Part of the Contemporary Music Festival 2009:
Music and Evolution – 200 years of Darwin
2:00pm | Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building. Saturday 28 February 2009.
i-DAT Presents ‘Variations’, a digital composition in three forms:
A10: “These two months at Plymouth were the most miserable which I ever spent”. A lament.
F10: Laws of Variation. (the pigeons orifices, ripe cooing fetishes, ignore poetic fishes, etc)
M10: Gene-Pool (the shallow end).
i-DAT presents Variations a digital audio/visual composition in three forms. Variations is inspired by Darwin’s thwarted attempts to leave Plymouth to embark on his legendary voyage on HMS Beagle. Variations is a collection of generative work that playfully explore some of the concepts revealed by his insights.
Composed and performed by i-DAT.org, with Andrew Evenden.
Contemporary Music Festival 2009: Music and Evolution – 200 years of Darwin
Friday 27 February to Sunday 1 March
i-DAT presents Variations a digital audio/visual composition in three forms. Variations is inspired by Darwin’s thwarted attempts to leave Plymouth to embark on his legendary voyage on HMS Beagle. Variations is a collection of generative work that playfully explore some of the concepts revealed by his insights. Composed and performed by i-DAT.org, with Andrew Evenden. The works include
A10: “These two months at Plymouth were the most miserable which I ever spent”. A lament. This lament manifests his deep love of Plymouth and focuses on the Barn Pool as a place of poetic inspiration and tuneful navigational aids.
M10: Gene-Pool (the shallow end). Gene-Pool is a generative incubator for breeding new genetic forms. The Gene-Pool slowly evolves as the system auto-recombinating genetic algorithm breeds new relationships and biological forms. Gene-Pool was inspired by an earlier i-DAT project (http://www.i-dat.org/projects/artefact/) Artefact, part of the Digital Responses series of exhibitions in Gallery 70 at the V&A Museum. Artefact took the fluidity of the museum artefact as its starting point. At the core of the Artefact Project lies a 3D database drawn from the V&A Collection which slowly evolved through a generative breeding of its genetic information. Gene Pool is a revised version that in-breeds genetic algorithms with biological forms.
A Genetic History: i-DAT’s genetic work can be traced to Homo Digitalis, the Post modern Prometheus, a 1995 performance based around the regeneration of the Frankenstein’s Monster myth, revamped for the late 20th Century. Along the way we developed GM, Generative Music, a collective based around the performance of a number of sound tools, with live performances at the Sherwell Centre, the Cavern (Exeter), the Cube in Bristol and Lovebites up in Sheffield. Other works include the collaborative Vivaria Project which employs the metaphor of the Zoo to examine artificial life forms, including ‘Notes Towards the Complete Works of Shakespeare’ by Elmo, Gum, Heather, Holly, Mistletoe and Rowan, Sulawesi Crested Macaques (Macaca Nigra) from Paignton Zoo Environmental Park. More recent projects include Noogy and ‘Dome Fugue v1.0′, a 23 minutes 56.0409053 seconds performance that scaled down a sidereal period (a single rotation of the Earth relative to the stars) and performed in the University of Plymouths Immersive Vision Threatre.
Other works include a composition inspired by Darwin’s fascination with worms, in particular his book ‘The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms: With Observations on Their Habits’. (1907). He wrote:
“They took not the least notice of the shrill notes from a metal whistle, which was repeatedly sounded near them; nor did they of the deepest and loudest tones of a bassoon. They were indifferent to shouts, if care was taken that the breath did not strike them. When placed on a table close to the keys of a piano, which was played as loudly as possible, they remained perfectly quiet.”
We have genetically modified a team of trained digital worms that will allow us to re-enact Darwin’s experiments with piano, bassoon and whistles.
F10: Laws of Variation. (the pigeons orifices, ripe cooing fetishes, ignore poetic fishes, etc). Darwin’s ‘Red Notebook’ reveals that in 1837 he had thought deeply into how one species changes into another, and the rest as they say is history. What Darwin did not know is that the process of evolution was driven by segments of a molecule called DNA and that this molecule was the set of instructions needed to build and maintain a living organism. DNA is a chemical polymer and to understand its ability to shape lives, it was necessary to determine the genetic code that lies within. The code was developed first as a constrained alphabet of four letters A T C and G each representing a separate base.
What came next was the elaboration of this basic alphabet to one which contains twenty letters which are necessary abbreviations of the amino acids which determine both the structure and function of an organism. These letters are A,R,N,D,C, Q,E,G,H,I, L,K,M,F,P, S, T,W,Y, V. Once the extended alphabet was produced, the latent lexicographers of the laboratory emerged. Peering into databases, looking for hidden words like Satanists with a Black Sabbath album. With an alphabet of twenty letters there is a lot of fun to be had. Those Satanists could find the dark lord if they were only to find a protein where Serine, Alanine, Threonine, Alanine and Asparagine were bound together in peptide harmony. And what of the great man himself Aspartic acid, Alanine, Arginine, Tryptophan, Isoleucine and Asparagine would be a suitable tribute sequence.
Of course it isn’t as simple as that, as the amino acid combinations are restricted by the laws of physical chemistry, so we may only glimpse a few of the glorious possibilities that could lurk in the thousands of genes that have been discovered, but what a joy, a biomolecular joy to find FECK ANT AND DEC together in the evolutionary record. Once you have a code you also have a musical score, letters become keys, strings and notes and the very stuff of our development can develop us further.
Working directly with the human genome, the performance involves sms interactions from the audience and a number of generative text pieces. The human genome is stored on 23 chromosome pairs and constituted from around 3 billion DNA base pairs. It contains around 20,000-25,000 protein-coding genes, and consists of a surprising amount of “junk” DNA. This work is expected to contribute considerably to the pool of junk DNA¦
As a by-product of i-DAT’s Nublar lab (for Crichton fans) we are working on the Ecology of Darwins Beard. We have managed to isolate some genetic material from the remains of Darwin’s beard and these fragments are being grown in the lab and will be inserted in an appropriate donor cell. There has been some suggestion that Spielberg is interested in developing a massive theme park. But that’s some time in the future.
A podcast tour of i-DAT’s Genomics lab can be found at: www.pacmf.co.uk
Variations will be performed at 2:00pm | Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building. Saturday 28 February 2009.
Mike Phillips and Andrew Evenden.
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