Earworms, Baseball and Poetry: Faculty Collaboration Grants Fund Interdisciplinary Research

Earworms, Baseball and Poetry: Faculty Collaboration Grants Fund Interdisciplinary Research

By Alexis BlueUniversity Relations - Communications
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One of the projects chosen to receive a UA Faculty Collaboration Grant will explore what makes music get stuck in our heads.
One of the projects chosen to receive a UA Faculty Collaboration Grant will explore what makes music get stuck in our heads.
Dan Kruse
Dan Kruse
Another project to receive grant funding from the Confluencenter will study the aesthetics of movement by analyzing baseball swings and dance moves.
Another project to receive grant funding from the Confluencenter will study the aesthetics of movement by analyzing baseball swings and dance moves.
Ricardo Valerdi
Ricardo Valerdi

Have you ever had a pesky song in your head for days and wondered just what made it stick?

Dan Kruse has, and he decided to find out why by launching a research project that unites collaborators from the UA School of Music, the UA Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and Arizona Public Media.

Their project – which will explore why "earworms" persist – is one of six interdisciplinary undertakings selected to receive Faculty Collaboration Grants from the UA's Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry.

"As long as I can remember, all my life, I've had music rolling around in my head," said Kruse, a documentary filmmaker who has a degree in ethnomusicology from the UA School of Music and works for Arizona Public Media as the local KUAZ-FM host during the NPR show "All Things Considered."

Kruse became interested in earworms – songs that get stuck in your head and won't go away – after hearing a story on NPR about research looking at what causes the onset of this phenomenon in 90 percent of the population at least once a week. Kruse went on to give a TEDx Tucson talk on the subject last year.

While many scholars have studied what induces earworms, Kruse wondered what makes them stick around.

His project, titled "Musical Cognition, Emotion and Imagery," will include a research study and documentary film that looks at why earworms persist and what they can tell us about the human relationship with music.

He is working with Don Traut, associate professor of music theory at the UA School of Music, and Andrew Lotto, associate professor of speech, language and hearing sciences.

Theirs is just one of the projects selected to receive a Faculty Collaboration Grant, awarded annually to support interdisciplinary research at the UA. The grants help support the UA's strategic goal, under the Never Settle plan, to foster interdisciplinary research and scholarship at the University.

The Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry awarded nearly $93,000 in Faculty Collaboration Grants for the 2014-15 academic year to projects across the colleges of Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities, Medicine and Engineering.

"We are delighted to see that the Confluencenter continues to create boundless possibilities to achieve excellence by supporting innovative, collaborative and engaging research projects," said Javier Duran, director of the center. "The selection committee for our Faculty Collaboration Grants, led by professors Ken McAlister and Paula Fan, did a tremendous job given the diversity and richness of the proposals received. The collaborations Confluencenter will support in the upcoming year foster new synergies between the arts, humanities and social sciences, medicine and engineering."

The other projects chosen to receive grants are:

"The Dance of Baseball: An Exploration of Aesthetics"

For this project, experts in dance, medicine and engineering will come together to study human movement in baseball and dance to provide a holistic approach for analyzing the aesthetics of movement.

Collaborators include Amy Ernst, associate professor of dance; Jory Hancock, dean of the College of Fine Arts; Ellen Melamed, artist-in-residence in the College of Fine Arts; Ricardo Valerdi, associate professor of systems and industrial engineering; and Dan Latt, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery who leads orthopedics clinics in the UA School of Dance to help prevent injuries in dancers.

"The basic idea behind the project is to study baseball swings from two different perspectives – a medical, biomechanical perspective that's more scientific and quantitative, and an aesthetic, graceful dance perspective that's more qualitative," said Valerdi, who teaches a course to UA freshmen and local middle school students called "Science of Baseball."

"It's combining engineering, medicine, dance and sports," added Valerdi, whose sister is a professional ballerina.

The team will work with UA dance students, as well as UA and local baseball players.

"Turkey in Theory: An Interdisciplinary Workshop"

Brian Silverstein, director of the UA's new Arizona Center for Turkish Studies, and Salih Can Açiksöz, assistant professor of Middle Eastern and North African studies, will organize a two-day workshop on contemporary Turkish society, history, politics and arts.

The event will help launch the new center, which brings together UA faculty and students working on topics related to Turkey's past and present.

"To both launch the center and in a way take the pulse of Turkish Studies, we will hold a two-day workshop or seminar, with around eight invited 'senior' scholars who have already made agenda-setting impacts on the field in various humanities, arts and social science disciplines, and we will open a call for graduate students to apply, with around eight being competitively selected," Silverstein said.

"I was asked to be the inaugural director (of the Center for Turkish Studies), and I was glad to take up the challenge of building something in which students and colleagues can flourish, and maintain the U of A's position at the cutting edge of Turkish studies."

"A Poetry of Art: Burchiello Redressed"

School of Art professor David Christiana will create interpretive etchings of poems by Burchiello, while Aileen Feng and Fabian Alfie from the Department of French and Italian will present research and translations into this Florentine's work for an exhibit at the UA Poetry Center.

"'Kinuta': Noh Soul in Western Garb"

James Cook, associate professor of art, and Noel Pinnington, associate professor of East Asian studies, will create a screenplay of the Japanese play "Kinuta." While retaining the Zen influence, the screenplay will be infused with contemporary language and Western social trappings.

"Translating Gender"

Susan Stryker, director of the Institute for LGBT Studies, and David Gramling, assistant professor of German studies, will invite 18 leading scholars in translation studies and transgender studies for a three-day workshop that will include a curated reading for the public.

In addition to the Faculty Collaboration Grants, the Confluencenter also awarded 14 graduate fellowships, totaling $52,000, to UA graduate students working on innovative or interdisciplinary projects.

The following graduate students were chosen from a pool of 45 applicants from the colleges of Fine Arts, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities and Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs:

  • Emily Bell, Government and Public Policy
  • Laurel Bellante, Geography and Development
  • Joseph Bickley, History        
  • Jan Bindas-Tenney, English  
  • Kyle Boggs, English
  • Cecilia Lewis, Mexican American Studies
  • YuRong (Joy) Liu, Arid Lands
  • Marco Macias, History          
  • Eric Magrane, Geography and Development        
  • Dylan McCarthy Blackston, Gender and Women’s Studies
  • Edward Polanco, History
  • Gina Richard, American Indian Studies
  • Valente Soto, Geography and Development
  • Cari Tusing, Anthropology

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