature Sandy Alexandre and professor of political science Evan Lieberman will be devoting six hours a week to the lab, teaching students about their research while learning some computational methods themselves.</p> <p>An added benefit of this collaboration is that it should make the programming work less demanding, Cuthbert says, because creating a simple user interface can be extremely time-consuming. “We’re hoping the faculty will learn enough about the technical operation of their projects that we can devote more staff time to digging deeper,” he says.</p> <p><strong>Master class lectures by experts who combine humanities and tech</strong></p> <p>Beginning in 2020, the Program in Digital Humanities will reach out to the wider community — at MIT and in Cambridge and Boston. The plan, Cuthbert says, is to develop a lecture series based on the master class model. Outside experts who combine technology and the humanities in their profession will come to the lab to work with students and then give a public lecture.</p> <p>The overall goal, Cuthbert says, is to meet a target set by Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: “to connect the great things going on in computation with the amazing things happening in MIT’s humanities, arts, and social science fields.”</p> <p>“We have an opportunity to create a love for humanities and an acknowledgement of the importance of humanistic research with the next generation of computer programmers,” Cuthbert says. “We are incredibly excited.”</p> <h5><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Senior Writer: Kathryn O'Neill</em><br /> &nbsp;</h5> First-year students Ifeoluwapo Ademolu-Odeneye (left) and Keith Murray at work in the MIT Digital Humanities Lab. Photo: Jon SachsComputation, Digital humanities, Data, Faculty, Women's and Gender Studies, Humanities, Literature, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Classes and programs, Music, Diversity and inclusion MIT Muses celebrate 30 years For three decades, MIT&#039;s premier all-female a cappella group has been a home for song and long-lasting friendships. Thu, 28 Mar 2019 15:30:02 -0400 Kailey Tse-Harlow | Division of Student Life <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Muses</a>, the only all-female a cappella group on campus, have belted beautiful melodies in and around the Institute — be it in the Infinite Corridor, at MIT events, riding in an elevator, and even in <a href="" target="_blank">McCormick Hall</a> — since 1988.</p> <p>Susan Quick, founder of MIT Muses, had an idea during her first year on campus to create an a cappella group just for women. The only other groups on campus at the time were the all-male Logarhythms and the co-ed Chorallaries. While Quick majored in chemistry, music continued to be a huge part of her everyday life. “It’s such a wonderful gateway from our studies. Such a wonderful distraction,” says Quick. In true a cappella fashion the name “MIT Muses” is somewhat punny, referring to both the Greek goddesses of the arts and the Greek letter μ (pronounced “mu”) which symbolizes a number of mathematical variables.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>Today’s Muses practice six hours a week in the McCormick music room with a number of additional performances each semester. Sophomore Emuna Mokel, president of MIT Muses, sees the group as social, caring, and supportive. “If I’m ever struggling or if I’m having a bad day, it’s another group of people I can turn to that are making sure I’m doing alright. It’s gotten me through rougher days,” Mokel says.</p> <p>The MIT Muses’ 2018 reunion brought together current members and alumnae from the past 30 years and was a time for them to reconnect. The reaction from founder Quick was emotional. “It brought tears to my eyes,” she says. “They did such an amazing job, they put so much time and effort into arranging this. I was so touched.”</p> <p>This year, MIT Muses is comprised of 19 female singers, making it one of the biggest groups in Muses’ history. Courtney Guo ’18 has spent five years with the MIT Muses. Guo has taken on many roles within the group including musical director, and she believes that there is magic in music and performing. “There’s something special about making music more than the notes on the page and feeling it more emotionally,” says Guo.</p> <p>“I started something in a selfish way because I wanted to sing a cappella,” says Quick. “But in the end, it became a giant sisterhood of women who are friends who stay friends and support each other and still love music together.” Even after 30 years, Quick continues to sing with a band and a church choir.</p> <p>Aspiring Muses can audition for the group each fall, typically in September. And each new class of members will lend their voices to shaping The Muses’ next 30 years of music and memories.&nbsp;</p> MIT Muses, from the founding class to present, reunited to celebrated 30 years a cappella.Photo: Courtney Guo/MIT MusesStudent life, Students, Undergraduate, Music, Clubs and activities Using machine learning for medical solutions Master’s student and Marshall Scholar Kyle Swanson uses computer science to help make drug development more efficient. Tue, 19 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Gina Vitale | MIT News correspondent <p>Pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of time testing potential drugs, and they end up wasting &nbsp;much of that effort on candidates that don’t pan out. Kyle Swanson wants to change that.</p> <p>A master’s student in computer science and engineering, Swanson is working on a project that involves feeding a computer information about chemical compounds that have or have not worked as drugs in the past. From this input, the machine “learns” to predict which kinds of new compounds have the most promise as drug candidates, potentially saving money and time otherwise spent on testing. Several prominent companies have already adopted the software as their new model.</p> <p>“Our model is never going to be perfect … but the hope is that by doing this prediction phase first, the molecules that they actually test in the lab have a much higher chance of being viable drugs,” says Swanson, who graduated from MIT in 2018 with a BS in computer science and engineering, a BS in mathematics, and a minor in music.</p> <p>Swanson’s overall aim is to use his skills in computer science and machine learning for real-world science applications. He’ll work toward that goal as a Marshall Scholar for the next two years, attending Cambridge University to pursue a pair of master’s degrees, one in mathematical statistics and the other in computational biology.</p> <p>“I think the ultimate goal is to do something very similar to what I’m doing right now,” he says. “I feel like it’s a great mix of doing interesting computer science research and pushing the field of machine learning forward, while also having practical applications in the sciences.”</p> <p><strong>Researcher and survivor</strong></p> <p>Swanson’s first experience researching medical applications for machine learning was as an undergraduate in the lab of Regina Barzilay, the Delta Electronics Professor in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Swanson worked on a system designed to identify the presence of breast cancer from mammogram images. While the original goal of cancer detection proved to be difficult, the tool was successful at a related task. The algorithm is still used to analyze mammogram images, but rather than identifying cancer, it identifies whether patients are at greater risk for cancer, depending on <a href="">the density</a> of their breast tissue.</p> <p>While he was already interested in machine learning, Swanson entered cancer research for a very personal reason. One day, he noticed he had a little cough, which he attributed to catching a cold from his roommate. But while his roommate’s cough subsided, Swanson’s didn’t. Walking home one night a few weeks later, he found a lump above his collarbone. It turned out to be Hodgkin’s lymphoma.</p> <p>“My approach is to try and laugh it off as much as possible. I feel like if I were to take it seriously, it would just be so awful I wouldn’t be able to handle it,” Swanson says. “I mean, obviously there were times when I actually was very distraught about the whole thing. … The way I’ve tried to handle it is just to be as positive as possible.”</p> <p>He asked to join Barzilay’s lab not only because he found her research important, but also because she’d been through a similar scare with breast cancer. He felt that she understood what he was going through. Even now, as he’s working on that pharmaceutical machine learning project, she is still his advisor.</p> <p>“She’s been a role model for the kind of person I want to be both professionally and personally, and I hope that one day I can be in a similar position, making a real difference in the lives of others through my research,” he says.</p> <p>After several rounds of treatment, Swanson’s most recent PET scans indicate that he’s now cancer free.</p> <p><strong>A symphony for all seasons</strong></p> <p>Swanson first went to music school in Scarsdale, New York, when he was 2 years old. He picked up the flute in third grade, and later the piccolo. With many hours of practice, he became a skilled classical musician. He’s been in the MIT Symphony Orchestra for five straight years, and he’s played in a number of other ensembles as well.</p> <p>“The great thing about MIT is that I’ve been able to continue that interest. …The music program here is really excellent,” Swanson says. “I’ve enjoyed all the classes I’ve taken, and the ensembles are great as well.”</p> <p>His favorite experience in the music department is one to be rivaled. His first-year roommate, Bertrand Stone, also a mathematics major and musician, is a very talented composer. Before the summer of 2016, Swanson joked that Stone should use some of his free time outside of class to write a flute piece for him. When he returned in the fall, Stone handed him a 135-page, fully composed 20-minute flute concerto. Stone had already shown the piece to the MIT symphony conductor for input during the composition process, and Swanson was asked to perform it with the orchestra.</p> <p>“That was my favorite by far,” Swanson says.</p> <p>Music still takes up most of Swanson’s free time. But when he’s not practicing on some sort of woodwind, he enjoys pounding the pavement with MIT’s Running Club and spending time with friends. His undergraduate fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, is still a big part of his life. He met many of his closest friends there, including one of his current roommates, and they played a key supportive role for him when he was wrestling with cancer.</p> <p>“They’re just some of the smartest and nicest people I know on campus,” Swanson says.</p> <p><strong>A master of degrees</strong></p> <p>By the time Swanson leaves Cambridge, he’ll have three master’s degrees. “Really, I want to just have a better understanding of the fields that I’m going to be applying machine learning to,” he says.</p> <p>As for his future after that, he’s not exactly sure. He will most likely go back to school for a PhD, and then he’ll decide if he wants to enter industry or academia. The important thing for him is that he’s applying his knowledge of machine learning to science that has a real impact on human lives.</p> <p>“If I were to keep doing what I’m doing right now, I think I would be very happy. I love machine learning and I love the way it can do such amazing things,” he says. “But I also specifically like seeing the difference that I’m making in the world.”</p> Kyle SwansonImage: Ian MacLellanProfile, Students, Graduate, postdoctoral, Drug development, Cancer, Artifical intelligence, Machine learning, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Copmuter Science (eecs), Computer science and technology, School of Engineering, Music, Medicine Opera star Renée Fleming explores music and minds in MIT talk Compton Lecture delves into the frontiers of exploration linking neuroscience, music, and health. Tue, 12 Mar 2019 15:39:04 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p>Renée Fleming normally impresses audiences with her singing. On Monday, delivering the Institute’s Compton Lecture, the famous opera singer engrossed an MIT audience with something rather different: a talk about music and neuroscience.</p> <p>“There’s so much to learn about how and why music engages the brain, and even alters the brain,” said Fleming, a world-renowned soprano who in recent years has been working with the medical community to develop new research programs linking music and neuroscience.</p> <p>The Compton lectures are MIT’s highest-profile, Institute-wide speaking series. Fleming’s talk, interspersed with video clips, examined the therapeutic potential of music across a number of medical applications, including recovery from brain trauma, fighting depression and combatting loneliness, and even in the recovery process from nonbrain pathologies such as cancer.</p> <p>Fleming’s presentation, titled “Music and the Mind,” was delivered before a large audience at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. In it, Fleming discussed research findings about music and health, and also described a collaboration she has developed with the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of music on the brain. Fleming herself, as she discussed, even once underwent a lengthy MRI to map her own brain’s activity in relation to music.</p> <p>In her remarks, Fleming drew links between the thought processes of singers and musicians on the one hand, and scientific researchers on the other, noting that both professions require creativity and have practitioners willing to explore the boundaries of their work.</p> <p>“I think that what [scientists] do, people have likened it to creativity in artists, because there’s a comfort level with being in a place where you don’t know [everything],” Fleming said. “And that is powerful. We [artists] have that comfort level, that’s where we choose to be, and scientists also have that comfort level.”</p> <p>Fleming is a celebrated soprano who has often focused on opera but has also expanded her career to cover other genres of music and stage performance. A prominent star for nearly three decades, she made her debuts at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the San Francisco Opera in the early 1990s, and has performed worldwide in many of music’s most notable venues.</p> <p>Fleming has earned many awards and distinctions in her career, including the National Medal of Arts, given to her by President Obama in 2013. She has won four Grammy Awards and, in one measure of her reach, in 2014 became the first classical artist to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. Fleming has also performed at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.</p> <p>Fleming maintains a busy performance schedule. This April, she will appear in opening performances at the Shed, a large new arts venue in New York, and in June will make her London theater debut, performing in “The Light in the Piazza” at the Royal Festival Hall.</p> <p>Fleming explained that her collaboration with the NIH came about after she met musically inclined NIH Director Francis Collins at a dinner party. But it wasn’t just any old dinner party, Fleming noted; also present were U.S. Supreme Court justices, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, who had just ruled that day on opposite sides of the court decisions to require states to grant and recognize same-sex marriages.</p> <p>“I sat between Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg, and let me tell you, there was not a lot of eye contact in the room,” Fleming said, drawing a roar of laughter from the crowd. “Fortunately they both love[d] opera.” Meanwhile, she added, “Francis Collins had come with his guitar, as all heads of major institutions and world leaders [should] do,” leading to a sing-along and lightening of the mood.</p> <p>Fleming also took audience questions after her talk, some of which were presented to her by MIT President L. Rafael Reif.</p> <p>In response to one query, Fleming said her favorite role was the Marschallin from “Der Rosenkavalier,” the Richard Strauss opera that premiered in 1911.</p> <p>Fleming also noted that the intense drama of many classical operas provides a necessary emotional outlet for their audiences, perhaps now more than ever.</p> <p>“Difficult emotions need to be expressed sometimes,” Fleming said. “Many of us are frankly today working 24/7, so we need those moments to let down and feel something.”</p> <p>Fleming noted that her interest in science is comparatively recent, and that, as the child of two music teachers, she was not especially attuned to the STEM fields as a student.</p> <p>“Math and science were just not on the radar,” said Fleming. “I thought every family sang.”</p> <p>The Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series, introduced in 1957, was created in memory of Karl Taylor Compton (1887-1954), who served as MIT’s president from 1930 to 1948 and chair of the MIT Corporation from 1948 to 1954.</p> <p>“He helped the Institute transform itself,” Reif said, emphasizing Compton’s work developing MIT’s strengths in basic scientific research, as well as the Institute’s research partnerships with the federal government.</p> <p>Reif also noted that Fleming’s lecture comes at a time when the arts are building a bigger physical presence on the MIT campus, given the 2017 opening of a new theater and performing arts building (W97) on Vassar Street, and the foundational 2018 gift by Joyce Linde to create a new music building.</p> <p>“MIT students love music,” Reif said. “It brings them joy and pleasure, consolation and escape. It makes them whole, and helps them understand each other.”</p> Singer Renée Fleming delivering the Spring 2019 Compton Lecture at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium on Monday, March 11, 2019.Image: Jake BelcherSpecial events and guest speakers, Compton lecture, President L. Rafael Reif, Music, Arts, Neuroscience, Brain and cognitive sciences Dance brings a community together MIT Bhangra hosts Independent Activities Period workshops to spread the bhangra lifestyle. Thu, 14 Feb 2019 12:55:00 -0500 Stephanie Tran | Division of Student Life <p>For the first time during <a href="" target="_blank">MIT’s Independent Activities Period</a> (IAP), the <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Bhangra Dance Team</a> held a series of dance workshops for the MIT community.</p> <p>More than two dozen&nbsp;students packed into McCormick Hall’s dance studio to learn step-by-step choreography prepared by two Bhangra dance team members, MIT juniors Rishi Sundaresan and Tarun Kamath.</p> <p>“We decided to have these workshops during IAP because we figured people at MIT would have more free time,” says Divya Goel, senior and co-captain of MIT Bhangra. “I think we had one of the biggest turnouts ever because of this, which is awesome.”</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>Bhangra, which originates from the state of Punjab in northern India, is a high-energy, upbeat folk dance that was traditionally performed at harvest festivals or celebrations. With its global growth in popularity in recent years, bhangra has now become a competitive dance form throughout the world.</p> <p>MIT Bhangra started in 1991 with a mission to spread and share bhangra traditions and culture. Kamath says he joined the dance group because he wanted a community where he could have fun and de-stress, but it turned into something bigger.</p> <p>“Being part of a dance team starts out as loving the dance form, but what it becomes is a community and a family that you can appreciate for many years,” he says.</p> <p>In addition to their performances on campus and dance competitions, each summer the group hosts Summer Bhangra, a twice-weekly summer dance workshop for people of all ages and skill levels in the Greater Boston area.</p> <p>“Knowing that we’re able to teach people so quickly and seeing everyone happy from learning this dance style is really rewarding,” says Goel.</p> <p>Kamath says that at the end of the day, it’s about more than learning the dance moves.</p> <p>“If you can walk out of the dance workshop and had a fun two hours, then that’s the best thing that can be said.”</p> Members of the MIT Bhangra dance team pose for a picture after a performance.Photo courtesy of MIT BhangraStudent life, Clubs and activities, Arts, Students, Music, Community, India Jumping into new experiences For senior Héctor Javier Vázquez Martínez, studying and teaching abroad has brought new friendships, new research interests, and a new outlook. Thu, 07 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0500 Gina Vitale | MIT News correspondent <p>By his own admission, Héctor Javier Vázquez Martínez was underprepared to move to Zurich for a semester during his junior year. His cell phone plan didn’t work, he’d forgotten to change his money, and he didn’t know German. However, it didn’t take him long to find his way. Soon, the electrical engineering and computer science major was working in a lab at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich’s Institute of Neuroinformatics, developing a computer model of how mice learn.</p> <p>In his native Puerto Rico, Vázquez Martínez says, Switzerland was viewed as a sort of near-perfect country, which he only dreamed of visiting. Two previous summer internships had also left him feeling uncertain about what he wanted to do with his future. When he received an email about a departmental exchange between MIT and ETH Zurich, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.</p> <p>Through the kindness of strangers who soon became friends, it all worked out for Vázquez Martínez. A member of the rowing club he joined helped him to learn German as he helped her refine her Spanish. When he began his research position, he would commute to work with a labmate. The research project turned out to be a great fit for Vázquez Martínez, whose initial interest in machine learning had led to a passionate curiosity about how humans think.</p> <p>“The time that followed more than made up for the first rough couple of weeks. I would do it all over again if I had the chance,” he says.</p> <p>Spending a semester in Switzerland is just one of many opportunities at MIT that the adventurous senior has seized. During his four years as an MIT student, he has taught underprivileged students abroad, joined the crew team and the Cuban salsa group Casino Rueda, and even dipped into the world of music theory.</p> <p><strong>Defying expectations</strong></p> <p>During his first year, Vázquez Martínez spent three weeks in Chile as part of the MISTI Global Teaching Labs program. The plan had been to teach physics to kids from two middle- and low-income high schools during their summer break. But students from those schools generally enter the work force right after graduation. When he got there, Vázquez Martínez realized something more practical would be a better fit.</p> <p>“My one and only reaction was, well … what good am I going to do you if I’m just teaching you physics?” he recalls. “This is just not going to help you when you graduate.”</p> <p>A professor told Vázquez Martínez that the students could already wire and solder little electronic devices called Arduinos, but they didn’t know how to program them. Over the next few weeks, Vázquez Martínez improvised a curriculum for the high schoolers, teaching them how to program the devices on their own.</p> <p>Then, in the summer following his first year, he participated in a program called Facebook University sponsored by the social media giant. He was given five weeks to develop an IOS app, which he said was generally expected to be a social networking app.</p> <p>“I thought, well, the market is full of those. I want to do something that actually helps people,” he says.</p> <p>Instead, Vázquez Martínez worked on an app that could translate the American Sign Language alphabet into text. While his team was only able to get the app working for four or so letters in that time period, they were able to present a fully functional proof of concept.</p> <p><strong>Thinking on the brain</strong></p> <p>His work with Facebook University sparked an interest in Vázquez Martínez for the field of machine learning. So, in his sophomore year, he took a class on artificial intelligence. To his surprise, he found that machine learning itself didn’t fascinate him.</p> <p>“It’s mostly fancy statistics,” he says. “As I was taking the course, I found that I was a lot more interested in figuring out, why does this work? Why do we think this way? And why can I recognize a dog by just seeing a dog, as opposed to giving a computer 10,000 pictures of a dog and then maybe it’ll say it’s a dog and not a cat?”