Research Becomes Art #ArtTuesday

Simón(e) Sun uses experimental data to create her work. Like many artists, she uses images for her visual artists, but her process to transform experimental data into music is unique. Here’s more via Art the Science:

I use experimental data as the “raw material” for my artwork, whether it’s visual art or music. In each work, I attempt to balance “letting the data speak for itself” and “using the data to present an idea.” My illustrations are an example of this, but I can better describe my process through my forthcoming music album, Zero Divide Zero.

I study synaptic plasticity, which is the ability for synapses—connections between neurons—to change with new information. Scientists think that synaptic plasticity could be the biological substrate of learning and memory. In my experiments, I record electric currents from neurons called “miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents,” or “minis” for short. These minis are a way to measure the strength of a neuron’s synapses. The bigger the mini, the stronger the synapse. I created a computer program that converts three properties of minis, (1) when a mini happens, (2) its amplitude, (3) and its decay (see illustration), into a musical score. (1) Determines when a note is played. (2) Determines what note of the scale. (3) Determines how long the note is played. Afterward, I decide on instrumentation, rhythmic meter, and other music composition elements to compose these songs with the overarching goal of expressing the scientific method.

More from Simón(e) Sun


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