FAST Thinking

What would happen if you crossed music and neurobiology?
If you could listen in on how the brain hears music? If you removed the borders between art and science so that the interaction changed both forever?

A 12-hour boundary-busting event that demonstrated the outcome of pioneering research on music and language, vision and neuroscience, FAST Thinking offered conversations with the pioneers working in these frontiers and gave the audience a rare opportunity to witness—and participate in—revolutionary advances in art and science.

Read the full Press Release (Feb 24, 2011)

Program from March 5, 2011

These events were free and open to the MIT community and the general public, with a live webcast at 11 AM.

11 AM–1 PM Kresge Little Theater
Pawan Sinha | Insights from New Sight
MIT Professor Pawan Sinha’s groundbreaking work on how the brain extracts meaning from sights and sounds has enabled him and his team both to restore sight to children born blind and “listen in” on how the brain hears music. Sinha talked about this work and demonstrated his “Brain Jukebox,” a tool that reconstructs sound sequences from the mental patterns of listeners and plays it back to the audience. The Brain Jukebox will change the way you hear a piece of music.

Watch Pawan Sinha discuss his work in vision and brain plasticity as well as his brand new Brain Jukebox initiative, described in this new video: http://tinyurl.com/PawanSinha

2–4 PM Kresge Little Theater
Peter Child | Musical Patois: Reflections of Language in Music
A composer, a neurobiologist, a pianist, and a computer scientist walk into a lecture hall… You’ll find out what happens next in real time at this discussion/interactive performance exploring the roots and relationships of rhythm and melody in music and language. MIT professor and award-winning composer Peter Child, Aniruddh Patel of the Neuroscience Institute, USC engineering professor and pianist Elaine Chew, and computer science researcher Alexandre François of USC revealed how French and English music are tied to a composer’s native language. They demonstrate their findings with a fascinating variety of human- and computer-generated compositions.

4:30–5:30 PM Kresge Little Theater
Fred Lerdahl | The Sounds of Poetry Viewed as Music
Fred Lerdahl, composer, theorist, and Columbia University professor, lead a discussion about the evolution of speech from song and played a recording of his new composition, The First Voices, for eight percussionists and three singers. Based on a text by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, this brilliant piece is an homage to Lerdahl’s experience as a child listening to West African drumming and to Rousseau’s statement that “to speak and to sing were formerly one.”

7:00–7:45 Kresge Auditorium
Peter Child, John Harbison, Fred Lerdahl, Tod Machover
Preconcert discussion on music and language.

8:00 PM Kresge Auditorium
The Lontano Ensemble | The Language of Music Concert
London’s renowned Lontano Ensemble, in residence at MIT in the spring of 2011, has had a profound and enduring impact on the contemporary classical music scene since its creation in 1976. The ensemble commissions, performs, and records with the goal of broadening the exposure of people to the works of these outstanding living composers. During FAST Thinking, Lontano performed works by some of the most influential, inventive, and radical names in contemporary music.

The program included:

Fred Lerdahl, Imbrications
Charles Shadle, Limestone Gap (world premiere)
John Harbison, The Natural World
Keeril Makan, Mercury Songbirds
Elena Ruehr, Two Preludes
Evan Ziporyn, Speak, At-man
Peter Child, Songs of Bidpai


Peter Child
website

Peter Child, Composer and MIT Professor of Music
Moderator of the FAST Thinking Forum "Musical Patois: Reflections of Language in Music"
Composer for Language of Music Concert
March 5, 2011

Peter Child is Professor of Music at MIT and Composer-In-Residence with the New England Philharmonic. An award-winning composer, whose work has been described by reviewers as “feisty”, “highly colored”, “ingenious” and “vaultingly imaginative”, Child has written music in many genres, including music for orchestra, chorus, computer synthesis, voice and chamber ensembles. His work is performed around the world, and was prominently featured in the Lontano Festival of American Music in London in 2006 and 2008 as well as performed by Germany's United Bernin, Ensemble Lontano, UK's BBC Singers, Italy's Interensemble, Austalia's Speak Percussion, the National Symphony Orchestras of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and various U.S.-based ensembles. A new Child work will be premiered at the March 5 concert by London’s famed Lontano Ensemble, as part of the FAST THINKING weekend.


John Harbison
website

John Harbison, Institute Professor of Music
Composer for Language of Music Concert
March 5, 2011

Composer John Harbison is Institute Professor at MIT, the highest academic distinction offered resident faculty. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the MacArthur Foundation's "genius" award and the Pulitzer Prize, and has composed music for most of America's premiere musical institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His works include four string quartets, five symphonies, a ballet, three operas, a cantata, and numerous chamber and choral works, more than 60 of which have been recorded on leading labels such as Harmonia Mundi, New World, Deutsche Grammophon, Albany, Centaur, Decca, and Koch. Harbison has been composer-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Academy in Rome, and numerous festivals, including Tanglewood, Marlboro, and Aspen. He is Acting Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music (Boston), Co-Artistic Director of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, and President of the Copland Fund.


Fred Lerdahl
website

Fred Lerdahl, Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University
Discussion Leader, The Sounds of Poetry Viewed as Music
Composer for Language of Music Concert
March 5, 2011

Composer Fred Lerdahl is Fritz Reiner Professor of Music at Columbia University. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has twice been finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music. Among his other honors are the Koussevitzky Composition Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Classical Recording Foundation’s Composer of the Year Award. Commissions have come from numerous organizations, including the Spoleto Festival, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Library of Congress among others. His compositions have been performed by orchestras and chamber groups in this country and abroad, including Lontano, the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and the Juilliard Quartet, and others. He has been in residence at the Marlboro Music Festival, IRCAM, the Wellesley Composers Conference, the American Academy in Rome, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Lerdahl is also prominent as a music theorist. He has written two books, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music (with linguist Ray Jackendoff) and Tonal Pitch Space, both of which model musical listening from the perspective of cognitive science.


