Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Try out These Art and Music Pairings to Get More out of Both
Resolved to be more cultured in 2016? Try these art and music pairings to learn to savor more of both.
You didn’t always like wine or scotch or whatever spirit moves you. Maybe you acquired that taste by combining it with more familiar tastes, probably your favorite foods. When done right, pairings — wine and food, liquor and food, wine and chocolate; pick your poison — somehow end up greater than the sum of their parts while allowing you to appreciate those parts even more. If you’ve resolved to be more cultured in 2016, perhaps by sophisticating your taste in art and music, here are some art and music pairings that might help you reach your goal.
The idea of pairing art and music isn’t new, of course. Research focusing on the “synergizing” of music and art arrived at some interesting conclusions about increased appreciation and understanding and, for the initiated, new perceptions that shook up previous judgments. Many museums feature music (usually period-appropriate music) as part of their overall presentation. Taking the art-music coupling to another level, artist-musician Yiannis Kranidiotis created a computer program to translate the colors in a painting into corresponding sound frequencies so you can “hear” what a painting would sound like.
Like any kind of pairing, mine is totally idiosyncratic and reflects my own biases. Your sommelier might not admit that, but I will. The purpose is to give you a starting point from which you can form your own opinions and biases. Here are some other ground rules:
By pairing up the modern Pollock drip paintings (such as Autumn Rhythm (No.30), shown above) with Bach’s baroque music, I’m trying to draw a connection between the complexity and fluidity of both art forms. More importantly, I’m trying to make you feel the rhythm in both Pollock’s brush strokes and Bach’s Cello Suites. If you’ve never taken to Bach before, you probably miss how much Bach moves. The movements of the Cello Suites all come from types of baroque dance: allemande, courante, sarabande, minuets, bourrées, gavottes, and a closing gigue. So, try to see the dance in Pollock’s painting while you hear the dance of the cellist’s bow (old-school soulful if you go with Casals; crystalline-pure emotion with Ma).
(Note: The obvious art-music pairing for Pollock is usually the Bebop Jazz that was contemporary with his art. If you go in that direction, listen to classic Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. If you’re looking for a higher degree of jazz difficulty, however, listen to Ornette Coleman's 1958 album Something Else!!!! The Music of Ornette Coleman [full album here]. Jazz is still trying to catch up with Coleman, who just passed away in 2015.)
If you really want to encounter and feel a Rothko (such as Four Darks in Red, shown above), you need to ramp up the Romanticism. Rothko himself loved Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and would blast Mozart’s operas while painting, but he also had a soft spot for the more Romantic Franz Schubert. You can’t go wrong with Mozart or Schubert, but if you really want emotion, listen to the last of the great Romantics (and first of the great Modernists), Gustav Mahler. All of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder drip with emotion, but I suggest standing face to face with a Rothko and listening to baritone Thomas Hampson’s version of “Ich bin der welt abhanden gekommen” (in English, “I have lost touch with the world”). You’ll get in touch with emotional depths you never knew resided in your jaded, chilly soul.
Kandinsky’s usually criticized for being too calculated, too coolly composed, yet there’s a definite rhythm to his works that makes them deceptively musical. They’re not just musical — they actually swing! Duke Ellington may have said “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” but I’m going with Duke disciple Charles Mingus’ more riotous works, such as “Better Git It in Your Soul” or “Haitian Fight Song.” Just try fighting the urge to move to the groove when you stand before one of Kandinsky’s innocently titled “compositions” (such as Composition VII, shown above) and listen to Mingus and his band tear it up.
Here’s where the art-music pairings get a little more challenging, but still can be enjoyable. Minimalism’s a tough sell for people who want big and bold. If you learned to love Pollock and Bach and Kandinsky and Mingus earlier, Agnes Martin and Keith Jarrett might feel like someone hit the brakes too hard, or they might be the perfect counterpoint to add depth and new dimensions to your art-music education. Jarrett’s 1975 solo piano album The Köln Concert begins simply and barely with just a man playing a motif on a piano, but you can feel the layers build and depths reveal themselves over time. Martin’s minimalism requires the same kind of time and dedication, but promises the same kind of reward.
(Note: The obvious art-music pairing for Martin and minimalism is any of the classical minimalist composers, most notably Philip Glass. Try Glass’ Glassworks. Better yet, try John Luther Adams’ mesmerizing, more recent Become Ocean.)
Image: Cy Twombly. Fifty Days at Iliam. The Fire That Consumes All Before It, 1978. Image Source: WikiArt.
This final pair is the toughest challenge. It’s the one pairing that the sommelier slips into the meal that’s meant to disturb and discomfort you. Cy Twombly’s art and John Cage’s music definitely push me to the edge of my own zone of appreciation, but it’s a good hurt in that it stretches my aesthetic muscles. If you’ve ever turned and ran from Twombly’s scribblings (one example shown above) or covered your ears from Cage’s compositions, maybe two negatives make a positive in this case. How do you know the cocktails you’ll never order again from the ones you’ll love forever? You have to taste them for yourself. Give these artists (and insert the name of any other challenging artists here) a try. You may surprise yourself.