</p> <p>Vázquez Martínez also became involved that year with neural network research by Glen Urban, the David Austin Professor in Marketing, Emeritus, in the Sloan School of Management. Basically, a computer would be fed thousands of descriptions of customers and lists of credit cards they applied for, and the program would predict which credit cards people with certain demographics would apply for. Vázquez Martínez took over the work from a student who graduated, and enjoyed having his own project. But come fall of his junior year, he decided it was time for a change of scenery, and he was off to Switzerland.</p> <p>His research at the Institute of Neuroinformatics in Switzerland was related to a previous experiment, in which mice were taught to recognize different sandpaper surfaces using a system of positive and negative rewards. The way mice identify their surroundings is through neurons in their whiskers that relay information to their brains. Vázquez Martínez was assigned to make a computational model of three clusters of neurons in a mouse’s brain, and to teach the model to distinguish between different types of sandpaper the way mice do.</p> <p><strong>An active life</strong></p> <p>Vázquez Martínez has taken up music as a hobby, and recently completed 21M.051 (Fundamentals of Music). In the class, he learned introductory music theory through playing the piano. While he says he’s still at a pretty basic level of knowledge, it helps him to communicate with his younger brother who has been studying music from a very early age. They exchange pieces of theory that they’ve learned, show off songs they’ve picked up, and have even tried to compose a piano piece together.</p> <p>Vázquez Martínez is also a member of the dance group <a href="">Casino Rueda</a> and averages about six to seven hours of dancing a week.</p> <p>He started with the group as a beginner four years ago, and now leads some of the advanced sessions. Through dedicated practice, he says, “I found a love for the dance, the music, and how it allows me to communicate with other people. I am continually challenged by our practices and the other dancers, and feel a new rush of adrenaline with every choreography and performance.”</p> <p>Vázquez Martínez also rows for lightweight men’s crew team. “I walked onto the crew team my first year having never seen a rowing oar in my life,” he says. “For me, it was an enormous step up in terms of dedication to a sport, but I stuck to it because I felt constantly forced to push the limits of what I thought I could physically and mentally do. In the words of my current team captain: ‘It is the purest form of teamwork.’”</p> <p>As for Vázquez Martínez’s future, he’s still deciding on the specifics. After his time in Chile, he’s interested in teaching at home at Puerto Rico. And of course, he’s still captivated by his search to understand how people think. He’s not sure exactly what his next project will look like — but he says he’ll know it’s a good match when he wakes up thinking about his work.</p> Héctor Vázquez MartínezImage: Jared Charneystudent, Undergraduate, Profile, MISTI, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering, Latin America, Music, Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, Brain and cognitive sciences, Athletics, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Spider web music: An inspiring harmony of art and science &quot;Spider’s Canvas&quot; features the sonification of a 3-D spider web, with each strand “tuned” to a different note. Tue, 08 Jan 2019 14:05:01 -0500 Taylor De Leon | Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering <p>Spider webs were making music in Paris this fall, at MIT visiting artist Tomás Saraceno’s Palais de Tokyo art exhibit, ON AIR. "<a href="">Spider’s Canvas</a>," an exploration that sonifies the threads of a spider web, was designed, constructed, and performed by MIT’s Center for Art, Science, and Technology (CAST) Faculty Director and Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor Evan Ziporyn, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) PhD student Isabelle Su, CEE department head and McAfee Professor of Engineering Markus Buehler, MIT Music and&nbsp;Theatre&nbsp;Arts lecturer Ian Hattwick, and composer and video artist Christine Southworth ’02.&nbsp;</p> <p>Based on research on spider webs from MIT’s Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM), Su, Buehler, and Ziporyn produced an interactive instrument that echoes the parallels of music and materials science.&nbsp;</p> <p>ON AIR combined material from scientific institutions such as MIT, research groups, activists, and philosophers, to examine how human activity impacts the environment and various systems. The collaboration between CEE and CAST reflects the many ways in which music and science intersect. The 3-D spider web itself is a network that portrays this intersection, visually and acoustically embodying the unification of several disciplines.</p> <p>“'Spider’s Canvas' is truly the most collaborative project I’ve ever been involved in. It’s not just interdisciplinary but literally interspecies. The real ‘first mover’ was the spider herself. In performance, all four humans have an equal effect on everything the audience sees and hears,” says Ziporyn.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>Creating an immersive performance</strong></p> <p>The project is based on a spider web which was spun by a&nbsp;<em>Cyrtophora citricola </em>spider. Buehler, Su and Saraceno created the spider web topology using automatic laser scanning and image processing protocols.</p> <p>“Spider webs are intricate material systems that feature hierarchical structures that range from the chemistry of proteins to the complex architecture of filaments in the web, whereas this complexity is built from simple building blocks,” says Buehler. “Similarly, in music, sound is generated by the assembly of elementary units to produce complex harmonies and rhythms. In this project we’ve demonstrated an intimate connection between these realizations of complex systems.” Obscuring the distinction between what is material and what is sound, the spider web instrument allows researchers to interact with and immerse themselves inside the web.&nbsp;</p> <p>To create the sonification of spider webs, the team applied different frequencies of sound to several different lengths of spider web fibers.&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers thought about acoustical concepts starting from sine waves, the simplest form of sound production. Sine waves are defined as the mathematical waveforms that describe periodic oscillations. The group then combined different sine waves to create more complex sounds, reflecting the tiered structure of music.</p> <p>Analogous to music, spider silk has a hierarchical organization and functions that are comparable to Western classical music of the 18th and 19th century. The team compared the protein secondary structure and stable structure of silk to musical notes and chords.&nbsp;</p> <p>By drawing upon this analogy between music and silk, which both rely on limited simple building blocks, the group has intentions of ultimately creating and improving material designs.&nbsp;</p> <p>Buehler’s lab’s research on spider webs goes hand-in-hand with the work of Saraceno’s spider-web-based art and his ongoing collaboration with MIT, which provided the foundation of the sonic structure for "Spider’s Canvas." As the parallels of science and music became evident, it inspired a new set of ideas that pushed the boundaries of the project.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The goals in art can often be very different than the goals in research; however, they share a similar methodology,” Ziporyn says.&nbsp;</p> <p>Attaining a new perspective on the project, the team began layering various elements to the spider web sonification. Their goal was to create a holistic and immersive experience for the audience. Using the coding systems Unity and Max/MSP, they created an interactive video game within the spider web. While traveling throughout the web, the participants can decide the speed, what they look at, and, therefore, what they listen to.</p> <p>“This visualization method paired with the generation of sound creates a more complete and holistic experience,” Su explains.&nbsp;</p> <p>During the performance, Su controls what the audience views, as if it is coming from the spider’s perspective. While she guides the viewers through the web, the different types of fibers they see reflects what the audience hears.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ziporyn describes the experience of performing "Spider’s Canvas" in holistic terms: “This piece makes you feel that connection between the physical world and the acoustic world; your senses are aligned and focused, allowing you to experience it and pay attention to it in your body and in your spirit.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Southworth, a composer, added another element to "Spider’s Canvas" by improvising with the electric guitar and&nbsp;creating&nbsp;projections that amplified the intricacies of spider webs.&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s an autonomous improvising structure,” says Ziporyn. During the concert, “The ‘driver,’ Su, improvises by where she drives us; Ian improvises by how he sculpts the sounds the web is generating; and Christine and I improvise on top of it.”</p> <p>Furthermore, the team was interested in the ways they could communicate the similarities between music and science through various mediums that would engage the audience’s senses and create a captivating concert.</p> <p>MIT Music and&nbsp;Theatre Arts lecturer,&nbsp;Ian Hattwick,&nbsp;worked on the 3-D spider web project by taking what the researchers had already developed and adjusted it from an aesthetic sonification standpoint, including how it would work with other acoustical elements of the performance.&nbsp;</p> <p>The concert was truly mesmerizing, according to Hattwick. “We had ourselves within the spider web and we were making immersive sound that was distributed around the room. People found themselves in the middle of the sound, the web, and the room.”</p> <p><strong>Merging science and art&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Saraceno’s work is based upon literature from the science and technology movement, and focuses on the idea of networks. Placed within the context of the art exhibit, the performance of "Spider’s Canvas" was a metaphor within itself.&nbsp;</p> <p>The project exemplifies the concept that Su, Hattwick, Ziporyn, and Southworth were dependent upon each other, similar to the way in which spider webs are intertwined and reliant on the environment they exist in. Spider webs are strategically constructed in order to continue the cycle of catching food and breaking it down in order to create the silk fiber necessary to spin their web once again.</p> <p>“We are part of this interconnected network no matter what we do. Our actions will always have effects outside of ourselves and similarly, we are also affected by external factors,” says Hattwick.&nbsp;</p> <p>Each node of a spider web, or each individual, contributes to a larger ecosystem of knowledge and ideas. This multifaceted 3-D web is not only based upon concrete scientific data, however; it also embodies the larger concept that humans need to transcend various disciplines in order to create and innovate.</p> <p>“Just as Tomás’ exhibit is focused around the idea of interconnectedness, so is this project. In itself, there are various moving parts and people who come together with strong backgrounds and knowledge that allow it to manifest in such an immersive and complete way,” Hattwick says.&nbsp;</p> <p>The interdisciplinary culture at MIT allowed the team to take concrete data of 3-D spider webs and convert it into an intricate harmony, a sensation, and an experience. The group is optimistic that the project will challenge others to take on similar endeavors and become part of the conversation, whether that may be from an artistic perspective or on the research level.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Working on collaborative projects within a culture such as MIT is great because we are encouraged to explore unfamiliar areas, outside of our research. Our goal is to think about how what we do fits into the larger discipline and the larger discourse,” explains Hattwick.</p> <p>The researchers are enthusiastic about the concept of creating an even more immersive experience. They plan to design virtual reality glasses that would create the illusion that users are traveling inside of the spider web. In addition, they hope to incorporate physics into the game, which would allow users to pluck any spider web fiber, and feel it vibrate throughout the web.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“The concert was really incredible. I am grateful for this experience and would love to continue working with MIT CAST,” says Su.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our study of the way function emerges in a material (such as its strength or deformability), and how function emerges from sound (such as the way music can stimulate our brain and body), can lead to new insights that can benefit both the inspiration of new art and the development of new technology, as we increase our ability to cut across disciplines. Working with this incredible team from many corners at MIT has been a rewarding experience,” says Buehler.</p> <p><em>Spider’s Canvas will be performed Feb. 16-18, 2019 at the W97&nbsp;Main Theater. Visit&nbsp;<a href=""></a>&nbsp;</em><em>for more information.&nbsp;</em></p> “'Spider’s Canvas' is truly the most collaborative project I’ve ever been involved in. It’s not just interdisciplinary but literally interspecies,” says Professor Evan Ziporyn.Photo courtesy of Aurelie CennoSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Engineering, Arts, Music, Music and theater arts, Civil and environmental engineering, Center for Art, Science and Technology, Collaboration Sound and technology unlock innovation at MIT Cross-disciplinary projects at MIT probe the technological and aesthetic limits of sound. Wed, 26 Dec 2018 14:35:01 -0500 Ken Shulman | Arts at MIT <p>Sound is a powerfully evocative medium, capable of conjuring authentic emotions and unlocking new experiences. This fall, several cross-disciplinary projects at MIT probed the technological and aesthetic limits of sound, resulting in new innovations and perspectives, from motion-sensing headphones that enable joggers to maintain a steady pace, virtual reality technology that enables blind people to experience comic book action, as well as projects that challenge our very relationship with technology.</p> <p><strong>Sound as political participation</strong></p> <p>“Sound is by nature a democratic medium,” says Ian Condry, an anthropologist and professor in MIT’s Department of Global Studies and Languages, adding that “sound lets us listen around the margins and to follow multiple voices coming from multiple directions.”</p> <p>That concept informed this year’s <a href="" target="_blank">Hacking Arts</a> Hackathon Signature Hack, which Condry helped coordinate. The multi-channel audio installation sampled and abstracted audio excerpts from recent presidential inaugural addresses, then blended them with breathing sounds that the team recorded from a live audience. Building on this soundtrack, two team members acted as event DJs, instructing the audience to hum and breathe in unison, while their phones — controlled by an app created for the hackathon — played additional breathing and humming sounds.</p> <p>“We wanted to play with multiple streams of speech and audio,” says Adam Haar Horowitz, a second-year master’s student at the MIT Media Lab, and member of the winning team. “Not just the words, which can be divisive, but the texture and pauses between the words.”</p> <p><strong>A guy walks into a library…</strong></p> <p>What happens when artificial intelligence decides what’s funny? Sound and democracy played prominently in "<a href="">The Laughing Room</a>," an installation conceived by a team including author, illustrator, and MIT PhD candidate Jonny Sun and Stephanie Frampton, MIT associate professor of literature, as part of her project called ARTificial Intelligence, a collaboration between MIT Libraries and the Cambridge Public Library.</p> <p>Funded in part by a Fay Chandler Faculty Creativity Seed Grant from the <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST)</a>, "The Laughing Room" invited public library visitors into a set that evoked a television sitcom living room, where they told stories or jokes that were analyzed by the room’s AI. If the algorithm determined a story was funny, it played a recorded laugh track. "The Laughing Room" — as well as the AI’s algorithmic calculations — were then broadcast on screens in "The Control Room," a companion installation at MIT’s Hayden Library.</p> <p>While fun for the public, the project also mined more serious issues. “There is a tension in society around technology,” says Sun, “between the things technology allows you to do, like having an algorithm tell you your joke is funny, and the price we pay for that technology, which is usually our privacy.”</p> <p><strong>Using sound to keep the pace</strong></p> <p>How can audio augmented reality enhance our quality of life? That challenge was explored by more than 70 students from multiple disciplines who competed in the Bose MIT Challenge in October. The competition, organized by Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology and an MIT graduate who co-founded Harmonix, the company that developed iconic video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band, encourages students to invent real-life applications for Bose AR, a new audio augmented reality technology and platform.</p> <p>This year’s winning entry adapted the Bose’s motion-sensing AR headphones to enable runners to stay on pace as they train. When the runner accelerates, the music is heard behind them. When their place slows, the music sounds as if it’s ahead of them.</p> <p>“I’d joined hackathons at my home university,” said Dominic Co, a one-year exchange student in architecture from the University of Hong Kong and member of the three-person winning team. “But there’s such a strong culture of making things here at MIT. And so many opportunities to learn from other people.”</p> <p><strong>Creating a fuller picture with sound</strong></p> <p>Sound — and the technology that delivers it — has the capacity to enhance everyone’s quality of life, especially for the 8.4 million Americans without sight. That was the target audience of Project Daredevil, which won the <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Creative Arts Competition</a> last April.</p> <p>Daniel Levine, a master’s candidate at the MIT Media Lab, teamed with Matthew Shifrin, a sophomore at the New England Conservatory of Music, to create a virtual-reality system for the blind. The system’s wearable vestibular-stimulating helmet enables the sightless to experience sensations like flying, falling, and acceleration as they listen to an accompanying soundtrack.</p> <p>Shifrin approached Levine two years ago for help in developing an immersive 3-D experience around the Daredevil comic books — a series whose superhero, like Shifrin, is blind. As a child, Shifrin’s father read Daredevil to him aloud, carefully describing the action in every pane. Project Daredevil has advanced that childhood experience using technology.</p> <p>“Because of Dan and his engineering expertise, this project has expanded far beyond our initial plan,” says Shifrin. “It’s not just a thing for blind people. Anyone who is into virtual reality and gaming can wear the device.”</p> <p><strong>A beautiful marriage of art and technology</strong></p> <p>Another cross-disciplinary partnership in sound and technology that resulted in elegant outcomes this fall is the ongoing partnership between <a href="" target="_blank">CAST Visiting Artist Jacob Collier</a> and MIT PhD candidate Ben Bloomberg.</p> <p>Bloomberg, who completed his undergraduate and master’s studies at MIT, studied music and performance design with Tod Machover, the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media and director of the Media Lab’s Opera of the Future group. Bloomberg discovered Collier’s music videos online about four years ago; he then wrote the artist to ask whether he needed any help in adapting his video performances to the stage. Fortunately, the answer was yes.</p> <p>Working closely with Collier, Bloomberg developed a computerized audio/visual performance platform that enables the charismatic composer and performer to move seamlessly from instrument to instrument on stage and sing multiple parts simultaneously. The duo continues to develop and perfect the technology in performance. “It’s like a technological prosthesis,” says Bloomberg, who has worked with dozens of artists, including Bjork and Ariana Grande.</p> <p>While technology has opened the door to richer sound explorations, Bloomberg firmly places it in an artistic realm. “None of this would make any sense were it not for Jacob’s amazing talent. He pushes me to develop new technologies, or to find new ways to apply existing technology. The goal here isn’t to integrate technology just because we can, but to support the music and further its meaning.”</p> <p>Explorations in sound continue into 2019 with the innovative annual performance series <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Sounding</a>. Highlights of the 2018-2019 season include a collaboration with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in honor of MIT Institute Professor John Harbison’s 80th birthday, the American premiere of the Spider’s Canvas, a virtual 3-D reconstruction of a spider’s web with each strand tuned to a different note, and residencies by two divergent musicians: the Haitian singer and rapper BIC and the innovative American pianist Joel Fan performing works by MIT composers.</p> MIT student Ben Bloomberg stands behind the soundboard at a Jacob Collier concert, December 2018.Photo: Justin Knight PhotographyArts, Technology and society, Music, Center for Art, Science and Technology, Music technology, Special events and guest speakers, Theater, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Augmented and virtual reality, Artificial intelligence Music technology accelerates at MIT An increasingly popular program is drawing students eager to build — and use — the next generation of tools for making music. Tue, 18 Dec 2018 23:59:59 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The room fills with electronic beeps and chirps, rising and falling notes generated by computer. Students are poring over their glowing laptops, trying to match frequency with pitch.</p> <p>In this, as in other introductory music technology classes at MIT, the sound that fills the room is lively, if not exactly melodic. Like beginning violinists or pianists, novices to music tech need to “learn the nuances of their instruments,” says Ian Hattwick, an artist, researcher, and technology developer who teaches 21M.080 (Introduction to Music Technology). These initial electronic notes are their first steps.</p> <p>A burgeoning area of study at the Institute, the field of music technology covers a range of activities, from analyzing musical data to computer-assisted composition, to building new kinds of instruments and creating new sounds. Some say the field is about being able to create any sound you can imagine — which sounds impressive enough. But as Hattwick points out, that’s not nearly a wide-enough scope to characterize this new musical zone.
</p> <p>“What we [humans] can imagine is only the beginning,” Hattwick says. Digital composition means “we can make sounds you can’t imagine. We can discover new sounds and new forms of music-making.”</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>Pioneers </strong></p> <p>MIT’s long history of work in music technology dates back to the 1960’s and Professor Barry Vercoe’s Experimental Music Studio, which developed and improved technologies such as real-time digital synthesis, live keyboard input, and graphical score editing. Today, faculty members like Michael Cuthbert, who developed the <a href="">music21</a> toolkit for musicology research, and Tod Machover, who directs the <a href="">Opera of the Future</a> group, continue to push the envelope of music technology research and applications.</p> <p>Music21, for example, has transformed the musicology field by enabling computer-aided analysis of musical scores, thus allowing researchers to ask (and answer) questions never before possible. Another recent MIT music tech work is <a href="">ConcertCue</a>, a mobile web application developed by Eran Egozy that streams synchronized program notes during live musical performances. <a href="">Tutti</a>, which began as the work of Danielle Penny ’17, is a massively multiplayer music-making experience in which members of a large audience use their cellphones as musical instruments.</p> <p>“You will find people doing music technology all over campus,” Hattwick says.
