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Friday, July 20, 2012

Artistic Synthesis and Synthetic Art

There’s hardly a thing that a man can name
Of use or beauty in life’s small game
But you can extract in alembic or jar
From the "physical basis" of black coal-tar-
Oil and ointment, and wax and wine,
And the lovely colors called aniline;
You can make anything from a salve to a star,
If you only know how, from black coal-tar.


For the creators out there--artists and musicians, scientists, humanists, engineers, I recommend this article: In Praise of Synthesis by Roald Hoffman.

As you open the article and start to groan because you see esoteric chemical molecules, hang in there and keep reading, and you'll find the hallmarks that link scientists and artists, similar things that President Shirley Tilghman mentioned in her Art of Science talk. Roald Hoffman was a recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and these are his words:

Chemical synthesis not only shares some of the aesthetic criteria of art; I think it is art. At the same time, it is logic. 
Consider the kind of art and creation that happens in making cubane:

The details of how it happens may be enigmatic, but surely it is obvious that a great process--part by design, part by chance, planned and experimented--occurs to create a elegant product. I agree, this is art. This is also logic. Wherein logic is art in this case, I also think, and I'm sure Escher would agree, that art is logic. Witness a Escher tessellation:

The mix of planning, experimentation, part by chance and part by design aspects of chemical synthesis are no doubt manifested in this beautiful, clever work of art--as in the beautiful, clever synthesis of cubane.

Beautiful logic (I mean art), isn't it?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Giving At-Risk Youth Genuine Voices through Music

Yesterday was my first day working for Genuine Voices. These youth are teenage boys incarcerated in detention centers for crimes ranging from misdemeanor to serious violations. The boys may have been neglected as children, with parents unable to take care of them or in prison. At the juvenile detention centers, they are learning how to control their aggression.
They four boys took turns choosing an instrument on Garageband and creating 8-count sections of music. A.D. (names altered for privacy) started with the strings solo and wanted to be the lead singer. Later, he asked me to send him the music file so he could practice. T.X. added drums. J.S. added piano. Finally, T.R. finished off with guitar, and was eager to be the recording producer and edit the music. Later, T.R. went to the drumset in the room, and started playing. He told me he would practice the drums whenever he had nothing to do.
I saw determination in them--their eagerness to create something meaningful to share with the world. When I mentioned we could share their songs and stories with the world--on Youtube or produce a CD, they became even more determined. I witnessed the power of music to bring out creativity, determination, and meaning into their lives. I believe in music intervention programs to give genuine voices to these boys' lives and help them become productive members of society. I am asking you to join me in support of enriching lives through music by donating to Genuine Voices.
Please support the boys and the community!
Your support will help Genuine Voices grow and contribute to affecting positive changes in the lives of at-risk youth such as A.D., T.X., J.S., and T.R, and the community. Your tax-deductible contribution supports the power of music to empower, inspire, and enrich lives. 100% of your donation goes toward Genuine Voices.
To donate, click here: Thank you for your support!
About Genuine Voices:
Genuine Voices is a non-profit organization that teaches music, musical composition, and computer-based music “sequencing” to youths in juvenile detention centers and other educational and institutional settings across the United States and Worldwide.
We believe that by fostering their musical abilities and skills we can assist youths in their ability to make positive life decisions.
Our program aims to provide youth with the experience of planning and creating finished music productions. We also wish to help juveniles discover the world through participation in cultural events, travel and by inviting musicians to perform.
Please visit for more information.
Below is a song created by an at-risk youth, recorded during a Genuine Voices session.