The Museum In the Classroom

William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet and a pillar of the 20th-century Irish and British literary establishments once said: “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Corpus Callosum was born to become a sharpener of the senses. The effort is a collaboration between Alexandra Kuechenberg, Jonathan David Kane and myself. Our purpose is to explore how humans perceive the world while generating collaborative projects that explore perception through the infinite combinations of art and science, and to present our findings in compelling and informative ways.

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Our first project, On a High Note, seeks to bring together New World Symphony and Frost Science to creatively bridge art and science while exploring the creation of a new form of audience experience that combines classical music performances with advancements in neuroscience. The ultimate goal is to produce an entertaining and educational holistic experience that presents a deeper understanding of how our brains work, and exposes new audiences to the significance of complex music by means of an immersive, synesthetic and alternative concert viewing format applicable to multi-surface projection spaces such as the full dome environment of Frost Planetarium.

Corpus Callosum received a Knight Arts Challenge grant in 2015 to work on On a High Note and, given the innovative nature of our effort, we have been working on the research and development aspect of it ever since. For that, we partnered with Kim Grinfeder, Director for the Interactive Media Program at the University of Miami’s School of Communication. The partnership materialized as a course Alexandra and I have been teaching from August to December of this year. The course is based on an existing course format in which a team of multitalented graduate students with different and valuable backgrounds undertake real-world projects with a partnering organization. In Grinfeder’s words, “we were very excited to collaborate with Alexandra and Jorge from Frost Science in this semester’s CoLab course; this is exactly the type of creative partnership we were looking for that allows our students to grow alongside their community.”

After five months of intense work, on Friday, December 9, the team introduced a concept for a new type of user experience that will merge symphonic performances, art and innovations in neuroscience to a fascinated audience including New World Symphony’s President, Howard Herring who got to take part on a live demo after the presentation.

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Howard Herring

The team, including Jennifer Hernandez, a second year graduate student who acted as a project director, broke out the experience into three acts to include a pre- and post-experience that provide the necessary context to both enjoy and understand the ins and outs of On A High Note. One key element of their presentation was to prove that electroencephalography technology (i.e., EEG headset) can actually be used to translate neurological data based on our perception of classical music into fascinating visuals.

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Fabio Ribeiro and Catalina von Wrangell

Later, Hernandez reflected on the work she and her teammates have been doing these past months, “the CoLab course was an excellent opportunity for us to experience what it takes to design and pitch a concept to a museum, in this case Frost Science, showcase our talent to potential future employers, and leave a footprint on a key institution in Miami; it has been the most challenging experience so far in the Interactive Media Program.” She added that “now that I look back at the process, and at the challenges and breakthroughs we had, I realize that this class embodied the essence of the program—bringing together technology, science and the arts to improve life by designing new experiences and finding sustainable solutions to real world challenges.” Finally, she highlighted how the collaborative effort brought her closer to her teammates, “the course has also been a great opportunity to work with classmates as team members, learn from each other and form a bond that will last beyond graduation into the professional world.”

Besides Hernandez, the team included Kristian Rodriguez, Creative Director; Claudia Aguirre, UX, Wireframes; Sarah Kasiske, UX, Website; Lina Angel Jaramillo, Researcher; Rafael Baldwin Vieyra, Videographer; Cibonay Dames, Marketing Material; Chris Roy, Visual Designer; Pablo Obando, Visual Designer; Fabio Ribeiro, 3D Printing; and Zhiming Sun, Developer. They documented their work at interactive.miami.edu/onahighnote/.

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Pablo Orbando and Claudia Aguirre

While our students have done an outstanding job, and the course was arguably a success after they delivered a promising proof of concept, our journey to make it a reality is only beginning. In Herring’s words, “this is coming.” Stay perceptive!

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