The Next Station: Remixing the London Underground

The website Cities and Memory has just published a sound map of the London Underground called The Next Station. Working with The London Sound Survey, the project collected and associated field recordings to specific Tube stops in a map. They also issued an open invitation for musicians and sound artists to choose a particular station and to remix the sounds. Nearly 100 artists hailing from across the world chose to participate, and the results are now available on the website as a playlist. Interestingly, there is a wide variety of interpretive strategies on display.

I submitted a piece based on the Edgware Road stop on the Bakerloo line and am pleased to see it on the website alongside a lot of quite compelling work. It’s available here and in the embedded player below.

I use a pretty rudimentary sound editing set up, which made it challenging working with a single raw recording. After isolating quotidian sounds particular to the time and place of a single person walking through the station, my goal became to find a way to navigate a new path through them. The result is a collage emerging from sounds in their original form, processed sounds, fractured sounds, and some additional guitar and synthesizer sounds that harmonize with the natural tone of the space. The results, I hope, constitute a different kind of movement, retaining something of the character of the original recording, while musically reconfiguring the experience of traveling beneath the city.

I would encourage you to spend some time with the playlist to hear what other people came up with as well. Thanks to Stuart Fowkes for organizing the effort.

Salvage #1

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Three-color screen print and collage based on a sketch generated in Processing.

New Screenprint

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Last week I took a refresher screen printing class at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart. The image is based on a generative sketch I wrote in Processing, manipulated a bit in Photoshop, and then separated into four colors. Coincidentally, Dave DiMarchi, who taught the last screen printing class I took, was in the midst of organizing a print exchange through his 9 in Hand Press, and I finished just in time to be able to participate. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what the other contributors submitted. Continue reading

Where Christmas Dreams Come True

For 27 years now, Jon Solomon has hosted a 24-hour Christmas radio show on WPRB, an independent radio station in Princeton, NJ. Steering clear of the obvious shlock that dominates the airwaves, his show unearths obscure, distorted, cracked, and often touching tributes to the holiday season. If your idea of Christmas music involves parodies of the classics played in the style of The Misfits, Jon’s show is a gift. (You can see the playlist for the most recent marathon here.)

I’m fortunate to have known Jon for many years, and have watched his show become a community affair, increasingly featuring exclusive songs and spoken word pieces contributed by friends and other members of the listening audience. During the run-up to this year’s show, I discovered Mark Davis’s Attention Kmart Shoppers, a collection of tapes he packed away while working for the retailer. One particular tape that aired in December 1990 seemed particularly appropriate for the season, and I suggested to Jon that he might want to excerpt it on his show. He countered by challenging me to make a piece of music out of it, and this is the result.

Columbia University Physical Sciences in Oncology Center

I have been working closely with Raul Rabadan, an associate professor at Columbia University, on launching an exciting new research center sponsored by the National Cancer Institute’s Physical Sciences in Oncology program. He and a multidisciplinary team of investigators at Columbia and other institutions will be using advanced mathematical approaches to analyze data generated with new single-cell experimental methods, with the goal of providing more effective ways of understanding how cancerous tumors evolve. I wrote and designed the center’s website, and wrote this article announcing the project. Check them out! The center will be doing some truly fascinating work.

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Research Highlights Brochure

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Here are some quick shots of a brochure I recently assembled for the Columbia University Department of Systems Biology. It compiles writing I did for them in 2014, including coverage of key papers and interviews with two faculty members. In addition to the writing, I also did the layout in InDesign. I’m very happy to have all of this in print form, as it captures some truly fascinating work coming out of Columbia. To read the articles online, go to systems biology.columbia.edu/news.

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Semi-Rational Genome Engineering

I recently had a chance to interview Harris Wang, a young researcher at Columbia University who is doing some very exciting work in synthetic biology. He recently published a new method called (MO)-MAGE, which makes it possible to deliver large numbers of targeted mutations in E. coli simultaneously. The implications are quite fascinating, both in terms of the conceptual frame shift the technology implies and its potential practical applications. In an interview I recently posted to the Department of Systems Biology’s website he explains:

The biggest problem with random mutagenesis is that the likelihood of a finding a beneficial mutation is astronomically low. (MO)-MAGE is not random, but it’s not a completely rational approach to engineering either. I like to think of it as a semi-rational approach whose beauty is that by allowing you to make many genetic variants very quickly, it opens up experimental opportunities that we’ve never really had before.

For example, computational analysis or the scientific literature might lead you to hypothesize that 5 genes are relevant in a specific biochemical process you are trying to optimize. But those genes exist within a complex molecular system and so identifying the ideal levels for all of these components in combination using traditional approaches poses a very difficult problem. By using (MO)-MAGE, however, you can quickly produce lots of genetic variants that you can just experimentally isolate and characterize. This allows you to tune the expression of all of the genes in an iterative way.

If you think about the traditional engineering pipeline that goes from design to building to testing, using this kind of semi-rational approach removes a historical bottleneck. Previously you might have been able to propose a variety of possible designs to optimize a specific biochemical activity, but it was never practical to build them all. (MO)-MAGE saves you from needing to put all your eggs in one basket with one design; it gives you a method to experimentally try hundreds of thousands or even millions of mutations and see what looks interesting.

In the interview Dr. Wang explains how (MO)-MAGE works, and what it could mean for both basic biological research and commercial applications of synthetic biology. Read the full interview here.

Mapping Human B Cell Development Using Single-Cell Technologies

Last week I reported on a very interesting paper published researchers at Columbia University and Stanford University. Here’s the opening. Follow the link below to read the full article.

In a new paper published in the journal Cell, a team of researchers led by Dana Pe’er at Columbia University and Garry Nolan at Stanford University describes a powerful new method for mapping cellular development at the single cell level. By combining emerging technologies for studying single cells with a new, advanced computational algorithm, they have designed a novel approach for mapping development and created the most comprehensive map ever made of human B cell development. Their approach will greatly improve researchers’ ability to investigate development in cells of all types, make it possible to identify rare aberrations in development that lead to disease, and ultimately help to guide the next generation of research in regenerative medicine.

Pointing out why being able to generate these maps is an important advance, Dr. Pe’er, an associate professor in the Columbia University Department of Systems Biology and Department of Biological Sciences, explains, “There are so many diseases that result from malfunctions in the molecular programs that control the development of our cell repertoire and so many rare, yet important, regulatory cell types that we have yet to discover. We can only truly understand what goes wrong in these diseases if we have a complete map of the progression in normal development. Such maps will also act as a compass for regenerative medicine, because it’s very difficult to grow something if you don’t know how it develops in nature. For the first time, our method makes it possible to build a high-resolution map, at the single cell level, that can guide these kinds of research.”

Read the full article here.