Boy, it's been a while since my last blog post. Unfortunately, my 6-year-old computer has been really unstable on certain sites and crashes whenever I try to edit the site, so the blog has been on hiatus for about a year now. BUT I've managed to get my hands on my sister's old Chrome Book, so hopefully, I'll be breathing new life into the blog.
It would take too long to update you on all my activities since my last post, but I'll mention that a highlight of the last year has been the premiere of my new string quartet: Syadvada at the 2016 SoundSCAPE Festival in Maccagno, Italy! I'm also working with some excellent Ithacans to bring the piece to life on this side of the Atlantic. I met some incredible musicians at the festival, and I'm incredibly grateful to have been able to add to the conversations that were had there.
Rather than reminiscing about my other activities this past year, I thought I'd talk about a piece I'm writing now: Cicada for String Quartet and Oboe, specifically the fourth movement, whose musical material is derived from the DNA sequence of a bacterium! In this post, I want to talk about the various processes I'm using to decode the various combinations of G, A, T, and C into music. This article will assume a basic foreknowlege of genetic biology, as providing that would go beyond the scope of a simple blog (yet still admittedly long) post. BUT, if you need to refresh your High School Bio chops, this vid, this vid, and others in the same series should give you a crash course (I certainly needed to re-learn a few things before embarking on this project).
I'll briefly give you an overview of the work, then we'll focus on just the fourth movement. Jake is an avid fan of entomology—indeed, many of his own works are named after bugs. I knew when he apporached me about writing him a piece, it was gonna be about bugs. I decided to write the piece about Cicadas—they're loud and melodious animals, with rich poetic associations in many different cultures and literary traditions. I could begin to see connections between this insect and many other disciplines, and, seeking to unite them through music, I began to write the piece. The work is composed of six movements that represent a journey of an organism evolving from primordial crystalline materials into rich organic complexity:
I. Cicada (a prologue)
II. Ocean (cyclical, primordial)
III. Impluse (an organism coming to life, awakening)
IV. Symbiosis (growing rapidly, self-generating)
V. Heartbeat (a complex organism, animal)
VI. Sentience (conscious, self aware)
Note that the parentheses aren't part of the movement titles.