A recent TEDxFIU event kicked off with Global Lake Ecology Observatory Network (GLEON) member Evelyn Gaiser’s unexpected discovery that her two passions, science and music, could come together to help her better understand data. Evelyn’s interpretation of the year-round daily temperature changes in Florida’s Lake Annie formed the basis for her TEDx talk.
Caption: Lakes write music. Science is listening. | Evelyn Gaiser | TEDxFIU
Evelyn is a classically trained musician, so when she visualized the temperature data collected from Lake Annie she also saw a musical score. By assigning the data points a musical note, she composed Lake Annie’s song. The piece was then arranged by Marcus Norris and performed by Yaniv Cohen, Aryam Gonzalez and Tomas Lopez, all members of the School of Music on the TEDxFIU stage.
“Music seems uniquely suited to expressing the nuances of nature,” Gaiser said in an FIU News report about the event, noting a growing trend of scientists and musicians around the world coming together to explore the complexities of nature in this way.
After listening to Evelyn’s TEDxFIU talk, GLEON Student Association (GSA) was interested in finding out more about her TEDx experience and combining the arts and science. We asked her a few questions via email. Here is an edited version of the exchange:
GSA: What a fantastic event to take part in! What was your favorite part about participating in the TEDx event?
Evelyn: My favorite part about participating in the TEDx event was being able to hear how enchantingly beautiful the Lake Annie song sounded when played by our incredible string trio of students. A grad student from our School of Music, Marcus Norris, created the arrangement for strings and the students who played it were so talented. It was really moving to listen to the music and to hear the music students talk about the lake’s temperatures.
GSA: The Lake Annie Song was truly beautiful. What other GLEON lakes have you composed songs for?
Evelyn: I worked up the songs for the 5 lakes that we were using for our initial work in the GLEON TTG [Theory] working group, for which I happened to have two or three years thermal data readily available. This included Lake Sunapee (New Hampshire), Lough Feeagh (Ireland), Lake Mendota (Wisconsin), Esthwaite Waters (United Kingdom) and Lake Annie (Florida). In the TedxFIU talk, I focused on Lakes Mendota, Annie and Feeagh because I had more continuous data from them. I believe Alex Braidwood from Iowa State University and colleagues have developed songs from data from additional lakes, including Lake West Okoboji (Iowa) and Lunz am See (Austria), Paul Hanson and music colleagues from University of Wisconsin have developed another kind of beautiful song from the patterns in Lake Mendota, and Francesco Pomati developed a jazz ensemble from plankton diversity and abundance data from different depths in Lake Lugano (Italy).
GSA: It is awesome that so many GLEON lakes have their own song. Which GLEON lake has the most complicated composition?
Evelyn: Of the lakes I composed music for, Lake Mendota had the most extreme high and low temperatures (vertically and seasonally), which made the harmonies pretty dynamic. Lough Feeagh was challenging because I had used Lake Annie temperatures to calibrate the musical scale, and since Lough Feeagh is so cold year-round (and has less vertical structure), I had to transpose it an octave higher to make it readable.
GSA: After your talk I bet there were many GLEON students (including myself) inspired to combine the arts and sciences. What advice would you give to these students?
Evelyn: I think the most important advice I can give science students is to embrace your creative side in expressing the science that you do. The possibilities are infinite. If you really get into this, then explore the possibility of a double major in science and arts, or take art courses outside your major or a summer workshop in science communications. Lots of universities also have “artists in residence” in their science programs who can help you, and GLEON has a growing group of artists with whom you can collaborate. You can join this working group, or invite a friend in a fine arts discipline to become a member. Some programs offer interdisciplinary degrees that bridge the liberal and fine arts with the sciences. As you develop collaborations and new proposals, think about bringing artists on board to expand the broader impacts of your work.
GSA: As you may know the GLEON 19 Request to Participate is now available. We were wondering if we could expect a performance of the ‘Lake Annie Song’ at the GLEON 19 All Hands’ meeting?
Evelyn: Sure, there are several to choose from!
GSA: Looking forward to it! Thanks Evelyn for an inspiring talk and taking the time to answer our questions. See you at GLEON 19!
Blaize Denfeld recently completed her Ph.D. at Uppsala University, Sweden. She is currently a postdoc at Umeå University, Sweden and chair for the GSA.
Note: this post was updated on 12 February 2017.