CALL AND RESPONSE: Dr. Indre Viskontas + Sound Quartet

An experiment in arts and lectures, combining performance and presentation in the form of Call and Response: a specialist in any field gives a presentation—of any kind—in their area of expertise, followed by an informal Q&A, and a musical response by some of the Bay Area’s finest creative musicians.

Curated by Evan Karp and Kristina Dutton, the series recurs roughly every other month; this show, held on Friday, March 20, 2015 at The Emerald Tablet, features a presentation by neuroscientist and opera singer Dr. Indre Viskontas, and a response by Sound Quartet: Mark Clifford on vibraphone, Aram Shelton on saxophone, Safa Shokrai on upright bass, and Britt Ciampa on drums:

Dr. Indre Viskontas by Gianna Badiali

Dr. Indre Viskontas by Gianna Badiali

Combining a love of music with scientific curiosity, Dr. Indre Viskontas is a Professor of Sciences and Humanities at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she is pioneering the application of neuroscience to musical training, and an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco where she teaches Biological Psychology. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and French Literature at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, her Masters of Music degree in vocal performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and her PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is also a cognitive neuroscience affiliate at the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, where she studies the emergence of creativity in patients with dementia.

She has published more than 35 original papers and chapters related to the neural basis of memory and creativity, including several seminal articles in top scientific journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Neuroscience, Current Opinion in Neurology and Nature: Clinical Practice. Her work has been featured in Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia, Nature: Science Careers andDiscover Magazine. Her dissertation was recognized as the best of her class at UCLA and her ongoing collaborations include projects with internationally-acclaimed artist Deborah Aschheim, with whom she has created art pieces highlighting the interplay between memory, creativity and the brain, and a multi-media project exploring the interplay between musical ensembles and empathy, funded by a grant from the Germanacos Foundation.

Defying traditional career boundaries, Dr. Viskontas spends much of her time performing as an opera singerShe often works with living composers and has created roles in three contemporary operas. A regular soloist with several Bay Area chamber groups, she is the founder and director of Vocallective, a consortium of singers and instrumentalists dedicated to the art of vocal chamber music as well as Opera on Tap: San Francisco, a chapter of the nation-wide organization whose mission is to create a place for opera in popular culture.

A passionate communicator, Dr. Viskontas made her television debut as a co-host of Miracle Detectives, a six hour-long episode documentary series that aired on The Oprah Winfrey Network. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and several major radio stations across the US, including the popular NPR program City Arts & Lectures in the US and The Sunday Edition on the CBC in Canada. She was a featured host of the podcast Point of Inquiry, from 2012-2013, and currently co-hosts the popular science podcast Inquiring Minds, produced in partnership The Climate Desk, a collaboration with The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, The Guardian, Grist, Mother Jones, Slate, Huffington Post and Wired. She is a sought-after public speaker, an Editor of the journal Neurocase and a frequent contributor Her best-selling 24-lecture course calledEssential Scientific Concepts was released by The Great Courses as a series of videos on DVD and audio lectures on CD, as well as streaming online in 2014 and her second course, Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience will be released in 2016.

Sound Quartet by Gianna Badiali

Sound Quartet by Gianna Badiali

Aram Shelton, alto saxophone and bass clarinet
Mark Clifford, vibraphone
Safa Shokrai, bass
Britt Ciampa, drums and percussion

Sound Quartet is an Oakland based group focusing on creative jazz informed by their collective backgrounds and mutual interest in challenging traditional concepts of jazz through the use of adventurous harmonics and inventive forms. The unique improvisational approaches of the members are grounded in high level instrumental proficiency paired with a playful and open minded sensibility.

Aram Shelton is a saxophonist, clarinetist, improviser and composer based in Oakland, California. Since 2000 he has created original music that uses open ended improvisation as an integral component. In Oakland the projects Sound Quartet, Tonal Masher, Broken Trap Ensemble, and Ton Trio II represent his music.  He is connected to Chicago (where he lived from 1999 to 2005) through his Quartet, the cooperative sextet Fast Citizens (Delmark), and Jason Adasiewicz’ Rolldown (Cuneiform).

Mark Clifford is a vibraphonist, composer, and percussionist equally involved in free improvisation, new music, jazz, and indie music, and is a part of multiple projects in the Bay Area and around the country. His performance experience spans worldwide, and he has had the honor of playing alongside an array of wonderful musicians including Tatsuya Nakatani, Jeff Parker, Wu Fei, Moe! Staiano, Ron Miles, So Percussion, Scott Amendola, Greg Gizbert, Paul Riola, and Josh Berman.


Shelton, Shokrai + Clifford by Gianna Badiali

Safa Shokrai is inspired by visual art, architecture, and movement. They inform the color and tone of his work. He has performed in a wide range of groups, ranging from punk-jazz (The Drift) to world music (Rupa & The April Fishes) to old-timey swing (Tin Cup Serenade). He has played bass since he was a preteen, and had the privilege to study with the great Ray Brown and San Francisco great Marcus Shelby.

Drummer and composer Britt Ciampa was born in Ohio, raised in the mountains of Colorado, and schooled in music under the tutelage of New York avant-garde jazz luminary  Kevin Norton. Currently a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, Ciampa is active in a myriad of creative music projects ranging from free-jazz to art rock to noise metal, and performs as a bandleader, collaborator, and sideman in groups such as Britt Ciampa Hugs You, The Sound Quartet, Goddess Aphonic, and The Classical.