Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, October 9, 2014
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Imagine not being told to turn off your cell phone at the opera.
Think of audience interactions with special apps providing bursts of
synchronized color on the screens of hand held devices. And imagine
special balcony seating where technologically inclined opera buffs can
live-tweet their experience.
is an engineer and music scholar who believes technological innovation
and artistic innovation are naturally linked and he is finding new ways
to bring opera into the twenty-first century.
Kim has taken a sabbatical from his post as director of Drexel University's ExCITe Center to collaborate with Opera Philadelphia in exploring how emerging technology can be woven into all phases of operatic production. As he explained to Maiken Scott at Newsworks.org,
"Music and technology have always been a part of my life. I just
couldn't decide which one I loved more, so I've continued to do both."
Kim double majored in engineering and music and also has a degree in
vocal performance practice. The ExCITe team developed LiveNote, an award-winning app for hand held devices that guides opera goers through the musical, artistic and historical elements of what's happening in some Opera Philadelphia performances.
People habitually carry so much tech around with them, Kim observed,
that it's "a little bit anachronistic" to keep asking that devices be
turned off. When Opera Philadelphia presented a free outdoor performance
of "Barber of Seville"
projected onto massive screens at Independence Mall, the audience of
6,000 got a new technological treat. Kim and his team designed a web app
that changed the color of every audience member's smart phone screen on
cue and in unison.
Kim notes operas over the centuries advanced innovations such as
pyrotechnics, trap doors, and imaginative lighting effects, so
technology, opera and audience interaction are a natural fit. Before
conventional darkened theaters existed, operatic audiences
were part of the pageantry. Kim thinks traditional nineteenth century
staging can make an opera seem remote today. We read "Hamlet" and
"Macbeth" because some human conditions are timeless, he said, and he
wants to find ways to recreate that timeless emotional connection
between opera and modern audiences. He believes technology will enrich
At Opera Philadelphia's performance of "Ainadamar," the balcony had a social media section for bloggers and Twitter enthusiasts.
Earlier this year Opera Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute participated in a global experiment
as a live performance of the robot opera "Death and the Powers
" was simulcast
from The Dallas Opera to more than ten locations in Europe and the U.S. The opera, by American composer and inventor Tod Machover
of the MIT Media Lab, tells the story of Simon Powers, a dying
billionaire who can't bear losing his family. He decides to upload his
emotions, thoughts and personality into "the system," from whence those
elements of him become absorbed into household objects that interact
with loved ones after his death. Audiences at the simulcasts received
secondary audio, video and multimedia through a specially developed app
downloaded to their handheld devices. Audiences could experience the opera
from the viewpoint of "the system," or a robot, and in addition had the
opportunity to influence visual aspects of the performance. Read a
, a discussion here
and learn about the technology here
Posted By Susan Doherty,
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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In 2013, Plexus Institute received a $2.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a three year project in California’s Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) to discover, develop and promote methods that help K-12 educators continually improve so that their students achieve better outcomes. On September 17, 2014, Plexus Institute President, Jeff Cohn, joined a Healthcare PlexusCall to discuss Leading Change in a Complex World.
In the following audio clips Jeff describes one of the best stories to come out of the project so far and provides some background on the project and the model Plexus Institute is deploying in LBUSD. A transcript follows each clip.
The Best Story
Jeff: The best story that has come out of the work so far involves a music teacher. He is literally a department of one for the entire school so he has no peers from a subject matter standpoint to collaborate with. This team gave him an opportunity to interact that he was lacking so he loved that. The team landed on focusing on a particular aspect of this new common core curriculum that I don’t want to spend our time on but it’s a big focus of trying to help "transform public school education.” And one of the domains pertains to students use of academic vocabulary. Words that help their teachers and parents and peers recognize that they actually know what they’re’ talking about and have come to their conclusions in a thoughtful and meaningful way. This music teacher felt that this wasn’t particularly relevant to him, but the rest of the project and the opportunity to collaborate was so enticing that he would stay a part of the team as his teammates figured out ways to help their students learn how to use these vocabulary words productively.
