As I continue to think about individual hydrogen protons, I’m reminded of a concept I learned in my physics classes: like electrons, these little positively-charged particles also have different energy levels, despite being confined to the atom’s nucleus (center) with the neutrons. So, I imagine a staircase with the first energy level at the bottom, the second energy level one step higher, and so on. These protons exist in only certain energy levels, and only a certain number can fit in each energy level.
So, if hydrogen’s nucleus has only one proton, and if I imagine there are two hydrogen protons sitting on the same energy level (i.e., the first energy level), they both cannot be spinning in the same direction if they are to coexist on the same energy level. And this explains why one must spin parallel, while the other spins anti-parallel.
While this is a simplistic way of explaining the energy levels of these atomic particles, it helps me understand their mobility and alignment differences. For MRI, mobile protons are of particular interest as the strength of the machine’s magnetic field determines their precession frequency, or the number of times the protons spin per second. Naturally, a stronger force will increase the precession frequency.
This, in turn, helps me start choreographing the story of dancing hydrogen protons. So, if each dancer is to represent a hydrogen proton, I imagine two groups of dancers at either end of the stage. They enter spinning (a representation of precession) and meet in the middle. They don’t face each other, which is to illustrate the anti-parallel and parallel alignments.
When I introduce the MRI machine, the dancers will need demonstrate the change in precession frequency. To best convey this, I am considering the use of instrumental music, as the vibrations of the machine’s metal coils reminds me of the sounds of a certain percussion instrument from India called the mridangam.
Below are short mridangam recordings I found via Freesound, which is an open source database of sounds, that, to me, best capture the rhythmic vibrations in both the presence and absence of the magnetic field. The longer clip contains both slow and fast rhythmic beats and even has brief moments of silence (or stillness). It reminds me the sounds while protons have to align themselves in the direction of the magnetic field, while the shorter clip has more of a sustained rhythmic beat throughout the recording, and so, it reminds me of protons in their natural environment - in the absence of the magentic field.
My focus has been locked on to this panel audition coming up – a portion of a performance piece I first conceived some three years ago, and part of which was choreographed and performed for “SharedSpace” at the Mark Morris Dance Center, back in the late Spring of 2017. It’s a story near and dear to my heart, and one that is co-authored by writers for the Brooklyn Parkinson Group. Even if it isn’t chosen for production, I am very glad to have breathed more life into it, and I’m very proud of my quartet of dancers who rose to the occasion. For this particular opening excerpt being presented for the panel, I’m honored to share some poetry and scenes from two spectacular writers, Joel Shatzky and the late Leonore Gordon.
In keeping with the spirit of this piece, which is at once a dive into Parkinson’s Disease as well as a tale of lovers whose relationship paradigm shifts leaving one partner caring for the other; I’ve decided to bookend the performance with sounds every New Yorker knows all too well - sounds from the underground - the subway. Imagining a world where our main hero is one who may have walked among us, or is still among us. I’ve decided to record two poems within the ambience of underground, oncoming trains dovetailing or interrupting a particular last line, as if in a way that John Donne might appreciate, exemplifying that no man is an island and even, that train, it tolls for thee.
The only instruments you hear (so far, if chosen I believe I will add percussion to a moment in the middle) is my guitar being plucked and strummed, in a rather folksy take on the 12 bar blues. And then later, the guitar in marriage with a Fender Rhodes piano, played by music director Chris Alexander. For this pair of instruments I wrote a song after a poem by John Kavanaugh, a former Catholic Priest and philosophical writer. A poem I felt captured a sense of longing in both the singer and the subject. A sense of longing, perhaps from isolation to connection, but mostly a love song, and a song of courtship - how our main couple met.
I’ve personified the musculature during off periods versus on periods - moments of tension and freedom - with contractions and pronation of the upper and lower extremities versus extension through the spine and supination of the aforementioned limbs. The younger couple artistically depicts what the man’s balance and coordination systems might be going through during his routine exercises like marching in place and balancing on one leg, with precarious one legged moves, utilizing themselves or each other to balance and move from leg to leg. Therefore, they embody his internal structures on a macro level.
I’m looking forward to spending more time on the phone with Devika after this Wednesday is behind me, and seeing where we might further connect. Her talks on MRI machines instill within me a desire to make more artistic choices influenced by the science behind routine and lifesaving radiology visits encountered throughout one’s life with Parkinson’s. How might we be able to develop a sense of clarity and precision within choreography or music, or chaos and disharmony, into unity? How can we make an audience, who may not know much about these types of screenings, aware of their amazing capacity to create beautiful images, with clarity and thus more complexity - something once impossible to ascertain in parts of the human body.