</p> <p><strong>Acceleration</strong></p> <p>Within the MIT Music section itself, music technology has become a vibrant and growing area of study.&nbsp;The section's earliest music tech course, Composing with Computers, was created in 2000 by MIT composer Elena Ruehr. Lecturer Peter Whincop's 21M.361 (Electronic Music Composition) followed in 2002, and the section has gradually increased its offerings, with Whincop adding sections to 21M.361, as well as more advanced and specialized courses in the field.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Egozy came on board in 2016</a>&nbsp;to accelerate this expansion and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Music Technology</a>&nbsp;is now one of the Music section’s four areas of curricular focus — joining Performance, Music History/Culture, and Composition/Theory.</p> <p>“Music Technology is a huge area of growth for the section,” Egozy said. This fall, MIT Music and Theater Arts offered six music tech subjects, including: 21M.080 (Introduction to Music Technology); 21M.359 (Sound and Music Computing); 21M.361 (Electronic Music Composition I); 21M.380 (Performing With Computers); 21M.385 (Interactive Music Systems); and 21M.387 (Fundamentals of Music Processing).</p> <p>Introductory topics include recording techniques, mixing and mastering in digital audio workstations, and sound design. More advanced classes require a command of music theory and computer programming. Interactive Music Systems blends audio synthesis, real-time graphics, and interaction design. Fundamentals of Music Processing explores the algorithmic analysis of digital audio, such as beat-tracking, chord-recognition, and music fingerprinting.</p> <p>The current classes have proved extraordinarily popular: 120 students were enrolled, and another 121 students had to be turned away because classes were full.
</p> <p><strong>Heartbeat</strong></p> <p>“Students are just extremely interested in these classes,” says Egozy, who spearheads the Music Technology program, drawing on his talent as a musician (clarinetist for the <a href="">Radius Ensemble</a>) and his expertise as the co-founder and former chief scientist of Harmonix Music Systems, which generated over $1 billion in annual sales worldwide.</p> <p>Of MIT students, Egozy observes that “they are craving courses where they can use their science and engineering training and apply it to something humanistic.”</p> <p>This is certainly true of Sunayana Rane, a computer science major in her third year at MIT. “If you asked me to choose between computer science and humanities, I would choose humanities in a heartbeat. What’s great about MIT computer science, and MIT as a whole, is that we are encouraged to do both,” she says.</p> <p>Rane, who was taking her third class in music technology (Interactive Music Systems) this fall, says she was drawn to the field by the potential for “democratizing music.” While Rane received early training in Indian classical music, she came late to an understanding of Western music. “I didn’t know really what a chord was until high school," she says, "and I wanted to use computer science to give other people like me opportunities they wouldn’t have without the help of technology” — such as the chance to compose and play music without traditional musical training, she says.</p> <p>Egozy notes that for some students classes in music technology are serving “an entry point for music study.”</p> <p><strong>Connections</strong></p> <p>Long a musical powerhouse, MIT offers both a conservatory-level program and musical instruction for beginners — a rare combination. The section’s faculty comprises leading musicians, composers, and musicologists, and students can take an enormous range of subjects across the four areas of focus.</p> <p>Like study in all of MIT’s four music tracks, “Music technology provides an opportunity for students to make connections between their primary courses of study and the broader perspective of the world that the arts provides,” says Hattwick.</p> <p>MIT students regularly notice that the creativity, discipline, risk-taking, and collaboration skills they gain in music courses and practice benefit their work in other fields as well.</p> <p>“This class is interesting because it allows me to do two things I enjoy — working with computers and performing,” says Rupayan Neogy, a senior majoring in computer science who aims to incorporate music into his future research and career. “I find that the lessons I've learned creating musical systems are pretty applicable to the work that I do in HCI [human-computer interaction] and UI [user interface] design.”
</p> <p><strong>Exhilarating</strong></p> <p>In this regard, Neogy is representative of many of his classmates. Today, more than 70 percent of MIT students arrive on campus with advanced experience in the arts, especially in music, and many graduates continue to compose, perform, and savor music throughout their lives, often finding ways to combine a passion for music with their work in science, technology, engineering, and math.</p> <p>To that end, hands-on projects are central to MIT’s music technology offerings. Early in the term, students in one class created their own virtual harps using Leap Motion technology. In another, students experimented with live coding using Gibber, a creative tool for audiovisual performance and composition. In Interactive Music Systems, the final project had to involve both audio and visual output controlled by the student in real time — an exciting challenge for many.</p> <p>“Building software from the ground up to something close to what you dreamed of when you started is an incredible, exhilarating feeling,” Rane says.
</p> <p><strong>Multimodal </strong></p> <p>Brandon Fountain, a senior majoring in computer science, says he not only enjoyed building technology in class; he also found it interesting to learn how the technology used by so many people every day works.</p> <p>“The average person simply hears a synthesizer but has no idea how much math and science go into making that synthesizer sound so good,” he notes. “Professor Hattwick has been great at pulling back the curtain and giving us a peek into what happens inside of the music hardware that we know and love.”</p> <p>Often, that understanding leads students to dig deeper, Egozy says. “Students want to understand from the fundamental principles so they can create the next tool and educational paradigm shift,” he says, noting that one reason he loves teaching music technology is the way the discipline combines technology and design.</p> <p>“Our students build some tech, and then use it in a creative and artistic way,” he says. “Music technology is the quintessential multidisciplinary field, and this kind of multimodal thinking is increasingly important as we educate tomorrow’s leaders.”</p> <p><br /> <br /> <em>Video by Melanie Gonick, MIT News</em><br /> <em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Emily Hiestand, Editorial and Design Director<br /> Kathryn O'Neill, Senior Writer</em></p> “Our students build some tech, then use it in a creative and artistic way,” says Eran Egozy, a professor of the practice. “Music technology is the quintessential multidisciplinary field, and this kind of multimodal thinking is increasingly important as we educate tomorrow’s leaders.”Photo: Jon Sachs/SHASS CommunicationsMusic, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Arts, Classes and programs, Students, Faculty Scene at MIT: Ridonkulous dancers Competitive hip hop dance is alive and well at MIT, providing students with an outlet for good, clean fun. Thu, 06 Dec 2018 15:20:03 -0500 MIT News Office <p>Cue the hip-hop jams, smooth footwork, and energetic dance moves — this is MIT’s Ridonkulous!</p> <p>Established in 2005, Ridonkulous is a co-ed competitive hip hop dance group that embraces urban dance culture and offers a powerful expression of passion, commitment, and teamwork on the dance floor. &nbsp;</p> <p>Bryan Chen, a senior in electrical engineering and computer science and co-captain and president of Ridonkulous, appreciates being part of this supportive dance community. “I enjoy being able to lead such a unique and diverse group of energetic people,” Chen says. “Although we are all MIT students, dance is an outlet for us where we can be carefree and have fun.”</p> <p>In addition to the group’s performances and competitions, Ridonkulous host bi-weekly workshops ranging in a variety of dance styles taught by the nation’s top dance choreographers, including ones from the popular dance show competition, “So You Think You Can Dance!”</p> <p>During the spring semester, Ridonkulous hosts MIT’s largest dance showcase called “Footwork” in Walker Memorial (Building 50). The annual show features phenomenal performances by collegiate dance teams from the Greater Boston community. “We wanted to be able to have these dancers express themselves on our stage,” Chen explains. “Keeping our teams in close contact with each other allows the dance community to grow and experience new things together.”</p> <p><em>Submitted by: Kailey Tse-Harlow/Division of Student Life </em>| <em>Photo by: <span class="_39_n profileLink">Nichole Clarke</span></em></p> <p><em>Have a creative photo of campus life you'd like to share? <a href="">Submit it</a> to Scene at MIT. </em></p> Striking a pose: MIT competitive dance team RidonkulousPhoto: Nichole ClarkeStudent life, Clubs and activities, Arts, Scene at MIT, Students, Music Arts benefactor makes lead gift for new MIT music building Commitment signals transformative moment for the Institute’s music programming. Sun, 25 Nov 2018 23:59:59 -0500 MIT News Office <p>Joyce Linde, a longtime supporter of MIT and the arts, has made a cornerstone gift to build a new state-of-the-art music facility at the Institute.</p> <p><br /> “Our campus hums with MIT people making music, from formal lessons, recitals, and performances, to the beautiful surprise of stumbling on an impromptu rehearsal in the Main Lobby after hours,” says L. Rafael Reif, president of MIT. “Now, through a wonderful act of vision and generosity, Joyce Linde has given us the power to create a central home for faculty and students who make and study music at MIT — a first-class venue worthy of their incredible talent and aspirations. As a champion of the arts, Joyce knows the incomparable power of music to inspire, provoke, challenge, delight, console, and unify. I have no doubt the new building she has made possible will amplify the positive power of music in the life of MIT.”</p> <p>The new facility will be designed to meet the current and future needs of MIT’s <a href="">music program</a> and will house a new performance space. It will be constructed adjacent to Kresge Auditorium, which has served for decades as the primary performance facility for MIT Music and Theater Arts productions and for student arts organizations. With space for performance, practice, and instruction, the new building will further the Institute’s commitment&nbsp;to&nbsp;music&nbsp;education that ranges from conservatory-level training to classes that welcome complete novices.&nbsp;It also will consolidate many of the music program’s activities into one location and incorporate critical aspects of acoustical design for optimal listening, playing, and recording.</p> <p>The building’s centerpiece, a purpose-built performance lab, will provide a uniquely flexible, large-scale space for experimenting with various formats, including the ability to stage unconventional music events and employ flexible seating. In addition, the performance lab and a recording studio will offer professional-level recording facilities, a new resource for the MIT campus.<br /> <br /> Other spaces that support the performance program include dedicated rehearsal rooms and additional student practice rooms. A music technology suite will include a classroom, research lab, and two student production labs. The building also will provide a rehearsal space for the world music program’s Balinese orchestra,&nbsp;<a href="">Gamelan Galak Tika</a>,&nbsp;and for its&nbsp;Senegalese drumming ensemble,&nbsp;<a href="">Rambax</a>.</p> <p>The building’s central location on campus reflects the core place that music studies and performance have in the lives of MIT students, explains <a href="">Keeril Makan</a>, the Michael and Sonja Koerner Music Composition Professor and section head of MIT Music and Theater Arts. “For the majority of MIT students, the Institute’s combination of a world-class science, engineering, and humanities education with superb music training is one key to their creativity, success, and well-being,” Makan says.</p> <p>“One fear I had about attending a tech school was that I would feel very out of place as a performing artist,” says Joy Fan ’20, a violinist who is majoring in computer science and molecular biology. “But thanks to the MIT music program and faculty, I am now actually more engaged with music: thinking about it in new ways, asking questions and analyzing works in an almost scientific manner — and experiencing music on a deeper level than ever before.”</p> <p><br /> In a typical year, more than 1,500 students are enrolled in MIT music courses, and music is among the most popular of the Institute’s 42 minors. After graduation, thousands of MIT alumni, across all fields, continue to perform and treasure music throughout their lives.</p> <p>“MIT has such talent on campus, and it is thrilling to help create a space that allows students and the community the opportunity to excel in music and the arts as well as science and technology,” says Linde. “It has been a pleasure to be part of President Reif’s vision to create an innovative learning space centered on music for students who are our future leaders.”</p> <p>Linde, along with her late husband, Edward H. Linde ’62, is a noted patron of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Learning Institute, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The couple previously endowed the Edward H. Linde Career Development Chair in MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning and, with their family foundation, contributed $25 million for undergraduate financial aid at the Institute.</p> <p>“Ed and I saw the power the arts can play in transforming young people’s lives,” she explains. “We witnessed the joy that music brings, and also the power of the creativity that it fosters.”</p> <p>“The new music building will be the most advanced teaching and performing space that the Institute has ever constructed, yet Joyce Linde is helping MIT to create much more than a building,” says <a href="">Melissa Nobles</a>, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “Through her generosity, we will have a center that facilitates the study, performance, and appreciation of music — and serves MIT faculty and students, as well as youth and other members of the Greater Boston community.”</p> <p>MIT’s academic programs in music span performance, composition, history, culture, and theory. Courses explore connections between music and technology, science, society, linguistics, and other humanities disciplines. Beyond the classroom, more than 500 musicians participate in Music and Theater Arts’ ensembles, chamber groups, or advanced music pro­grams on campus in any given semester.</p> <p>“The new Theater Arts building, W97, opened just over a year ago,” reflects Makan. “It has been astounding to see how a dedicated facility for theater-making has rapidly transformed that discipline on campus, opening up new areas of expertise and discovery. Just so, MIT’s new music building will be an active laboratory for what our music faculty have called the ‘synergies that arise from the confluence of great technical minds and extraordinary musical talent.’ The building will be a true place of ‘mind and hand,’ where our students and faculty can experiment at the frontiers of music and share their discoveries with our community and the larger world.” &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> A cornerstone gift will help build a new state-of-the-art music facility at MIT.Images: courtesy of the MIT Music DepartmentArts, Music, Music technology, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Campus buildings and architecture, Giving, Alumni/ae Times Higher Education ranks MIT No.1 in business and economics, No.2 in arts and humanities Worldwide honors for 2019 span three MIT schools. Thu, 15 Nov 2018 13:25:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>MIT has taken the top spot in the Business and Economics subject category in the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings and, for the second year in a row, the No. 2 spot worldwide for Arts and Humanities.<br /> <br /> The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by&nbsp;<em>Times Higher Education,</em> a leading British education magazine. The rankings use a set of 13 rigorous performance indicators to evaluate schools both overall and within individual fields. Criteria include teaching and learning environment, research volume and influence, and international outlook.</p> <p><strong>Business and Economics</strong></p> <p>The No. 1 ranking for Business and Economics is based on an evaluation of both the MIT Department of Economics — housed in the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences — and of the MIT Sloan School of Management.</p> <p>“We are always delighted when the high quality of work going on in our school and across MIT is recognized, and warmly congratulate our colleagues in MIT Sloan with whom we share this honor,” said Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS).</p> <p>The Business and Economics ranking evaluated 585 universities for their excellence in business, management, accounting, finance, economics, and econometrics subjects. In this category, MIT was followed by Stanford University and Oxford University.</p> <p>“Being recognized as first in business and management is gratifying and we are thrilled to share the honors with our colleagues in the MIT Department of Economics and MIT SHASS,” said David Schmittlein, dean of MIT Sloan.</p> <p>MIT has long been a powerhouse in economics. For over a century, the Department of Economics at MIT has played a leading role in economics education, research, and public service and the department’s faculty have won a total of nine Nobel Prizes over the years. MIT Sloan faculty have also won two Nobels, and the school is known as a driving force behind MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem: Companies started by MIT alumni have created millions of jobs and generate nearly $2 trillion a year in revenue.</p> <p><strong>Arts and Humanities</strong></p> <p>The Arts and Humanities ranking evaluated 506 universities that lead in art, performing arts, design, languages, literature, linguistics, history, philosophy, theology, architecture, and archaeology subjects. MIT was rated just below Stanford and above Harvard University in this category. MIT’s high ranking reflects the strength of both the humanities disciplines and performing arts located in MIT SHASS and the design fields and humanistic work located in MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P).</p> <p>At MIT, outstanding humanities and arts programs in SHASS — including literature; history; music and theater arts; linguistics; philosophy; comparative media studies; writing; languages; science, technology and society; and women’s and gender studies — sit alongside equally strong initiatives within SA+P in the arts; architecture; design; urbanism; and history, theory, and criticism. SA+P is also home to the Media Lab, which focuses on unconventional research in technology, media, science, art, and design.</p> <p>“The recognition from <em>Times Higher Education</em> confirms the importance of creativity and human values in the advancement of science and technology,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of SA+P. “It also rewards MIT’s longstanding commitment to “The Arts” — words that are carved in the Lobby 7 dome signifying one of the main areas for the application of technology.”</p> <p>Receiving awards in multiple categories and in categories that span multiple schools at MIT is a recognition of the success MIT has had in fostering cross-disciplinary thinking, said Dean Nobles.</p> <p>“It’s a testament to the strength of MIT’s model that these areas of scholarship and pedagogy are deeply seeded in multiple administrative areas,” Nobles said. “At MIT, we know that solving challenging problems requires the combined insight and knowledge from many fields. The world’s complex issues are not only scientific and technological problems; they are as much human and ethical problems.”</p> “At MIT, we know that solving challenging problems requires the combined knowledge and insight from many fields. The world’s complex issues are not only scientific and technological problems; they are as much human and ethical problems,” says Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.Photo: Madcoverboy/Wikimedia CommonsAwards, honors and fellowships, Arts, Architecture, Business and management, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, Global Studies and Languages, Humanities, History, Literature, Linguistics, Management, Music, Philosophy, Theater, Urban studies and planning, Rankings, Media Lab, School of Architecture and Planning, Sloan School of Management, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences “Schoenberg in Hollywood,” the opera New work by Tod Machover of the Media Lab&#039;s Opera of the Future group examines ideas of heritage, politics, and artistic integrity. Wed, 14 Nov 2018 16:50:00 -0500 Janine Liberty | MIT Media Lab <p>Today the Boston Lyric Opera presents the world premiere of “<a href="" target="_blank">Schoenberg in Hollywood</a>,” a new opera by Tod Machover, the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media and director of the MIT Media Lab's Opera of the Future group. Performances will run through Nov.&nbsp;18.</p> <p>“Schoenberg in Hollywood” is inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg after he fled Hitler’s Europe in the 1930s. After moving first to Boston and then to Los Angeles, Schoenberg sought connection with his new culture through music. He forged a friendship with famous comedian Harpo Marx, who introduced him to MGM’s Irving Thalberg, who in turn offered him the opportunity to compose a score for the film “The Good Earth.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Schoenberg ultimately turned down the commission, rejecting the lure of more money and greater fame in favor of his artistic integrity (and after proposing highly unrealistic artistic and financial terms). In doing so, Schoenberg chose a path of fidelity to his heritage and his musical identity — a decision that pitted change against tradition, art against entertainment, and personal struggle against public action.</p> <p>Machover’s opera is bookended by the Thalberg meeting, after which the fictional Schoenberg goes off to make a film about his own life. This imagined creation follows the narrative of Schoenberg’s historical journey up to a point, then diverges in a wild fantasy to imagine a different path had Schoenberg been able to reconcile opposing forces. Drawing on inspirations ranging from Jewish liturgical music to Bach and a World War I soundscape to contemporary 20th century music, Machover illustrates Schoenberg’s personal evolution through a synthesis of shifting influences.</p> <p>“I immersed myself in Schoenberg’s world through his extensive — and incredible — writings, his music, his paintings, through visiting his amazing archives in Vienna, and by speaking with many people who knew him,” Machover explains. “But I grew up with Schoenberg’s music, so have been thinking about this for a very long time. It is part of me.”</p> <p>Machover also drew on his own experience as a composer in a rapidly changing world to inform his interpretation of Schoenberg’s musical and personal journey.</p> <p>“The work explores one man's journey to move millions to social and political action while remaining deeply thoughtful and thoroughly ethical,” Machover says. “The underlying artistic, activist, and ethical questions raised in this opera are ones that we ask every day at the Media Lab.”</p> <p>The opera is also uniquely informed by Machover’s dual roles as artist and technologist. The opera blends reality and fantasy, combining live singers and actors with diverse media, and acoustic sound, with complex electronics spread throughout the theater, while incorporating physical stage effects that modify perspective and perception in unusual ways.</p> <p>“The Media Lab is the only environment I know where the forms and technologies of this opera could have been imagined and developed,” Machover says.