Jeff: Then we’re moving into April. His big looming task is helping the band and orchestra prepare for the Spring concert and he’s still trying to figure out a way to integrate this academic vocabulary, push himself outside of his comfort zone, and he lands on an idea helped by some ideas that he had heard his peers on the improvement team come up with. So, one night he gives as an assignment listening to a recording of a recent rehearsal for the band and he also sends the kids home with a copy of his conductor’s score and asks them to write a short critique of what they hear. He also gives them a list of 10 academic vocabulary words and they’re assigned to use at least one of them in their critique. So the next day he got these extremely thoughtful perspectives from the kids on what they heard where they did find ways to integrate these words. And, maybe to his surprise, but also gratification, they incorporated their critique into how they did their remaining practices together and ultimately led to by far the best Spring concert that he’s ever been a part of. I think this, for all, was a great example of the sort of bottom-up emergent kind of learning that this sort of environment can foster.
Joelle: I know that Plexus has an on-going grant project in the field of education. Who is involved with that, Jeff, and what are you learning?
Jeff: This has been a really exciting project to be a part of. Through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation we’ve been working initially in two middle schools in inner city Long Beach, California. I know I had this vision of Long Beach as this vibrant coastal community, which I guess in some neighborhoods it is, but in the two schools where we’re working it’s a very underserved group of kids. 95% of the kids on subsidized meal plans and over half English second language. The goal of the project is to help teachers learn or re-learn how to continually improve. There’s data that was not collected by the Gates folks but which they’ve held up to the schools and to us that shows that most teachers after the first few years of their career plateau in terms of their effectiveness and plateau at a level that produces student outcomes less than what we would hope.
Jeff: So, how can, instead of the usual approaches in education of external experts coming in and telling schools what they should be doing differently, how might they be able to discover the improvement practices that exist within their own schools but which are hiding in plain sight of which they’re not aware. We’ve been working with teams of volunteer teachers that have been meeting before and after school with regularity. These are a diverse group teachers who initially kind of stayed isolated from each other, did not communicate across subject matter and/or grade barriers, but over the course of the first couple of months as they met and as we used Liberating Structures to design the time in which they were interacting and starting to engage in this challenge we noticed the pattern of interacting changing. Now you hear things like a math teacher asking an english teacher and a phys-ed teacher for help on a certain issue that is a challenge to him.
Joelle: What model are you using to shape this work?
Jeff: The [Bill & Melinda] Gates Foundation had come to us asking us for a proposal based on our previous Positive Deviance work. As we described our approach to Positive Deviance in a complex organizational setting they said, we hear you talking about PD, but we hear your talking about leadership, which we think is important in schools, and Liberating Structures, which we don’t know what they are but you seem to think they’re important, and something about networks and something about complexity, so it sounds to us like Positive Deviance plus plus. And, we wound up thoughtfully hearing what they were describing us saying and saying, yeah, actually our model of doing Positive Deviance work does include all those domains. This image that’s on the screenshare of the complexity lens and adaptive positive deviance at the center, that’s what we’re calling the whole Adaptive Positive Deviance, which is different than and greater than the sum of those individual components of a focus on leadership and Liberating Structures use and the complexity lens.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, June 19, 2014
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music carries you melodically into dreams and reveries, and some
conveys sadness, joy or a sense of peace. Then there's music that
bounces along with skips and hops and you just have to dance, snap your
fingers or tap your feet. Certain kinds of rhythm induce an almost
irresistible urge to move.
A few years ago, Maria Witek,
a neuroscientist at Aarhus University in Denmark, who studies emotion
and loves music, created an online survey to try and figure out what
music impels people to start swaying and dancing. She pursued the
subject and described her findings to Michaeleen Doucleff in an NPR interview.
