Science Fair will be a staged recital of classical songs composed specifically for this project. The text for each song will be a bit of science writing: not writing inspired by science, but the words of actual scientists describing their work, their hypotheses, or their conclusions.
Besides the writings of historical or well-known scientists, I will collect texts by crowd-sourcing internet communities of scientists, science educators, science bloggers and journalists. This community of internet collaborators will also help with fact-checking, and, I hope, become an audience. I will also have an ongoing dialogue with local scientific and rationalist organizations, some of which will be performance venues as the project progresses.
It will be a multi-media event, with the sound and look of the media incorporated into the music (see my descriptions of songs below for details). The visual aesthetic will draw on the tools of science and past and present: wooden chalkboards, brass telescopes, white lab coats; microscopes, beakers, a hand-made model of the solar system--and the composers will integrate the sounds made by these items into the music.
Science Fair is not meant for children, though it will appropriate for them. This show is meant for the child in all of us, the little scientist that lies dormant. For actual adult scientists, this will be an appreciation of their work, showing an outsider's admiration for the beauty in what they do. For non-scientists, I hope to illuminate the wonder and awe of the scientific perspective, and to bridge the perceived gap between beauty and rationalism.
Some artists and composers use scientific processes or metaphors to create their art, often to great effect, but in many of these cases the science serves the art, and is usually hidden within it. I will use music and performance to illuminate the science itself; to shine an artistic light on the processes and discoveries of science. My goal is not to explain science through music, but to let the science speak for itself, and bring the words of practicing scientists to an audience through performance. I hope to highlight the elegance of scientific texts even to the scientists themselves, who will, I hope, become engaged in the development of this work along with my artistic peers. I also want to challenge the widespread idea that art and science are somehow in opposition--that the rational search for scientific facts has to be a dull, colorless, emotionless exercise--and share my own feeling that the practice of science, just like art, is an inevitable and awe-inspiring aspect of being human.
OUTLINE OF EVENT
PART I: The Descent of...
Music by Stefan Weisman
A litany of our evolutionary family tree, listing the known species that led from ooze to us, and showing that we are one small twig on the tree of life. A diagram is drawn on an old-fashioned chalk-board; the sound of the chalk is rhythmically composed into the song.
PART II: Orbits and Spheres
Music by Renée Favand
Songs on texts by astronomers and cosmologists about the workings of the solar system. Texts arranged historically to how our understanding of the solar system has been revolutionized through the ages. In between songs, an introductory chant will attribute quotations and explain their importance. Orbits and positions in space will be illustrated using models of the planets which will also be musical instruments (bells or percussion).
PART III: Process
Music by Matthew Schickele
What happens when you look at your lover? This journey through the biology of love will start as your retina is hit by the light bouncing off your lover's skin, and will trace the pathway of this visual stimulus through the neural processing centers in the brain and on to the physiological responses as your heart beats faster (among other things...)
PART IV: Physics and Chemistry, 101
Music by various composers
Classroom science experiments, texts crowd-sourced from the online community of scientists and educators. Demonstrations happen while the explanations are sung; the look and sound of the experiments are integrated into the compositions. One of these experiments will be a demonstration of the physics of music.
Although not necessarily part of the final show, these audio clips are of me singing recent songs on semi-scientific texts by two of the Science Fair composers.