</p> <p>A polymath and inventor, Schoenberg never earned a degree from any academic or musical institution, but became the top composition professor at the renowned Berlin Conservatory of Music (before being expelled immediately upon Hitler’s rise to power). His depth of knowledge informed but never limited his own musical explorations. His invention of 12-tone technique, which Schoenberg described as “a method of composing with 12 tones which are related only with one another," changed the face of Western music in the 20th century and beyond.</p> <p>“He invented not only music but all kinds of unusual things, like a new notation system for tennis games (designed to annotate his son’s expert playing), contraptions to draw his own customized music manuscript paper, a curriculum to train movie composers in a purely sonic art, a painting technique to allow him to depict his inner mental state rather than outside physical features in a series of self-portraits,” says Machover. “As an intellect and creator, Schoenberg would have fit right into the Media Lab.”</p> <p>In celebration not only of the opera’s premiere but also of the Media Lab’s informal adoption of Schoenberg, the lab is now hosting an <a href="" target="_blank">exhibition</a> on “Schoenberg in Hollywood” in the lobby gallery of Building E14. Videos and archival materials trace Schoenberg’s journey, including materials on loan from the Schoenberg Center in Vienna, most of which have never before been shown in the Boston area. The exhibition also serves as a companion to the opera, offering a listening station, a video trailer of one of the opera’s climactic moments, some of Machover’s own musical sketches, and an illustrated timeline juxtaposing events in Schoenberg’s life with scenes and sounds from Machover’s opera.</p> <p>“The exhibition is a resonant companion to the opera, useful whether experienced before or after a performance,” explains Machover. “But is also meant to stand alone to introduce the art and life of this remarkable creator to the MIT community and beyond, and to tell at least a bit of the story about why this unusual new opera grew out of inspiration from Arnold Schoenberg ... and the MIT Media Lab itself.”</p> <p>“Schoenberg in Hollywood”<em> </em>runs Nov.&nbsp;14-18 at the Emerson Paramount Theater in Boston. The Media Lab’s exhibition is currently open to the public and will run through April 30.</p> Singer Omar Ebrahim as Arnold Schoenberg as Humphrey Bogart, from "Schoenberg in Hollywood"Photo: Peter TorpeyMusic, School of Architecture and Planning, Media Lab, History, Theater, Arts, Technology and society Ekene Ijeoma joins MIT Media Lab The new media arts and sciences faculty member merges social justice with design, architecture, music, performance, and technology. Wed, 07 Nov 2018 10:10:00 -0500 Stacie Slotnick | MIT Media Lab <p>Artist Ekene Ijeoma will join the MIT Media Lab, founding and directing the Poetic Justice research group, in January 2019. Ijeoma, who will be an assistant professor, works at the intersections of design, architecture, music, performance, and technology, creating multisensory artworks from personal experiences, social issues, and data studies.</p> <p>Ijeoma's work explores topics and issues ranging from refugee migration to mass incarceration. At its most basic level, the work aspires to embody&nbsp;human conditions, expand people's thoughts, and engage them in imagining change and acting on it. At the lab, Ijeoma will continue this work in developing new forms of justice through artistic representation and intervention.</p> <p>“New forms of justice can emerge through art that engages with social, cultural and political issues — ones that aren’t tied to codified laws and biased systems,” he&nbsp;says.</p> <p>When asked to define “poetic justice,” Ijeoma explained that, for him, the phrase is about using code-switching content, form, context, and function to create artwork with rhythm and harmony that extends our perceptions and exposes the social-political systems affecting us as individuals. An example of this is his “Deconstructed Anthems” project, an ongoing series of music performances and light installations that explores the inequalities of the American Dream and realities of mass incarceration through “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “​Pan-African AIDS,” a sculpture examining the hypervisibility of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and the hidden one in Black America.&nbsp;“​Pan-African AIDS,” is on display through April&nbsp;2019 at the Museum of the City of New York as part of the exhibit <a href="" target="_blank">Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis</a>.</p> <p>Ijeoma’s art practice has been primarily project-based and commission-driven. His recent large works, both deeply conceptual yet highly technical projects, required research and development to happen concurrently with the production of the work. At the Media Lab, with more space for trial and error and failure, he will have the resources and facilities to stay reflective and proactive, to create work outside of commissions, and to expand more artworks into series. In addition, he will have opportunities for more listening to and meditating on issues.</p> <p>“Like many artists,” said Ijeoma, “A lot of my work comes from vibing and forward thinking —&nbsp;channeling my environment and signaling out the noise.” This aspect of his practice is reflected in work such as “The Refugee Project ” (2014), released a few months before the European refugee crisis, and “Look Up” (2016), released a few days before Pokemon Go; and more recently “Pan-African AIDS” which was presented as news was breaking on the underreported AIDS epidemic in the black populations in areas including the American South.</p> <p>Ijeoma’s work has been commissioned and presented by venues and events including the Museum of Modern Art, The Kennedy Center, the Design Museum, the Istanbul Design Biennial, Fondation EDF, the Annenberg Space for Photography, the Neuberger Museum of Art at the State University of New York at Purchase, and Storefront for Art and Architecture.</p> <p>“We are thrilled that Ekene Ijeoma will be joining the Media Lab and MAS program,” said Tod Machover, head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, the Media Lab’s academic program. “Ekene’s work is brilliant, bold, and beautiful, and the way he combines expression, reflection, innovation, and activism will place him at the absolute center of Media Lab culture, hopefully for many years to come.”</p> <p>Ekene Ijeoma graduated with a BS in information technology from Rochester Institute of Technology, and an MA in interaction design from Domus Academy. He has lectured and critiqued at Yale University, Harvard Law School, Columbia University, New York University, the School of Visual Arts, and The New School.</p> Artist Ekene Ijeoma sits with “​Pan-African AIDS,” a sculpture representing the hyper-visibility of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and the hidden one in Black America.Photo: Kris Graves, courtesy of Ekene IjeomaSchool of Architecture and Planning, Media Lab, Arts, Faculty, Design, Architecture, Policy, Social justice, Music, Technology and society Analyzing the 2018 election: Insights from MIT scholars SHASS faculty members offer research-based perspectives with commentaries, plus a Music for the Midterms playlist, and an election book list. Tue, 30 Oct 2018 12:00:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p><em>For the 2018 version of the <a href="">Election Insights</a> series,&nbsp;MIT humanities, arts, and social science faculty members are&nbsp;offering research-based perspectives on issues of importance to the country — ranging from the future of work to national security to civic discourse and the role that, as the Constitution states,&nbsp;"we, the people" have in the defense of democracy itself.</em></p> <p><em>In addition to&nbsp;commentaries, the series also includes "Music for the Midterms," a lively playlist created by our music faculty,&nbsp;and an annotated election book list consisting of&nbsp;nine works selected by MIT humanities scholars for their value&nbsp;illuminating&nbsp;this moment in American history.</em></p> <p><em>Please, remember to vote on&nbsp;or before Nov. 6.</em></p> <p><strong>Commentary: On civil society and the defense of democracy</strong><br /> <br /> "What is written in a constitution can take a nation only so far unless society is willing to act to protect it. Every constitutional design has its loopholes, and every age brings its new challenges, which even farsighted constitutional designers cannot anticipate. We have to keep reminding ourselves that the future of our much-cherished institutions depends not on others but on ourselves, and that we are all individually responsible for our institutions." <em>—Daron Acemoglu, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics</em>&nbsp; <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On partisan politics</strong><br /> <br /> "Partisan polarization is one of most important political developments of the past half-century. Of course, Democrats and Republicans have always taken divergent positions on issues ranging from slavery to internal improvements. Nevertheless, contemporary polarization differs from that of earlier eras, if only because the U.S. government directly shapes the lives of so many more people, in the U.S. and around the world." <em>—Devin Caughey, associate professor of political science</em>&nbsp; <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On media technology and immigration policy</strong><br /> <br /> "Widespread access to social media lowers the barrier for communities that have been marginalized by mass media and makes it easier for them to gain visibility and adherents. How might any of this affect the midterm elections? Here are three brief hypotheses, based on my ongoing research into the relationship between media technologies and social movements." <em>—Sasha Costanza-Chock, associate professor of civic media</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On democracy and civic discourse</strong><br /> <br /> "Elections are helpful reminders (as if we needed any) that we do not all agree. Yet, we must somehow figure out how to get along despite our disagreements. In particular, we may wonder whether, and to what extent, we should tolerate views we disagree with. In some cases, a well-functioning discursive market — a public forum of diverse views — may require us to respond to certain views with 'discursive intolerance." <em>—Justin Khoo, associate professor of philosophy&nbsp; </em><a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On female candidates of color</strong><br /> <br /> “A record number of women have filed as candidates this year, and a record number have won primaries in House and Senate races. Women of color make up one-third of the women candidates for the House, and three of four female gubernatorial nominees are women of color." <em>—Helen Elaine Lee, professor of writing</em>&nbsp; <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On social media and youth political engagement</strong><br /> <br /> "Although discussions about youth and new media tend to assume that something about the technology itself is responsible for political and social changes, in fact, the political possibilities associated with contemporary media are highly contingent upon societal power structures.” <em>—Jennifer Light, the Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology</em>&nbsp; <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On the U.S.-</strong><strong>North Korea relationship</strong><br /> <br /> "The North Korean nuclear program is not something to be 'solved' — that window has closed — it is an issue to be managed. The good news is that the United States has a lot of experience managing the emergence of new nuclear weapons powers." <em>—Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science</em>&nbsp; <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On reducing gun violence</strong><br /> <br /> "America’s gun culture is a resilient fact of political life. Attempts to reverse the country’s appetite for firearms have largely failed, even as gun violence persists at an astonishing pace. Lately, however, a social movement to challenge gun culture has rocked politics for the first time in a generation." <em>—John Tirman, executive director and principal research scientist in the Center for International Studies</em>&nbsp; <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On American identity</strong><br /> <br /> "The stories and interpretations that different groups of Americans offer of economic changes, including the loss of manufacturing jobs and growing inequality, are central to how they understand their own social positions as well as the kinds of economic and political futures they can envision. Many Americans are now struggling for a way to understand and talk about these economic changes — changes that are also apparent in other wealthy countries but more extreme in the United States.” <em>—Christine Walley, professor of anthropology&nbsp;</em> <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Playlist: Music for the Midterms</strong><br /> <br /> As America heads toward the 2018 midterm elections on Nov. 6, MIT Music faculty offer a wide-ranging playlist — from Verdi to Gershwin to Lin-Manuel Miranda — along with notes on why each work resonates with this election season. <a href="" target="_blank">Access the playlist &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Annotated election book list: Reading for the Midterms</strong><br /> <br /> As the 2018 midterms approach, MIT writers and scholars in the humanities offer a selection of nine books — along with notes on why each work is illuminating for this moment in American political history. <a href="" target="_blank">Browse the book list &gt;&gt;</a></p> The 2018 Election Insights series includes: Research-based commentaries by MIT experts on key issues for the country; a "Music for the Midterms" playlist; and an annotated election booklist.School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Anthropology, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, International initiatives, Philosophy, Political science, Technology and society, Security studies and military, Books and authors, Manufacturing, Music, North Korea, Social media, Voting and elections New recording blends old Europe and contemporary Cambridge Pianist David Deveau’s latest album interprets works by Beethoven, Mozart, and MIT’s own John Harbison. Fri, 21 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p><em>For his latest recording, pianist David Deveau has drawn on works old and new. Deveau is a senior lecturer in MIT’s program in music and theater arts, and an internationally acclaimed performer. His latest album, released today by the Steinway and Sons label, features four pieces, including a Beethoven piano concerto for which composer John Harbison, Institute Professor at MIT, wrote new cadenzas, or extended solo parts for the piano. The recording, titled “<a href="">Beethoven, Mozart, Harbison</a>,” also features a Mozart piano concerto, as well as Harbison’s own “Anniversary Waltz,” and Mozart’s “Fantasia in C Minor.” </em>MIT News<em> spoke with Deveau, a 2014 recipient of the SHASS Levitan Award for Excellence in Teaching, about his new work.</em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What was the genesis of this recording — and what made you decide to link these concertos together?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> In recent years, I have been focusing more on recording projects. Live performances and playing for audiences have been my bread and butter for five decades, but at this point in my life, I’d like to record the music that is especially central to my career, and that I especially love. I’ve performed the Beethoven G major concerto more than any other — with orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra, among many others. For this recording, since there are dozens of extant recordings of this Beethoven, I wanted to offer something different. The chamber version, whose authorship is not historically&nbsp;certain, is typical of arrangements of concerti for reduced forces. Since there were no recordings or radio available in the early 19th century, people became familiar with music by playing it at home or in small gatherings. Composers (or their assistants) would make versions of major orchestral works for small ensembles.</p> <p>In the case of the Mozart, which is a relatively recent addition to my repertoire, all of his first 14 piano concerti can be played by piano with string quartet, or “a quattro,” since any parts for wind instruments are simply doubling the string parts. (However, in his 15th through 27th concerti, the wind parts are independent.) I have taken the liberty of adding the double bass to both ensembles, as it provides a wonderfully rich tonal and harmonic foundation.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What is it about these concertos, separately or together, that you find most compelling? And what is most challenging about playing them?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Where to begin? They are remarkably different and yet share some characteristics. The Mozart is an effervescent and sunny piece from start to finish, with a central slow movement that is poetry in motion. It practically bubbles up with joyful, good spirits in the outer movements. The Beethoven is a more emotionally complex work. It has almost none of his usual middle-period heroics or drama, but rather an Apollonian lyricism in the first movement and a scherzando vivaciousness in the third. The brief second movement is a study in great contrasts: The orchestra begins with an angry, terse motive in bare octaves which the piano answers quietly and plaintively. This dialogue continues, with the quiet piano&nbsp;finally subduing the strings to a state of mystery and uncertainty, with both soloist and ensemble arriving at a hushed pianissimo. These two works contain brilliant writing for the solo piano, but they seem less about “solo vs. ensemble” and more about the joy in making music together.</p> <p>Each work presents its own challenges. From a purely technical perspective, the Beethoven is more demanding, and its expressive properties are more varied. But the Mozart requires an uncommon degree of nuance and subtlety. Actually, both pieces do.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> MIT composer John Harbison first told you about the reduced version of the Beethoven 4th piano concerto, and his “Anniversary Waltz” is part of this recording. Could you characterize your thoughts about Harbison’s work and how it relates to your own musical vision?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Yes, I owe John a great deal of gratitude. Way back in 2002 he mentioned this chamber version of the Beethoven to me in passing, casually saying, “And it even has some different notes in the solo part.” I was intrigued and obtained the score from a musicologist in Bonn. (It was not yet in print but is now published by Barenreiter.) The piano part was indeed much more ornate than the usual version, which to me seemed bizarre, as the chamber version shouldn’t require an even more elaborate solo part than the version with full orchestra. In any case, it has since come to light that this arrangement was probably not by Beethoven, and no autograph score in his hand exists.</p> <p>I therefore play the solo part as it appears in the “normal” version, which is in any case far superior to the more ornate one. I’ve performed it in both versions, but prefer the “simpler” one greatly. I played a sort of hybrid when I performed it at my Celebrity Series concert but after that (2006) have played it only in the usual solo format. There are more than enough notes as it is! John’s little “Anniversary Waltz” from 1987 in an exquisite miniature and makes a nice encore after hearing his cadenzas in the Beethoven concerto.</p> <p>Beethoven left three cadenzas for the first movement, and only one for the last. I thought: If Beethoven could visualize three different cadenzas, maybe I could convince John Harbison to write new ones. Not only did he do so, but they provide a prism through which a current great composer views a great composer of the past. I cannot thank him enough.</p> David Deveau Image: Michael J. LutchMusic, Humanities, 3 Questions, Faculty, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Music as a gateway to shared humanity Iconic composer A. R. Rahman visits MIT campus to learn more about new technologies. Thu, 02 Aug 2018 12:40:01 -0400 Meg Murphy | School of Engineering <p>When A. R. Rahman, two-time Academy Award winner, singer-songwriter, and music producer from India, came to visit and take a course at MIT in July, he was in his element during a tour of interactive music systems on campus.</p> <p>Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering, led Rahman and his group to Building 24 where the small group of mostly non-musicians jammed together using their smartphones to sound off as brass, clarinet, percussion, or strings.</p> <p>Rahman tapped a sneakered foot to the beat. “This is fantastic,” says Rahman of the performance orchestrated by MIT professor of the practice Eran Egozy ’95, MEng ’95, who teaches, among other things, 21M.385 / 6.809 (Interactive Music Systems) — the first MIT music class that is also an electrical engineering and computer science class.</p> <p>These creative points of convergence are exciting, says Chandrakasan, who is also the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “There are tremendous opportunities to bring computing and artificial intelligence, sensing, and other technological advances to the world of music,” he says.</p> <p>Rahman’s own music is known to experiment with the fusion of traditional instruments with new electronic sounds and technology. Like Egozy, he is passionate about using technology to enhance the experience of listening to or making music and enabling people to engage with it.</p> <p>“You created games about things that are constructive not destructive.” Rahman says with a nod of approval to Egozy, co-founder and chief scientist of the company that brought the world “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band.”</p> <p>A recipient of multiple Academy Awards, Rahman is especially interested in harnessing the power of technology in music to counter inequality, hate, and violence in social media and global discourse.</p> <p><strong>Music and technology for the next generation</strong></p> <p>Rahman was on a whirlwind MIT tour that involved visits with a string of creative academics in multiple realms: music, technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics among them.</p> <p>His visit capped off a week during which Rahman dove into a four-day course offered by MIT Professional Education, “Advances in Imaging: VR-AR, Machine Learning, and Self-Driving Cars,” which is led by Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab.</p> <p>The course immersed participants in imaging and how cameras are used in machine learning, self-driving cars, health, industrial settings, and more. Rahman took it all in, says Raskar.</p> <p>“A.R. is focused on how to use imaging, machine learning, and AI not just for entertainment but to impart a sense of responsibility and cohesiveness and togetherness for the younger generation,” he says.</p> <p>“We were pleased to offer a course that could contribute to A.R.’s quest,” said Bhaskar Pant, executive director of MIT Professional Education. “His work in entertainment and education exposes enormous numbers of people to the latest technologies. That is something we want to support.”</p> <p>The tour stopped briefly on the green at Killian Court. “We are very happy to engage with A.R. here at MIT,” adds Chandrakasan, with a smile as Rahman’s family and friends snapped photographs in front of the Great Dome.</p> <p>“A.R.’s participation in the course was coupled to a larger discussion about the role of computing and music and the role technology, such as machine learning and vision, can have in helping people experience the benefits of making music and media,” says Chandrakasan.</p> <p><strong>New tools for humanity</strong></p> <p>Rahman’s next stop was for a presentation by Dina Katabi, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She has created a WiFi-like device that uses radio signals to monitor breathing, sleep, heart rate, gait, and detects falls.</p> <p>“This kind of technology is seamless and not intrusive at all,” says Rahman after the presentation. “Many people have complicated lives, but they love their parents and cannot take care of them in person. This is amazing.”</p> <p>Rahman was equally engaged by a demonstration of an autonomous wheelchair, an invention spearheaded by Daniela Rus, the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.</p> <p>Finally, Rahman was off to meet with composer Tod Machover, the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media. “Today was fascinating,” says Rahman on his return to the Media Lab, which he toured earlier in the day.</p> <p>“I have a deep interest in music and how to bring technology to human emotion, how to conquer it to make beautiful things, to create emotions, to create beautiful songs,” he says. “But at heart, my interest is always in humanity. We need all kinds of new ideas and innovations that will help people.”</p> MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science Dina Katabi (far left) gives a tour of her lab to A.R. Rahman (center) and Anantha Chandrakasan (right), dean of the School of Engineering.Photo: Gretchen ErtlSpecial events and guest speakers, Music, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Media Lab, School of Engineering, School of Architecture and Planning, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences How music lessons can improve language skills Study links piano education with better word discrimination by kindergartners. Mon, 25 Jun 2018 14:59:59 -0400 Anne Trafton | MIT News Office <p>Many studies have shown that musical training can enhance language skills. However, it was unknown whether music lessons improve general cognitive ability, leading to better language proficiency, or if the effect of music is more specific to language processing.</p> <p>A new study from MIT has found that piano lessons have a very specific effect on kindergartners’ ability to distinguish different pitches, which translates into an improvement in discriminating between spoken words. However, the piano lessons did not appear to confer any benefit for overall cognitive ability, as measured by IQ, attention span, and working memory.</p> <p>“The children didn’t differ in the more broad cognitive measures, but they did show some improvements in word discrimination, particularly for consonants. The piano group showed the best improvement there,” says Robert Desimone, director of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the senior author of the paper.</p> <p>The study, performed in Beijing, suggests that musical training is at least as beneficial in improving language skills, and possibly more beneficial, than offering children extra reading lessons. The school where the study was performed has continued to offer piano lessons to students, and the researchers hope their findings could encourage other schools to keep or enhance their music offerings.</p> <p>Yun Nan, an associate professor at Beijing Normal University, is the lead author of the study, which appears in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em> the week of June 25.</p> <p>Other authors include Li Liu, Hua Shu, and Qi Dong, all of Beijing Normal University; Eveline Geiser, a former MIT research scientist; Chen-Chen Gong, an MIT research associate; and John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.</p> <p><strong>Benefits of music</strong></p> <p>Previous studies have shown that on average, musicians perform better than nonmusicians on tasks such as reading comprehension, distinguishing speech from background noise, and rapid auditory processing. However, most of these studies have been done by asking people about their past musical training. The MIT researchers wanted to perform a more controlled study in which they could randomly assign children to receive music lessons or not, and then measure the effects.</p> <p>They decided to perform the study at a school in Beijing, along with researchers from the IDG/McGovern Institute at Beijing Normal University, in part because education officials there were interested in studying the value of music education versus additional reading instruction.</p> <p>“If children who received music training did as well or better than children who received additional academic instruction, that could a justification for why schools might want to continue to fund music,” Desimone says.</p> <p>The 74 children participating in the study were divided into three groups: one that received 45-minute piano lessons three times a week; one that received extra reading instruction for the same period of time; and one that received neither intervention. All children were 4 or 5 years old and spoke Mandarin as their native language.</p> <p>After six months, the researchers tested the children on their ability to discriminate words based on differences in vowels, consonants, or tone (many Mandarin words differ only in tone). Better word discrimination usually corresponds with better phonological awareness — the awareness of the sound structure of words, which is a key component of learning to read.</p> <p>Children who had piano lessons showed a significant advantage over children in the extra reading group in discriminating between words that differ by one consonant. Children in both the piano group and extra reading group performed better than children who received neither intervention when it came to discriminating words based on vowel differences.</p> <p>The researchers also used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain activity and found that children in the piano group had stronger responses than the other children when they listened to a series of tones of different pitch. This suggest that a greater sensitivity to pitch differences is what helped the children who took piano lessons to better distinguish different words, Desimone says.</p> <p>“That’s a big thing for kids in learning language: being able to hear the differences between words,” he says. “They really did benefit from that.”</p> <p>In tests of IQ, attention, and working memory, the researchers did not find any significant differences among the three groups of children, suggesting that the piano lessons did not confer any improvement on overall cognitive function.&nbsp;</p> <p>Aniruddh Patel, a professor of psychology at Tufts University, says the findings also address the important question of whether purely instrumental musical training can enhance speech processing.</p> <p>“This study answers the question in the affirmative, with an elegant design that directly compares the effect of music and language instruction on young children. The work specifically relates behavioral improvements in speech perception to the neural impact of musical training, which has both theoretical and real-world significance,” says Patel, who was not involved in the research.</p> <p><strong>Educational payoff</strong></p> <p>Desimone says he hopes the findings will help to convince education officials who are considering abandoning music classes in schools not to do so.</p> <p>“There are positive benefits to piano education in young kids, and it looks like for recognizing differences between sounds including speech sounds, it’s better than extra reading. That means schools could invest in music and there will be generalization to speech sounds,” Desimone says. “It’s not worse than giving extra reading to the kids, which is probably what many schools are tempted to do — get rid of the arts education and just have more reading.”</p> <p>Desimone now hopes to delve further into the neurological changes caused by music training. One way to do that is to perform EEG tests before and after a single intense music lesson to see how the brain’s activity has been altered.</p> <p>The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission, the Interdiscipline Research Funds of Beijing Normal University, and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.</p> A new study from MIT has found that piano lessons have a very specific effect on kindergartners’ ability to distinguish different pitches, which translates into an improvement in discriminating between spoken words.Research, Language, Music, Brain and cognitive sciences, McGovern Institute, School of Science In profile: Jamshied Sharifi ’83, Tony Award winner Composer, musician, and former MIT visiting artist received a 2018 Tony Award for best orchestrations on “The Band&#039;s Visit.” Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:30:01 -0400 Matthew Robinson | Arts at MIT <p>While MIT may be best known for its Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur “Geniuses,” on June 10, a Tony Award was added to the mix, thanks to composer Jamshied Sharifi ’83, who orchestrated the music for the record-breaking Broadway hit “<a href="">The Band’s Visit</a><em>.</em>”</p> <p>Though he admits that some may see an MIT alumnus winning a Tony as “a bit of an oddity,” Sharifi also hopes that it will demonstrate “the breadth of the student body.”</p> <p>“MIT people excel at math and science,” he observes, following what may be the most common preconception, “but they’re often broad in their interests and abilities. Every time I come to MIT to take part in a musical event I’m amazed at the level of musicianship, musical intelligence, and passion.”</p> <p>Sharifi credits composer David Yazbek, who wrote the score to “The Band's Visit,” with being his “overall musical guru.”</p> <p>“I think he wrote a score that perfectly straddles the worlds of Arabic music and Broadway,” Sharifi says, noting that, as orchestrator, he was responsible for arranging Yazbek’s songs for an ensemble, as he has done at MIT and elsewhere.</p> <p>Despite his demure attitude, Sharifi still sees why he was a good fit for the project.</p> <p>“As I had a great deal of experience with Middle Eastern music,” he reasons, “it was a natural fit, and the instruments used in the show were and are intimately familiar to me.”</p> <p>That said, Sharifi sees it as a “huge honor, both to be nominated and to be selected” and expresses appreciation for the many who have stood by and supported the show.</p> <p>“Although it was clear from nearly the beginning that 'The Band’s Visit' had a lot of critical love,” observes, Sharifi “that doesn’t necessarily translate into awards. So, for the show to be so recognized, especially for an unusual, quiet, understated show such as this one, is very sweet. &nbsp;For me personally, well, it’s still pretty unreal!”</p> <p><strong>Jazzy Jayhawk</strong></p> <p>Born in Topeka, Kansas, Sharifi was exposed at an early age to a wide range of international musical forms and styles, thanks to his American-born mother and Iranian-born father.</p> <p>“I grew up in Kansas City,” Sharifi explains, citing the birthplace of such legends as Charlie Parker, Count Basie, and Pat Metheny as his hometown. “I was able to find good teachers and a community of musicians my age who were interested in jazz and improvised music.”</p> <p>Sharifi began taking piano lessons with his keyboard-playing mother at the age of 5 and then branched out into guitar and drums at 9 and added flute at 10.</p> <p>“She always encouraged me,” Sharifi says of his mother, “and also pushed me to study other instruments.”</p> <p>His ever-expanding repertoire of instruments have helped Sharifi succeed in various parts of the music industry, from composing to conducting and to scoring musicals and films.</p> <p><strong>From KC to MIT</strong></p> <p>As his father is a chemist (and also a “huge music fan”), Sharifi was not only “jazz aware” but science aware — and aware, in particular, of a certain school in Massachusetts.</p> <p>“MIT was on my radar,” he recalls. “I don’t know where I first heard of it, but it was a legendary place where one could get deep into those subjects.”</p> <p>Though he admits to preferring music to matriculation when he graduated from high school, Sharifi deferred acceptance to MIT and did not enroll until he was urged by high school friend (and eventual fellow MIT student) Shlomo Vile '83, '84.</p> <p>“Shlomo…had gone ahead,” Sharifi recalls, “and he came home that summer and said I had to go.”</p> <p><strong>Arts at the Institute</strong></p> <p>While at MIT, Sharifi was able to pursue his proclivities in both science and the arts and came to see both as great strengths at the school. However, he maintains, the arts programs have continued to expand since he graduated.</p> <p>“The arts at MIT have become a much bigger part of campus life since I was a student,” he maintains, “and I think now there are many more opportunities for students to find artistic expression than when I attended.”</p> <p>During his time as a student, Sharifi became involved with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble and got to know its legendary leader Herb Pomeroy.</p> <p>“I met Herb as a freshman,” he recalls of the former sideman for fellow Sunflower State son Charlie Parker. And while he was not admitted to the ensemble until his junior year, Pomeroy had apparently seen something special in Sharifi. So much so that, upon his retirement, Pomeroy asked Sharifi to take over as conductor of the ensemble. In this capacity, Sharifi continued to compose and perform and helped the band win top honors at the prestigious Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz festival in 1991.</p> <p>“I think from that point on I’ve been pretty deeply connected to music at MIT,” Sharifi says. He also thanks the current MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble Director Fred Harris, who called upon Sharifi to compose a work in honor of Pomeroy’s 75th birthday, for encouraging the ongoing relationship; a relationship that has seen Sharifi return to arrange for 2017 Grammy-winner Jacob Collier and MIT musicians and to compose for MIT’s Great Clarinet Summit.</p> <p>“I have the greatest respect for him as a person and musician,” says Harris, calling Sharifi “absolutely first-rate in every regard and a true consummate professional. ... I’m not surprised at all that he won a Tony!”</p> <p><strong>Keeping score</strong></p> <p>When he graduated from MIT with a degree in humanities in 1983, Sharifi went across the river to the Berklee College of Music, where he studied jazz piano and composition. It was at Berklee that Sharifi began to show an interest in film scoring.</p> <p>“I had always felt a draw to film music and the relationship between film and music,” Sharifi says, citing Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” as an early inspiration. Working at Berklee with such scoring stars as Michael Gibbs only encouraged this passion. In a few short years, Sharifi had scored three films and 15 hour-long televisions shows. Among his more notable scores are those for “<a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">Muppets From Space</a>,” the Nickelodeon film “<a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">Harriet the Spy</a>,” “<a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">The Rugrats Movie</a>,” and the 1999 remake of “<a href="" style="text-decoration:none;">The Thomas Crown Affair</a>.” This experience also allowed Sharifi to meet other collaborators, eventually leading him to the team that scored “The Band's Visit.”</p> <p>“My dear friend and frequent collaborator Rob Mathes was the music director of Sting’s 'The Last Ship,'” Sharifi explains, recalling how a scheduling issue encouraged Mathes to call him for help. “On that show I met Dean Sharenow, who … is a longtime friend of 'Band'<em> </em>music supervisor David Yazbek, and he recommended me as an orchestrator.”</p> <p><strong>Spring “Awakening”</strong></p> <p>While his Berklee experience emphasized his love for Jazz, Sharifi’s Middle Eastern influences continued to shine through, giving his scores a distinctive sound and feel; one that is enhanced by technological advances he developed at MIT, including a breath-controlled pitch bender on his synthesizer which allows Sharifi to play it like an acoustic instrument.</p> <p>“I did a lot of listening and transcription of very old — nearly a century old — Arabic recordings,” Sharifi recalls. “This led to a set of original melodies that I drew on.”</p> <p>The Middle Eastern influences on Sharifi’s life and music came to fullest fruition in 2013, when he was asked by MIT Wind Ensemble Music Director Fred Harris to compose music about the Arab Spring for a concert that was filmed by MIT Video Productions and broadcast by Boston’s PBS affiliate WGBH. The documentary about Sharifi’s composition, “<a href="" target="_self">Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring Through Music</a>,” won a New England Emmy Award.</p> <p>“It was a terrific synergistic collaboration between the performing arts and media arts at MIT,” noted MIT Video Production Senior Director Lawrence Gallagher.</p> <p>As the accolades continue to pour in for “Band,” Sharifi is already working on the orchestrations for the musical version of “Monsoon Wedding”<em> </em>by Mira Nair (who, Sharifi notes, studied film at MIT while attending another school down the river) and producing records for Pharaoh’s Daughter and Mirabai Ceiba.</p> <p>“I’m [also] trying to keep up with my kids Kai and Layla,” he says.</p> Jamshied Sharifi, winner of the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations for “The Band's Visit”Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards ProductionsAwards, honors and fellowships, Alumni/ae, Music, Theater, Arts, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Profile Quantum physics student leaving MIT on a high note Math and physics major Shaun Datta wraps up four years of pushing himself beyond his comfort zone by singing a cappella with the MIT Logarhythms. Tue, 05 Jun 2018 16:45:00 -0400 Sandi Miller | Department of Mathematics <p>On the Friday before finals, the crowd in Kresge Auditorium awaited the last <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Logarhythms</a>’ performance of the year. Along the side of the stage, the 16 male singers yell “Logs on three … one, two, three … Logs on three!” and then run, jump and leap into view. Although they can’t see the audience beyond the lights, they feed off the crowd’s energy as they harmonize a capella.</p> <p>At the end of the night, the group sang “Climax” by Usher, featuring senior Shaun Datta, who has been singing with the group since his freshman year. Datta chose “Climax,” not just because it’s a song about saying goodbye, but because it stretched his range — something that his time with the Logarhythms helped him to do in his life outside the group.</p> <p>“I wanted to sing something where I was floating some parts because it’s pretty high,” Datta says. “It's in an uncomfortable place in the male register. Even after singing it for a few months now, it’s still a little uncomfortable to sing, which is what I wanted: a song that was unfamiliar territory.”</p> <p><strong>Growing up STEM</strong></p> <p>Before the Logarhythms, Datta only made a little time for singing. He had been focused on his education in science his entire life. As the son of a psychologist and a chemical engineer, he was taught “algebra and geometry at the dinner table before my legs were long enough to reach the floor.”</p> <p>At Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, he was in the mathematics, science, and computer science core, with electives that included quantum physics, organic chemistry, and complex variables. He also published a paper in <em>Physical Review</em> via the University of Maryland.&nbsp;</p> <p>When Datta was considering which college to attend, MIT stood out as an excellent place to pursue his interests, which at the time he described as “the interface of natural sciences and computation, particularly quantum computation and computational biology.” But the deciding factor was how MIT students pursued their interests.</p> <p>“When I went to visit the schools, there was a marked difference between MIT and everywhere else,” he says. “Many clever students go through the motions of the college application process and end up with a carefully manicured résumé but no clear sense of passion. What set MIT apart for me was that everyone is passionate about something. You can see it in the ways students spend their time outside of academics: tinkering, hacking, making music, all from their untampered passion. I wanted to be a part of that culture.”</p> <p><strong>Making time for music</strong></p> <p>Once at MIT, Datta would double-major in physics and mathematics with computer science, with a concentration in negotiation and leadership. Although schoolwork was consuming, he would find time for involvement in many activities at the Institute and beyond. He was a policy advisor and voting member with the MIT Committee on Undergraduate Program; an associate academic advisor for the Mathematical Problem-Solving Seminar; an MIT student ambassador; the designer of a new Negotiation and Leadership program alongside Professor Bruno Verdini; and an organizer of the 2016 MIT-Harvard Undergraduate Physics Conference as MIT Society of Physic Students' Secretary and Outreach Coordinator. During breaks he attended University of Waterloo’s two-week summer program that focused on the theoretical and experimental study of quantum information, and a teacher in the SPLASH program and <a href="" target="_blank">in Barcelona</a>. In the fall, he collaborated with Belgian lecturer <a href="" target="_blank">Felicitas Rohden</a> for her German <a href="" target="_blank">art installation</a> that visually explained quantum information.</p> <p>When he first came across the Logarhythms’ information table as a freshman, he saw it as a good way to make friends. But it also turned out to be time-consuming: In addition to six hours of rehearsal a week with group and more time on his own, there were performances, competitions, and even an <a href="" target="_blank">album recording</a>.</p> <p>But ultimately, Datta’s commitment to the Logarhythms helped him structure his time better and, more importantly, formed a counterpoint to the stress of academic pursuits. As soon as he entered the Logs’ practice space or climbed onstage, he easily switched gears from busy student to singer.</p> <p>“Usually I’m quite focused on the music, and generally engaged with the feel of the music,” Datta said. “We try to leave the rest of our thoughts and distractions at the door, so we can be very focused, and to give us a reprieve from the other things we’re working on.”</p> <p><strong>Logging out</strong></p> <p>After graduation, Datta wants to build a career in quantum physics. He has received a $138,000 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and will choose between a DAAD scholarship at the Technische Universität München or attending one of the programs at Cambridge University. He is also considering working for a while at first and to start writing a book about the history of string theory. As he decides, he’ll spend this summer in an exchange program with a grant from the Department of Energy and National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Italy to search for dark matter candidates via machine learning at Frascati National Laboratory.&nbsp;</p> <p>As for singing, he eventually hopes to return to the stage, whether it be via a coffeehouse solo or another a capella group. He also will join the Logarhythms’ extensive alumni network, the most active of whom attend performances and help with song arrangements.</p> <p>As Datta nears graduation, he’s having trouble believing that his time with the Logarhythms is over.</p> <p>“The Logs has been the utmost formative experience of my college education,” he says.</p> “The Logs has been the utmost formative experience of my college education,” says MIT senior Shaun Datta, at center performing with his fellow MIT Logarhythms. “We try to leave the rest of our thoughts and distractions at the door, so we can be very focused, and to give us a reprieve from the other things we’re working on.”Photo: Vincent TjengStudents, Profile, Undergraduate, Mathematics, Physics, Student life, MISTI, International initiatives, Music, Quantum computing, School of Science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences MIT Video Productions nominated for a third Emmy Fri, 01 Jun 2018 14:25:01 -0400 Alice McCarthy | MIT Open Learning <p>For the third time in five years, the <a href="">MIT Video Productions</a> (MVP) team has been nominated for a New England Emmy. This year’s effort, a documentary film featuring <a href="">the 2016 residency of visiting artist Jacob Collie</a><a href="">r</a>, was produced in collaboration with MIT Music and Theater Arts (MTA). &nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2011, MIT Video Productions, a unit of MIT Open Learning, has been collaborating with MTA, &nbsp;producing both performance documentaries and concert webcasts. “MIT has a well-known reputation for excellence in engineering, research, and science,” says Lawrence Gallagher, MVP director. “What is now becoming as well-known, is the excellence of our humanities, arts, and social sciences and most certainly, the performing arts. We have been thrilled to shine a light on that excellence.”</p> <p>In 2013, MVP received their first Emmy nomination (and win) for a performance documentary piece, "<a href="">Awakening: Evoking the Arab Spring through Music</a>," crafted with the MIT Wind Ensemble and featuring an original composition by&nbsp; Jamshied Sharifi '83. “It was a terrific synergistic collaboration between the performing arts and media arts at MIT,” says Gallagher, adding that the project set the stage for an ongoing musical video collaboration between the two MIT communities.