Pharrell Williams' song "Happy," which was just chosen as the new advertising theme song for the New Jersey Lottery, and The Meters "Hand Clapping Song" are examples of what her research shows. So is Chuck Berry's"Rock and Roll Music," especially the version he performs with Tina Turner. Try and sit still when you hear these!
says when the rhythmic structure has gaps, or spaces in the underlying
beat of the music, we are provided with "an opportunity to physically
inhabit those gaps and fill those gaps with our own bodies." In a recent paper,
she suggests that has to do with the way we hear music and the way the
brain processes it by anticipating its structural patterns. In her
survey, Witek asked respondents to listen to drumming pieces that ranged
from simple rhythms with regular beats to very complex patterns with
many gaps where beats might have been expected. She found people all
over the world agreed on which patterns made them want to dance. They
were the ones in between the very simple and the highly complex. People
wanted to physically engage with the rhythm when there was enough
regularity to perceive the beat and enough complexity to make it
interesting without being totally unpredictable. They danced to the
music that was layered with predictable beats and syncopated ones, she
said. The layering can be provided by numerous musical combinations of
claps, drums, other instruments, voice, and lyrics.
In a New York Times essay on rhythm, Nicholas Wade
says Darwin thought that before our human ancestors developed speech,
they discovered that musical notes and rhythm could charm potential
mates. He says Darwin thought that music's origins in courtship explain
why it can arouse strong passions. Wade notes that in his 1997 book How the Mind Works, Harvard scholar Steven Pinker
called music "auditory cheesecake"-a happy accident we enjoy though it
has no survival value. But Darwin theorized, according to Wade, that
anything that enhanced courtship promoted survival by helping to
perpetuate parental genes in a new generation. Read Wade's essay here. Thanks to Bruce Waltuck for the NPR story.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, April 3, 2014
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What is happening in that mysterious space between people who discover they have fine interpersonal chemistry?
Suzanne Dikker, a cognitive neuroscientist at New York University,
hopes dancing holds clues. She is using dance to investigate human
brainwave synchronization and learn how it can happen. "NeuroTango" was hosted recently by the Greater New York City Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience as part of its Brain Awareness Week. It was also an opportunity for Dikker to get pairs of tango dancers to wear EEG headsets to measure their brain waves as they danced and thought about dancing. A Scientist.com story by Eli Chen describes Dikker's experiment.
who were experienced dancing partners danced to music as they usually
would. They then switched partners, so they were dancing with a new
partner or someone less familiar. Next, they stood still with their
original partners and imagined dancing. Dikker projected graphics onto
the walls, showing when dancers' brains were in sync, and not. Other
studies have shown that experienced dancers coordinate their movement
differently from novices, and that both dancing and mentally rehearsing
the dance stimulate similar brain activity.
Dikker said she is using the tango
because the dancers perform fast, intricate movements that require
exceptional coordination and the need to anticipate each other's every
step, sway and twirl. In addition, leaders and followers have different
mental tasks. She also hopes to learn whether the EEG can reliably
measure brain activities of people who are moving. The Scientist story
says Dikker had worked with Marina Abramovic on "Measuring the Magic of Mutual Gaze,"
at the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow in 2011. In
that event, designed to examine empathy and nonverbal communication,
Amramovic and volunteers sitting opposite her gazed into each other's
eyes while EEG headsets captured their brain activities. In that case,
the subjects were stationary.
Lawrence Parsons, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Sheffield, did a neuroimaging study of dancers in 2008. An article he co-authored for the Scientific American says coordinated dancing may not occur anywhere in the animal kingdom except among humans. "Our
talent for unconscious entrainment lies at the core of dance, a
confluence of movement, rhythm and gestural representation," the article
says. "By far the most synchronized group practice, dance demands a
type of interpersonal coordination in space and time that is almost
nonexistent in other social contexts."
Lewis Hou, a research associate at the University of Edinburgh, is studying what happens in the brains of Scottish folk dancers
as they perform. He praises NeuroTango as excellent science
communication and a good way to engage the public in neuroscience. Hou
will be participating in a science festival this April in Edinburgh where the dance performances will be partnered with scientific explorations.