Keeril Makan
website

Keeril Makan, Associate Professor of Music
Composer for Language of Music Concert
March 5, 2011
Composer of Washed by Fire concert at the Institute for Contemporary Art
March 17, 2011

Keeril Makan, Associate Professor of Music at MIT, creates hard-driving, visceral music that is blended with a quiet beauty – offering listeners around the world what Newsday calls “a fascinating wedding of intellect and expressivity.” His musical influences include American folk music, the European avant-garde, Indian classical music, and minimalism. The resulting synthesis is what the Other Minds Music Festival called “music that, in its sheer intensity, thwarts assumptions of what is beautiful.” Recipient of the 2008 Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, among numerous other awards, his work has been commissioned by such groups as the Bang On a Can All-Stars, the Kronos Quartet, the American Composers Orchestra, the Paul Dresher Electroacoustic Band, and Carnegie Hall.


Elena Ruehr
website

Elena Ruehr
Composer for Language of Music Concert
March 5, 2011

Composer Elena Ruehr is Lecturer in Music at MIT. Her music has been called "unspeakably gorgeous" (Gramophone Magazine) "stunning" (Washington Examiner) "a rare gift" (The Boston Globe) "magical" (Audiophile Audition) and "elegant, top-shelf listening" (Classical Voice of New England). Available recordings of Dr. Ruehr's music include How She Danced: String Quartets of Elena Ruehr (Cypress String Quartet), Toussaint Before the Spirits (Arsis), Jane Wang considers the Dragonfly (Albany), and Shimmer (Albany). She was composer-in-residence with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project from 2000-2005, which premiered her pieces Shimmer, Sky Above Clouds and Ladder to the Moon, as well as her acclaimed opera Toussaint Before the Spirits. Advocates for her music include the Cypress String Quartet, the Borromeo String Quartet, the Shanghai String Quartet, and baritone Stephen Salters. She has collaborated with poets and novelists Elizabeth Alexander, Louise Gluck, Laura Harrington, Madison Smart Bell, and Elizabeth Spires. In 2008 she was a fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute, where she wrote her cantata based on Louise Gluck's Averno, which will be premiered by the Washington Chorus on April 3, 2011.


Charles Shadle
website

Charles Shadle
Composer for Language of Music Concert
March 5, 2011

Composer Charles Shadle is Senior Lecturer in Music at MIT, where he teaches composition, music theory and music history. Numerous institutions, including SUNY Buffalo, Longwood Opera, The Lake George Opera Festival, The Handel and Haydn Society, The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, The Newton Choral Society, and the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, have commissioned his work. For the National Film Preservation Foundation he has composed four film scores, all of which are available on DVD. A career-long focus on vocal music has resulted in commissions from such distinguished singers as Carlos Archuleta, Fernando Del Valle, Gale Fuller, Jason McStoots, Margaret O'Keefe, Stephen Salters and Fredrick Urrey. Dr. Shadle collaborated with MIT colleague and librettist Michael Ouellette on two operas, Coyote's Dinner and A Question of Love, as well as the cantata A New England Seasonal. Having previously served as Composer in Residence to the Ecclesia Consort in 2000, he held the same position with Intermezzo in 2007-08 during which time he composed the critically acclaimed opera A Last Goodbye for that company. Shadle is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.


Pawan Sinha
website

Pawan Sinha, Associate Professor of Vision and Computational Neuroscience
Moderator of the FAST Thinking Panel Discussion "Insights from New Sight"
March 5, 2011

Pawan Sinha is Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, where he is director of the Laboratory for Vision Research, which explores how the brain recognizes objects, scenes and sequences. Much of his ground-breaking work in brain plasticity and visual perception involves Project Prakash, a program he launched in India in 2003 to treat chlldhood blindness and in so doing, illuminate some of the most fundamental scientific questions about how the brain develops and learns to see. He also explores the relation between neuroscience and artistic expression. During FAST Thinking, he will demonstrate a ‘brain jukebox’ that reconstructs musical compositions from the mental patterns of listeners.


Evan Ziporyn
website

Evan Ziporyn, Professor of Music and Theater Arts
Composer for Language of Music Concert
March 5, 2011
Curator of the FAST Future New Music Marathon
April 15, 2011

Evan Ziporyn, award-winning composer and clarinetist, is Professor of Music at MIT. His compositions and performances have been described as a crossroads between genre and culture, high and low, east and west. From concert halls to Balinese temples, from loft spaces to international festivals, he has traveled the globe in search of new musical possibilities. He performed at the first Bang On a Can Marathon in New York City in 1987, and went on to co-found the Bang on a Can All-Stars, with whom he has toured the globe and performed over 100 commissioned works. He is also founder and artistic director of Boston's Gamelan Galak Tika, based at MIT, a group dedicated to new music for Balinese gamelan, which he has studied for almost 30 years. His most recent opera, A House in Bali, is a spectacular multi-media performance including the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Balinese gamelan, shadow puppets and dancers. Premiered in Bali, it has been performed in New York and Boston under the theatrical direction of his MIT colleague Jay Scheib.

fast-thinking310
FAST Thinking
March 5, 2011

Join the FAST Festival for a multilayered exploration of the interplay between artistic expression – aural, visual, and linguistic – and neuroscience. …

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Language of Music Concert by the Lontano Ensemble
March 5, 2011

The Lontano Ensemble (from London) in Residence at MIT, will present a concert of music by MIT Faculty Composers. including Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer John Harbison and Bang on the Can All Star Evan Ziporyn, and a specially written world premiere by Charles Shadle.