Category Archives: Composition

Djerassi Artists’ Residency – The First 10 Days (Day 1)

djerassi artist residency

Djerassi is a residency program in Woodside California that hosts artists in groups of twelve for one month sessions. The program takes place on a several hundred acre property that rests peacefully in the Santa Cruz mountains. Nearby, brainy technophiles populate Palo Alto, the home of Standford University and  startuplandia. This month’s session, playfully titled Scientific Delirium Madness, is special. A selection committee has chosen a group of art/science integrators to share this experience. They are hoping we find interesting ways to collaborate and that our creativity will flourish at this remote retreat. I plan to keep a strict daily schedule: early rising, 4 hours of science, 4 hours of making things. I wonder if my output will do justice to this opportunity.


Tuesday, June 30: The journey begins at 4:00 AM, June 30 in New York City. My flight leaves at 6:30. My body and brain are weak from preparing for my thesis defense which I have passed just days before. I’m anxious to see if I will make good use of my time at the residency. I hope to recover from the stress of the city and PhD student lifestyle, but I also hope to continue to get work done. I’ve got a lot of ideas and I also must work on some papers on my PhD research and submit them soon. The six hour flight carries me across the whole country.


I land at 10:30 AM, California time. The Djerassi program will pick me up at noon, California time. But first, I have made plans to meet one of the former Djerassi residents, Ramekon O’Arwisters, at the San Francisco airport. He curates for the SFO museum (this is one of the first and only accredited museums in an airport!) He has graciously offered to give me a tour of it. Ramekon is a very very sweet person. His art is wonderful. He hosts Crochet JamsThese welcoming and inclusive community events, are a beautiful response to the oppression he dealt with being black and queer in the 1960s South.


At the aviation museum, a volunteers experiments with my Google Glass and takes a picture of me. The airport houses dozens of distinct exhibitions—I only have time to see a few.


I meet up with Allison Cobb, another resident—a poet and environmentalist who is now writing an autobiography of plastic. Alice Marshall, Djerassi’s program assistant—herself a talented artist—picks us up in a minivan. We ascend into the wooded mountain roads. We arrive and are awed by the magnificence of the property.


20150630_131230_148   20150630_161215_227

First we visit the Artists’ House, with a quaint little red cabin facing it’s front door. This is where Allison will stay. Then Alice shows me to the Artists’ Barn where I will live and introduces me to my room, the composer’s studio. I knew there was a piano here and I was excited to tune it up and play it. But my living setup thrills me to the point of disbelief. I will sleep in a lofted bedroom above this studio and every morning descend the stairs to my personal Mason and Hamlin grand piano! In this video I call home and share my excitement about my new home for the month of July.

The resources and amenities—all things here—impress and humble me.  So many splendid, talented, productive people will surround me here. One by one they descend from the hilltop road and settle in. I hope I fit in.

Visit our blog, hosted by Leonardo, the journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology to find out more about our experiences with art and science collaboration at the Djerassi residency.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art/Science, Composition, Multidisciplinary

Quantum Dots Music at Djerassi

I am currently at Djerassi, an artists’ retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains of California, participating in a residency for artists and scientists. On Saturday I went on a morning run with fellow resident and physicist Guillermo Munoz. As a result of a conversation about our respective fields of interest we decided to make a collaborative piece using music to explore the topic of quantum dots. I suggested that I would improvise some music which I thought might sound like quantum dots and then ask him how to adapt it to better fit his own understanding. The idea was that the process of collaborative composition could be a tool for learning about this topic from him. Watch the video of this interaction and see the outcome of this experiment.

My conception of the piece was to play a series of staccato, random pitches. Each tone was discreet and precise. Guillermo immediately loved the characterization! Though I was not aware of this before, he explained that quantum dots are small groups of atoms—hundreds or thousands. They are known for their ability to emit discrete wavelengths of light. This is in contrast to large groups of atoms that would emit light broadly across the spectrum. He liked how the staccato notes reminded him of the discrete peaks in the emission spectrum that quantum dots produce.

Visit our blog, hosted by Leonardo, the journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology to find out more about our adventures in art and science at the Djerassi residency.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art/Science, Composition, Glass Piano