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
From "Among School Children" by William Butler Yeats
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, October 31, 2013
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leaders can learn valuable lessons from the exuberant four day Carnival
celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo and other big Brazilian
cities, according to a scholar who has studied how people in samba schools prepare the elaborate floats and present imaginative themes and fabulous performances in music and dance.
Carnival, with its festivals, costumes and parades
coming just before Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter, has been
celebrated in Brazil for centuries. Samba schools, which compete for
prestigious rankings of their Carnival entries, aren't teaching
institutions as the name might imply. The Rio Service Carnival Travel and Tourism website
explains that samba schools are more like social clubs, community
organizations, and sometimes political groups, that also spend months of
every year preparing for Carnival. They got started in the 1920s, the
website says, among people from the Bahia state in eastern Brazil who
came to the cities bringing the music and dance of their Candomble
religion. Today's samba schools are big, complex organizations, and Alfredo Behrens
, a professor of Global Leadership at Faculdade FIA de Administracao e Negocios
in Sao Paolo, believes big corporations should pay heed to how they operate.
Behrens, whose most recent book is Shooting Heroes and Rewarding Cowards: A Sure Path Towards Organizational Disaster, studied Mocidade Alegre,
a samba school that won first place in the Sao Paolo parade in 2012 and
2013. He interviewed people throughout the organization, including
dancers, who have no managerial authority, members of a
250-man percussion orchestra known as a bateria, many directors and the school's president. He writes about his findings in his Harvard Business Review blog. He explains that referees judge the samba schools wins and rankings based on 10 criteria similar to key performance indicators (KPIs) used in the corporate world.
many samba school participants hold corporate day jobs, they put in long
unpaid hours for Carnival preparation. Behrens says Mocidade
members feel like family. He quotes Daniel Sena, the schools' director
general of harmony, as saying winning is important, but the core of the
school business is treating people nicely. "That's what makes people
come back for the renewed challenges even after losing a parade," he
told Behrens. Sena, who works in finance, thinks niceness is undervalued
in the business world. A corporate mediator and samba coordinator told
Berhens she'd seen "corporations discarding people as if they were
garbage when they are past their prime" while samba schools "recycle"
and respect their "oldies." Behrens says Mocidade is a closely-knit
community with strong focus and great teamwork. It has more than 30
directors, who have considerable autonomy in their own projects. The
president is a woman, newcomers are welcome, and the organization
doesn't rely on conventional discriminatory ethnic and social
hierarchies. Behrens thinks businesses in Brazil and elsewhere can be
more successful if they learn how to build community and practice in
ways that make people want to engage and work together. Read Behrens blog here
. And see some fabulous photos in the Daily Mail
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, May 16, 2013
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Manuel Chavez draws deep sweet sounds from a cello made from a battered
empty oil can, a meat tenderizing tool and another gadget meant for
making gnocchi. Aida Maribel Rios Bardados plays a violin ingeniously
crafted from scraps of trash.
Manuel and Aida Maribel play in the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra in
Cateura, Paraguay, a deeply impoverished slum outside of Asuncion. About
20 youngsters, aged 11 to 19, play beautiful Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi,
some contemporary Latin music and orchestral versions of Beatles songs
on instruments made almost entirely with materials scavenged from the
sprawling landfill where the people of Cateura live with the 1,500 tons of solid waste dumped every day. A Mother Jones article by Zaineb Mohammed tells the story. Watch an amazing Youtube video. See photos on Facebook.
The project was ignited when a local musician, Favio Chavez,
brought a youth orchestra from a neighboring town to Cateura, hoping to
distract kids from gangs and drugs. The young listeners were
enthusiastic, but there was no money for instruments. "A community like
Cateura is not a place to have a violin,” Chavez says in film clips about the orchestra. "In fact, a violin is worth more than a house here.”