Finally, the most important thing about this exercise is to have fun and keep an open mind. If this feels like homework, stop. Wait for a moment when it feels like an adventure where the reward is learning something new about yourself, which is what resolutions (which shouldn’t be reserved for January 1st) are really all about. Please share in the comments your results with these pairings, any tinkering you may have done with my suggestions, and any new pairings you come up with. Sharing is caring.
Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.
- A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
- The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
- Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.
In what is perhaps one of the weirdest experiments ever that comes from the category of "why did anyone need to know this?" scientists have proven that the Regimbartia attenuata beetle can climb out of a frog's butt after being eaten.
The research was carried out by Kobe University ecologist Shinji Sugiura. His team found that the majority of beetles swallowed by black-spotted pond frogs (Pelophylax nigromaculatus) used in their experiment managed to escape about 6 hours after and were perfectly fine.
"Here, I report active escape of the aquatic beetle R. attenuata from the vents of five frog species via the digestive tract," writes Sugiura in a new paper, adding "although adult beetles were easily eaten by frogs, 90 percent of swallowed beetles were excreted within six hours after being eaten and, surprisingly, were still alive."
One bug even got out in as little as 7 minutes.
Sugiura also tried putting wax on the legs of some of the beetles, preventing them from moving. These ones were not able to make it out alive, taking from 38 to 150 hours to be digested.
Naturally, as anyone would upon encountering such a story, you're wondering where's the video. Thankfully, the scientists recorded the proceedings:
The Regimbartia attenuata beetle can be found in the tropics, especially as pests in fish hatcheries. It's not the only kind of creature that can survive being swallowed. A recent study showed that snake eels are able to burrow out of the stomachs of fish using their sharp tails, only to become stuck, die, and be mummified in the gut cavity. Scientists are calling the beetle's ability the first documented "active prey escape." Usually, such travelers through the digestive tract have particular adaptations that make it possible for them to withstand extreme pH and lack of oxygen. The researchers think the beetle's trick is in inducing the frog to open a so-called "vent" controlled by the sphincter muscle.
"Individuals were always excreted head first from the frog vent, suggesting that R. attenuata stimulates the hind gut, urging the frog to defecate," explains Sugiura.
For more information, check out the study published in Current Biology.
Are "humanized" pigs the future of medical research?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all new medicines to be tested in animals before use in people. Pigs make better medical research subjects than mice, because they are closer to humans in size, physiology and genetic makeup.
In recent years, our team at Iowa State University has found a way to make pigs an even closer stand-in for humans. We have successfully transferred components of the human immune system into pigs that lack a functional immune system. This breakthrough has the potential to accelerate medical research in many areas, including virus and vaccine research, as well as cancer and stem cell therapeutics.
Existing biomedical models
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, or SCID, is a genetic condition that causes impaired development of the immune system. People can develop SCID, as dramatized in the 1976 movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble." Other animals can develop SCID, too, including mice.
Researchers in the 1980s recognized that SCID mice could be implanted with human immune cells for further study. Such mice are called “humanized" mice and have been optimized over the past 30 years to study many questions relevant to human health.
Mice are the most commonly used animal in biomedical research, but results from mice often do not translate well to human responses, thanks to differences in metabolism, size and divergent cell functions compared with people.
Nonhuman primates are also used for medical research and are certainly closer stand-ins for humans. But using them for this purpose raises numerous ethical considerations. With these concerns in mind, the National Institutes of Health retired most of its chimpanzees from biomedical research in 2013.
Alternative animal models are in demand.
Swine are a viable option for medical research because of their similarities to humans. And with their widespread commercial use, pigs are met with fewer ethical dilemmas than primates. Upwards of 100 million hogs are slaughtered each year for food in the U.S.
In 2012, groups at Iowa State University and Kansas State University, including Jack Dekkers, an expert in animal breeding and genetics, and Raymond Rowland, a specialist in animal diseases, serendipitously discovered a naturally occurring genetic mutation in pigs that caused SCID. We wondered if we could develop these pigs to create a new biomedical model.
Our group has worked for nearly a decade developing and optimizing SCID pigs for applications in biomedical research. In 2018, we achieved a twofold milestone when working with animal physiologist Jason Ross and his lab. Together we developed a more immunocompromised pig than the original SCID pig – and successfully humanized it, by transferring cultured human immune stem cells into the livers of developing piglets.
During early fetal development, immune cells develop within the liver, providing an opportunity to introduce human cells. We inject human immune stem cells into fetal pig livers using ultrasound imaging as a guide. As the pig fetus develops, the injected human immune stem cells begin to differentiate – or change into other kinds of cells – and spread through the pig's body. Once SCID piglets are born, we can detect human immune cells in their blood, liver, spleen and thymus gland. This humanization is what makes them so valuable for testing new medical treatments.
