Conversations in Science Series
A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District
and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center

Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 4:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Sonderegger Science Center (Click here for parking information)
1000 Edgewood College Drive Madison, Wisconsin

Professor John F. Berry
Department of Chemistry

“Antilogous Harmony as a Theme
in Synthetic Chemistry and in Music”

The Conversations in Science Series brings together UW-Madison researchers and Dane County teachers in order to foster significant connections. Now in its 10th year, the Series is designed to provide personal enrichment to teachers in a wide range of areas related to science, technology and society, and to enable researchers and educators to share their expertise with the Dane County community.


Is there common ground between the arts and science? I strongly believe that there is, and in this presentation, I will show some specific examples of how arts and sciences inspire each other in my own work. A common theme in my music and chemistry has been what I call “antilogous harmony,” which, simply put, is the juxtaposition of two dissimilar things. In chemistry, my group synthesizes new types of compounds by combining existing concepts. We take elements from different places on the periodic table and combine them into new compounds that have properties totally different from the individual elements from which they are composed. In music, I use unusual harmonic progressions or instrument combinations to achieve new sounds. For example, my “Sonata for Tuba and Piano” was recently premiered in the UW Chemistry Department. We might think of the tuba as a heavy-handed instrument that can only play oom-pah music, but in my sonata I show that the tuba can also be lyrical, melancholy, and spirited!


John F. Berry is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. John holds a BS degree in Chemistry and a BA degree in Music Theory and Composition from Virginia Tech, and obtained a PhD in Chemistry from Texas A&M University. After spending two years as a postdoctoral scholar in Mülheim, Germany, John moved to UW-Madison. His current work centers around the structures and bonding of transition metal coordination complexes.

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