Gomez earns his living picking through garbage and he has a genius for
building things. He and Chavez began experimenting with instruments that
might be constructed through the exquisite recombination of bits and
pieces discovered sifting through mountains of refuse. All kinds of
discarded objects were transformed into wind and stringed instruments.
Tin water pipes modified with buttons and bottle caps for keys and spoon
and fork handles became saxophones. A water pipe with coins for keys
became a flute. Percussion instruments were built for a hearing impaired
child, who turned out to be a talented drummer. With Chavez directing,
the young musicians flourished.
an Asuncion native and film maker, learned about the orchestra four
years ago and decided to produce a documentary. She and colleagues aim
for a release in 2014.
Visit their Kickstarter page
for more on the Landfill Harmonic. Nash launched the page in April
asking $175,000 to fund the movie, and almost $200,000 has been raised.
Extra funds will help finance a world tour for the young musicians. The
orchestra has already performed in Brazil and Colombia, and has been
invited to Europe, Japan, India and the US.
The musicians and their music have a message. Rodolfo Madero
, the film’s executive producer, told Mother Jones
he envisions a Landfill Harmonic Movement
with projects that can be replicated elsewhere-he says health and
environmental groups in Mexico, Kenya and Haiti are interested. Because
the landfill lies along the Paraguay River, its pollution is threatening
a national water source. "What these kids are showing us is that you
shouldn’t throw away your things-or people...” Madero told the magazine.
He says these young musicians are living proof that that not everything
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, December 6, 2012
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Tod Machover, musician, inventor and composer, has invited the 2.6 million residents of Toronto to join him in a mass musical collaboration.
When The Toronto Symphony asked him to curate an upcoming festival, Machover, an educator at the MIT Media Lab, saw opportunities to bring more music into people's lives, to experiment with musical technologies, many of his own design, and to foster dialogue among creators and consumers of music. In his invitation to the citizens of Toronto, he wrote:
"I'm inviting you to collaborate with me to compose a new symphony, which will be premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (in
March 2013) ...Some of the music will be by you, some by me, and some
by us together. My hope is that we will create something neither you nor
I could have done without each other, and that will be surprising,
stimulating, and beautiful, a musical portrait about-and by-Toronto."
In a story in the Toronto Standard
by Michael Kolberg, Machover said Toronto's inclusive diversity and
sense of openness and aspiration makes it an ideal place for a mass
musical experiment. He also calls the city an extraordinary blend of complexity and order.
first invited residents to listen to the city-and record or describe
sounds that seemed typically Toronto. He arranged for people to
accompany him on a listening tour. He compiled a library of vast numbers
of sounds and created a sound collage. He recorded people saying things
about Toronto in different languages. In a story in The Guardian, he told writer Patrick Kingsley "We want to go beyond crowd-sourcing to a rich new level of creative exchange."
In an interview with Amanda Hirsch,
in the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism's Collaboration Central, he
explained that while crowd-sourcing is a one-way request for something
specific, "collaboration is something that goes back and forth and turns
into something truly open." The beauty and challenge of
collaboration, he told Hirsch, "Is how to coordinate one's own passion
and vision with the ability to involve others, " creating a balance of
individual and collective invention and creativity. Young musicians were
asked to think of instruments that would best represent sounds-of
ocean, for instance. Bands contributed signature bursts of sound. Many
used Hyperscore, a technological tool that lets anyone, with or without musical training, use visuals on a computer screen to compose music.
On December 6, Machover issued a new invitation. Listen to him explain how MediaScores,
designed by the MIT lab team just for this project, will allow
collaborators to work on Toronto Dances, the finale piece of the
composition. With Media Scores, creators can design their own musical
narratives using line and color to choose differing tone, tempo and
accompaniment. Machover acknowledges challenges in taking such a project
to scale, but as he told the Standard, "If it works out right,
everybody who contributed something will say, 'Oh, it's my piece.'"
