Whispers between heaven and hell: Scientists listen up!

It has become common practice in modern societies to measure the performance of scientists using a combination of metrics related to academic productivity, publication prestige, and acquisition of funding. Researchers usually respond to these demands adopting a “save-play” strategy (prioritizing scientific productivity). Many scholars are becoming increasingly aware of the risks this strategy entails, including a bias towards and emphasis on deductivism in the scientific process while neglecting inductivism, reduced risk taking to work outside the scientific mainstream, and inquiry limited to what we know we don´t know. The broader consequences are that not only scientists, but also their fields, become ensnarled in disciplinary ivory towers. To break this trend, calls have been made to boost creative thinking in science. Creativity becomes the motor of inductivism, the driver of inquiry about what we don´t know we don´t know. Creativity can become the connecting agent between isolated sciences, and drive further thinking and research to get a grip of the intangibles of this complex world.

I have been long thinking about approaches towards boosting my own creative thinking. I had one of my light bulb moments while listening to The other half of me on the new release, Soul Sphere, of Born of Osiris, an American deathcore band. This song amalgamates different sounds and instruments. Briefly, the synthesizers introduce elements that can be associated with heaven or some form of celestial divinity, while the guitars, drumming and vocals account for the aggressiveness, the brutal or “diabolical” nature inherent in this musical genre. The emerging song structures become allegorical to “whispers between heaven and hell”.

If you listen to the song you will hear a ca. 10-sec long passage at 0:39, when after the domination of rhythmic complexity lead by screaming vocals, drumming and guitars, the synths give a shy celestial whisper to hell. These whispers culminate in an intense period at 1:28 and another one at 2:27 when heaven dominates the argument while hell provides harmonic agreement to this “muscial conversation”.

This is only an example! There are many bands out there that do similar stuff, varying themes, introducing interesting multiscalar and dynamic patterns that result in complex musical structure.

How does this relate to science?

Combining religion with heavy metal music might seem strange at first site! Yet, this post shows that you can connect apparently unrelated things (given “enough” creativity). In so doing it became an eye opener to me, a teaser that challenged my entire system of thought and inquiry, simply an experience that directed me on a new path of broader exploration.

This post is an auditory complement to Bob Orsillo´s painting Whisper between Heaven and Hell. Both, the auditory and visual arts can serve as a great inspiration to scientists! Exploration is the raison d’être of our sciences. There is much uncharted territory for exploring how isolated, unrelated or antithetical entities in systems, like heaven and hell united in deathcore, can be connected and dynamic interactions between those identified. Continuing this or similar lines of explorations may help us, the scientists, grasp some of the seemingly intractable complexity of our world. We can then ultimately help mankind to cope with a transforming planet and adjust to change.

Scientists listen up! ….

….and way to go, Born of Osiris! 

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