AN INTERVIEW WITH RON J DANZIGER, COMPOSER OF "BOY SCIENTIST"
Winner: Best Animation Film - Best Song - May 2021 Edition
RON J. DANZIGER
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Ron Danziger is a doctor and composer with a background in guitar and musical theatre. Since he was young, Ron has always loved classic Hollywood films, musical theatre and a wide array of musical genres including classic rock, funk, jazz and blues.
Ron first joined the "Alan the Musical" team in 2016 where he composed 6 original songs for the production. These songs became part of the "Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano and Orchestra", recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. His music has gone on to accompany several short animations including the critically acclaimed short "Boy Scientist".
Ron is now a Neurology resident in Los Angeles, California and continues to work on his original compositions, blending his love for music and science.
Hello Dr Danziger, thank you for having us! Please tell us a little about your career thus far.
I completed my Bachelor's in Neuroscience and my MD at the University of Melbourne in Australia. I moved to the US and completed my postdoc at Stanford researching microglia, a special type of white blood cell that only exists in the brain and spinal cord. I am now a Neurology resident at Cedars Sinai and am really interested in disorders that affect memory and behavior.
Parallel to all of this, I have been honing my skills as a songwriter and working on ALAN the Musical! Five of these songs were used as the basis for the "Lim Fantasy of Companionship", an orchestral score recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and available on Spotify. The song "Boy Scientist" was made into an animated music video that has won multiple awards internationally!
There's definitely a kinship between Music and Science. Would you care to expand on this notion, in your terms, as per your personal experience or maybe, quest?
Yes I definitely feel this is the case. There is also a kinship between music and medicine.
I actually saw first hand the way in which music therapy can be used in patients with neurological illness. In fact, some patients who lose the ability to speak from a stroke can still sing, as the musical part of their brain is intact. In my field of neuroscience, music can definitely give an insight into the mind. Musicality is actually a complex brain function that involves parts of the brain that coordinate rhythm, speech and emotion!
How did you meet Dr. Susan Lim, and how did you join the "ALAN" Team?
I met my partner Dr. Christina Tan in medical school and Dr. Lim is her mom! Dr. Tan and I actually conceived many of the songs during our time in medical school. Right now we are both training in the same neurology residency program at Cedars Sinai.
Were you present at Abbey Road Studios during the recording of the songs you composed —"Boy Scientist" being one of them? If so, can you share a few insider's stories of those sessions with your audience? What was the atmosphere like, how long were you in the studio? How was it to record with the London Symphony Orchestra? Any fun or extraordinary memories?
Yes I was. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Queen which are some of the many bands who recorded at Abbey Road. Not only this, my favorite films are the Star Wars saga and the entire score was recorded in Studio 1. It was a surreal experience and the atmosphere was electric. It's basically holy ground for any musician and you can feel the weight of all the monumental artists who came before on your shoulders as you enter each studio. I almost passed out to be honest! This was really the moment I felt I had "made it' as a musician. It was incredible to see the hallways lined with portraits of all the artists that came before. I actually loved the cafeteria, it's cool to sit right underneath a photograph of John Lennon and Paul McCartney eating a hot dog in the same seat!
As a Researcher in Neuroscience and a music Composer, what is the message that you hope viewers and listeners will receive from the fruit of this outstanding collective adventure, and from your music?
We live in an age of misinformation and science denial in a time where we face enormous challenges such as COVID and climate change. I think this is a product of the general public viewing science as a sterile and cold field, devoid of spirituality and humanity.
I want people to realize that science, and neuroscience in particular, is beautiful. It's amazing to see the way in which neurons coordinate to produce the complex emotions and thoughts that define our humanity. It is almost lyrical and rhythmic in a way!
There is not a more fascinating and complex biological structure in the known universe than the human brain.
What are the next dreams you want to make come true, both in your scientific research and in your musical career?
Musically I would love to return to Abbey Road, and am actually going back in November to record some new songs. Scientifically I hope to go on to complete a fellowship in cognitive neurology and explore research in the field of memory disorders such as Alzheimer.
Short statement describing your vision of the post-Covid cinema, do you think there will be notable changes?
Our original intention for our music was to form part of a staged musical production called "Alan the Musical". However, the COVID pandemic caused us to shift our attention towards film for the time being. COVID pushed us out of our comfort zone and allowed us to use new mediums such as animation. The song in our short film explores themes of loneliness through the eyes of a young scientist. The issue of alienation has become especially pertinent in these times of isolation. We hope to start a conversation about the way in which novel technologies can be used to combat loneliness in the future.