Kate Koenig, Editor-in-Chief
A part of Homecoming & Family Weekend since 2010, “Life of the Mind” has become an annual event that highlights the research, creative activity, service and other contributions of SUNY Oneonta faculty to the intellectual life of the campus community. Organized by a committee of faculty members and other campus administrators, “Life of the Mind” involves roundtable discussions led by faculty and culminates in a faculty showcase of posters and exhibits that remains on display for the length of the day. This year, “Life of the Mind III” began on October 26 at 8:30 a.m. with a keynote speech delivered by alumni Neil Chippendale, a ’70 graduate. Faculty presentations were on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Following the keynote speech, which encompassed a range of Chippendale’s accomplishments as an active and involved member of a high school in the Philadelphia area, Hunt Union Ballroom was opened for the viewing of faculty research. Members of nearly each department on campus were present throughout the day, explaining their research to browsing attendees.
Of the music department, professors Orlando Legname, Joe Pignato and Paul Carter were present.
Legname, the department chair, recently returned from presenting his findings in Rome, Italy. Through his research he explored what he refers to as “chance” in musical composition. Having designed a computer program that is able to read physical movements and gestures and convert them into sounds, he conducted a live performance in which the musicians read from a graphically notated score (one in which standard musical notation is barely present, acting more as a guideline and often replaced with images and symbols) and sounds were created and modified through the computer’s interpretation of Legname’s motions while conducting.
Carter’s research presented an extensive study of the relationship between the theory and lyrics of the popular folk band Fleet Foxes’ recent release, “Helplessness Blues.” With a group of researchers of popular music, Carter spent time in Germany in a five-day workshop in which musicians and academics worked individually and together to analyze a range of popular recordings, including the “new folk” benchmark. As described in the event program, his research thoroughly exemplifies how “The musical devices employed by Fleet Foxes work together to reinforce the meaning and emotion in the lyric.”
Other presentations on display included a study by Ronald E. Bishop of the chemistry and biochemistry department, analyzing the history of the regulatory record of the Department of Environmental Conservation. According to his findings, the DEC, which is responsible for having abandoned oil wells plugged and blocked from releasing gas into the atmosphere after their ability to produce commercially has expired, has a poor history of succeeding at the task. He concluded from his findings that the oil and gas industry clearly has no business expanding to shale gas development, specifically hydrofracturing or “fracking,” as evidence shows they’ve been unable to successfully regulate the hundreds of simpler well projects.
In a project presented by Timothy Sheesley, director of the art department’s Martin-Mullen Gallery, Sheesley selected 20 of 13,000 glass lantern slides kept in the archives of the Milne Library and had them developed into handmade prints. This was done with the help of a Faculty Creative Activity Grant that he received from the college’s grant development office. The process required many steps, using various combinations and permutations of old and new technology to reach the achievement of the final products. The end result is vibrant prints of the snapshots, which allow viewers to fully appreciate the images and has taken them literally and figuratively a long way from the glass stills with which Sheesley began the project.
The committee who organizes “Life of the Mind” is co-chaired by Dr. Janet Day of the political science department and Kathy Meeker, director of grants development. Each year, a different Oneonta alumnus is selected to present the keynote speech, and all faculty members are invited to apply for involvement. Information on past and current faculty showcases can be found at http://www.oneonta.edu/academics/lotm/.