Science and music, the old bedfellows

Science and music, the old bedfellows

A great radio interview with three musicians who also happen to have science degrees: soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian (BEng), jazz singer and composer Diane Nalini de Kerchkhove (assistant prof of Physics at the University of Guelph) and mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal (MSci Physics, University of Toronto). They discuss the science of operatic voice, and the many connections between their scientific and musical work.

The Enright Files: The Links Between Science and Music

You can see Bayrakdarian at The Duke of Westminster pub this Friday as the guest of Canadian Opera Company’s Opera 101 series, discussing the upcoming production of The Magic Flute and her role, Pamina. Facebook invite page with details.

She is also an amazing Romilda in my favourite productions of Serse, the Dresden Semperoper 2000 staging. Paula Rasmussen and Ann Hallenberg are Serse and Arsamene duking it out over La Bayrak:

Bonus: Bayrakdarian (Cleopatra) with Vivica Genaux (Marc’ Antonio) under the baton of René Jacobs:


7 thoughts on “Science and music, the old bedfellows

  1. that’s interesting hearing them talk geeky, then suddenly a switch to another world with singing. also fun to hear how, was it Bayrakdarian (?) testing in lab with her own voice. i didn’t quite get the bit with the laser, she was saying something about bouncing? (listening very very late last night while eating dinner…). that portugese jazzy song is truly wonderful, and so is the audio excerpt with Bayrakdarian singing Cleopatra . and who was it that got into Oxford for phd? it’s cool also that singers now can take courses like physics of sound, what a great way to understand your own instrument :-). i also read the bio of Colin Lee the other day, he worked as an accountant for a while before pursuing his singing career and he talked about how that business side helps him managing / getting along with people onstage as well as managing his own money.

    onto trouser roles, i always wonder why they put mustache on mezzos. is it to make them more manly?? are those THREE mezzos i see with mustache in Serse? (3 mezzos in trousers! i should get to know Serse better. someone in queue in vienna with me also suggested a production with sarah conolly…)

  2. The physics MSci does what you do: listens to the opera in the lab!

    hahah, I agree, Ann Hallenberg’s mustache is terrible. I’m almost fine with the alto’s long auburn stache, but the mezzo’s is a stache of a pubescent boy. (Maybe I’ll be able to embody a picture here to show you another case of a tiny, teen stache on a magnificent mezzo.) I say, if you want to do manly, go to town. No half-attempts.

    Rasmussen doesn’t have the stache — maybe she fought her stache and won. Or, they ‘camp up’ the side mezzos, and leave the lead mezzo stache-less?

    I was hoping you’d visit this page so I can ask you about your own scientific work. Polar science sounds as cool as it gets, but I have no idea what it involves. A lot of geological, climatological, biosphere research? Is it multidisciplinary?

    (You read a tenor’s bio? Whatever possessed you?)

    1. man, just got back from 8 hrs of scanning, my thumb hurts from wrestling with the staples. polar science is really cool! what i do pertains to the Arctic ocean and sea ice. the catchy question everyone wants to ask is when the sea ice in the summer will completely disappear, and how much of it will be due to the atmosphere and how much due to ocean warming. to “predict” that, some very clever people write very cool computer programs like this one here that uses physics and satellite data, and i’m using such program to study anything and everything in the Arctic area 🙂 (around second 25 you’ll see the whole Arctic Ocean). So i can tell you for example the source of water that comes into the Arctic, when sea ice will form, where it will melt first and why, etc. besides the fact that it’s fun to know these things, we do care about them because by knowing the details of the Arctic system we can say something about how sensitive it (the system) is to warming for example. It’s sort of like in order to understand the effect a drug would do to your body, you need to know about blood flow. at some point, i think i’ll write up a post about the Arctic Ocean and sea ice, sort of like the one on global warming. not before my move though, it’s getting super crazy here, these damn stacks of papers… i scanned in more than 5000 pages today! (and probably another 5000 to go…)

      ps- oops, the secret is out, i actually like colin lee :”>

      1. I read somewhere that until recently it was impossible to sail through the North-West passage or that the time span within which you could do it was very short, but that now it’s getting comfortably long for navigation. And now that that’s the case, at least three other countries other than Canada are becoming interested in the right of passage through the Arctic waters… It’ll be a hot (ahem) area to watch.

  3. Did I mention, … I have a science degree, actually. I guess I’m a music geek as well as a science geek at times, though with music for me there always has been more emotion involved.

    Actually, there are singers and musicians who do fine without any rational thought involved, but they are rare, I find.

    I’m a nerd, really. If I had to pick a signature, would be torn between


    (Callas’ vibrato and spectrum from the b” at the end of the first part of Casta Diva)

    quote: “Tho all my wares be trash, the heart is true.”
    (John Dowland, author of the verses unknown)

    or c) just inserting my geek code which is, of course:
    GMU d- s: !a C++ *- U— P– L+ E- W+++ N o- K w O—- M — PS+++ PE
    Y+ PGP+ t+++ 5++ X++ R* !tv b++ DI++ D+ G e++++ h—-r+++ x++++

    (all credits to:

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