Calling All Guitarists!

Bill and science camp kids in front of the big guitar

If you play guitar, like guitar music, or just want a different kind of museum experience, visit the traveling National Guitar Museum exhibit “Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World.” Their subtitle for the show is “The history, the science, and cultural impact of the most popular instrument. Ever.” They are not exaggerating.

The Carnegie Science Centerin Pittsburgh is hosting the exhibit until the end of September and it is spectacular. This past week, my husband Bill played guitar for the kids at science camp at the museum, directly in front of the largest playable guitar in the world. After the concert, we had a chance to explore the exhibit, Bill got to play the “big guitar” and I caught a few of the highlights on camera.

The Interactive Guitar Gallery

Everything is unique; road cases house guitars and support amps that are equipped with video displays of historical performances. All styles are represented, and our friend and guitar luthier Bob Benedetto shipped a copy of his luthier workshop to join the exhibit. Bill took the opportunity to climb into the exhibit and don Bob’s work apron, much to the amusement of Bob and his wife Cindy. You can see a few of the shots on their Benedetto Guitars website.

The exciting thing about the exhibit is its marriage of science, history and culture into interactive displays – this is a hands on experience and a treat for all the senses.  Here is a little video I made of our day at the museum, to a soundtrack of “Counting By Eight”, one of Bill’s pieces from his CD Sonic Art – enjoy!

All photos and video ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Want to hear the sound of the big guitar?

My Brain On Jazz

When musicians play along together it isn’t just their instruments that are in time – their brain waves are too. from “Guitarists’ Brains Swing Together” Science Daily

photo of Jazz at JEN

Jazz at JEN

A few weeks ago, I attended (and performed at) a music technology/jazz educators co-conference. I dashed into the hotel deli at lunchtime intending to grab a sandwich “to go” but was stopped in my tracks by a jazz quintet led by trumpeter Ansyn Banks playing a lunchtime concert nearby. I immediately grabbed a table near the stage, ordered lunch, and settled in to listen. Something happens to the brain when listening to great live jazz. I don’t consider myself a jazz musician but I can speak the language enough to write for it and do some basic playing and improvising. As I listened, I was transported to another place. And this was not a “quiet as a mouse” polite audience concert hall – this was a public venue with food, drink, and lots of people in conversations who felt themselves drawn into the maelstrom of sound, the urgency of the message flowing from the stage. Feet and heads began to move, to nod, and a rhythmic oneness began to spread through the crowd.

As I listened, I could feel new neural pathways form and spark across the top of my head; long exaggerated words started to form in my mind. . …Fine………Ahhhhh………Mmmmmmm…..not unlike the murmurs one utters while eating a delicious meal.  And this WAS a delicious meal, an aural feast shared with hundreds of strangers who connected under the skin through a common language of improvisation – a central thread of sound that broke loose in unexpected ways and in brand new directions. And what was happening to my brain on jazz? Continue reading

Early Christmas Presents

Christmas is coming early this year for me, as I was the recipient of some generous gifts by fellow bloggers yesterday. I’ve only been blogging here since September, so I am deeply touched and grateful for these gestures. Today also marks my twentieth post and the 2000th view of my blog.

First, the postman delivered a Read more!

Still Point

. . . just as a violin string’s different vibrations produce different notes, energy strings’ unique vibration patterns correspond to different subatomic particles.  If this picture is correct, all of physics can be summarized as the harmonies of tiny vibrating strings, chemistry as the melodies of interacting strings, and the universe as a symphony of all strings resonating distinctly. Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics, on String Theory

Physics of sound. Physics of the universe. Both attempt to describe and define how the world moves and vibrates. Molecules of air bump into each other, creating patterns and waves of sound, very similar to the way that water moves.  When I was asked to write a piece to celebrate the dedication of a new performance space and audio recording suite in our music school, it seemed appropriate to focus on how sound works and how musicians gather together to “play” with sound, whether on the stage or in the studio.

But this piece was also intended to commemorate the son of the benefactor, as well as the mother for whom the Music School was named.  Tragically, the grandmother and grandson had both died relatively young and had never met.  The school and this new space was the connection between them, a musical connection across time and space. It struck me that the physics of sound could be extended into the quantum and string physics theories that I had been reading and studying for a number of years.  There was a congruency of language used to describe our universe in motion, elegant and apt.  So, through the lens of a musician who works daily with the physics of sound and also pursues a layperson’s understanding of quantum physics, I wrote “Still Point.”  Written for choir, two synthesizer keyboards, and an electronic wind instrument, the piece was premiered a year ago this week.

Live performance recorded at the dedication of the Dr. Thomas D. Pappert Center for Performance and Innovation, Mary Pappert School of Music, Duquesne University. Sung by the Voices of Spirit under the direction of Christine Jordanoff, EWI solo by Mike Tomaro.

“Still Point”
©2010 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Still point, still point
Like a pebble in a pond, a word was sung
and hung in silence until the world began.

Still point, still point
First sound from whose center came the waves.
The ripples of vibration that set the world in motion, in motion

A universe of motion, a coherent dance of sound
Form and pattern rising from a sea of possibility
Each sound becomes a pebble dropped, each note becomes a wave
Each resonance of harmony intensifies a place
where ripples and waves intersect, time and space fold, connect
through generations never met into a
still point, still point

Music, sound, harmony
Resonant frequencies
Gathering communities, communities who play with sound,
who ride its waves, explore the pool creation’s made
Perhaps in hope to hear an echo of that still point
From which a word was sung and hung in silence until the world began.
Still point.

For a detailed look at the connections between music and quantum physics, see “The Birth of the Blues: How Physics Underlies Music” from the IOP Science/IOP Publishing

All text, video, and music ©2010, 2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved