Great Article About Heart and Art

Nicola Conraths-Lange
February 15, 2015

We are getting very excited by our upcoming performance of "Heart and Art" on February 19 and 20 - and so are our partners at Munson Medical Center. They even featured our collaboration in a great article in their newsletter this month. Thank you Munson for your involvement on this totally original performance! Here is the article. 

Take an echocardiography machine from Munson Medical Center’s Webber Family Heart Center, add a jazz combo, silk screen print artists, a few singer songwriters and one has a recipe for an intriguing evening of entertainment. “Heart and Art” will debut at Interlochen Arts Academy’s Phoenix Theatre at 7:30 pm on Feb. 19 and 20 with one act involving music students jamming to their own heartbeats, and potentially the heart rhythm provided by a member of the audience. 

“The evening merges science, music, improvisation, poetry, and lighting design, all embedded in a humor ous, whimsical play that speaks to factual and symbolic metaphors surrounding the heart,” said Nicola Conraths-Lange, Interlochen director of Comparative Arts. The “Heart and Art” performances developed out of an inspiration to merge medicine and the arts after a friend of Conraths-Lange developed a heart problem. Conraths-Lange called Munson cardiologist Brian Jaffe, MD, FACC, whose children had graduated from the academy. 

“I contacted Dr. Jaffe about what we wanted to do and he told me about the echocardiography machine,” she said. “We took a field trip to the hospital and students were hooked up to the machine. During that visit we also took an audio recording of the heartbeat of each student.”  

Back at Interlochen, physics instructor Taoufik Nadji helped students put those audio recordings through a sonogram application that turned the beats into sound waves that were digitally displayed and then turned into analog screen prints. “On a second field trip to the hospital we listened to hearts that had a pathology and hearts that were regular. I brought the Interlochen Jazz Combo directed by Bill Sears to Munson and they improvised to their own heartbeats,” she said. 

During one set, a saxophonist was hooked up to the machine and the double-bass player started improvising to his friend’s heartbeat. The echocardiogram then showed the saxophonist’s heartbeat appear to synch up to the instrument.  Jazz saxophonist Raef Sengupta, who composes jazz, said his contribution to the night will be a collaboration with fellow student and classical composter Jose Salinas that fuses the genres. 

“We are hoping that our piece will achieve a good blend of both,” he said. “The most exciting part was attempting to create a piece that not only created the heartbeat into the song itself, but also used it as a central theme in the expression of the piece. We created different sections in order to portray a universal pattern of life.” 

Heart and Art also will include a lobby exhibition that displays poetry and visual art of student artists who transformed their own heart beats into vibrant works of art. 

One part of the performance will feature Dr. Jaffe and Munson echo sonographer Karen Zimmerman, BS, RDCS (AE, PE), RVT, measuring performer’s heartbeats on stage, in real time. Dr. Jaffe also will play a conga drum. “By teaching the Interlochen kids just a little about the heart, heart sounds, and giving them access to echo images, they have unleashed all sorts of incredibly creative art,” Dr. Jaffe said. “What a great collaboration, and who knows, maybe one of these young artists will become an even better artist, or physician, nurse, or echo technician.”