RPI Begins Countdown to Earth Day with performances, talks, technology


RPI’s April 14-21 Countdown to Earth Day Festival
includes Arts, Sciences, and Humanities

Troy, NY: “Circadian Rhythms,” composed and conducted by Ibarra as a tribute to the diverse life on our planet will be the highlight of Countdown to Earth Day at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. There is an impressive weeklong calendar of performances, lectures, films, exhibits, and workshops centered on environmental sustainability. Drawing from all corners of the arts and sciences, this multi-disciplanary collaboration, also called the Sensing Environments Festival will present daily events from April 14 to April 21. And it’s all free and open to the public as well as the RPI community.

The RPI community are making a real effort to invite and embrace the local and regional communities, throwing open its doors to enable those with an interest in the environment to be part of the latest trends and developments in the field. It is a model other colleges in the area could replicate if they chose. All it takes is some reaching out. – (LM)

Arts Professor Michael Century explains the concept

Arts Department Professor Michael Century who is the Executive Producer, World Drum/Earth Day Concerts comments: “The musical highlight of the week’s programming is on April 21 at 5 pm: the world premiere of Circadian Rhythms by composer and percussionist Susie Ibarra, a seven movement suite for 80 percussionists, 8 soloists from various world music traditions, and surround soundtrack drawn from animal sound archive at Cornell’s Macauley Library.”

And Century emphasizes that this is not just an on-campus event. He elaborates: “I have recruited a diverse set of pre-formed ensembles from around the Capital District: Williams, Union, RPI, Bennington, plus Troy High School Drum Line, Troy Samba Group, Ensemble Congeros, and the Empire State Youth Orchestra Percussion Ensemble. The concert, at the EMPAC concert hall, is preceded by an outdoor festival consisting of all the groups, plus the great Cayuga nation drum/dance duo Jake and Al George, which will be followed by a musical procession to EMPAC,” he says.

“The “Sensing Environments”, festival, the first of its kind at RPI, is meant to showcase academic work on sustainability. There’s a lot of sustainability research going on at RPI, and the festival aims to pull together the work of those academics – whether it’s using data from the oceans to track climate change (Mimi Katz), studying how local communities handle the advent of hydrofracking (Abby Kinchy), or using media art to draw attention to sustainability (Igor Vamos of “The Yes Men”) – for the Rensselaer community and the Capital Region. Pauline Oliveros We’ve also got a number of outside speakers and performers like Gavin Schmidt, deputy chief at the NSAS Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and an expert in climate modeling.”

Professor Kim Fortun explains the science angle

Century is not alone in his commitment. “There’s a really nice energy that, in the past few years, has grown around sustainability-focused research on campus,” said Kim Fortun, professor of Science and Technology Studies, and chairwoman of the Rensselaer Excellence in Interdisciplinary Sustainability Studies Task Force, which is organizing the festival in cooperation with the Rensselaer Department of the Arts. “The festival is a way for us to celebrate and build upon that energy, and it’s also an opportunity to share our work with the community, offering a sample of what researchers from diverse academic backgrounds can bring to the ongoing discussion about sustainability and its challenges.”

More than 30 events are planned throughout the week, culminating on Sunday, April 21, the day prior to Earth Day, with a musical procession from Prospect Park in Troy to the concert hall of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) on the Rensselaer campus, for a world drumming performance, newly composed by Susie Ibarra and inspired by the theme of the festival.

The festival spotlights renowned experts from the Rensselaer faculty as well as leading figures in the arts and sciences internationally. Visiting speakers include Gavin Schmidt, climate modeler and deputy chief at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and David Dunn, a composer, environmentalist, and director of the Art & Science Laboratory in Santa Fe. Participating Rensselaer faculty will include Igor Vamos, associate professor in the Rensselaer Arts Department, known as “Mike Bonnano” in his media arts work with “The Yes Men”; Mimi Katz, an assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences whose research focuses on the history of Earth’s climate; and Pauline Oliveros, a distinguished research professor, founder of the “Deep Listening” movement, and 2012 winner of the John Cage Prize.

Highlights of the week’s events – (Scroll Down for Full Schedule)

Talk: Mimi Katz, “Lessons from Ancient Oceans & Climate Changes,” Tuesday, April 16, 3-4 p.m., Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) Auditorium. Katz will discuss her efforts to use ancient, deep-sea fossils to reconstruct the history of the Earth’s climate, and her research at sea through the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.

Film & Discussion: “Garbage Warrior and the Challenge of Green Building,” Thursday, April 18, 10 a.m.-noon, Rensselaer Union. A film about renegade architect Michael Reynolds and his “green disciples,” advancing the art of passive, solar, off-the-grid, sustainable housing.

Talk: Gavin Schmidt, “What Are Climate Models Good For?” Friday, April 19, 4-6 p.m., EMPAC Concert Hall. Schmidt will look at current climate models, how they have performed so far, the challenges they face, and their current limitations.

Panel: “Updates on Shale Gas Research: A Systems Approach,” Saturday, April 20, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., EMPAC Studio 2. This panel discussion will provide an opportunity to share and deliberate on recent research on shale gas development, and implications for New York state and national policy.

Talk: David Dunn, “Sonic Interventions Into Hidden Sound Worlds: A Composer at the Edge of Science,” Saturday, April 20, 4-6 p.m., EMPAC Studio 2. Dunn will discuss his collaborations with scientists to make sonic art that moves from documentation and aesthetics, to applied environmental problem solving.