</p> <p>Four to five times each semester, MVP records and shares concert performances from the Kresge Auditorium to a global audience via webcast. They have collaborated on approximately 30 performances to date, including concerts for the Concert Choir, the Symphony Orchestra, the Jazz Ensemble, the Wind Ensemble, and other MIT musical communities.</p> <p>Frederick Harris, Jr, director of the MIT Wind and Jazz Ensembles, invited the Grammy Award-winning Collier to MIT and invited a wider group of musicians from the Boston area to perform in the concert. Led by producer/editor Jean Dunoyer ’87, MVP taped lectures, rehearsals, interviews with the artists, and the final live performance to craft a 28-minute performance documentary film. Dunoyer, whose professional credentials include years as a television documentary editor and freelance filmmaker, has worked closely with Harris, who often approaches the MVP team with creative ideas ripe for film production.</p> <p>“In this piece, we worked together to uncover the intricacies of the creative process, and we witnessed this celebrated artist’s gifts as a music educator," says Dunoyer. “We recognize that art plays an enormous role in the lives of many MIT students and we are always looking for ways to creatively and artistically express it.”</p> <p>This film is one of six nominated in the arts and entertainment category; the others are productions from broadcast TV stations. “It’s an honor and noteworthy to have a university video production department be recognized this way,” adds Gallagher. “It was an equal honor to bring our talents to bear in crafting stories about these amazing MIT student musicians and scholars.”</p> <p>The winner of the Arts and Entertainment Emmy will be announced June 2 at the 41st Annual New England Emmy Awards Ceremony in Boston.</p> “I’ve heard or have been a part of concerts in Kresge for 37 years," says composer Jamshied Sharifi '83 about Jacob Collier's 2016 performance at MIT, "and that night tops them all.” Photo: L. Barry HetheringtonMusic, Arts, Special events and guest speakers, Music and theater arts, Collaboration, Awards, honors and fellowships, Video, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Stepping on stage with Beyoncé Joe Brown &#039;07 has become a successful choreographer and dancer, most recently performing with Beyoncé at this year&#039;s Coachella Music Festival. Mon, 14 May 2018 13:10:01 -0400 Nicole Morell | MIT Alumni Association <p>If you tuned in for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Beyoncé’s headlining performance</a>&nbsp;at the Coachella Music Festival this past month, you may have spotted a familiar face on stage: Joe Brown ‘07. The choreographer and professional dancer was among dozens of performers who delivered a show that he says was, “Everything I’ve been working for—a celebration of everyone involved.”</p> <p>For those who know Brown, his Coachella debut comes as no surprise — he’s been dancing professionally for several years and even appeared with his crew as part of the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">NBC’s&nbsp;<em>World of Dance</em></a> — but professional dance wasn’t always the plan. “My goal was to be the next Walt Disney,” Brown explains. “I majored in Course 2 [mechanical engineering] because I wanted to design rollercoasters and to create my own theme park.”</p> <p>Brown’s passion for dance comes from growing up with a sister who performed on Broadway. “Watching her, the love of dance just seeped in,” he remembers. He began choreographing in high school and continued to build his skills as step master of his fraternity while at MIT. But it wasn’t until after graduation that dance became a bigger part of Brown’s life. “I joined [MIT’s competitive hip hop team]&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Ridonkulous</a>&nbsp;post-graduation and it really connected me to the dance community at large, including to the whole professional dance community in Los Angeles,” he says.</p> <p>Brown became a part of that community as he pursued his master of architecture at&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">SCI-Arc</a>&nbsp;in Los Angeles, balancing study and studio time with teaching dance and performing. “I would travel from my classes downtown to North Hollywood every day to choreograph my own style,” he says. Brown’s style combines step — where dancers use their body as an instrument of percussion and movement — with different dance styles. Coined “<a href="" target="_blank">stroll groove</a>,” the style would fit right in on stage with Beyoncé.</p> <p>As&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a professional dancer</a>, Brown splits his time between teaching classes, choreographing, and professional dance jobs for video shoots and stage shows with artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. So when he found out about an audition for a secret project, he jumped at the opportunity. “Word on the street was that it was for Beyoncé,” he says. Weeks after the audition as other dancers found out they made the cut, Brown didn’t hear anything. “I just assumed I didn’t get it and was ready to move on,” he says. Then the call came from Beyoncé’s camp. “At first I didn’t even know what show the call was for, so when they said it was for Beyoncé, I had to take a moment,” he says.</p> <p>That call came in December, and soon after, Brown began contributing choreography and learning moves for the Coachella show that revealed itself bit by bit. “You’re given a direction and you don’t know what the whole picture looks like until you’re on stage,” Browns says. “Once we started doing the full run-throughs, the ‘epic-ness’ of it started to seep in.”</p> <p>That epic-ness would be a two-hour long, tour-caliber set that paid tribute to black culture, from song selections to traditions of historically black fraternities and sororities — something Brown says was especially important for him. “They created a show that pretty much represented my whole life — from the stepping to a lot of the cultural aspects, and even to some songs that my parents would play for me back in the day,” he says. “It was profound.”</p> <p>Brown’s own fraternity experience lent itself to his show, part of which included a probate stepping performance, mimicking the presentation done by new members of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. “One of my dance goals is to put stepping back on the map,” he says. “This was like a milestone for people to see; it kind of hit people in the face and said ‘this is it, this is what stepping is.’”</p> <p>Brown says though his days are filled with dance, he’s still passionate about design and gets to experience it in a different way as a dancer. “There’s so many technical, cutting-edge aspects of performance and a stage; I walk around with my sketchpad drawing and think, ‘One day I might love to work on an apparatus like that for my next project,’” he says. “It’s like my playground.”</p> <p>For Brown, it’s all inspiration for his next act. “That roller coaster is still going to happen. That theme park is still going to happen,” he says. “But right now, I just want to spend some time with dance.”</p> Joe Brown '07 (second from left) performs with Beyoncé and her dance team at Coachella 2018.Photo courtesy of, Arts, Music, Student life, Clubs and activities, Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering Featured video: Making music with the Chorallaries of MIT For students in MIT&#039;s oldest co-ed a capella group, blending voices provides a creative outlet and a chance to share their love of song. Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:10:37 -0400 MIT News Office <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>How do you transform emotion from the soul, through the body, to the voice, and elicit a physiological response from the audience? Mechanical engineering senior Isabel "Izzy" Lloyd and fellow members of the MIT <a href="" target="_blank">Chorallaries a capella group</a> figure out this complex transformation every time they get together and sing.</p> <p>One of only 20 groups worldwide to be selected to appear on the prestigious <a href="" target="_blank">Best of College Acappella (BOCA) album for 2018</a>, the Chorallaries are a force to be reckoned with in the a cappella community. For Lloyd, music is a way to relax, reset, and release — to switch off the mathematical equations and tune in to the art and connections of music.</p> <p>"I think it's important to realize the value that lies at the intersection of art and science and how it pertains to society and life and culture all around us," Lloyd says. "The&nbsp;ability relax and reset with music, to make something beautiful together, and to be able to share it with others, inspires me, and helps me parse out my life a little bit so I can focus on my work as an engineer."</p> <p><em>Submitted by: Carolyn Blais | Video by: Lillie Paquette | 5 min, 26 sec</em></p> Chorallaries of MIT a cappella group on stage at the Kresge AuditoriumPhoto: Lillie Paquette/MIT School of EngineeringClubs and activities, Students, Student life, Music, Arts, Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, Featured video Rock music helps students and educators explore engineering Playful Learning Lab, founded by AnnMarie Thomas ’01, is collaborating with rock band OK Go to create hands-on PK-12 engineering experiences. Fri, 20 Apr 2018 13:10:00 -0400 Jay London | MIT Alumni Association <p>As far as chance encounters go, the meeting between AnnMarie Thomas ’01 and Damian Kulash, the lead singer for the rock band OK Go, could not have gone better. Thomas and Kulash first met at a coffee shop after a TED conference and later on a flight from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, where Thomas shared details on her research group, the <a href="" target="_blank">Playful Learning Lab</a>, which helps PK-12 students and educators create fun, hands-on engineering projects.</p> <p>“The common theme in our lab is a mix of technology, fun, and STEAM education,” Thomas says, referring to science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. “We’re constantly asking:&nbsp;‘How can we make education engaging for students and teachers?’”</p> <p>Kulash was keenly interested, especially since OK Go’s unique, one-take music videos have gained fame for incorporating engineering elements. The band’s 2010 video, “This Too Shall Pass,” <a href="" target="_blank">created with the help of Media Lab graduates</a>, features a complex Rube Goldberg machine and accumulated more than 58 million views on YouTube.</p> <p>Thomas and Kulash remained in touch and brainstormed ways to collaborate. The end result is the OK Go Sandbox, a joint effort between the band, the lab, and the engineering departments at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Thomas is an associate professor.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">OK Go Sandbox</a> is an online portal that uses the band’s videos as starting points to explore various STEAM concepts. Each video is accompanied by a series of activities and challenges designed to analyze the video with a problem-solving lens. The challenges for “This Too Shall Pass” focus on simple machines and their role in complex structures.</p> <p>“We want to give teachers whatever tools they need to connect the joy, wonder, and fun in our videos to the underlying concepts that their students are learning,” Kulash says on the Sandbox site.</p> <p>Each challenge is heavily influenced by students and educators who have to accompany the challenge video shoots and share their expertise and feedback.</p> <p>“Every time we film a challenge or activity, there is a teacher on set,” Thomas says. “We don’t know the best way to frame these activities — only the students and teachers really do.”</p> <p>The Playful Learning Lab was created in 2009, the same year that Minnesota added an engineering curriculum to its state-wide K-12 standards. The lab’s other projects include Circus Engineering, which explores equations of motion for circus aerial acts, and a weekly after-school engineering program for deaf middle school students that recreated the Angry Birds video game using plastic balls and cardboard boxes.</p> <p>Thomas says her hands-on approach to teaching is thanks in large part to her MIT education, especially Professor Emeritus Woodie Flowers SM ’68, SM ’71, PhD ’73.</p> <p>“Woodie Flowers’ course 2.007 [Design and Manufacturing] was utterly life changing for me,” says Thomas, who majored in ocean engineering (now a part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering) while at MIT. “He had an amazing way of getting you to learn by doing. Before that course, I was afraid to build things. After 2.007, it was ‘Eureka! I know it can do it.’”</p> <p><em>This story was originally posted on the </em><a href="">Slice of MIT</a><em> blog.</em></p> “We want to give teachers whatever tools they need to connect the joy, wonder, and fun in our videos to the underlying concepts that their students are learning,” says OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash, who is working with MIT alumna AnnMarie Thomas to parlay STEAM principles from his music videos into PK-12 lessons.Photo: Michael EkernSchool of Engineering, Mechanical engineering, Education, teaching, academics, STEM education, Alumni/ae, Collaboration, K-12 education, Music, Video, Arts, Technology and society, Design Q&amp;A: Composer Tod Machover presents “Philadelphia Voices” Ambitious new piece in his “City Symphony” series features the birthplace of American democracy. Mon, 09 Apr 2018 23:59:59 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p><em>Philadelphia is having an entertaining 2018. The Eagles won the Super Bowl. Villanova rolled to the men’s national college basketball championship. And now, for a culture break, residents can enjoy “Philadelphia Voices,” an ambitious new symphony by acclaimed MIT composer Tod Machover. The piece, which incorporates citizen contributions and the sounds and words of everyday life, is the sixth part of the “City Symphony” series by Machover, who is the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab. The symphony, having made its debut in Philadelphia from April 5-7, will also be performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall on April 10. </em>MIT News<em> spoke with Machover about “Philadelphia Voices.”</em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What is the “City Symphony” series about, and how does “Philadelphia Voices” fit into it?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> The City Symphonies have been an attempt to use music to make a portrait of a particular place, [by] combining what we usually think of as music — things that can be played by an orchestra — with actually listening to, recording, and then using the real sounds of the place. That could be parks, traffic, people, birds … anything that conveys the special qualities of the place. Another thing that’s special about these projects has been the call to everyone to participate in making the piece. People are willing to share things through music and sound that they may not be willing to share by having a verbal argument, or a political or social discussion.</p> <p>When the Philadelphia Orchestra got in touch with me about bringing the City Symphony series to the city, the conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin — who is truly remarkable; he’s the conductor in Philadelphia and also the new music director at the Metropolitan Opera, one of the great vocal conductors — said, “Philadelphia has a great vocal tradition, with soloists and choirs around town of all different sorts. So it would be great if you might think about making the voice a central aspect of this piece.” And I loved that idea. It’s not something we had done in the other cities. [Toronto, Edinbugh, Perth, Detroit, and Lucerne.] The idea of voice suggested singing, of course, but it also suggested to me people telling stories and talking about the city. The voice is our most personal instrument.</p> <p>At that moment, in 2016, with the presidential election in full swing, the division was obvious in the country, and the idea that democracy itself could be challenged was just shocking. Since Philadelphia is the birthplace of American democracy and is the place where the Constitution was written, I thought it would be interesting to have the citizens here [create] a message about democracy to other people around the country and the world. It’s a message about Philadelphia, but also from Philadelphia.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> To what extent are you trying to capture well-known things about a city, and how open do you have to be to new ideas as well?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> In Toronto [the first in the series], I came in with a kind of graphic score that represented what the shape of the piece might be. After Toronto, I felt I had discovered so many surprising things that I made it my goal to start from scratch in every city. But in Philadelphia, because the voice had been suggested to me, and because of this idea of examining democracy, I did come in with ideas.</p> <p>It turned out to be difficult to get people to talk about democracy directly. Nobody wanted to, except the historians. I did need to develop my “libretto,” so I asked people for words, texts, poems, and I got wonderful material, some through in-person discussions and some through a special mobile app that we developed at the MIT Media Lab. A poet named Jacob Winterstein said, “I think that the most democratic institution in Phildelphia is the block party, because Philadelphia is extremely local.” Most people think of their neighborhood, block, and even building as their unit. When they get together to close off the block and get the permit and cook together and be outside together, that is an amazing social phenomenon, and it happens all over the city. So, he wrote a poem [about] the block party, and I wrote a musical section about what would happen if the whole city had its block parties at the same time and this has become the kind of theme song for the whole symphony. Democracy [can] grow up from the smallest unit and can then unite people in powerful ways.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> How does this translate to the music itself?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Democracy sounds very abstract, but it is also an emotion and a texture. Music is a very good way of exploring how societies feel. In an orchestra, you may have 100 people, but after all, there’s a conductor there, and a composer writes the music, and it’s not necessarily the most democratic idea in the world. In some ways, you can think of a traditional orchestra and score being more like a monarchy. It grew out of a European society where things are directed from the top. You could think of jazz music, which is a very American form, as a kind of freedom. Everbody has a basic text but they go their own way and come back.</p> <p>But [with] 100-plus people in the orchestra and 250-plus in the chorus, you can’t let everybody just do what they want. So in this piece, I’ve tried to explore what happens in between: The sixth movement is actually called “Democracy,” and with a group of 20 singers, we asked them to come up with a way of singing the word “Philadelphia” that says something about themselves, and also says something about what they feel about Philadelphia. They start out on their own, and then they overlap, and the orchestra imitates them, and everybody has to listen to each other.</p> <p>There’s a moment where the conductor steps aside and lets the orchestra and the chorus follow these individual songs. And to me, it’s a feeling of democracy, in a messy city like Philadelphia which is wonderfully vibrant, but where not everybody is following the same tune, and not everybody is following the conductor. You feel the individuality of each of these choruses and of the individual singers, representing the kind of democracy — and the kind of listening to each other — that is most needed right now.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> “Philadelphia Voices” has just received its world premiere performances in Philadelphia, and is on its way to Carnegie Hall. How did the performances go, and how did the public react?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> It was extremely gratifying to see the many parts of this complex project — orchestra, voices, soundscapes, texts, and electronics diffused through a specially designed sound system — come together so fluidly, and it was especially striking to see such a large chorus of people from all around Philly sing together as one diverse musical community. I was also wonderfully surprised to see the audience react viscerally and vocally at each performance, responding actively to the humor, the sonic and verbal references, and also to the harsher realities presented. Many people told me that the work captured Philadelphia in an uncanny way, and the&nbsp;Philadelphia Inquirer&nbsp;wrote:&nbsp;“The powerful ... fifth movement, 'My house is full of black people' … is music that could change hearts and minds in Philadelphia.”</p> <p>And hopefully beyond. We’ll see what happens when we get to Carnegie Hall!</p> MIT composer Tod Machover, center-left, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, center-right, at the conclusion of Machover’s new symphony “Philadelphia Voices,” at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, April 6, 2018. Image: Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia OrchestraArts, Media Lab, Faculty, Music, Cities, 3 Questions, Technology and society, School of Architecture and Planning Featured video: Celebrating the arts at MIT A mercurial snapshot of the myriad ways in which MIT community members can express themselves through the arts Thu, 05 Apr 2018 10:50:00 -0400 MIT News Office <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>What makes the arts such a vital part of MIT? A creative culture where experimentation and innovation cross all disciplines and break all boundaries. More than half of all undergraduates expand their horizons by enrolling in arts classes each year, on a campus that features more than 3,500 noted works of contemporary art and landmark buildings designed by legendary architects like Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei.</p> <p>Since the 1960s, MIT has been forging connections between the fields of science and engineering and the worlds of visual and performing arts. From the founding of the <a href="" target="_blank">Center for Art, Science and Technology</a> (CAST) to the <a href="" target="_blank">opening of a new performance space</a> for our preeminent prominent music and theater program to the planned relocation and expansion of the MIT Museum, investment in the arts at MIT has never been stronger.</p> <p>The arts have been an essential part of the MIT culture from the start. Our <a href="" target="_blank">School of Architecture and Planning</a>, founded in 1865, was the first architecture program in the United States and remains at the forefront of design innovation today. In 1967, Bauhaus artist György Kepes created the Center for Advanced Visual Studies to bring together artists, scientists, and engineers and to pioneer the use of new technology as an artistic medium. The legacy of those collaborations continues through the Media Lab, Program in Art, Culture and Technology, Comparative Media Studies and CAST. The List Visual Arts Center, founded in 1985, is one of the region’s most esteemed venues for cutting-edge contemporary art exhibitions. In the performing arts, two professors of music hold the highest honor awarded to MIT faculty, Institute Professor; the award-winning faculty in the <a href="" target="_blank">School of Humanties, Arts, and Social Sciences</a> provide conservatory-level training and compose, commission, and perform classical, contemporary, and world music.</p> <p>With over 25 majors, minors and degree programs; hands-on classes; makerspaces; and 100-plus concerts and exhibitions open to the public each year, there are more ways than ever for the campus community to express itself through the arts at MIT.