Today at Berkeley Lab Berkeley Lab logo US Dept. of Energy logoBerkeley Lab logo
Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008

Flamenco Physicist

For Azriel Goldschmidt, a staff scientist in the Nuclear Sciences Division, flamenco is like physics in at least one aspect. “With both fields, you don’t realize how much there is to discover and learn until you plunge right into it.”

flamenco dancerGoldschmidt works primarily on the IceCube telescope in the South Pole, and is also helping to develop a detector for neutrino-less double-beta decay and WIMP dark matter using high pressure Xenon.

And during his down time, he pursues flamenco, a “Spanish musical genre that is often accompanied by an impassioned style of dance.” He sings and occasionally dances for a troop he helped found, along with his wife and some friends in 2004.

The science is the “think” part of his life, while flamenco is the “feel.” “They are very complimentary, but separate endeavors,” says Goldschmidt. “I cannot imagine myself doing one without the other.”

The name of his group, Riquezas, means “riches,” which conveys their “endeavor to uncover the small treasures hidden in each of us and to enjoy sharing these precious moments.” They perform in clubs in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco, as well as private functions.

He was first drawn to the art form in 1996, during a postdoc stint at Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico. “I went to a workshop and was immediately hooked by the beauty and power of flamenco,” he recalls. “It was a very inspiring experience.”

And what has kept his interest up for all these years? “It’s intensity and shear beauty,” explains Goldschmidt. “The raw expression of feelings in the cante (singing), the challenging footwork and posture of the dance, and the improvisational aspect of the performance are what make flamenco so unique and intriguing.”

While singing publicly is something most people shy away from, it’s a familiar ritual for Goldschmidt. “I sang for years, starting at a very young age, as a Jewish cantor in my father’s synagogue in South America.”

While he admires the singing of several known flamenco artists, including Miguel Poveda, Arcangel, and Mayte Martin, Goldschmidt says he has developed his own style, which gravitates “towards the more melodic side of flamenco.”

Go here to view photos of him performing.