Concert: Susie Ibarra, “Circadian Rhythms,” Sunday, April 21, 5-6 p.m., EMPAC Concert Hall. “Circadian Rhythms,” composed and conducted by Ibarra as a tribute to Earth Day, is inspired by the built-in biological rhythms in plants, animals, birds, insects, and bacteria that oscillate, repeat, and change with patterns of movement, migration, birth, and sleep. The composition features a surround soundscape of animal and bird recordings from the Macaulay Library of Cornell.

For a full schedule of events, visit: The RPI site

“We hope the larger community will join us to learn about research and discussion under way at Rensselaer, addressing issues of enormous public concern,” Fortun said. “We have, for example, a group of material scientists who are working on designing alternatives to natural resources that are scarce, or environmentally destructive to obtain. They are serious basic scientists, but they’re motivated by and engaged with broad questions about the material infrastructure for a sustainable society.”

Artists Help Scientists Connect With the Earth

Kathy High, associate professor of arts and an organizer of the event, said artists presenting during the festival have a long commitment to working with biology, environmental issues, climactic issues, and how art can help us understand and rethink how we interact with the Earth.

“This is an inspiring group of people and they can help us think about how we can create our own interventions through artistic practice,” said High.

Michael Century, professor of arts and an organizer, said “the confluence of musical talents, from throughout the Capital Region and beyond, and ranging across the diversity of the world’s musical styles, will create a thrilling finale for the festival.”

The festival is a joint initiative of the Rensselaer Excellence in Interdisciplinary Sustainability Studies Task Force and the Department of the Arts. Sponsors of the events include the Bank of America, New York State Council of the Arts, the Rensselaer Office of the President, the Jaffe Fund for Experimental Media and Performing Arts, and the Rensselaer School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Film:”A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet”
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM, DCC 308

Monday, April 15, 2013

Talk: Mike Fortun, “Genes in History: Changing Approaches to the Environment in Genetics Research”
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, DCC 318

Talk: David Rothenberg, “Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise”
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM, DCC 318
Sponsored by the Vasudha Living and Learning Community with support from the Volmer Fries Endowment

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Panel: “Updates on Water Research”
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Mother’s, Rensselaer Union

Film & Discussion: “The E-Waste Challenge”
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM, Mother’s, Rensselaer Union

Talk: Igor Vamos, “Political Design for a Sustainable Future”
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Auditorium, CBIS

Talk: Mimi Katz, “Lessons from Ancient Oceans & Climate Changes”
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Auditorium, CBIS

Talk: Karen Pinkus, “Fuel: Thinking Potentiality in the Time of Climate Change”
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM, Auditorium, CBIS

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Talk: Chuck Haas, “Green Stormwater Infrastructure at the Nexus Between Sustainability & Health?”
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, JEC 3117

Panel: “Environmental Leadership: Challenges and Directions”
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Mother’s, Rensselaer Union

Talk: Katherine Hayles, “Performing Technogenesis: The Affective Power of New Media”
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM, EMPAC
Presented by EMPAC in its Observer Effects series

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Film & Discussion: “Garbage Warriors” and the Challenge of Green Building
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Mother’s, Rensselaer Union

Film & Discussion: “Darwin’s Nightmare,” Globalization and Sustainability
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM, Mother’s, Rensselaer Union

Talk: Pauline Oliveros, “Listening In and Out”
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, EMPAC Studio Beta

Film: “Chemical Valley”
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM, EMPAC Studio Beta

Friday, April 19, 2013

Earth Week Festival Poster Session
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM EMPAC Studio Beta

Panel: “Updates on Disaster Research”
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM, EMPAC Studio 2

Talk: Gavin Schmidt, “What are climate models good for?”
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM, EMPAC Concert Hall
Funded by the Vollmer W. Fries Lecture Series

Film: “Reach of Resonance”
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM, EMPAC Studio 2
Sponsored by the Vasudha Living and Learning Community with support from the Volmer Fries Endowment

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Earth Week Open House
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM, EMPAC Evelyn’s Cafe

Workshop: “Green Building for Elementary Students”
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM, EMPAC Studio Beta

Workshop: “Secondary School Frack Out!”
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM, EMPAC Studio 2

Panel: “Updates on Shale Gas Research: A Systems Approach”
(with New York premiere of the short film Fracking Our Future)
11:00 AM – 12:30 PM, EMPAC Studio 2

Film: “Eco-Film Medley for Kids”
11:00 AM – 12:30 PM, EMPAC Studio Beta

Lunch Meeting: “Connecting Student Environmental Leaders”
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM, EMPAC

Film: “Hoot” – An Eco-Film for Kids
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM, EMPAC Studio Beta

Talk: Andrea Polli, “Ecomedia: Environmental Science and Technology and Interaction in Public Art”
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM, EMPAC Studio 2

Talk: David Dunn, “Sonic Interventions Into Hidden Sound Worlds: A Composer at the Edge of Science”
4:00 PM – 5:30 PM, EMPAC Studio 2
Sponsored by the Vasudha Living and Learning Community with support from the Volmer Fries Endowment

Talk: Marina Zurkow, “The Haunting: challenging our environmental relations”
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM, EMPAC Studio 2

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Workshop: “Connecting Sustainability Educators”
9:30 AM – 1:30 PM, Russell Sage Laboratory, Room 5101

Workshop: Guinean Drum/Dance Workshop for Children
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, EMPAC Studio Beta

Workshop: World Drum Mask
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM, EMPAC Studio Beta

Concert: “World Drum Performance”
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM, Prospect Park

Concert: “Musical Procession to EMPAC”
3:30 PM – 4:00 PM, Prospect Park to EMPAC

Concert: Susie Ibarra, “Circadian Rhythms”
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM, EMPAC Concert Hall

Parking available at College Avenue Parking Garage, near EMPAC.
Shuttle buses will begin running at 1 pm between EMPAC and Prospect Park.

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