Violinist Meryl Verkman: Science and music stem from the same dream

Violinist Meryl Verkman: Science and music stem from the same dream

This week’s “Rehearsal Circus” was by violinist Meryl Verkman (33). And for the first time not only with the shows she plays herself, but also with the shows she sponsored by herself. Her first festival sees the light on Saturday: Sennar, a festival where music and science meet.

In the afternoon in Tiefolifriedenburg in Utrecht you can experience the big and small shows that revolve around trials and tests. Do you perform better when you listen to your favorite music? Does music make you smarter? Is there a connection between your personality and your musical taste? What little movements do you make when you hear the music? The results will already be used by Leiden University scientists in their research. In addition, there is, among other things, a performance about “string theory”, and a duplicate of a concert organized by Albert Einstein in New York in 1934 for his colleagues who remained in Nazi Germany. And in its new composition Dear Professor Einstein, Composer Mathilde Wantener commemorates Einstein’s Nobel Prize 100 years ago.

Meryl Verkamen.

Photo by Bram Petraeus

Exhibition Road

Verkamin is no stranger to science at all. In addition to her studies of the violin in Utrecht and London, she studied mathematics and received a master’s degree in “Music, Mind and Brain” and a master’s degree in cultural economics. Over the course of twelve years, she has had the idea of ​​a festival that combines her two worlds. “When I was studying in London I would walk every day down Exhibition Street to the Conservatory. Then you would walk first through the National History Museum, then the Science Museum and then Imperial College Technical. Then comes the Conservatory and the Royal Albert Hall. I suddenly thought: How strange they are They’ve never done anything together. While science and music are too close to each other for me.”

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Vercammen has a history with her. Pythagoras made a mathematical study of music and harmony in antiquity. In the Middle Ages, “musica” was one of the subjects of university mathematics in what is called “musica”quadrilateralIn addition to arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. So it is an exact science. Vercammen also wants to teach festival visitors more about this ancient approach to musicology.

In her contemporary master’s degree, Verkamin studied Musical Perception: How does music work in our brain? “Thinking exactly, I’m starting to play Bach better, I guess. The more modern pieces, the pieces that require analytical skills, the better I understand them. But when I practice, I’m not too busy ‘scientific’. I’m not cognitively manipulating people.”

Yet she is reluctant to put her scientific background into program brochures at concerts, fearing that people will listen differently. „In the field of music, you note that there is a contrast often noted between the so-called “emotional world” of music and the “tangible world” of science. But I see a lot of similarities.”


Vercammen gets the same amount of inspiration from both. “Many people see science as something dry, but good science begins with a dream or an idea about someone… Out of the box Believes. A lot of music comes from the same dream.” She wants to show that with her new festival.

Although she does not participate in every performance, Vercammen is present at every rehearsal. She’s the interpreter between musicians and scholars, and feels as though something works for a festival audience who only understands one of these two disciplines. “Scientists, for example, are very used to giving a blanket consent form for each test subject first. This is of course not possible if you have 45-minute presentations. I have to find a solution to something like that.”

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Also read this interview with James Oise, one of the festival’s guest musicians: How to learn a double guitar from a skater

If Verkamine could already know the outcome of a future music study, what would she choose? “Then I’d like to better understand the magic of music. We can analyze strings and objects, but that doesn’t explain why sometimes a magical moment appears out of nowhere on stage. This is a rare moment when everything is fine. Why is it like that?”

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