Friday, April 23, 2010

i'm no scientist

The thesis of my article in this month's Choral Journal burned a hole in my brain for three years before I started writing.

In summer of 2006, I was at the gym, on the elliptical machine, reading O Magazine.  There was a story about mirror neurons, which I had never heard of before.  I read the article and thought, "I am sure that that is how conducting works."

Jump to fall 2008: I'm in my first semester of doctoral coursework at UConn, and I discover that there is a professor in the communications department, Ross Buck, who writes and talks about empathy and mirror neurons.  I read his stuff, I click through his Powerpoint presentation and think, "this man has already said everything I want to say, he just hasn't used the word conductor yet!"  So I contacted him, spoke with students in his department.  And I started reading.

I'm no scientist.  When I talk about multiple intelligences, I'll be more specific about this, but I felt like a stereotypical flaky musician when I was reading the journal articles about brain studies and social science experiments.  I figured the audience I would be writing for (of course I knew I had to write it up) would be an audience full of people just like me, so I just needed to learn that science language and write a translation into conductorese.  I read a lot, and I checked in with science types to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding as I went along, and I came up with the thesis of "Thoughtful Gesture" (in this month's Choral Journal--go get your copy!  Read!  Or just get it online, but the magazine's so shiny and nice...).

May of 2009, I started writing.

I'm no scientist, but I try to be careful.  The vocabulary of communications science has become a second language for me.  I'm not fluent, but I can get by.  If any native speakers happen to swing by here, I welcome clarification and insight.  

This article demonstrates connections between emotions, music, and science in exactly the way I think we ought to be looking at these things.  They are inseparable, just as body is inseparable from mind.  The way we work, who we are, these are the things that art and science must work together to tell us. 

When I presented the paper to Dr. Buck and some members of the Emotion Interest Group on campus, they brought up even more ramifications of this work, and I hope to ponder many of them here, more than I could in the article.  

1 comment:

  1. Hi Amelia,
    If you haven't come across it already, you'll probably be interested to have a look at my book, Choral Conducting and the Construction of Meaning: Gesture, Voice, Identity (Ashgate, 2009). It explores a lot themes that you also seem to be interested in.

    Details here:

    all best,