Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

My Photo
Location: New Zealand

Marni D. Sheppeard

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Thank You Oxford

On March 4 the Heathrow bus dropped me off on High St. Bleary eyed, I lifted my head and saw the plaque to Boyle on the stone wall beside me, and it made me smile. I dragged my broken suitcase across the cobblestones to the gate at Oriel, where they were not expecting me. But a few phone calls later, I found myself in a comfortable room right in the city, where I enjoyed my first night.

At first, with weariness and disbelief that I should find myself here at all, there was only the shock of a functioning city, with its crowds and its garbage, its generosity and corruption. My student room on Cowley Rd was noisy at night, and it was over three months before I finally settled at home in Norham Rd.

And then it was summer. I had discovered the quietest corners of the large college gardens, my favourite chapels, and my favourite walks in the countryside. I was taken to lunch and dinner at Jesus and Balliol colleges. There were wonderful mathematics workshops and endless lectures to attend. The physicists were friendly. What more could I ask for than this? I will not forget you.

One night an old man at the Sheldonian told me that, in recent years, the light had changed. He said that now when he looked at the Magdalen tower in the afternoon, it did not seem real. We looked across the street to Trinity, and it was a beautiful night.

Fare well, Oxford. How fortunate I am, to have seen your dreaming spires.


Blogger nige said...

It's just the perfect time to be heading back to New Zealand for the southern spring.

October 05, 2009 4:44 AM  
Anonymous chimpanzee said...

"The Journey IS the REWARD"
-- Chinese proverb

Your life path sounds remarkably like that of Rosina Lhevinne (Julliard's "most brilliant professor", according to Arthur Rubinstein), a love-story (with Music) with great struggle but eventual great legacy. Her students include Van Cliburn (winner of Tchaikovsky competition), John Williams, John Browning, et al

That is some nice writing (finally showing your sensitive side, instead of the brute force math/physics). Your remembrances/farewell is reminiscent of RL's 90th birthday celebration by Julliard:

Legacy of Rosina Lhevinne

"We have had many celebrations this season for various reasons..all of them important..none of which has given more pleasure than this night when we are assembled here to pay tribute to our beloved & respected Rosina Lhevinne"

Rosina Lhevinne:
"My friends & distinguished guest who are kind enough to come to celebrate my 90th birthday.
It is more than half of my life, that I am teaching a Julliard School of Music, & I cannot express with words what it has meant to me"

"I like individuality..I treasure that in a student"

"I always think "So hurry, hurry! Do your best every day..because you should make the best of the strength God give you!"

"If she had any pride, it was the greatest in her pupils."

Martin Canin:
"She says playing is glamorous, but teaching is noble. Because passing on to youth the knowledge you have. Teaching great music to gifted people is great joy. You saw her.. how fulfilling it was.. to her.

It's all a great sense of continuity, she taught so I teach

James Levine (Pianist, Conductor, Artistic Director, Metropolitan Opera):

"Her legacy is in what we learned & the ideals she developed in us & that we pass on to the next generation. And, thank god there is some recording which we can hear, so that it follows in this artisitic continuum"

Mme. Rosina Lehvinne speaking at the 20th anniversay of the Aspen Music Festival, 1969:

"My life at the Moscow Conservatory taught me to equip myself with knowledge and craftsmanship before going out to conquer the world. My life with Mr. Lhevinne taught me not to conquer the world by force, but to discover the world through study, kindness, imagination, and through the integrtiy of your own quest.

Finally, in my new life of twenty-five years alone [ after death of husband Josef ], I have found that despite obstacles which face you, despite how small & worthless you may seem to yourself - that you can find the strength to continue, & try to make the world a more beautiful place"

The above comments are relevant to Science (since Art/Music share the same Creative/Discovery process). I was hoping to see more posts on your Opera interest (& singing)

October 05, 2009 10:48 AM  
Anonymous chimpanzee said...

forgot this:

Rosina Lhevinne:
"We who are in the field of music have a special responsiblity in the quest for humanity. For music the one universal language. It is the one language which can transcend those boundaries by which men continue to divide themselves"

The obvious move for Science Outreach, is to partner with some Musicians. Hilary Hahn (an established violinist, represented by Deutsche Grammophone) is actively using Youtube medium (using Webcam..which YOU should be doing!!) for Outreach, & in the video "What would you be if you weren't a violinist?" said:

"Maybe I'd be a Scientist"

Kea, your Opera & music appreciation/talents is a secret weapon in your portfolio. You could do the above "Art/Music & Science" paradigm for Outreach on this blog. (get a camera or webcam)

HEP is in trouble in terms of Public Outreach (as evidenced by last years USA funding crisis, which threatened Fermilab layoffs & ILC research), so they are searching for that "universal language", i.e. a musical physicist. (HEP is cursed by the obstacle of intensive math/physics, which the Public hopelessly can't relate to)

Lisa Randall just wrote an opera, to abstract the complex math/physics of multiple dimensions to the Public.

