Creativity: When Science Meets Music
Creativity: When Science Meets Music
  • Professor Hyesu Shin/ HASS
  • 승인 2012.12.05 18:37
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Can you imagine a piano recital where no sound-not a single sound-is played? The pianist stares at a clock for 4 minutes and 44 seconds and then leaves the stage. In another concert, a performer slowly raises a violin to the top of his head-and then smashes the instrument to pieces. Are these artists crazy? Or do they have fun making monkeys out of us? And anyway, is it art?
In a sense, artists are crazy. There are many of this kind, especially in the twentieth century. The cases mentioned above actually are thought to be great works of art. In John Cage’s 4’44”, the pianist keeps silence because Cage wants to extend the musical material by including environmental sounds in his composition. Nam June Paik smashed a violin to pieces but not for the sake of a sensation. Like Duchamp’s famous readymade Fountain, Paiks’ provoking performance makes us aware of how we fetishize art.
Artists are also creative, and creative people are often crazy, like Cage or Paik. But they are crazy in a good way. They are not afraid to break rank, to break patterns, to think differently. Creativity is set on fire when different areas clash into each other, as can happen when art and science are brought together.
A good example of creativity sparked by the fusion of art and science is the theremin, one of the first electronic musical instruments. The invention of the synthesizer owes much to the theremin, as Robert Moog, the inventor of the synthesizer, was fascinated by the theremin and began his career by selling theremin kits. The theremin was named after its inventor, the Russian and Soviet physicist Leon Theremin. The invention of this musical instrument happened by chance. Theremin developed a special tool to measure the dielectric resistance of gases, based on heterodyning principles, which can produce controllable pitched sounds in the presence of a human body. The physicist, who also was a well trained cellist, had a flash of inspiration and began to play music on his new tool. Et voil?! A measuring instrument turned into a musical instrument.
In 1855, the Italian inventor Guiseppe Ravizza created a machine called a scribe harpsichord or machine for writing with keys. We call it a typewriter. Ravizza’s machine was not the first typewriter ever invented. However, it was the first machine to use a type-bar system, which was later commonly used in commercially successful instruments. His typewriter was also remarkable because its mechanism was inspired by the piano. That is the reason he called it a “scribe harpsichord”, after a musical instrument with keys.
The development of science and technology and their fruitful merging with art have changed and are changing our perception, our way of thinking, and even our culture and society. Without these changes, who would have come up with the idea of using sound to deal with scientific data? Sonification is a scientific method of data display. Our ears interpret information all the time. Thus, the idea was to use this sense to deal more easily with a large amount of data, instead of or in addition to visualization. The popularity of sonification has been increasing over the last few decades, and it has been applied to a wide variety of data and phenomena, ranging from seismographic data to election results, and from molecular structures to the electrical activity of the brain.
Nowadays, creativity is required in every part of our lives. Much has already been said, researched, and written about creativity. Yet, nobody knows for sure how to become creative or how to teach creativity. Many researchers agree, however, that creativity is sparked when familiar patterns are broken or when the environment is changed. It is difficult to acquire new impulses when everything remains the same all the time. Nonetheless, if the circumstances are not favourable, it is difficult to change one’s environment or to go out for new experiences; but other possibilities exist. Attending courses on music, art, and other subjects provided in the department of Humanities and Social Sciences could be one such possibility. Have you heard, for example, of the course “A Promenade Through the Arts” with lecturers from the Korean National University of Arts, who are among the best artists of our country? Many students seem to think that any courses outside their major merely steal their precious time. They have no idea what they miss, what is really worth attending. And what about learning to play the piano or guitar instead of playing games throughout the night? In a time like ours wherein you have the choice of many applications for computers and smart phones, you can play piano, drum, flute, and other instruments with your mobile phone, and some applications are even for free.
Non pro schola sed pro vita discimus: Not for school but for life we learn, said the Romans. “Life” wants us to be more and more creative. So, step outside your everyday routine! Be a little bit crazy!