When Performance Merges with the World of Physics

By Emma Paulini- 12th Grade, Fox Chapel Area High School

IMG_3143On the night of July 28th, 2016, the worlds of science and art collided — in the best sense possible.  This cross-curricular evening, the first in a series dubbed “The Invisible Jazz Experimental Laboratories”, brought together physicists and artists from the Pittsburgh area to develop new points of view and perspectives of our world.  The event was hosted in The Space Upstairs, an eclectic warehouse gallery loft in the East End with high ceilings and plenty of space, furnished with sofas, plush floor pillows, cafe tables, and enormous chalkboards. The Jazz Labs are intended to officially begin in 2017 as a four-part series of informal discussions prompting spontaneous performances.



Two physicists from Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. George Klein and Dr. Manfred Paulini, along with CMU graduate students, Amy Stetten, Krista Freeman, Zach McDargh, Matthew Daniels, and Siddharth Satpathy, provided informal lecture threads while dancers, musicians, an illustrator, and a writer simultaneously improvised to the topics. Pearlann Porter and John Lambert, lead Resident Artists, co-directors of The Space Upstairs, and creators of this unique event, involved themselves in the scene. Lambert wrote poetry while James Rushin set the mood on piano, Aaron Tarnow spiced things up with percussion, and David Pellow contributed character on bass. Jordan Bush conveyed the discussion visually through chalk illustration, as Troy Patrick, Sarah Friedlander, and Brianna Albright, in addition to Porter, imparted flowing dance improvisation to further enhance the topics at hand. Asking questions and joining the others on stage themselves, audience members added to the creation as well. And, everyone could write on the event’s live interactive blog after the event to continue the experience.



Inspired Poetry Added to Chalkboards Throughout the Evening



The intention in creating the Labs involves recognizing the parallel between unhindered, on-the-spot creativity in relation to the rules of the physical world.  “Every lab, by nature, will be a learning lesson,” Porter said. Themes discussed that night ranged from quantum mechanics and the speed of light to DNA and viruses to the relationship between surface tension and a possible cure for cystic fibrosis.


IMG_3112The judgement-free, collaborative atmosphere integrated science and art in a unique and unusual event which metamorphosed as the evening progressed.  When each person contributed to the animate experience, his or her interpretation deepened and opened unexpected paths. Porter noted, “We only discover the ‘rules’ governing our own creativity in the moment of creation itself… We are the known expressions of unknown influences.” The shared experience at each Lab event helps translate the relationship between all areas of life.  “We are the evidence that persists when other data vanishes,” Porter added. By integrating distinct and diverse disciplines during this Lab and all future sessions, dynamic occurrences develop, providing space and time to let the body, mind, and spirit expand.




Emma-Use This OneEmma Paulini is a senior at Fox Chapel Area High School. She is Editor in Chief of her school’s literary arts magazine, and this is her second summer reporting with Pittsburgh Youth Media. Emma loves to dance ballet, sing, cook, and explore the world.


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