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Praxis #3: Sarmistha Talukdar & Thomas Stanley


Dr Thomas Stanley continues his tour of duty as Rhizome scholar-in-residence with a special duologue and performance featuring Sarmistha Talukdar.

Whether she’s working by day at the VCU Medical Center, or creating atonal experimental sound collages at night in performance spaces across the city, Sarmistha Talukdar is adept at seeing patterns. Talukdar moved here four years ago from Kolkata, India, to work as a cancer researcher. After attending a noise music showcase, she became immersed in Richmond’s talented experimental scene. In response to a need for femme-safe performance opportunities, Talukdar created an experimental improvisation collective, Womajich Dialyseiz, made up of women, femmes and gender nonconformists. The group performs publicly as well as books shows and facilitates community workshops on experimental music, technology and socio-political subjects. Each letter in the group’s name represents an influential female musician (Wendy Carlos, Pauline Oliveros, Margaret Chardiet, Annea Lockwood and Yoko Ono). Her own music, under the project name Tavishi, combines her study of Indian classical music with an open-ended sonic ambition into a multilayered soundscape that she calls “avant-Indo-experimental”.

"I have always been drawn to different forms of creativity, be it art, music or science. My interest in science, art and music all started at a very young age. But it was not until I was pursuing my Ph.D. studies that I started taking some music lessons. While I was learning about notes and chords it all seemed like math to me. I could see mathematical patterns in music. I started wondering if I could convert mathematical equations into music. I would often wonder how that would sound: mechanical or melodic? I also came across musical renderings of scientific constants like Pi, Tau and Phi. At the same time, I discovered experimental, avant garde and atonal/noise music. I would also often think a lot about information – that it is lot like energy, it can be transformed from one form into another. I feel we do this every day in our daily lives without realising. The universe itself, according to some theories, is like a multi-dimensional hologram of information/data, etched on the fabric of space-time. When I started my postdoctoral studies, I started wondering if my research data could be converted into music. Soon I realised that data could be transformed into atonal or rhythmic textures and soundscapes and that was how I started my experiments in data sonification.

The relationship between biological sequences and music has a very interesting history. In the book Gödel Escher Bach, Douglas Hofstadter highlights similarities between genes and music. Joel Sternheimer, who is a physicist, composer and mathematician was one of the people who came up with the theoretical method for converting biological sequences. There is a really good research article that describes this process in detail. Just like the chords are made up of notes, and have letters to identify them (C, D, E etc), proteins are made up of different amino acids, and these amino acids also have names to identify them (Valine, leucine, tyrosine etc).

So what I did was to assign a scale, sound origin, and note to different amino acids. For example, in the track, there are multiple proteins, and I assigned different sounds (bells to one protein, leads to another protein). Then I assigned different notes/chords to the different amino acids in the sequence. So a protein sequence having say: valine- leucine- tyrosine- leucine- valine- tryosine becomes CDEDCE in the musical notation. The length of the notes would correspond to the real time it takes for each amino acid/protein to come after the next."

(Praxis #3: Struggles for Self-determination must include the autonomy of individual bodies!)


Sarmistha Talukdar
{Tavishi/Womajich Dialyseiz}

Thomas "Bushmeat" Stanley
{alter destiny =-= noetic (r)evolution}

with an opening set by RACHEL NICOLE FOLEY

Later Event: November 19