</p> <p><em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;">Submitted by: Arts at MIT </span></em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;">| </span><em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;">Video by: Arts at MIT and Trillium Studios </span></em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;">|</span><em><span style="color: rgb(17, 17, 17); font-family: Roboto, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; white-space: pre-wrap;"> 1 min, 49 sec</span></em></p> A video from Arts at MIT provides a mercurial snapshot of the myriad ways in which MIT community members can express themselves through the arts.Photo: Arts at MITArts, Featured video, Center for Art, Science and Technology, MIT Museum, Architecture, Music, Theater, Media Lab, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Architecture and Planning, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Technology and society, List Visual Arts Center Yo-Yo Ma calls for “culture in action” to build a better world Famed cellist delivers MIT’s annual Compton Lecture, adding some musical interludes. Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:30:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p>World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma made a heartfelt call for ethical action to shape a better society — and played some Bach — while delivering MIT’s annual Karl Taylor Compton Lecture before an engrossed campus audience on Monday.</p> <p>Every person, Ma said, has an obligation to “find a way, each, according to your strengths and capacities as citizens, to identify and start chipping away at society’s greatest problems.” At the same time, he added, we should ask ourselves a separate but related question: “What can we all do together that we can’t do alone?”</p> <p>Ma is famous for his mastery of the cello across an impressively large range of musical genres, from the canonical Western classical works to the music of places as disparate as Appalachia and Brazil. That same global outlook has informed his sense of social responsibility: Ma has served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2006.</p> <p>In his MIT talk, titled, “Culture, Understanding, and Survival,” Ma expressed concern that so many aspects of life seem to be in a state of flux at the moment.</p> <p>“I’m worried that at the same time we’re making so many advances, while many people’s lives are improving significantly, we are also creating massive disruption,” Ma said.</p> <p>For all our gains, he said, “we also live in a time of increasing fraction, when the ties that bind us politically, economically, and socially are fraying. I’m concerned that we’re hurtling toward a future … where we can no longer assure the health of our planet, where violence becomes a solution, where intellectual certitude displaces intellectual curiosity, where we feel comfortable turning our back on others.”</p> <p>And yet, Ma added, “I’m also hopeful, because I believe we can solve those problems with culture’s contribution.”</p> <p>Speaking without notes to a large audience in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium, Ma defined culture broadly, from “literature to mathematics, from biology to music,” as the result of “our primal drive to understand our environment, ourselves, and others.” By serving as the foundation for a shared understanding of the world, Ma said, “Culture must play a role in our decision making. It turns ‘the other’ into us, and we all have a part to play.”</p> <p><strong>The magic of music, in the “seat of discovery”</strong></p> <p>Ma was introduced by MIT President L. Rafael Reif, who noted Ma’s “dazzling list of accomplishments,” which include 18 Grammy Awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed by then-President Obama in 2011.</p> <p>“He has been teaching us all to sail toward each other on an ocean of culture,” Reif said.</p> <p>Ma called MIT “one of my favorite places in the world” because of its “sheer energy” and “spirit of inquiry,” and emphasized how much he had enjoyed participating in a luncheon with students held earlier in the day. Ma also noted that he has many colleagues and friends among the composers and performers at MIT.</p> <p>“I love MIT because it’s the seat of discovery and the very incarnation of invention,” he said.</p> <p>In his lecture, Ma made the case that two particular modes of thinking help generate productive ideas, which in turn can serve larger social needs. The first is what Ma calls “edge-center oscillation” — the need to connect innovative ideas, which sometimes appear on the margins of a particular discipline, with mainstream thought.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Culture helps the edges of society communicate with the center of society,” Ma said, emphasizing the need for the “integration of edge ideas into the mainstream.”</p> <p>In the arts, he noted, we see this in the connections that musicians make across cultures; in science, useful ideas can stay at the margins of a field until researchers open themselves to studying them. As an example, Ma cited the once-unorthodox concept of fighting tumors by cutting off their blood supply, which has become a major area of cancer research.</p> <p>“If you’re in the center, make sure you’re open to ideas from the edge, and do that all the time,” Ma said.</p> <p>Ma then played the prelude to the Bach Cello Suite No. 1 — the first piece of music he ever learned — which features “massive disruptive change,” in the form of the lowest notes of the piece, followed by an ending that reaches the piece’s highest notes and repeats its opening motif, which Ma called “a reinvigorated center, a strengthened reflection of the beginning.”</p> <p><strong>Analysis and empathy</strong></p> <p>A second mode of thinking, Ma added, involves the integration of our abilities to analyze things and feel empathy for others, something he regards as being vital in almost any field of human endeavor — so that we can be both creative and disciplined, while remaining purposeful in our activities.</p> <p>“This is a state of mind, a type of thinking, that culture helps us train for,” Ma said.</p> <p>“Nobody does this better than Bach,” he stated, adding that Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5 “combines total objectivity and total subjectivity, analysis and empathy, the conscious and subconscious. … It’s a compositional miracle.”</p> <p>To demonstrate, the famed cellist played a part of the piece, explaining that the notes that go down create a “gravitational pull” and “feeling of burden,” while “the notes that go up must struggle against that pull.”</p> <p>In any aspect of life, Ma suggested, we can experience that same sense of struggle. And while we may not personally cure cancer or solve the world’s problems, he noted, we can always feel we are contributing to a larger cultural effort to make life better for others. In this vein, Ma cited the case of a scientist who once told him, “I view my work as a building block in a very large field.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Taking the next step together</strong></p> <p>The Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series, which dates to 1957, is among MIT's highest-profile lecture events. It is named after the Institute’s 10th president, who held office from 1930 to 1948. Compton also served as chairman of the MIT Corporation from 1948 to 1954.</p> <p>As Reif stated in his remarks, Compton “made science an equal partner with engineering at MIT,” and, during World War II, helped strengthen MIT’s vital collaborations with the U.S. federal government.</p> <p>“In the best MIT tradition, President Compton was a citizen scientist,” Reif added. “He was known for the scope of his understanding, his integrity, his creative vision, his inspired service to society, and his charismatic charm.”</p> <p>Following Ma’s lecture, Reif joined Ma onstage to read aloud audience questions, which Ma answered. The musician then concluded with another call for people to contribute to the common good of society.</p> <p>“Let us choose the next step in our cultural evolution together,” Ma said, eliciting a standing ovation from the MIT crowd.</p> World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma delivered the spring 2018 Karl Taylor Compton Lecture on March 19. He was introduced by MIT President L. Rafael Reif.Image: Jake BelcherMusic, Special events and guest speakers, President L. Rafael Reif, Arts, Compton lecture, Technology and society Violist Marcus Thompson to perform in 2017-18 MIT Sounding series Faculty recital by Institute Professor is a chance to reflect on progress, both personal and political. Wed, 14 Feb 2018 18:25:01 -0500 Amelia Mason | Arts at MIT <p>April 4, 1968, was a momentous day for Marcus Thompson. That was the day that the young violist made his debut in a recital at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.</p> <p>It also turned out to be the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.</p> <p>Thompson learned of King’s death not long before walking onstage. Needless to say, the news “was a very heavy burden to carry.” But it also marked the start of an illustrious career for the Juilliard-educated musician, who then, as now, was one of only a handful of African-Americans to find success in classical music.</p> <p>It was with these twin legacies in mind — King’s and his own — that Thompson, now an Institute professor at MIT, designed the program for his upcoming recital at Kresge Auditorium on Feb. 24. The concert, which is part of MIT’s Sounding Series, presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology, and Music and Theater Arts, coincides with the 50th anniversary of King’s death as well as the founding of the MIT Black Students’ Union.</p> <p>“Fifty years later it just seemed like it was appropriate to do something that called attention to [King’s] legacy,” says Thompson. “Especially ... since that legacy is being called into question by so many actions and attitudes.”</p> <p>The program begins with Vivaldi’s “Concerto for Viola D’Amore and Strings.” It was the viola d’amore, a baroque string instrument that bears a symbol known as the “flaming sword of Islam” in place of f-holes, that inspired Thompson to include the composition. He hoped it would serve as a quiet rebuttal to the anti-Muslim sentiment that has lately become more vocal. “The Middle East has had a big cultural impact on the West,” says Thompson.&nbsp;“That legacy goes right through the cultural heart of this country.”</p> <p>Next up is “Rothko Chapel,” an exquisite work by the 20th-century composer Morton Feldman. The piece features percussion and solo viola and will be conducted by MIT Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor Evan Ziporyn. The MIT Chamber Chorus, meanwhile, is tasked with delivering the eerie, wordless harmony at the heart of Feldman’s most famous work.</p> <p>The program also boasts the Boston premiere of Elena Ruehr’s “Shadow Light,” a concerto for solo viola and string quartet. Ruehr, a long time colleague of Thompson’s at MIT, composed “Shadow Light” a couple of years ago with her friend in mind.</p> <p>“He has an amazing sense of how to make a line, and how to make something move,” says Ruehr. “And then his sound, which is kind of liquidy and dark and beautiful like a great violist’s usually is — but his is particularly beautiful. But he can bring this brightness, too, to what he does.”</p> <p>“Shadow Light” begins with a minor triad, somber and deep. A raised fourth adds a touch of warmth to an ordinarily moody chord. “It’s a story about striving for light in the midst of darkness,” Ruehr says of the composition. “The whole piece is ... these long, romantic, nostalgic lines that are always pushing toward a height.”</p> <p>The evening’s final installment, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Flos Campi,” features the MIT Chamber Chorus under the direction of MIT’s director of Choral Programs, William Cutter. Like the Feldman composition, “Flos Campi” contains a choral part without lyrics. It’s a pairing that Thompson hopes will spark reflection and healing. “Music is beyond words,” says Thompson. “The whole concept of community and being together is something that’s beyond what you can actually say.”</p> <p>The choices reflect Thompson’s belief that music is&nbsp;“not intended to be something that can be used as a weapon or a polemic for one thing or another.” Instead, he says, “a concert is about bringing people together to share an experience and to contemplate what’s going on.”</p> <p>Half a century after the death of King, Thompson still finds plenty to contemplate. “Attitudes have changed,” says Thompson, noting the inroads made by black politicians across government. “A year and a half ago, just being here in Massachusetts — I live here in the town of Newton, and we had a black mayor. And at the time we had a black governor, and the president was black.”&nbsp;But since then, “what we see is a kind of revelation of attitudes that have been suppressed and a reaction to the fact that blacks have made certain kinds of visibility and progress.”</p> <p>And so Thompson looks to that early recital as a model for going forward. After 50 years, he knows there is value in doing the work, no matter what tragedies and triumphs unfold around him.</p> Marcus ThompsonPhoto: Donna CoveneyArts, Music and theater arts, SHASS, Music, Performances, Politics, Special events and speakers, Community, MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) Making preventive medicine more accessible MIT senior Anjali Misra is drawn to health care problems that don’t have easy answers. Wed, 17 Jan 2018 23:59:59 -0500 Fatima Husain | MIT News Office <p>Anjali Misra spends a lot of time attending to those who need help the most. On a typical day, the MIT senior and certified emergency medical technician can be found behind the wheel of the MIT ambulance or leading training sessions in CPR and first aid across campus. So far, Misra has helped facilitate the training of more than 1,000 MIT community members.</p> <p>“I like the idea of being the kind of person who can help in a crisis,” she says. “I think that getting to do something similar as a career would be ideal.”</p> <p>Misra, who is majoring in brain and cognitive sciences and minoring in music, has her eyes set on medicine: “I knew for my entire life that I wanted to be a doctor. I was one of those strange kids who from 2 years old had a vision.”</p> <p>That vision brought Misra from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, though she admits that “the idea of trying to pursue medicine at an institute of technology seemed a bit incongruous” at first. She turns to her career role model, physician and author Atul Gawande, to explain how her MIT education has been crucial to her approach to medicine.</p> <p>“He said that science is a commitment to a systematic way of thinking,” she says. By approaching medicine systematically, Misra hopes to “solve problems that don’t really seem to have answers on the surface.”</p> <p>She’s referring in large part to problems that span both public health and medicine: preventable diseases, which are exacerbated by disparities in access to health care. During her high school years in Cedar Rapids, Misra witnessed firsthand the inaccessibility of health care in rural communities.</p> <p>When she volunteered at her local hospital, she began to notice that some of the patients visiting the emergency room suffered from chronic, unchecked medical conditions — and that the visits could have been avoided if the patients had access to regular care. “To me, that is an area for great improvement in health care,” Misra says.</p> <p>To best equip herself with the tools to tackle preventable disease, Misra, <a href="">a 2018 Mitchell Scholar</a>, will pursue a master’s degree in public health at University College Cork in Ireland before returning to the U.S. to pursue medicine.</p> <p>“Having a chance to see how a different country addresses similar [public health] problems,” she says, “hopefully sets me up to keep an open mind as I try to pursue all of these things in my own career.”</p> <p><strong>Serving others</strong></p> <p>Before she began her freshman year, Misra took part in the Freshman Urban Program (FUP), a weeklong pre-orientation program that focuses on social justice and volunteering. Program topics have spanned hunger, education, race and gender, and sexual identity. “The counselors take the students to community organizations in Boston and Cambridge to do a morning of service, and the idea is that these organizations do work related to the topic of the day,” she says. “Then, in the afternoon, everybody returns to campus and the counselors facilitate a group activity that stimulates conversation on these topics.”</p> <p>“For me, that was a perfect way to start my experience at MIT,” Misra says. “I think it really set me on a path to considering service as essential and not as something that I was going to incorporate into my life when I had a free week.”</p> <p>Misra liked the experience so much that she worked as a counselor for the program in each subsequent school year. Her senior year, she helped organize the program as a co-coordinator. “It was always something that I was going to start with and something I intend to end with. And I always wanted to be there in the middle, too,” she says.</p> <p>With a similar level of commitment, since her freshman year Misra has also been actively involved in SHINE for Girls, a weekly after-school program that combines math tutoring and dance. “The premise of this program is to combine something that a lot of girls enjoy, dance, with something that is challenging in order to increase their confidence and reframe the topic,” she says. Now, Misra is co-president of the mentorship program, and she hopes to help the current mentees find role models who are women in STEM.</p> <p><strong>Mobile medicine</strong></p> <p>The summer before her senior year, Misra was named an MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center Fellow. During her fellowship, she worked with the Family Van, a Harvard Medical School program that brings mobile health care to underserved communities. Misra was stationed in East Boston to screen members of the community for preventable diseases.</p> <p>“What seems extremely strange to some people is the idea of providing health care out of a repurposed bus or a van or a train,” Misra says. “But it is actually doing a lot of good in the community in a way that traditional clinics have been unable to achieve.”</p> <p>That summer, Misra also worked on research for the Mobile Health Map, a collaborative network that aggregates data on successes and challenges across many different mobile health clinics. Together, these experiences opened her eyes to the public health challenges in mobile health care.</p> <p>“One thing I struggle with a lot as a scientist and as an idealist is knowing that having the solution is not all it takes to solve the problem,” Misra says. “It wasn’t enough to just drive out into the community and be extremely accessible to people. … There was a second tier of challenges that appeared.” Those challenges included getting community members to come inside the van and take part in the free screenings offered.</p> <p>By combining an education in public health with one in medicine, Misra hopes to tackle some of those challenges, to maximize the effectiveness of preventative care. Despite some of the difficulties, Misra still sees great potential for mobile medicine.</p> <p>“Many lives are going to be saved or should be saved in the future by taking advantage of this knowledge that we already have, and just by making it accessible and actually useful to the people who we are hoping to impact,” Misra says.</p> <p>She hopes to use her undergraduate and graduate education to become an effective physician who helps improve her patients’ lives. “As soon as I become comfortable [as a practicing physician], then I can start to incorporate advocacy from a really early part of my career,” she says. “I don’t want to wait until the very end to do that.”</p> <p>Misra has served as co-president of the <a href="">MIT South Asian Association of Students</a> after joining as a freshman representative. She also takes part in medical research elucidating the function and role of primary cilia under the supervision of Peter Czarnecki, in the Shah Lab of the Harvard Medical School. Misra was also a presenter for the MIT Women’s Initiative and has presented about careers in STEM to approximately 1,500 female middle school students in Union Country, North Carolina, and she was a recipient of the 2017 McKinsey Undergraduate Women’s Impact Award.</p> Senior Anjali Misra, who is majoring in brain and cognitive sciences and minoring in music, is originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Image: Jake BelcherProfile, Students, Undergraduate, Awards, honors and fellowships, School of Science, Brain and cognitive sciences, Health care, Medicine, Music, Neuroscience, Public health, Volunteering, outreach, public service, Women, Women in STEM SHASS Research Fund names 10 recipients for 2018 Wed, 03 Jan 2018 08:35:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The annual SHASS Research Fund supports MIT research&nbsp;in the humanities, arts, and&nbsp;social sciences that shows promise of making an important contribution to the proposed area of activity. The 10 recipients for 2018 are:</p> <p><a href="">Nikhil Agarwal</a><strong>,</strong>&nbsp;assistant professor of economics:<strong>&nbsp;</strong>The near-universal coverage of dialysis treatments under Medicare, including for people under age 65, is unique in the U.S. health care system.&nbsp;Agarwal plans to use his SHASS research funding to analyze previously collected data to explore whether and how Medicare reimbursement rates affect the quiality of dialysis care and patient outcomes.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Charlotte Brathwaite</a>, assistant professor of&nbsp;music and theater arts:<strong>&nbsp;</strong>SHASS research funding will support "Forgotten Paradise: Grazettes Sun," a film project by director Brathwaite. Inspired by being united with her estranged brother for the first time, Brathwaite plans to take a small crew on a research trip to the Gold Coast (Ghana, Benin, and Togo) to excavate the jigsaw puzzle of history and memory&nbsp;and to identify locations significant to her own ancestry and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Sarah Brown</a>, director of design for music and theater arts:&nbsp;SHASS research funding will allow Brown to join the production of&nbsp;Gregory Spears’ opera, "Fellow Travelers," which dramatizes the lives of Americans whose careers were ended and lives were transformed during the "Lavender Scare," a period in the Cold War when LGBTQ people were expelled&nbsp;from the federal government because of their sexual identities.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Lerna Ekmekcioglu</a>, associate professor of&nbsp;history: Ekmekcioglu's funding will support her ongoing book and digital humanities project, "Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology and a Digital Archive." With Melissa Bilal, a visiting scholar with MIT History, Ekmekcioglu traces the development of Armenian feminist thought&nbsp;from the 1860s to the 1960s.&nbsp;It will be the first collection in English on the topic.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Malick Ghachem</a>, associate professor of history:&nbsp;Ghachem's book on the rise of plantation capitalism in Haiti during the 1720s, "The Old Regime and the Haitian Revolution," will be translated into French with the support of SHASS research funding, making the work available to Francophone scholars in France and elsewhere in the French-speaking world. Funding will also allow&nbsp;Ghachem&nbsp;to present his research in France upon its publication by Éditions Karthala and the Centre international de recherches sur les esclavages.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Frederick Harris, Jr.</a>, director of&nbsp;wind and jazz ensembles for music and theater arts: With the support of SHASS research funding, Harris plans to begin researching the life and musical career of Herb Pomeroy (1930-2007) toward a biography with the&nbsp;working title of "It’s the Note You Don’t Play: The musical life of Herb Pomeroy." In addition to portraying Pomeroy's personal life, this book will analyze the three major areas of his musicianship: trumpeter, director/conductor, and educator.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Mark Harvey</a>, senior lecturer in music and theater arts: SHASS Research Fund support will enable the recording and production of a new album of original compositions by Harvey, all performed with the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra. The centerpiece will be “Swamp-a-Rama,” a composition at turns satirical and serious that responds to the current sociopolitical climate in the United States.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="">Sabine Iatridou</a>, professor of linguistics:&nbsp;In Dutch and German, question words such as “what”&nbsp;are identical to existential words such as “something." Why does a single word have these two different meanings? Which meaning came first in the development of the language?&nbsp;What does that tell us about the development of language more generally?