Research Proposal: The Role of the Fingers of the Human Hand

The experimental methods discussed in this alien research proposal are meant to showcase, in very non-scientific ways, the ways that biochemists and biophysicists study proteins and other biological molecules. Have a very spooky and scientific Halloween!


Human beings are the dominant species on the planet Earth. It is believed by many that they will achieve intergalactic travel within the millennium. Their sentience was first hypothesized based on the detection of patterned, artificial radio waves. …

Review: French Choral Music 2, by Tõnu Kaljuste and the Nederlands Kamerkoor

The Netherlands Chamber Choir (Nederlands Kamerkoor) is known for championing difficult, contemporary works. They don’t shy away from doing so here, presenting works by the 20th century French composers Messiaen, Daniel-Lesur, and Jolivet. Choirs around the world have generally not found their footing with these composers’ music; many directors opt instead for Poulenc, Duruflé, Vierne, and others who came of age earlier, and so adhered more closely to the tonal ideas of Romanticism. The Kamerkoor deserves a lot of credit for championing these difficult works, most notably here Daniel-Lesur’s setting of the Song of Songs.

Across the album, the Kamerkoor…

Most proteins in our body have a single job. Phosphorylases play biochemical tag with other proteins. Transcription factors activate their corresponding genes. Helicases unwind DNA for polymerases to replicate. Proteins specialize, form follows function — but some proteins perform two distinct jobs. These are called moonlighting proteins. They play tag one moment, and activate genes the next. These are proteins whose form coincidentally fulfills a second function.

Biologists rarely set out to find moonlighting proteins. Instead they are discovered in unpredictable ways. …

I’m listening to my nostalgia as I write — Reinecke’s trio for oboe, horn, and piano. It reminds me of summers in wooden, poorly lit recital halls, and of family evenings eating rye bread and dill pickles on the porch in late July. The music smells musty but reassuring, like old books. It’s very German — moment by moment dissonant and tense, then lush and fluid. I played it when I was an impressionable 16-year-old, so I could be projecting.

My grandpa Fred died recently. We had a memorial for him, which got me thinking about his influence on me…

Continued from a previous post.

Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea, La Mer, Debussy: “The Fanfare”

Simple thing, this brass fanfare. Brilliant, but obtrusive, he cut it out and the wound healed slowly: a scar. Music has its injuries, too.

“Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea” uses more thematic material than I dare quantify. It reuses rhythmic and melodic motifs from the opening movement without restraint. A carefree breeze tries to chat with the erudite ocean, but their conversation isn’t very productive; the depths can only speak in riddles. My strongest memory of performing La Mer is that…

To anyone who has ever wondered, “What does the conductor do, anyways?”

Lying on the couch, convalescing from a minor dental procedure, I watched Season 1 of the Great British Bake-Off, and was inspired. (For the faithful, debate: Iain shouldn’t have been booted after someone else messed up his ice cream.) Anyways — no, not inspired to bake. It inspired me to write about Brahms. I’d noticed a huge variety in the recordings of the second movement from his Requiem, “Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras,” and I thought I might do a comparison between them. I’d tried a few times and the results had been unsuccessful. That day on the…

#bringbackthegliss and other performance disputes

First of many to come in a series on the culture of classical music. Sorry if musicophile isn’t a real word.

The first piece of classical music I obsessed over was the scherzo of Beethoven’s ninth symphony. I spent many hours dancing around the kitchen to its beat while ostensibly helping my parents clean up from dinner. It was a performance by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, ripped from a friend’s parents’ box set. The music was exciting, and I loved it. I didn’t know at the time that Karajan was notorious for taking Beethoven’s tempi radically fast, so when…

Jonah Pearl

Musician, writer, neuroscientist.

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