[ Her buddy from high-school, Brian Greene/Columbia, is trying all sorts of popular outlets: "Elegant Universe" book, NOVA 3-part series "The Elegant Universe" which used multi-media to abstract the complex math/physics. He is continuing collaboration with Disney on multimedia. He started WSF/World Science Festival last year, that brought actors, dancers, performers to complement the Scientists -- an Art & Science paradigm ]

You, on the other hand, are trained in Opera, so you are in the RARE position of BEING an artist/musician.

"In order to solve the Problem, you must FIRST Understand the Problem"
-- A. Einstein

Thus, you have a BETTER understanding of that field, & how Art & Science based Outreach should be done.

"What she knew, & what she represented, & even more ...I the whole... world she came from"
[ Rosina's husband Josef played for Tchaikovsky & was contemproraries with Rachmaninoff/Scriabin at Moscow Conservatory ]
-- James Levine (Pianist, Conductor, Artistic Director: Metropolitan Opera), video here

THIS should earn you at least a consultant role (remote from NZ) in HEP Outreach programs, to guide these "posers" in their quest for Outreach (Scientists trying to do Art & Science, without the inner-experience of Art).

I have been studying Youtube music videos, there are some nice documentaries "Art of Piano" & "Art of Violin". The above "Legacy of Rosina Lhevinne" was a mind-boggling documentary that I recently ran into.

October 05, 2009 12:07 PM  
Anonymous chimpanzee said...

Oh, a 3rd thing: "singing".

We're all wondering what your voice sounds like, must be crazy beautiful if you are opera trained.

[ you pre-paid for tickets to the Opera, but missed it because of idiotic Visa issues. You DID make it to an opera performance recently, right? Full report, please ]

Rosina Lhevinne taught the pianists to "sing" (as part of the "Canvas of sound", video here):

"Singing..And um, I think that is the most important thing, to try to make a Percussion instrument [ this Science Blog ] to be a LYRICAL instrument [ add "singing" to its portfolio ]"
-- Van Cliburn

You need to expand the portfolio of this Scientific Blog, into 1 that includes some Entertainmnet like Music/Opera & Mountaineering/skiing (another one of your expertise). Call it Information (Science) + Entertainment (outdoor activty & Music), i.e. Infotainment. The latter is the Key strategy for Public Outreach, & I rate you as #1 in the World. Nobody comes close to your outstanding portfolio (the 2 near-death mountain accidents are like Lisa Randall's fall @Yosemite..both of you had to be rescued by helicopter)

"When he came to me, he was 17 yrs old .. he was taught by his mother until then, my class was full, but when I heard him I accepted him immediately. There is no pianistic difficulty for him & wasn't when he came. What attracted me to him was his UNIQUE SENSITIVITY in music, & he LOVES music"
-- Rosina Lhevinne

I clearly remember your excitement in pre-paying for Opera tickets, & exclaiming "I can't wait". You obviously LOVE music. So, where are the posts about this "universal language" that will be attractive to the masses?

"I wrote him & advised him to goto Moscow [ Oxford ]. His 1st letter was no. But, I didn't stop there, I wrote him 4 points:

1) you will work with great intensity

2) you will learn a great deal of new material [ Oxford Computing Laboratory ]

3) you will meet the cream of the pianist world [ leading physicists, et al ]

last but not least

4) I think you will win [ launch your career ]"
-- Rosina Lhevinne

Ok, I (& others) are sitting here scratching our collective heads: surely an Oxford post-doc gig is the stepping stone to bigger/better things. What happened?? I'm sorry, waitressing is NOT an acceptable next step. If you are the next Van Cliburn in physics (Supergenius, according to Lubos Motl), then you need to get back on track.

"A Great Teacher is a guide, & must work to help that young person, that shining New Page, that Wonderful NEW MIND, that Wonderful New Experience to be as INDEPENDENT & SELF CONFIDENT as possible.. That's a GREAT TEACHER"
-- Van Cliburn

Can you comment on the above paradigm, with respect to your Oxford & UC experience. You had stated there was some sexism @UC ("oh she's harmless"), that indicated they were unsupportive

"It is just your own personality & own individuality that counts, I try as much as possible to develop student with the idea that they must be interesting personalities themselves & that would show in their music"
-- Rosina Lhevinne

So, again, you have stated this is a Science Blog. Heavy math/physics posting, very terse & dry. The original post is 1 of the few times, your sensitive side comes out..NEED MORE OF THAT. People want to see your individuality as a person, i.e. Human Interest. The latter is what sells photos at Stock Agencies, & the key to Science Outreach. The Public is hopelessly lost trying to relate to HEP (too technical), so the answer is to turn up the charm/personality -- especially from female physcists. Your pal Louise understands this strategy, that's why she dresses provacatively (sometimes).

