Playing The Archive | ABOUT




Studio|Lab is a research initiative at Penn State that emerged from the idea that arts and science are complementary. The initiative provides space and opportunity for undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty to fuse their creative and experimental impulses into ideas in a wide range of fields. In its most literal sense, Studio|Lab is a “studio” for scientists to refine the aesthetic dimensions of their work, and a “laboratory” for artists to test the performance and impact of their work. Brought together, we attempt to contribute to the powerful nexus of creativity and empirical inquiry from which innovation emerges.



Archives are usually understood as stable containers of artifacts and documents representing individuals’ lives, social cultures, and historical epochs. They are traditionally structured by a forensic logic (based on proof) and organized according to a progressive chronology. Increasingly, and at rapid pace, however, documents, objects, sounds, and images are being converted to digital formats and stored, indexed, and linked together in multi-modal form—numbers, text, colors, frequencies, etc., structured by new logic and evolving organizational schema.  Web and mobile-based technology are facilitating immediate, experiential sharing – quickly, efficiently, and in real-time (e.g., Google, InstaGram, YouTube).

Such advances produce methodological challenges – how to find meaning in information – for researchers, musicians, artists, historians, designers, and data analysts alike. What kinds of knowledge are produced when the arts take center stage in research on the archive? Our working hypothesis is that the interplay among musicians visual artists, and data analysts—working together to simultaneously perform and display the archive in multiple formats and media—will enrich and shape the ways researchers render and engage information. Our preliminary experiments with multi-modal visualization and sonification are already changing our understanding of how and why we, as individuals and as a collective, approach archives, and more generally, our history, our work, and our world.




Playing the Archive would not have been possible without the kind support provided by these various bodies at Penn State:

Institute of Arts and Humanities
The Anderson Lecture Series
The Stuckeman School
The Social Science Research Institute
College of Health and Human Development
College of Arts and Architecture

The project team is also privilege and grateful to obtain the kind assistance from these various individuals:

Cody Goddard – Workshop & Event Video & Photo Documentation
Peifeng Yin – Workshop Preparation & Logistics
Nina Vogel – Workshop Preparation
Sean Kennedy – Lockbox & Whiteboard Art Performance
Gabriel Ibias – Logistics
Steven Read – Logistics
Carol Lindsay- Drums for Performance
David Almeida – Drums for Performance

And to the many others, friends, family and co-workers whom have provided help and assistance in one way or another, we appreciate you.


Penn State News: Percussionist to transform scientific data into music on February 4th

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. — Renowned percussionists Robyn Schulkowsky and Joey Baron will present a concert, titled “Playing the Archive: Experiencing Data Through Visual and Sonic Immersion,” in which they will translate scientific data and document archives generated by Penn State researchers into music. 

The Daily Collegian: Statistical data to be displayed through music

Penn State Studio Lab is pulling from the archives tonight. Co-director Nilam Ram said that tonight’s performance will be a big “experiment” and that those involved are not even sure what to expect.

The Daily Collegian: Performers recreate data analysis

Data analysis is not always the most interesting thing in the world, but Nilam Ram and his team of analysts changed that in the Bio Behavioral Health building last night when he put data to music. Read more…

SoVA News: Percussionist to transform scientific data into music

Renowned percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky and Joey Baron will present a concert titled ‘Playing the Archive: Experiencing data through visual and sonic immersion’ in which they will translate scientific data and document archives generated by Penn State researchers into music. Read more…