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Visiting physics professor to discuss power of folk music

May 11, 2011

Visiting professor Attila Grandpierre, Ph.D., during his days in the band VHK.

There are probably not too many people in the world who can say they are a prominent astrophysicist/poet/thinker/philosopher/shamanistic ethno-folk-rock singer and international icon of the Hungarian folk music scene, but Attila Grandpierre, Ph.D., visiting professor in the Schmid College of Science, can lay claim to all those titles and more.

The multi-talented Dr. Grandpierre will offer a special talk, “The Cosmic and Magical Power of Primeval Folk Music and its Rebirth Today,” this Friday, May 13 at 5 p.m. in Oliphant Hall 201, presented by Schmid College.  Admission is free.

Grandpierre gained fame during Hungary’s Communist era as the leader of the iconoclastic music group Vágtázó Halottkémek (VHK, or Galloping Coroners), which became well-known as “the best shaman-punk band ever,” and for antagonizing state authorities and party leaders.  But the group survived long past the demise of Communist rule in Hungary, winning fans throughout Europe.  The critic for Britain’s prominent Melody Maker magazine declared, “As the singer spins around inside the band’s mesmeric voodoo howl like a whirling dervish, the effect is almost hypnotizing. Incredible. Watching them play in Cologne, I was fascinated, not just by the band’s performance (which was amazing) but by the frenzied reaction of the crowd. Seeing VHK, I realised just what a dangerous proposition rock ’n’ roll can be.”  

Grandpierre launched a new group, Vágtázó Csodaszarvas (Galloping Wonder Stag), in 2005 to continue his explorations of the heritage and ancient roots of Middle European folk music.  As lead singer, he surrounds himself with authentic, virtuosic folk musicians — players of the Hungarian bagpipe, the koboz (Hungarian lute or lyre), zymbalon (ancient dulcimer) and Csango drums — creating “a sound that so masterfully enhances the irresistible primordial power present in the melodies, that it almost sweeps the audience off its feet,” according to Magyar Nemzet magazine.  “Our first CD, Pure Spring, released in 2006 by FONÓ Records, became a gold recording,” says Dr. Grandpierre.  “Our second CD, Endless Asia (2008) has been called by critics the ‘worthy continuation of the works of Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók.’”  

All the while, Grandpierre was continuing his scientific work, earning his doctorate in 1977 from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest and working for more than 36 years as a senior research fellow at the Konkoly Observatory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, where he continues today.  His major interests include solar physics, the origin of solar activity, astrobiology and heliobiology.  He was the main organizer and co-chair of the International Scientific Organizing Committee of the conference “Astronomy and Civilization,” http://www.konkoly.hu/AC2009.   He serves on the editorial boards of the international science journals World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, Noetic Journal: The Journal of the Cosmology of Consciousness and Neuroquantology: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Neuroscience and Quantum Physics  (www.neuroquantology.com).

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