GZA explores the universe: Sounds of Science
By PHILIP EIL | December 5, 2012
In the mid-1970s, Gary Grice and his cousin Robert — ages 11 and 8, respectively — traveled for hours by ferry, train, and bus from Staten Island to the Bronx. They set out to glimpse an emerging art known for swirling graffiti, aggressive, hypnotic “break” dance moves, and spoken-word poetry shouted over beats from old LPs. “There were MC’s everywhere,” Grice told a packed RISD Auditorium last week. “At that time, we knew we had found our calling.”
These days, Gary and Robert — known widely as GZA and RZA, founding members of Wu-Tang Clan — have had their names etched in the pantheon of hip-hop greats. And as part of perhaps the first generation of rappers to endure mid-life crises (GZA is 46), they’ve set out in search of the new. RZA is an actor and director whose first feature, The Man with the Iron Fists, was released by Universal Studios last month. GZA, meanwhile, has taken to touring colleges including Harvard and MIT to deliver lectures like the one in Providence, grandly titled, “Dark Matter: A Presentation On the Discovery of Hip-Hop, Physics, and the Universe.”
The event was hosted by RISD’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Club and from the beginning, GZA made it clear that he represents the “A.” Despite his stage name “Genius,” he cedes expertise about quarks and pulsars to the absent members of his crew: MIT physics and history of science professor David Kaiser and astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson, both of whom he’s been consulting of late.
But GZA, himself, is an unapologetic nerd. “I’ve always been fascinated by astronomy and physics,” he says. Trading swagger for curiosity, he muses about the diameter of the universe and the trillions of atoms on a fingertip. And at times during his sprawling remarks, he rings off awestruck questions, rapid-fire. “How do you get paper from trees?” “How do you get glass from sand?” “How does light produce so many different colors?” “How does this microphone work?”
Technically, his appearance is packaged around the announcement that, starting in the new year, GZA will partner with a Columbia University professor in a pilot program using hip-hop to teach science in selected New York City public schools. It’s about finding another approach to building self-esteem, GZA says. “I mean, I never saw a scientist who was depressed.”
But GZA never strays far from his roots. He peppers his remarks with brash, raspy verses from his own catalogue, including a song comparing a woman to a car called “0% Finance” from a 2008 solo album. (“In her tank she loved to stash my tool/I kept her full, super-unleaded fuel.”) And when he begins taking questions from the crowd, the lecture veers toward a State of Hip-Hop address. “Most rappers, nowadays, they respect objects before they respect beings,” he says. At another point, he calls profanity a “filler” used in excess by lesser lyricists.
Ever the impresario, he uses the rapt audience to build a bit of hype for his album, Dark Matter, due in early 2013. It’s a concept album offering nothing less than a “cosmic journey through the universe,” he explains
He drops a few verses from a song called “Big Bang” that — by rhyming “unfurling” and “swirling,” “vibrate” and gyrate” — makes the void of outer space sound vaguely sweaty and sexual. When it ends, the room explodes with applause and shouts of “Wu-Tang! Wu-Tang!” After the auditorium empties, a pack of students swirls around the rapper, with glowing smartphones raised to snap pictures. The man has gravitational pull.
Read more: http://providence.thephoenix.com/news/148691-gza-explores-the-universe/#ixzz2EOLE5Vfn
A Rapper Finds His Muse in the Stars
On an early May afternoon in the offices of Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium, a model of Saturn caught the eye of a 45-year-old high-school dropout, and a lyric was born.
“I thought, this is probably the longest spinning record in the world,” said GZA, the hip-hop artist and founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, referring to the ring system surrounding the planet. About a week later, the words crystallized and he offered them over a vegetarian lunch on the Upper West Side.
“God put the needle on the disc of Saturn / The record he played revealed blueprints and patterns,” he rapped in his signature rhythmic baritone, offering a taste from his forthcoming album, “Dark Matter,” an exploration of the cosmos filtered through the mind of a rapper known among his peers as “the Genius.”
Informed by meetings with top physicists and cosmologists at MIT and Cornell University, “Dark Matter” is intended to be the first in a series of albums that GZA—born Gary Grice in Brooklyn in 1966—will put out in the next few years, several of which are designed to get a wide audience hooked on science.
“Dark Matter” is scheduled for a fall release. Another album will focus on the life aquatic, a subject he’s fleshing out with visits to the labs of marine biologists and researchers, as well as meetings with the likes of Philippe Cousteau.
Read the full article from the Wall Street Journal here.
CreativeMornings/PopUp with Kelly Dobson, Event Recap
When you first meet Kelly Dobson, you might underestimate the soft-spoken Media Lab Alumna, but don’t let her quiet persona fool you—Kelly is a monster.
Beneath that cheerful, bubbly exterior lies a being, half-human, half-monster (self-proclaimed), with the capacity to communicate with machines on a level far more sophisticated and intelligent than the rest of us. Just check out Blendie, a voice controlled blender she created with a mind all of its own.
