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An Open Letter to Science: Don’t Leave Art in the Friendzone.

Britt, the bassist, here again with more of my random thoughts. As I’ve mentioned before, I have two degrees. One of them is in Biology, and my Master’s is in Forensic Biochemistry. So, what am I doing these days? I’m a musician. This brings my focus in this post to the idea that science and art really go hand in hand together. Although the title seems a little one sided, it really goes for both sides of the spectrum.

When I was younger, one thing I was told really stuck with me. A little backstory: I used to draw a lot and dabbled a bit in graphic design. I wasn’t great, but I used it as a creative outlet. My sister, on the other hand, really had a knack for drawing and carried it over into graphic designing. Today, she is a professional graphic designer and a damn good one. So, getting back to what I was told, I remember one day I was particularly ecstatic over some random graphic design or something I did. At this point, I was already super interested in becoming a doctor or scientist of some sort. I was talking about becoming an artist and was told, “You aren’t an artist. Your sister is the creative one. You’re suppose to be the scientist.”

That stuck with me for a long time. I ended up abandoning art as a whole and focus strictly on science. Two degrees later, and admittedly very unhappy from what I was trying to do as a career and dealing with PTSD from abuse, I turned to music as therapy. In the back of my head, I kept hearing the “Your sister is the creative one. You’re suppose to be the scientist.” Why not both, though? Why is there a stigma against being great at science and being a creative individual? There’s always been the idea that science makes careers, art makes hobbies. There’s always been the view that one should get a respectable career, like science, medicine, academia related jobs, but that being an artist, whether painting or making music, is almost seen as a joke (i.e. “If you’re an artist, you’re so broke you eat your paints. Cue in crazy artist”).

I have nothing against going into a science career. I know many brilliant people who are success in a science-based field. What I don’t like is some of the backlash I’ve gotten from wanting to choose music as a career now over going back to science. Even today I’ve been told that music is a good hobby, but I should really just go back into my field. Is it okay if I choose not to? I think so. In fact, I still consider myself a scientist and I credit it with driving my passion for music.

Science is an art. Some people don’t believe this because they don’t realize the creativeness that goes into the field. Instead of instrument or a canvas, your tools are the lab bench, the reagents, the pipettes, your lab notebook, academic articles. The art you create is your experiment. Projects begin because of an idea. You piece together the idea of what you want to prove, what you want to succeed with, or could be what you want to disprove and argue. Once your idea is set, it’s to the drawing board. You have to design the experiment you want to use to follow through with your idea. Much like writing a song, you want to layout the ground work to get your idea to fruition. When something doesn’t work in your song, doesn’t sound good or doesn’t have the feel you’re going for, you start over with a new approach. This is the exact same as when your experiment doesn’t produce the right results. You start over with a new approach.

Art is a science. Again, some people don’t believe this either because when they think of art, we’ll take music as the example, they just see some guy strumming a guitar and singing. Anyone can strum a guitar and sing, it’s not difficult, right? There’s a lot more to it than that and I feel that it is by far on the same level as when I was in school for science. What makes music a science? Music theory. Everything about music theory, and what it’s based on, is calculated and expressed through math. There’s a reason why when you press a particular place on a guitar neck it makes the sound you hear. It’s based on mathematical equations determined by the end of the neck, fractions up to the octave of the open string note, and the wavelength, amplitude, and frequency created by pressing that one spot. Where have I heard these terms before? In physics. In chemistry. Even in biology. There’s a hell of a lot more to it than that, as I am still a music theory student with much to learn.

In wrapping this up, my science brain has made it easier to express my ideas into sound. I calculate what particular notes will get my point across. I figure out harmonies, tones, melodies that are essential to my idea. I then use what I have put together to form my experiment, my song. When something doesn’t sound right, I examine what my experiment steps were and start again. Science really goes hand-in-hand with art in so many ways that I have never seen. Art is more than drawing on an easel, more than strumming notes. So, before you think that art isn’t on the same level as science careers, think again! There’s so much more to it than what you see. And if you are a scientist, I strongly urge you to pick up an art form. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how well it works for you.

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