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Monday, September 17, 2007
Updated: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
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"Man you don’t have to play a whole lot of notes. You just have to play the pretty notes”.
Trumpeter Miles Davis
Paul Haidet, a physician, former disc jockey and amateur jazz historian who has studied doctor-patient communication, marvels at the parallels between jazz and medicine. Gary Onady, a physician and jazz trumpeter who composes and arranges music, uses musical metaphor to describe patient-clinician interactions.
In his article Jazz and the ‘Art’ of Medicine: Improvisation in the Medical Encounter, Dr. Haidet writes that good communication results in fewer medical errors and a variety of good social, psychological, and biological outcomes. Further, he suggests jazz improvisation is a guide to the kinds of moment-to-moment decisions a doctor must make—what to say next, how to structure a question, when to let the patient keep talking, when to move on—that bring about high quality communication. Dr. Haidet’s story is instructive because he cites the artists and musical selections with the sounds that open new ways of examining the subtle, contextual and subjective experiences that are woven together when people try to share knowledge and meaning.
Dr. Onady, who has an academic career in medicine and pediatrics, is a member of the Eddie Brookshire Quintet, which just released the CD Base Notes: The Heart Beat of Jazz. He has developed a workshop that includes an introductory lecture on Jazz Improvisation and Physician-Patient Communication. He uses the "minimal structure theory” of jazz along with jazz improvisational tools for solving patient problems in a turbulent medical environment.
Consider what Dr. Haidet calls the communicative act of creating space. "I have found the act of providing communicative space to the patient to be one of the one of the most powerful yet underused skills by physicians,” he writes. We have a cultural inclination to be uncomfortable with silence and pauses, he observes, so the ability to create space in our encounters takes discipline and practice. Dr. Haidet, an internist at the Michael DeBakey VA Medical Center who also teaches at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, says when he is with a patient, he often thinks of how Miles Davis used his intuitive sense of space and time in his music. Davis was also exquisitely attuned to his surroundings. "We play what the day recommends,” he once remarked.
"He conserves notes, plays at a relaxed pace, plays on the ‘back end’ of the beat, and drops musical hints that allow listeners to use their imaginations to fill in the phrases,” Dr. Haidet writes of Davis. The result, he continues, is that the listener hears not only the solo, but what the rest of the band is playing. If you listen to a piece like his All Blues, you will see what he means.
Dr. Onady, in a written response to Dr. Haidet’s article, recalls using the concept of musical space in his own medical practice to help evaluate a patient who had received several conflicting diagnoses. "Giving the patient space to provide her own descriptive phrases, accented by arm and hand gestures much as a conductor uses to conduct an orchestra, the cause of her illness became obvious…”he wrote.
Like jazz musicians, Dr. Haidet writes, doctors need to develop their own improvisational voice. He notes the evolution of saxophonist John Coltrane’s"sheets of sound”, the high speed arpeggios so wide ranging and densely packed that the notes run together. In similar fashion, physicians need to master the basics of patient-centered interviewing to develop a personal style that honors their own humanity as well as that of their patients. It’s the kind of skill, he says, that enables the physician to "show up” in encounters where bad news is delivered. For the kind of respect and sharing that is critical for physician understanding of a patient’s illness perspective and the patient’s understanding of the biomedical processes the illness involves, Dr.Haidet turns to ensemble improvisation. As an example, he suggests Waltz for Debbie, by pianist Bill Evans and bassist Scott LeFaro, an intricate flowing musical conversation. Just as musicians "talk to” each other with their instrumental skill and personal style, cultivating ensemble in medicine means doctors need to go far beyond collecting data when they encounter patients.
Dr. Haidet’s article appeared in the March/April 2007 issue of the Annals of Family Medicine. Click here for the supplemental appendix where you can hear the music Dr. Haidet suggests. The Eddie Brookshire Quintet’s new CD, soon available for purchase on CD Baby, contains song Surrendered Life, written by Eddie Brookshire with Dr. Onady on flugelhorn.