Stockton Biology Professor To Release New Music Album – Patch

GALLOWAY, NJ — Arts and science are often pitted against each other. But the two fields can work harmoniously together, and aren’t that different – at least in the eyes of a Stockton biology professor.
“I enjoy being inspired by art,” Matthew Bonnan said in a Stockton news release. “Art is just as important as science because it’s all part of what makes us human, and it’s all part of what draws us together.”
Bonnan took that inspiration to create an original music album, “Once Upon Deep Time,” which has 12 songs that use his primary field of paleontology to tell a story through music about how sound connects us to the past.
While the album does contain science content, Bonnan said it’s “not supposed to be a K-12 lesson.”
“It’s supposed to get people to stop for a moment and go, ‘I didn’t know that. That’s interesting.’ Maybe that encourages some people to look into things further,” he said.
His first single, “Dinosaur Songs,” explains how birds are actually living dinosaurs and have unique anatomy only found in them and in dinosaur fossils, Bonnan said.
“As a scientist, I’m trying to do my part to remind people that we have a lot more in common than we don’t, and that it’s kind of magical when you look around and realize that every living thing you have a common ancestor with,” Bonnan said.
He started working on music in early 2021, feeling disconnected and isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After going back to campus, he finished a demo album late last year. But wanting to finish the songs and involve Stockton students, Bonnan petitioned to take a sabbatical this year to finish the project.
“One of the great parts about working at Stockton is that I can actually do a project like this,” he said. “If I was at a lot of other universities, they would be like, ‘You’re a scientist. We aren’t giving you a sabbatical to do this art project. Where is this going?’ It’s such a wonderful gift to have a job where you can work your mind in different ways.”
Bonnan worked with Stockton Physics Professor Neil Aaronson, who maintains the Stockton Acoustics Lab and is the music director of the student acapella singing group.
“I wanted to involve students who aren’t your typical STEM students. I’m already reaching them,” Bonnan said. “This was a way to reach students in other disciplines like the arts.”
Bonnan recorded the songs in Aaronson’s acoustics lab, and the acapella sings backup on one song.
He also enlisted a former student, Samantha Giancarli, to record a saxophone solo for the song “Distant Touch.”
Bonnan even teamed up with Professor of Art Michael McGarvey’s “Design for Community Partners” class to create animation videos for the music.
Videos for a few of Bonnan’s songs are already posted on his YouTube page. Once the entire album is released on Dec. 16 it will be featured there and on his pages on the HearNow and Bandcamp websites. He also hopes to eventually perform the songs live for the public.
“It’s just a whole different perspective, a whole other way to engage students and talk about things,” Bonnan said of his music. “I know this is going to come back in really good ways into my classes when I start teaching again.”


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