Friday, March 20, 2015

3-D tour through brain space for Brain Awareness Week

I talked to curious students about the Brain at BiobBase yesterday and took a really amazing tour through a 3-D brain in a, really.  Check out my Brain Awareness Week blog by clicking here and scrolling down.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Improvisation in the Sciences - improvisations on a panel discussion for Brain Awareness Week 2015)

This originally appeared here but I now post it below.

When I heard that the opening event of Brain Awareness Week this year was on the theme of improvisation and involved arts and science, I knew that I wanted to be the one to report on it.  I decided to do this blog as an improvisation; that is what follows.

Improvisation 1

I am riding the subway on my way to Improvisation in the Sciences at Columbia. It’s the first event of Brain Awareness Week and involves musicians and scientists. Given the theme, and since I am both an artist and neuroscientist, I decided to improvise this blog, a little experiment. I’m feeling a bit nervous, like I’m performing myself. Before I left my apartment, I sat down to play a sonata on the piano, I thought it would get me in the mood but I was interrupted by a phone call letting me know that the subways were delayed. I ran out of the house. Having stopped the sonata in the middle, the strains are repeating unresolved in my mind’s ear. I am anticipating music on the program, but it probably won’t be this kind of music.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Whimsy in the face of chaos as Russian history repeats itself (Books & Opera - The Spectre of Alexander Wolf by Gaito Gazdanov, There Once Lived a Mother.... by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk by Dmitri Shotakovch)

Today, as more than 50,000 Russians march to honor Boris Y. Nemtsov, the Putin critic who was assassinated a few days ago, it seems timely to consider some of the art made in the context of Soviet and Russian regimes, which may be different for the name they give their ruler but seem alike in their repression of opposing views.  While Putin is stripping off his shirt and getting into bed with the oligarchs, politically repressing homosexuals, and annexing Crimea as the Empress Catherine the Great did before him, I read The Spectre of Alexander Wolf, written by Gaito Gazdanov, a Russian living in Paris in the late 1940s, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's There Once Live a Mother Who Loved her Children, Until They Moved Back In, three novellas about Soviet Life written between 1988 and 2002, and I saw the 1934 Shotakovich opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Metropolitan Opera.

These three works plumb life's extremities, attempting the creation of some kind of meaning in the face of the suffering endured by the artist.  So we can thank repressive regimes for that literary construct we call the Russian soul.  Each of these works express deep longing for something better.