Music- There’s a Science to That

When you imagine someone working in the music field, what do you see? A composer? A musician? A conductor? Would you ever picture a scientist or an engineer? The areas of science and music appear to some to be diametrically opposed to one another, but nothing could be farther from the truth in today’s music industry.

Making music is about being an artist. And yet it is so much more. Designing rooms for optimized acoustics requires physics. Creating electrical components for amplifiers and crafting instruments requires a keen understanding of engineering concepts. Entrepreneurs use technology to dream up the musical devices and instruments of the future. In this field, creativity is not just about putting notes together.

The music field is full of people across many disciplines who apply a wide range of education and skills to their love of mus ic. Join Chicago Council on Science and Technology as we explore the intersection between music, science, engineering, and technology.

Nicolas Collins was born and raised in New York, and has been a composer and performer of electronic and instrumental music for over 40 years. He has presented over 1000 concerts and installations worldwide. He spent the 1980s performing, recording and touring the U.S., Europe and Japan as a solo artist, as well as in collaboration with groups. He spent most of the 1990s in Europe, where he was Visiting Artistic Director of Stichting STEIM (Amsterdam), and a DAAD composer-in-residence in Berlin. An early adopter of microcomputers for live performance, Collins also makes use of homemade electronic circuitry and conventional acoustic instruments. He returned to the U.S. in 1999 to join the Department of Sound at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Collins is editor-in-chief of the Leonardo Music Journal. His book, HandmadeElectronic Music – The Art of Hardware Hacking (Routledge), has influenced emerging electronic music worldwide. Collins’indecisive career trajectory is reflected in his having played at both CBGB and the Concertgebouw.

Doug McBride is a music producer, mixer, mastering engineer, multi-instrumentalist and owner of Gravity Studios inChicago. His began his career asan artist who garnered interest from Atlantic Records, then cut his teeth in production work atthe Chicago Recording Company inthe early 1990s. At CRC, McBride worked on many projects, including Cheap Trick’s “Budokan II,” Izzy Stradlin’s first solo record and Dog’s Eye View.  He then founded Gravity Studios, and the first band heworked with was Veruca Salt, producing their hit “Seether.”He’s continued to work with numerous other local bands. The Smashing Pumpkins spent two weeks with Doug on their album “Pisces Iscariot.” Doug and Gravity continue to work with national and international artists on major labels, such as Ben Kweller, Johnny Rzenik, Badly Drawn Boy, Racheal Yamagata, Fall Out Boy, Jack’s Mannequin, Buddy Guy, and American Idol winning client Lee DeWyze. He serves asthe Chairman ofthe Grammy’s Chicago Chapter Producer’s Craft Committee, speaks at conferences and colleges around the country, and teaches recording classes at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy.

Torin Hopkins is a recent graduate cum laude of Physiology, Chemistry and Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Hopkins is now working as an adjunct fMRI data analyst and research assistant, primarily studying how memories are consolidated bilaterally in the human cortex. He is also working on the development of applications for the “gTar” and related “smart instruments.” These instruments are the first of their kind and incorporate smartphones in order to advance many aspects of the modern musician. Hopkins designs, builds, codes and analyzes these types of new technologies in order to enhance the accessibility of music playing, theory and education.

Moderator: Aaron Freeman is C2ST’s Artist in Residence. Freeman is a writer/producer, science commentator and funnyman. Former host of both NPR’s weekly talk show Metropolis and WTTTW’s Chicago Tomorrow, a weekly science-and-health half-hour magazine.

DETAILS: Tuesday, March 24th, the Ballroom at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 112 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Doors open at 5 p.m., program 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Come early–Hopkins will be demonstrating the gTar prior to the program, starting at 5:15.

This program is FREE to attend, but registration is strongly encouraged at

For more information, contact Andrea Poet at or 312-567-5795.

Can’t join us live? Then join us via live stream, or watch the program at your leisure at a later date on our YouTube channel, C2ST TV. Streaming will begin on March 24 at 6 p.m. CDT.

ABOUT C2ST: Chicago Council on Science and Technology is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization that brings researchers and scientists out of the lab, directly to you. We work with national laboratories, leading academic institutions and museums to educate the public on issues of critical scientific importance. In an age when barely one in four voting adults meet a basic level of scientific literacy, we aim to reignite an excitement and passion for science and technology, and remind Chicagoans of the quality and quantity of R&D that takes place in their backyard.

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