An artist and engineer, Dobson dabbles in the fields of technology, medicine, and culture. Melding the worlds of art and technology together, Dobson lives in that little sweet spot called “magic” by Tina Roth Eisenberg, head of swissmiss, an impeccably well-curated design blog, and founder of CreativeMornings, a monthly lecture series.
Described recently as “TED for Design Wonks,” CreativeMornings promises free breakfast and engaging discourse on Friday mornings once a month in over 32 locations around the globe. Dobson’s ability to work in the overlap of design, art, engineering, and psychotherapy made her an ideal speaker for CreativeMornings’ themed month, a partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which looks at the intersection between art and technology.
The unified theme month was the first of its kind for the breakfast lecture series, which will hopefully be setting a standard for more to come. Last Friday, RISD kicked off the first ever CreativeMornings “PopUp!” event with Dobson speaking at the college in Providence, Rhode Island. Most recently hailing from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media lab, Dobson currently serves as the department head of the Digital+Mediaprogram at RISD, with a background at Cornell.
Read the full article by Carly Ayres on Core77 here.
STEAM Club Mixes Art and Science
Last fall RISD STEAM began at the student club fair with just a table, a poster and a promise to expose students to entirely new ideas. Sarah Pease 13 FD, founder and current leader of the club, sat in her folding chair and explainedSTEM to STEAM to curious students, letting them know that it’s a RISD-led initiative advocate for adding art and design thinking to the current federal emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and research (STEM + Art = STEAM).
While President John Maeda is a strong natural advocate for STEAM, “students see science and math and they run away,” says Pease. So she started RISD STEAM as an attempt to change that. “The club allows students to engage with the policy in a way that’s more relatable to what we’re doing here in classes,” she explains. It lets them actually understand and apply the principles of STEAM in their own work.
Pease has set two main goals for the club: to expose RISD students to technology and to encourage collaboration in disciplines beyond art and design. Over Wintersession RISD STEAM accomplished both of these goals by taking part in a series of workshops linking RISD and the MIT Media Lab.
The workshops, led by MIT graduate student Jie Qui as part of her master’s thesis work focusing on the use of technology in creating expressive art, introduced students at both colleges to paper-based electronics and encouraged them to explore the technology through personal projects. Jie Qui taught them about LEDs and switches, microcontrollers, liquid crystal paint and shape memory metal while encouraging them to explore the media and take it in whatever direction they wanted.
In the end, the distinct similarities between the MIT and RISD creations surprised both teacher and students alike. “There wasn’t really a dividing line between what they did and we did,” says RISD STEAM member Connor Lynch 15 ID. “You couldn’t see who did what. We were all finding ways to take this technology and create something a little less sterile and a little more familiar with it.” Workshop students said that to them, paper-based electronics felt totally new, exciting and full of opportunities to expand. “They can do magic,” Lynch says.
The magic that comes from mixing art and science is the driving force behind STEAM. A growing number of people are inspired by that idea, which is actually a return to the way Leonardo da Vinci approached these disciplines during the Renaissance. This week RISD STEAM is helping to connect more of those people by hosting a CreativeMornings “pop-up” event at RISD, as part of an international conversation in June based on the intersection of arts and technology.
CreativeMornings hopes its June conversations will further the STEAM movement by helping people to “recognize the magic that bubbles up when the arts and tech intersect.” That’s really the goal of the RISD STEAM club, too, says Pease. “We’re trying to bring together different perspectives and push the potential.”
—Samantha Dempsey 13 IL
See original article on RISD.edu here.
RISD Partners with CreativeMornings
In partnership with RISD, CreativeMornings chapters in 29 cities around the world are hosting events in June under a common, unified theme, holding a global conversation about the intersection of art and technology. As part of RISD’sSTEM to STEAM initiative, all CreativeMornings chapters from Aarhus to Zurich are taking a closer look at the magic that happens at the intersection of these two domains.
Founded in 2009 by Tina Roth Eisenberg, CreativeMornings is a monthly breakfast lecture series with the express purpose of bringing creative people together to meet and talk informally while being inspired by a guest speaker. Think of it as “TED for the rest of us,” her site suggests. In less than three years, CreativeMornings has spawned chapters in cities throughout the US, Europe and on several other continents.
The Arts+Tech>Magic month kicks off with Jonathan Harris speaking on Friday, June 1 in New York City. The RISD STEAM Club is hosting its own “pop up” CreativeMornings event the following Friday, June 8, when Kelly Dobson, head of RISD’s Digital + Media department, speaks in the Chace Center.
In taping the video used to introduce the discussions at local chapters worldwide, President John Maeda explained the notion behind the STEM to STEAM movement, noting that “art and technology combine very naturally.” People who are able to “blur the line” between the artistic and scientific or techy aspects of themselves are most likely to be the leaders of the future, he says.
Go to CreativeMornings for more information about events in your area. Or reserve a ticket to RISD’s own CreativeMornings event on June 8 at 8:30 am at risdsteam.org.
See original post on RISD.edu here.