The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Science and The Arts

One of my friends tweeted today the LA Times posted a blog about an interview with musician Herbie Hancock.  First, I must post the disclaimer that Herbie Hancock went to Grinnell College like me (although he left one course short of graduation…when you look at the list of famous people that went to Grinnell but did not graduate, some of my friend started joking that the biggest mistake we ever made was graduating since that ensures we will never be famous).  He studied engineering for a couple of years which he credits with helping him in his music.

“It was easier for me because I was an engineering major in college for two years. So when synthesizers came in, they used terminology I knew. I knew what an amplifier was and I knew what it did.”

It’s good to see artists talk about the technical aspects of their work.  I am more science, but I have a foot in the performing arts world as well.  When I was teaching, I would incorporate the arts as much as I could whether it was how instruments produced sound, examining the waveforms of different instruments, or the different types of theater lighting and color mixing to produce different effects.

One of my former students went to college in theater.  I ran into her after her first semester in the parking lot of the grocery store near my place.  She told me she had to take technical theater and it was all physics..and she knew it!  She playfully slapped me which, based on our relationship and her personality, I took as an annoyed thank you for being right that she would need to know this later in life.

With the increasing use of tech in music, theater, and movies, it is more important than ever that we don’t let kids off the hook saying they don’t need to know science because they are going to be an artist.

UPDATE: Turns out Herbie Hancock DID graduate from Grinnell…got an email from them today.  I thought he did, but trusted Wikipedia more than my memory…that will show me! Maybe I can get famous after all!


July 19, 2010 - Posted by | Music, Technology

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