Kelly sits down with academic and author Ainissa Ramirez, Ph.D. to talk about her new book "The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another."
“Improvisation and science are very much linked. Let's say you don't have a very well-funded lab and you want to do something. You have to scrounge around and make the best of it. That's a lot of improvisation. And also discoveries. Maybe you were going for one thing, and you see another thing. You could have the judgment, ‘Oh, I'm a failure, my experiment didn't work out.’ Or, you can see what this experiment is actually telling you. It might be a breakthrough - so improvisation and science are very much linked.”
“Music is a way to kind of explore this very nebulous topic and it ends up that Louis Armstrong when he played his music, he played it differently. If you look at sheet music, an eighth note should be at one place and then the next the next place, and then the next place. But he wouldn't play it exactly like that, because that was what jazz was all about. It was improvisation. And in the process of not playing the notes exactly how they look on the sheet of paper, he was actually shifting our understanding and our experience with time - because our brains note time by physical cues. Because he was shifting the position of the notes, our brains were losing their sense of time. So I show that in “The Alchemy of Us” about how jazz was very much in tune with how we actually appreciate and experience time.”
“That's exactly right. Western culture is really focused on the future: what I'm doing today is going to prepare me for something down the road. But there's other cultures that really focus on the present, and that's what I talk about. Jazz, for example, Is a blending of different cultures, many of them being African American, Afro Cuban and also Western cultures all mixed together. And in those cultures, the focus is on the present.”