We have found that human ovarian tumors survive and grow in SCID pigs, giving us an opportunity to study ovarian cancer in a new way. Similarly, because human skin survives on SCID pigs, scientists may be able to develop new treatments for skin burns. Other research possibilities are numerous.
The ultraclean SCID pig biocontainment facility in Ames, Iowa. Adeline Boettcher, CC BY-SA
Pigs in a bubble
Since our pigs lack essential components of their immune system, they are extremely susceptible to infection and require special housing to help reduce exposure to pathogens.
SCID pigs are raised in bubble biocontainment facilities. Positive pressure rooms, which maintain a higher air pressure than the surrounding environment to keep pathogens out, are coupled with highly filtered air and water. All personnel are required to wear full personal protective equipment. We typically have anywhere from two to 15 SCID pigs and breeding animals at a given time. (Our breeding animals do not have SCID, but they are genetic carriers of the mutation, so their offspring may have SCID.)
As with any animal research, ethical considerations are always front and center. All our protocols are approved by Iowa State University's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and are in accordance with The National Institutes of Health's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
Every day, twice a day, our pigs are checked by expert caretakers who monitor their health status and provide engagement. We have veterinarians on call. If any pigs fall ill, and drug or antibiotic intervention does not improve their condition, the animals are humanely euthanized.
Our goal is to continue optimizing our humanized SCID pigs so they can be more readily available for stem cell therapy testing, as well as research in other areas, including cancer. We hope the development of the SCID pig model will pave the way for advancements in therapeutic testing, with the long-term goal of improving human patient outcomes.
Adeline Boettcher earned her research-based Ph.D. working on the SCID project in 2019.
Satellite imagery can help better predict volcanic eruptions by monitoring changes in surface temperature near volcanoes.
- A recent study used data collected by NASA satellites to conduct a statistical analysis of surface temperatures near volcanoes that erupted from 2002 to 2019.
- The results showed that surface temperatures near volcanoes gradually increased in the months and years prior to eruptions.
- The method was able to detect potential eruptions that were not anticipated by other volcano monitoring methods, such as eruptions in Japan in 2014 and Chile in 2015.
How can modern technology help warn us of impending volcanic eruptions?
One promising answer may lie in satellite imagery. In a recent study published in Nature Geoscience, researchers used infrared data collected by NASA satellites to study the conditions near volcanoes in the months and years before they erupted.
The results revealed a pattern: Prior to eruptions, an unusually large amount of heat had been escaping through soil near volcanoes. This diffusion of subterranean heat — which is a byproduct of "large-scale thermal unrest" — could potentially represent a warning sign of future eruptions.
Conceptual model of large-scale thermal unrestCredit: Girona et al.
For the study, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis of changes in surface temperature near volcanoes, using data collected over 16.5 years by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. The results showed that eruptions tended to occur around the time when surface temperatures near the volcanoes peaked.
Eruptions were preceded by "subtle but significant long-term (years), large-scale (tens of square kilometres) increases in their radiant heat flux (up to ~1 °C in median radiant temperature)," the researchers wrote. After eruptions, surface temperatures reliably decreased, though the cool-down period took longer for bigger eruptions.
"Volcanoes can experience thermal unrest for several years before eruption," the researchers wrote. "This thermal unrest is dominated by a large-scale phenomenon operating over extensive areas of volcanic edifices, can be an early indicator of volcanic reactivation, can increase prior to different types of eruption and can be tracked through a statistical analysis of little-processed (that is, radiance or radiant temperature) satellite-based remote sensing data with high temporal resolution."
Temporal variations of target volcanoesCredit: Girona et al.
Although using satellites to monitor thermal unrest wouldn't enable scientists to make hyper-specific eruption predictions (like predicting the exact day), it could significantly improve prediction efforts. Seismologists and volcanologists currently use a range of techniques to forecast eruptions, including monitoring for gas emissions, ground deformation, and changes to nearby water channels, to name a few.
Still, none of these techniques have proven completely reliable, both because of the science and the practical barriers (e.g. funding) standing in the way of large-scale monitoring. In 2014, for example, Japan's Mount Ontake suddenly erupted, killing 63 people. It was the nation's deadliest eruption in nearly a century.
In the study, the researchers found that surface temperatures near Mount Ontake had been increasing in the two years prior to the eruption. To date, no other monitoring method has detected "well-defined" warning signs for the 2014 disaster, the researchers noted.
The researchers hope satellite-based infrared monitoring techniques, combined with existing methods, can improve prediction efforts for volcanic eruptions. Volcanic eruptions have killed about 2,000 people since 2000.
"Our findings can open new horizons to better constrain magma–hydrothermal interaction processes, especially when integrated with other datasets, allowing us to explore the thermal budget of volcanoes and anticipate eruptions that are very difficult to forecast through other geophysical/geochemical methods."