Dr Shama Rahman

Shama Rahman has a PhD in the ‘Neuroscience of Musical Creativity using Complexity Tools’, and is a professional actor and musician. Her research has been funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) whence she set up a collaboration between Imperial College London (Complexity Group), Goldsmiths College London (Centre for Computation, Culture and Cognition) and the Royal College of Music. She has investigated emergent patterns in the electrical brain activity of Jazz and Classical pianists during the generation of two types of musical creativity: Improvisation and Interpretation.

Musical Creativity is a Complex system being at the juncture of neuroscience, musicology, cognitive psychology and neurophilosophy. Accordingly she has designed an experiment that is both traditionally reductive and systemically multi-faceted and holistic, which elegantly addresses the fundamental question of ‘What is Creatitivy?’ by  exploring the 3-way agreement on the performances between the subjective musicians themselves, objective external assessors and biological brain activity to highlight a ‘creative’ moment in time. Whilst staying true to a real-life performance environment for ecological validity, recording live EEG (electroencephalogram), she has trawled through music manuscripts at the British Library handpicking extracts of unknown/unfamiliar Classical music from the 15th century to present and commissioned new Jazz compositions, standardising both into unique scores readable for musicians from both backgrounds.

She has presented her research at numerous conferences around the world including the European Conference for Complex Systems in Brussels, Max-Planck Institute in Germany (Dresden), the Marconi Institute for Creativity in Bologna, University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, Institute for Music in Human and Social Development at University of Edinburgh and Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. In addition to presenting posters and being funded for several of these conferences she has also previously been funded by the Wellcome Trust Vacation Scholarship for research at Oxford University in auto-antibodies in schizophrenia, during her undergraduate degree at University College London studying Molecular Biology. Funded complexity summer schools have included Imperial College and Institut Sciences Complexes in Paris.

As public engagement she has presented and conducted a live experiment entitled ‘Improvisation and Inspiration’, with 2 pianists and 100-audience members in the format of her research experimental design, with live EEG analysis of creativity at Secret Garden Party for Guerrilla Science.

She is the founder of a Science/Performing Arts outfit, ‘Jugular: Joining Head and Heart’, which started developing as a concept in late 2011 and landed its first commission  by Secret Productions at two summer festivals ‘Secret Garden Party’ and ‘Wilderness’ in summer 2012. It received an Institute of Physics Public Engagement Award for this commission which comprised of two cabaret shows adhering to two themes of ‘Past’ and ‘Future’ culminating in over 4 hours of material with 10 minute lectures from leading scientists from UCL, Imperial, Oxbridge, Sussex and Cardiff universities and performance pieces. The ‘Past’ cabaret consisted of scientific topics of ‘Evolutionary Genetics and Man’s Social Brain Development’, ‘Memory’, ‘Perception of Time’, ‘Science of Ageing and Immortality’ and was also performed at Richmix in 2013 as ‘Jugular: Experiment 2’. The ‘Future’ cabaret consisted of scientific topics of ‘Complexity and Chaos’, ‘Astronomy: Origins and the Future of the Universe are in the Stars’/‘Solar Exploration’, ‘Particle Physics-Quantum Coupling and Computing’/‘Hunt for the Higgs Boson’ and a special quiz by The Londonist editor who also reviewed this show in its London incarnation, ‘Jugular:Experiment 1’, as a site-specific immersive performance in a warehouse – ‘basically a rave-about Physics!’. As a result of bringing these topics to life with challenging, informative and entertaining performances in an unusual setting to new audiences, this show was the subject of a master thesis from London College of Communication. Artistic performances spanned scripted, devised and physical theatre, storytelling and spoken word, music, dance and circus (contortion, aerial, juggling). In summer 2013, ‘Jugular: Experiment 3’ was an R&D of a new play, ‘Near’, exploring narrative science storytelling technique by innovatively weaving scientists from backgrounds of ‘Cognitive Enhancement’, ‘Immortality and the process of ageing’ into the drama of a family living in the near future where a new kind of ‘post-human’ is a reality. Written with New York playwright, Crystal Skillman, the production was commissioned in 2013 by Crawley STEMfest, Einstein’s Garden at The Green Man Festival and once more by Secret Productions with the Secret Garden Party and Wilderness.

In 2014, ‘Jugular:Joining The Head and The Heart’, has been commissioned to do a show on memory and a workshop at the British Science Festival.

Her acting credits include being the lead of a 24-part BBC drama series, Bishaash, that has been shown to over 53 million viewers world-wide on Sky channels, in Bangladesh, Cambodia and UAE.

Musically, her current album, ‘Fable:Time’, is a multi-sensory storytelling experience inspired by science, performed with Sitar, Song and Poetry about our perceptions of Time, its non-linearity and its affect on our lives, loves and losses. It can be found on www.shamarahman.bandcamp.com and is accompanied by a 8-video episodic short film series which can be found on www.youtube.com/theshamarahman, where the central character of the album gets slowly revealed along with a specially commissioned artwork. She has performed in international venues and festivals across the UK, France and Bangladesh.She is the recipient of the Emerging Excellence Award from Help Musicians UK for her next musical/theatrical album and has recently been accepted onto the emerging composer’s residency ‘Take V’ by London Jazz Festival organisers Serious.