Evolving With Your Favorite Song


Robert Herman

Steinhardt music technology professor and musician Svjetlana Bukvich-Nichols. Bukvich-Nichols believes that music is not just a language, but an evolutionary tool that is changing how people express emotion.

Sierra Jackson, Managing Editor

Music is more than just a language to Steinhardt music technology professor Svjetlana Bukvich-Nichols — it’s an evolutionary tool that alters how people digest emotion.

Bukvich-Nichols hopes that humans will one day master the frequencies which they hear now, and evolve physiologically enough to hear ranges currently unknown to them.

“That goes hand-in-hand with the kind of evolution I think is inevitable anyway because of the technology we now have, and also the kind of speed at which we experience the world,” Bukvich-Nichols said. “So there’s a need for human cognitive powers to increase, and I think that’s really an exciting thing.”

Bukvich-Nichols also said the traditional Western musical meter and tuning systems — which most musicians are trained in — limit an artist’s ability to evolve musically and express more nuanced sounds and emotions.

Removing these restrictions, she actively fuses avant-garde, classical, art rock, American experimental and world music styles in her teaching. She explained that reliance on electronic music allows her to create a sound that communicates her identity as a musician and an individual.

She also believes differentiating between genres and their respective tuning systems deters people from fully understanding music.

“I think it’s a matter of looking at the world as a prism — borderless, really,” Bukvich-Nichols said. “But that doesn’t mean no structure inside of a musical piece. It just means deeper investigation into who we are and expressing that outwardly.”

Bukvich-Nichols attributed her emphasis on structure to the Russo-German music style she trained in while growing up in Sarajevo, Bosnia. She said her classical piano training serves as the foundation for her music comprehension.

She said every place she’s lived — from Edinburgh to New York City — has influenced her sound and expression.

“I think having lived in different places also shaped a lot how I look at the world and what I do,” Bukvich-Nichols said. “These different experiences made me seek the flow between cultures and mediums and what it is — this sounds like a cliche — that connects us.”

She considers music to be a universal language that can only be mastered through experimentation. She said that, as with any language, evolution is inevitable.

“For people, it’s a kind of language they’re writing or how they communicate the body language — the movement — and then how that brings about new lexicons,” Bukvich-Nichols said. “I think it’s coming. It’s going to be impossible because we will evolve. We won’t be satisfied with what we have.”

She believes that artists, whose music creates intricate emotions, can profoundly impact the world.

“It’s creating a language that will propel evolution to go faster because we are already on that track,” Bukvich-Nichols said. “I do sound because I see a beautiful human race that is evolving to these practices and the world becoming a better place in the end.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 10 print edition. 

Email Sierra Jackson at [email protected]