Music intro: Swiped Right (Ian Cromwell feat. Jack Mercer & The Whiskey Bandits)
Ian Cromwell (IC): Love it!
Science World (SW): I’ve just told scientist and musician Dr. Ian Cromwell a big Science World secret.
IC: Okay, lips are sealed, but that's exciting.
SW: Science World’s next Feature Exhibition opening February 26 is called T. rex: the Ultimate Predator.
IC: This is a big, big, big deal for me.
SW: Ian’s excited because his first memory of being amazed by science happened near where the T. rex used to roam.
IC: They took us a tour out on the Badlands, the Badlands are all compressed sand and so it's actually extremely easy to dig into them. And that's why they have these canyons and stuff that go through it. And I remember seeing an actual dinosaur bone in the rock.
SW: The moment rocked young Ian’s world. As did the music that was always playing around him.
IC: Soca and calypso. My dad is Caribbean. And so, that was the soundtrack to a Sunday morning or Saturday in the house cleaning to the sounds of Mighty Sparrow. Singing about, (sings): “Jean and Dinah, Rosita and Clementina.” It was a whole thing, for years and years and years. It was always there.
SW: For Ian, there was never a disconnect between art and science.
IC: Often in the public imagination. We think of science as being a list of facts that have been revealed to us. And that is definitely not what science is. Being able to see a problem, to look at it from a bunch of different angles, to see how it fits into other things, is not that much different conceptually than playing in a symphony orchestra. Bach was a mathematician.
SW: As Ian completed his PhD, building a large-scale mathematical model of oral cancer with the computer programming language Python, the connection between art and science grew even more pronounced.
IC: I am a looper as a musician, and then I went and did an entire PhD project that's based on building loops that required me to program and I built it from scratch. And the solutions to those problems are also built on loops. There's lots of different ways to write code. But some of those ways of writing code are beautiful. Any scientist who has ever done any kind of research design work knows exactly what the difference is between the band-aid, kludge fix that you put in to just get something done. And the feeling, that deep aesthetic satisfaction, of when something works out just right. There is a there is a beauty in it. And that is not something that comes out of an equation. That is definitely that human, creative side.
SW: During the pandemic, Ian missed the human creative aspect of performing music. So, he worked to transition his music community incubator called Locals Lounge online.
IC: None of us knew what we were doing. None of us had ever produced a television show or a live-stream television show before and so we were trying to figure it out as we went. And so, the biggest lesson that taught me--because of course it crashed and burned and failed pretty spectacularly--I realized we weren't collecting any data. And I am in a unique position, a particularly unique position as someone who has a background in statistics, and has a background in research design, and as someone who cared very deeply about the music community, someone who was a musician and an organizer myself, to build something that would allow the members of the music community to benefit from information about that music community. Because the whole landscape for live music has changed.
SW: Constellation is Ian’s initiative that links up local music event organizers uses data to grow a stronger and more sustainable music scene in Vancouver. With Vancouver’s future in mind, he’s also seeking nomination for city council with OneCity.
IC: The climate emergency has shown us that we need each other. We can and should work together. Our solutions to problems should be led by those who are closest to the problem. Any of our solutions have to consider relative social power and influence. When we move forward, we've got to think of those who have the least, and making sure that we don't apply a problem that exacerbates that and makes that worse. And I want to use the power of arts and culture to build bridges between Vancouverites and to build community so that we all know people around us who are there to help.
SW: I know Ian spent a lot of time last summer busking on the waterfront, so I ask him if I can catch him playing music there any time soon.
IC: No! I play the violin (laughs). I need to be able to move my fingers. Hopefully, hopefully it'll be warm enough by May. I'll be probably not too far from Science World!
Music outro: Cherryblossom by Ian Cromwell