&nbsp;Iatridou will explore these questions with the support of SHASS research funding in coordination with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Seth Mnookin</a>, professor of comparative media studies/writing: Funding will support a new book focused on the cultural, historical, and scientific underpinnings of how we age, as well as on research efforts designed to extend both lifespan and healthspan.&nbsp;In addition to providing a detailed overview of research that could reframe how we think about aging, the book will offer readers a guide to what age-related issues can be mitigated by changes to lifestyle, medical interventions, or pharmacological interventions — and which paths to avoid.<br /> <br /> <a href="">Ariel White</a>, assistant professor of political science:&nbsp;With an unprecedented amount of material, White and her colleagues will use a textual analysis tool to analyze the language used to report on crime, asking whether and to what extent&nbsp;local media outlets focus mostly on crimes committed by nonwhite suspects. They will also analyze the relationship between reporting trends and actual crime statistics to see whether these publications accurately reflect the level and type of crime.</p> <p>MIT's&nbsp;School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is home to research that has a global impact, and to graduate programs recognized as among the finest in the world. The school's research portfolio includes international studies, linguistics, economics, poverty alleviation, history, literature, anthropology, digital humanities, philosophy, global studies and languages, music and theater, writing, political science, security studies, women's and gender studies, and comparative media studies. MIT's SHASS&nbsp;research helps alleviate poverty; safeguard elections; steer economies; understand the past and present; assess the impact of new technologies; understand human language; create new forms at the juncture of art and science; and inform policy and cultural mores on issues including justice, healthcare, energy, climate, education, work and manufacturing, inclusion, and economic equity.</p> The SHASS Research Fund supports MIT research that shows promise of making an important contribution in the humanities, arts, or social sciences. Image: SHASS Communications SHASS, Faculty, Awards, honors and fellowships, Economics, Music, Theater, History, Linguistics, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Science writing, Political science, Research, Grants, Funding Yo-Yo Ma to deliver spring 2018 Compton Lecture Renowned cellist will speak in March on the role of culture in a strong society. Mon, 30 Oct 2017 10:40:00 -0400 Institute Events <p>President L. Rafael Reif announced today that cellist Yo-Yo Ma will visit the MIT campus on Monday, March 19, to deliver the spring 2018 Karl Taylor Compton Lecture.</p> <p>“From his performances and recordings, the world knows Yo-Yo Ma for his brilliance as an artist,” Reif said. “However, I am especially thrilled to welcome him back to campus next spring so he can share with our students his passionate curiosity and deep commitment to making a better world. By reaching across boundaries of cultures and disciplines, he builds the kind of unexpected creative connections that resonate deeply with the MIT community. I am delighted that he will deliver the Institute’s best-known and most prestigious invited lectureship.”</p> <p>The Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series was established in 1957 to honor the late Karl Taylor Compton, who served as president of MIT from 1930 to 1948 and as chair of the MIT Corporation from 1948 to 1954. The lecture series is intended to give the MIT community direct contact with the important ideas of our times and with people who have contributed much to modern thought.</p> <p>Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris in 1955 and began to study the cello with his father at age four. Having moved with his family to the United States at age 7, he studied at the Julliard School and later at Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1976. Perhaps the most celebrated cellist of his generation, Ma is a prolific performer and teacher, having recorded more than 100 albums, given thousands of live performances and master classes, and served as artistic advisor or consultant to organizations such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Carnegie Hall.</p> <p>His numerous awards include the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Dan David Prize (2006), the Leonie Sonning Music Prize (2006), the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), the Polar Music Prize (2012), and the Vilcek Prize in Contemporary Music (2013). In addition, Ma was appointed a CultureConnect Ambassador by the U.S. Department of State in 2002 and currently serves as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. His work provides opportunities for music to be experienced within communities, with a special commitment to programs that introduce children to music and its creation.</p> <p>The breadth of activity and accolades in Ma’s long career stem from ferocious curiosity and delight in the global multitude of musical forms beyond the Western classical canon. Ma continues to explore music as what he terms “a means of communication and as a vehicle for the migration of ideas across a range of cultures throughout the world.” He’s known for commissioning new works, particularly in connection with Silkroad, the nonprofit organization he&nbsp;founded in 1998 to foster radical cultural collaboration toward a more hopeful world.</p> <p>“When I think of Yo-Yo Ma, I do so in at least two ways: He’s the world’s leading cellist and the world’s leading ambassador for the performing arts through Silkroad, a project that works to transcend cultural boundaries via the shared experience of music,” said Associate Provost Philip S. Khoury, chair of the Compton Lectures Advisory Committee. “More than that, Mr. Ma is our Cambridge neighbor. It is a phenomenal privilege to welcome him to the MIT stage.”</p> <p>All members of the MIT community are invited to attend Compton lectures. The timing, venue, and format of Ma’s lecture will be announced in the spring 2018 semester. Registration via MIT certificates will be required.</p> Yo-Yo Ma will deliver the spring 2018 Compton Lecture at MIT. He has been a leading international voice for music as a means to promote cross-cultural understanding and social good.Photo: Jason BellArts, Music, President L. Rafael Reif, Community, Humanities, Special events and guest speakers Audra McDonald receives 2018 McDermott Award The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT includes a $100,000 prize, artist residency, gala, and public program at the Institute. Thu, 26 Oct 2017 10:01:00 -0400 Leah Talatinian | Arts at MIT <p>Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning singer and actress Audra McDonald has been named the&nbsp;recipient of the 2018 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. The $100,000 cash prize, to be awarded at a gala in her honor on April 14, 2018, also includes an artist residency, during which McDonald will present a public talk at MIT (also on April 14) about her performances in musical theater, film and television.</p> <p>The announcement follows what has been a banner year for the singer and actress. Over the summer, she made her debut in London’s West End playing Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and&nbsp;Grill" — the role that netted her a record sixth Tony Award during its 2014 Broadway run — and in the spring she graced movie screens worldwide as Madame Garderobe in Disney’s live-action "Beauty and the Beast." This coming spring, McDonald will join&nbsp;the cast of "The Good Fight"<em> </em>on CBS All Access and embark&nbsp;on a North American concert tour.&nbsp;</p> <p>McDonald says&nbsp;that art “is not just something beautiful that we experience in a theater or a museum.”</p> <p>“Art can also be painful or make us feel vulnerable, but in that discomfort it has the power to be illuminating, transformative, and revelatory,” she says. “As in life, art must relish the joys while also embracing the suffering and struggle — a paradox that epitomizes the human experience. My greatest hope is that art helps us as a society to find common ground, to create dialogue, and to understand each other in new and meaningful ways. I am therefore so humbled and honored to receive the McDermott Award in the Arts and look forward to exploring these topics during my residency at MIT, an institution that embodies innovation, creativity, and, above all, humanity.”</p> <p>The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT celebrates individuals who continue to achieve the highest distinction in their fields and who will produce inspiring work for many years to come. The $100,000 cash prize represents an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement. Past recipients include David Adjaye, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Lepage, Gustavo Dudamel, Bill Viola, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Santiago Calatrava, among others.</p> <p>“We are delighted to celebrate the phenomenal actress and singer Audra McDonald as we embark on a new era of the performing arts at MIT and soon will inaugurate our first dedicated performing arts space,” says&nbsp;MIT Associate Provost&nbsp;and Ford International Professor of History Philip S. Khoury.&nbsp;“Our new theater arts building will address the increasing demand by students for theater training and allow the outstanding artists on our faculty to present their work on campus in addition to stages around the world. We look forward to having Ms. McDonald work with our faculty and students during her residency. Her incomparable range across multiple genres of performance will enrich our performing arts community.”</p> <p>A distinctive feature of the award is a short residency at MIT, which includes a public presentation of the artist’s work, substantial interaction with students and faculty, and a gala that convenes national and international leaders in the arts. The goal of the residency is to provide the recipient with unparalleled access to the creative energy and cutting-edge research at the Institute and to develop mutually enlightening relationships with MIT students and faculty.</p> <p>The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT was established in 1974 by the Council for the Arts at MIT. The selection process reflects MIT’s commitment to risk taking, problem solving, and the idea of connecting creative minds across disciplines. The award honors Eugene McDermott, the co-founder of Texas Instruments and longtime friend and benefactor of the Institute.</p> <p>The Council for the Arts at MIT is a volunteer group of alumni and friends who support the arts at the Institute. Since its founding in 1972 by MIT President Jerome B. Wiesner, the council&nbsp;has bestowed the award on 36 individuals who work in the performing, visual, and media arts, as well as authors, art historians, and patrons of the arts. Appointed by the President of MIT to three-year terms, council members serve its&nbsp;mission “to foster the arts at MIT and to act as a catalyst for the development of a broadly based, highly participatory program in the arts.”</p> <p>For more information on the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, visit the <a href="">award program site</a>.</p> Singer and actress Audra McDonald, the 2018 recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT, has won six Tony Awards.Photo: Autumn de WildeSHASS, Arts, Awards, honors and fellowships, Music, Theater Times Higher Education names MIT No. 2 university worldwide for the arts and humanities Schools of Architecture and Planning; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and several centers are home to the arts and humanities at MIT. Mon, 18 Sep 2017 14:05:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The Times Higher Education 2018 World University Rankings has named MIT the No. 2 university in the world for arts and humanities. The two top&nbsp;ranked universities — Stanford University and MIT — are closely aligned in the evaluation metrics, which assess the arts and humanities at research-intensive universities across core missions, including research, teaching, and international outlook.</p> <p>The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by <em>Times Higher Education, </em>a leading British education magazine. This ranking of MIT’s global role in the arts and humanities follows other recent recognition for the Institute’s contributions to individual fields and disciplines. The 2018 QS World University rankings, for example, name MIT as the world’s top university for architecture, economics, engineering, linguistics, and natural sciences, as well as the No. 1 university in the world overall.</p> <p>Of the <em>Times Higher Education</em> ranking, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, “Perhaps because 'TECHNOLOGY' is carved in stone above MIT's front door, outsiders are not always prepared for the caliber of our research and education in the humanities and the arts. But it is the wisdom of the remarkable scholars in these fields, and lessons from their disciplines, that help our students develop fully into the creative citizens and inspired leaders they seek to become.”</p> <p>“The arts and humanities are deeply embedded at MIT, throughout our schools and departments and across the curriculum,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “I am delighted to see this broad strength recognized not only for its importance to MIT but for what it offers to the world.”<br /> <br /> Outstanding programs in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences — including linguistics, history, philosophy, music and theater arts, literature, global studies and languages, media studies, and writing — sit alongside equally strong initiatives within the School of Architecture and Planning in the visual arts, architecture, design, and history, theory, and criticism. These disciplines are complemented by the Center for Art, Society and Technology (CAST), the office of the Arts at MIT, the MIT LIST Visual Arts Center, and the MIT Museum.</p> <p>“At MIT, we view the humanities and arts as essential for advancing knowledge, for educating young students, and for solving global issues,” said Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “The world’s problems are so complex they’re not only scientific and technological problems. They are as much human and moral problems.”</p> "100 percent of MIT undergraduates study the arts and humanities, joining our faculty in addressing some of the largest, most consequential human questions of our time," notes Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.Photo: Madcoverboy/Wikimedia CommonsAwards, honors and fellowships, Rankings, Architecture, Arts, Design, Education, teaching, academics, Global Studies and Languages, History, Humanities, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Literature, Linguistics, Philosophy, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Theater, Music, SHASS, School of Architecture and Planning, Program in HTC Imagination off the charts New documentary chronicles Jacob Collier&#039;s collaborations at MIT. Wed, 06 Sep 2017 12:30:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>“Being at MIT consistently reminds me of how wonderful it is when people think beyond the surface level — up and down to other realms of things,” Jacob Collier said from the Kresge Auditorium stage on December 10, 2016.</p> <p>The occasion was a three-hour concert and culmination of the multi-Grammy-winning musician’s residency with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble. It was produced by the MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology (CAST) and with MIT Music and Theater Arts. The project began in the early fall of 2016 and grew to include a feature-length documentary.</p> <p>“It was a kind of ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances and creative collaborations,” says Dr. Frederick Harris, MIT’s Director of Wind and Jazz Ensembles. “What happens when an extremely gifted musician connects with a brilliant music technology graduate student? They begin to build a unique instrument never before heard and tour the world with an innovative performance platform. And what happens when they collaborate with MIT musicians?”</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>A second home at MIT</strong></p> <p>Ben Bloomberg, a PhD student in the MIT Media Lab, met Collier in 2015. The two became fast friends and artistic collaborators. In addition to building Collier’s Vocal Harmoniser at MIT and creating his one-man-band performance vehicle, Bloomberg served as the balance engineer for "In My Room," Collier’s Grammy-winning 2016 debut recording.</p> <p>Over the course of their collaboration, Collier’s appreciation for the Institute grew. “MIT feels like a second home to me now,” he says.</p> <p>When Harris learned of their relationship, he began to craft a residency project that would allow MIT music students to engage directly with Collier and Bloomberg. To this end, Harris invited Jamshied Sharifi '83, an acclaimed composer-arranger-producer, to arrange some of Collier’s original music for jazz ensemble, choir, and full orchestra.</p> <p>The fruits of that labor were on display at the December concert, which featured the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble with an orchestra and chorus of musicians from MIT, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, Boston Arts Academy, and the University of New Hampshire.</p> <p>“It was an historic evening at MIT,” said Sharifi about the performance. “I’ve heard or have been a part of concerts in Kresge for 37 years, and that night tops them all.”</p> <p><strong>The power of art</strong></p> <p>The story of the collaboration is told by director/editor Jean Dunoyer ’87 in a new documentary film, "Imagination Off the Charts: Jacob Collier Comes to MIT." The film chronicles Collier's artistic collaboration with MIT featuring rehearsals, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the artists, and portions of the live concert performance. It shares insights into Collier’s music, his work with MIT students, and a system — developed by Bloomberg, Peter Torpey, and Brian Mayton — that offers real-time improvisational direction to musicians through the use of phones.</p> <p>“While making this film,” says Dunoyer, an editor-producer for MIT Video Productions, “I witnessed many immensely gifted people with a range of artistic skill sets bring enormous enthusiasm to this ambitious project. It was a testament to the power of art for bringing people together toward a positive and uplifting outcome.”</p> <p>“Jacob is one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of people who changes the way you look at things,” says Jeff Moran, a postdoc associate in MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and a bassist featured in the documentary film.</p> <p>Produced by MIT Video Productions, the film was made possible due to the generous support of Jane and Neil Pappalardo '64.</p> “I’ve heard or have been a part of concerts in Kresge for 37 years," said composer Jamshied Sharifi '83, "and that night tops them all.”Photo: L. Barry HetheringtonSHASS, Music, Music technology, Theater, Arts, MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), Special events and guest speakers, Collaboration Second annual MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Awards recipients selected Faculty and instructors recognized for improving classroom instruction and student engagement through innovative uses of digital technology. Tue, 25 Jul 2017 12:30:01 -0400 Office of Digital Learning <p>The <a href=";utm_medium=news_story_link&amp;utm_content=odl_digital_tech_awards&amp;utm_campaign=odl_digital_tech_awards" target="_blank">MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Awards</a> were established in 2016 to celebrate innovations in digital technology and the faculty who develop them. Co-sponsored by the Office of Digital Learning (ODL), the Dean of Undergraduate Education (DUE) and the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE), the awards serve to inspire the MIT community to embrace digital technologies and develop new applications that improve classroom teaching and learning.</p> <p>In June, six faculty members received awards for their work. The second annual Digital Technology Awards winners are:</p> <ul> <li>For work in ESD.411/412/413 (Foundations of System Design and Management): Edward Crawley, the Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Bruce Cameron, director of the System Architecture Lab and lecturer in the System Design and Management Program; Bryan Moser, lecturer in the System Design and Management Program; and Olivier de Weck, professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.</li> <li>For work in 21M.051 (Fundamentals of Music) and 21M.220 (Medieval and Renaissance Music): Michael Scott Cuthbert, associate professor of music.</li> <li>For work in 8.033 (Relativity) and 8.323 (Relativistic Quantum Field Theory): Tracy Robyn Slatyer, the Jerrold R. Zacharias CD Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics.</li> </ul> <p>This year, 133 nominations were received for 80 different faculty members and instructors. A committee consisting of Dean Dennis Freeman of the DUE, Dean Blanche Staton of the ODGE, and Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma of the ODL, as well as five undergraduate and graduate students, evaluated the submissions and chose the winners.</p> <p>"There is so much innovative teaching going on at MIT and these awards effectively gather those stories from students, celebrate the faculty innovators, and inspire other faculty in similar directions," says Sheryl Barnes, director of digital learning in residential education.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>In keeping with last year’s methodology, students were asked to articulate why their nominee deserved an award and provide details about the technologies used and how they were applied. Excerpts from winning nominations, edited for clarity and length, appear below.</p> <p>"Professor Slatyer's use of <em>MITx</em> in 8.033 was great: It was used to give students a chance to familiarize themselves with concepts prior to lecture, holding us accountable to the readings for the class and allowing us to ask questions earlier in the week.”</p> <p>"Professor Cuthbert uses an interactive approach to teach the fundamentals of music. Artusi offers a variety of exercises on music theories, and we used it during the class to see if we understood the materials he just went over; it was incredibly helpful for us to absorb the theories.”</p> <p>"Dr. Moser used many different digital tools to aid in classroom learning, the most impactful of which was his engagement on Piazza forums. I've never seen a professor who's been as actively engaged outside the classroom in discussions as he has been. He clearly cares about the students and what he's teaching."</p> <p>The annual MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Awards highlight the strides faculty are taking to actively engage students and facilitate communication by bringing digital technologies to bear on traditional classroom instruction. Awards winners were quick to point out that although students tended to nominate lead faculty, there are many postdocs and educators who deserve recognition for the critical roles they played in bringing these digital innovations to fruition.</p> <p>Faculty should visit <a href=";utm_medium=news_story_link&amp;utm_content=odl_digital_tech_awards&amp;utm_campaign=odl_digital_tech_awards">Residential <em>MITx</em></a> for more information on incorporating digital tools and pedagogies into their classrooms. Based on <a href="">open edX</a>, Residential <em>MITx</em> is an online learning system that provides the ability to author and distribute videos, text, assessments, interactive elements, and sophisticated automatic grading.</p> <p>Individuals can <a href=";utm_medium=news_story_link&amp;utm_content=odl_digital_tech_awards&amp;utm_campaign=odl_digital_tech_awards">request a Residential <em>MITx</em> course site</a> and explore <a href=";utm_medium=news_story_link&amp;utm_content=odl_digital_tech_awards&amp;utm_campaign=odl_digital_tech_awards">digital tools for the classroom</a> on the ODL website.</p> Tracy Robyn Slatyer, the Jerrold R. Zacharias CD Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics, receives her award from Dennis Freeman, dean for undergraduate education.Photo: Office of Digital LearningAwards, honors and fellowships, Office of Digital Learning, online learning, Faculty, Education, teaching, academics, Physics, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Music, System Design and Management, School of Science, SHASS, School of Engineering, MITx, STEM education