[ continued ]

October 05, 2009 2:04 PM  
Anonymous chimpanzee said...

[ continued ]

James Levine interview
Van Cliburn & Tchaikovsky Competition

"After everything is said & done [ weapons, strategy ], it all comes down to PEOPLE"
-- XX, Dept of Defense consultant

Same thing for Physics, it's a war against Ignorance (Science is based on the fact that we realize we're ignorant & need to make discoveries), with multiple groups competing for Discoveries. This "competitive battle" leads to some interesting dynamics (animated discussions, & HUGE FIGHTS!!), which is VERY APPEALING in a human-interest way. Lubos Motl is probably the leader in Physics in this area. I.e., colorful personaliteis are key to Public Outreach.. Look at that NASCAR phenomena (guys driving in circles), it's based on driver personaliteis ("bad boys"=Villain, "nice guys"=Hero), as part of the Hero/Villain model. HEP has this going on right now.

"It's a very beautiful balance between inputting to the student what you are, & what the student can absorb & in a sense responding to what the student is & drawing that out & let that bloom as a priority..a HIGH PRIORITY"
-- xx (Hans Boepple?)

You talk about rich interaction with physicist & computer scientist @Oxford, can you describe it with reference to the above paradigm?

"I wasn't cut out somehow for the Liszt sonata or Tchaikovsky concerto & these pieces that would require kinda full time insrumental invovling travelling around.. strange pianos alone & all that stuff.. I really wanted to use the instrument in collaboration with singers, & chamber musicians mostly

[ this is an EXACT analogy to what post-docs do: traveling around in strange places, just look at Bee for example. Her frustrated comments about health insurance, bank accounts, etc are telling ]

She respected that & knew that early on, she was going to give her all anyway. She understood where my innate strengths & weaknesses were & had a strong instinct for pushing me to improve what I really could & somehow understanding what was innate to growth"

[ Rosina Lhevinne was *flexible* enough, to adapt to an "Alternative Model" for this particular student. The analogy with Physics, is to adopt a non-Gypsy like travlling-round-the wolrd approach to post-doc physics ]

--James Levine (Pianist, Conductor, Artistic Director: Metropolitan Opera)

Can you comment if you had teachers or collaborators (Oxford), which interacted with you in the above manner? Trying to read your strengths/weaknesses, pull out what they could & inject some of their own ideas into you?

"The first time when an American won the Russian Price [ Tchaikovsky Competition ] was Van Cliburn. Everybody LOVED his playing. Why? Because he embodies the nature of the Russian playing [ Romanticism, as per Anton Rubinstein (contemporary with Liszt)..founder of Moscow Conservatory ], as inculcated to him by Rosina Lhevinne"

"The Russian school of piano playing was a Romantic style of playing instituted by Anton Rubinstein, the great pianist contemporary of Liszt. Romantic means PERSONALLY EXPRESSIVE. Which mean that you could take a piece of music & interpret it according to your FEELING. Rosina Lhevinne was a perfect product of this generation"
-- Nicolas Slonimsky, Composer/Conductor/Musicologist

We are all here ("fans"), Pulling for YOU!

Are you the next Van Cliburn in Physics (Shining New Page, Wonderful New Mind, Wonderful New Experience), who will win the Great Prize [ Nobel ]? I.e, did you have a Great Teacher who instilled SELF CONFIDENCE & INDEPENDENCE in you? Your independence is quite evident.

[ continued ]

October 05, 2009 2:16 PM  
Anonymous chimpanzee said...

That anecdote about Rosina writing to Van initially, & getting declined, is eerily like my efforts to convince you & Bee to be more active in posting videos of yourself (as per Hilary Hahn, who is using Youtube videos for Outreach). Both of you have gotten downright ANNOYED at me for repeatedly hinting you toward this.

"you have to sell yourself"
-- professor to Bee

Both of you are theoretical physicists who have been "sterilized" by hard core logic of Math/Physics, & refuse to dabble in "entertainment" (emotive, aka "Emo"). I.e., you are like Spock in Star Trek: purely logical (vs Capt Kirk & Dr. McCoy who use emotion: leadership & intuition).

Hopefully, the "Legacy of Rosina Lhevinne" videos will stimulate you/Bee to become the next legacy in Physics. ("the most brilliant professor at Julliard", as per Arthur Rubinstein) By using personality & individuality, for Romantic style of Physics ("personally EXPRESSIVE"). Consult with Lubos Motl about this: "colorful personality",

"Individuality. -- I treasure that in a student"
-- Rosina Lhevinne

I would rate you as #1 physicist in the World for Individuality. Your mountaineering/skiing portfolio is 2nd to none. Add Opera & Physics to that, you have a Van Cliburn-like winner.

October 05, 2009 2:21 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Oxford is as fortunate to have you as you are fortunate to have Oxford.

October 07, 2009 9:38 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home