“Don’t worry, you do have a heartbeat,” the technician says. “I’m just trying to figure out where to get the best recording from”. I’m at the i Heart Music event at UNSW, getting my heartbeat recorded so that in a few minutes a jazz band can use it as a base line for a new piece of music.
The iHeart Music event was started in 2011 for National Science Week by Derek Williamson, Director of the Museum for Human Disease at UNSW. The aims of the project are to engage in dialogue with a new audience that might not otherwise come to National Science Week events. Heart health is something that is important for all members of Australian Society to be aware of (one Australian dies every 12 minutes from cardiovascular disease). The scope of iHeart Music serves to bring in a jazz and music crowd as well as the more typical science and health aware attendees.
Simon Barker is a leading jazz drummer, and is well known for his improvisation skills. In the setting of the I Heart Music events, he and the Kimnara band take these skills and applies them to music centered around the beat of a human heart. The event is “fantastic” he says, a “great multi-media cross-pollination event”. And not just any heartbeat is used, but the music actually centers on recordings made from the heartbeats of the event’s attendees (no arrhythmias have yet been diagnosed through the event). On the day I visited, not only did visitors to the Human Disease Museum at UNSW get their heartbeats recorded, used for music, and the recordings emailed to them, but the UNSW site was also live-streaming the event to the Victoria Markets in Melbourne, reaching the Sunday morning crowd.
In 2011 and 2012, the I Heart Music event was only held at UNSW. However, this year, with funding from Inspiring Australia, the team from UNSW have coached 13 venues across Australia to host 17 iHeart Music events over the course of several weeks. For most of these venues, the event was fitted into a larger program, for example, as an event in a science center, or as the musical entertainment at a National Science Week dinner (Ballarat).
The airy trumpet sounds waft over the serene keyboard and drums that complement the beat; the beat of a human heart.
4 beats to the bar
70 beats in a minute
3 billion beats in a lifetime