GENOME: The Autobiography of a Species
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA and the double helix, sTRANGEmUSIC presents a live recording of GENOME: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Movements. Composed and directed by Patrick Grant, it is based on the book by award winning science author Matt Ridley. This recording is taken from two performances on February 27 and 28 (the latter date being the actual anniversary of the discovery) at the ANNINA NOSEI GALLERY in New York City.
The structure of the piece is in 23 parts in that each section represents a chromosome in the human genome. This musical work takes the title of each of its parts after Ridley's naming of chapters in his book where he emphasizes a particular characteristic of each one in order to create a narrative. They are: Life, Species, History, Fate, Environment, Intelligence, Instinct, X and Y Conflict, Self-Interest, Disease, Stress, Personality, Self-Assembly, Pre-History, Immortality, Sex, Memory, Death, Cures, Prevention, Politics, Eugenics, and Free Will. The music is performed by Grant's own ensemble the Patrick Grant Group where he will be joined by Kathleen Supové and Jed Distler on keyboards and John Ferrari on percussion and with vocal samples courtesy of composer Lisa Bielawa.
We were returning from the Millennial Gathering of Clan Grant in Inverness, Scotland in 2000 when, while in transit at Heathrow Airport, my girlfriend at the time returned with a bag of magazines and books for the final leg of our trip. In it she had gotten "GENOME: The Autobiography of a Species" by Matt Ridley because she knows of my love of science books for the layperson and how I have liked to incorporate many of the ideas I find there into my music in a search for new musical forms and generative forces found in nature. I just loved how the chapters were laid out in a way in which each title touched upon one of the Big Ideas we're confronted with everyday. For a composer, many of the found programmatic forms have already been taken, be they The Seasons, The Planets, The Seven Deadly Sins etc., so this book seemed to be just begging to be worked into some kind of a piece.
I have always been interested in musical forms that are self-generated. These have been the polyphonic music of the 17th and 18th centuries, gamelan music of Indonesia, the process pieces of the early minimalists and the like. By self-generated I mean that one could take a measure or two from any of the above genres and extrapolate an entire piece from it based on a few guiding principles, much like how the digital code for our entire being is contained within our DNA.
I had tried contacting Matt Ridley's publisher to no avail for a year and a half until, fortuitously, he appeared on WNYC as a guest and I was able to get a call in and he spoke to me directly (off air), giving me the green light to go ahead and do the project. I am forever indebted to Public Radio!
I give my biggest thanks to him and to Harper-Collins Publishers for their permission and support, Annina Nosei for making this concert even possible (thank you, Annina!), Lee Ortega and Ken Smith at the gallery for all the details too numerous to mention, John Schaefer and WNYC for helping us get the word out, SEED Magazine for the same, CUNY for academic credibility, my great colleagues that comprise my ensemble, composer Lisa Bielawa for her vocal samples of the solfegge forms of C-A-T-G, the four chemical bases which make up our DNA (cytosine, adenine, thymine, and guanine), and of course Drs. Watson & Crick for their discovery.
PG - February 2003 - NYC
8. X & Y Conflict
23. Free Will
All music and materials © 2003 Patrick Grant / sTRANGE mUSIC Inc.
The "GENOME" CD gets reviewed in NewMusicBox
"...Outfitted with 3 keyboard players and a percussionist, the 23-part Genome uses synthy organ and reed patches along with Fender Rhodes, piano and percussive sounds to propel through various syncopated episodes. Complex hocketing, occasional polyrhythms, and chord clusters sporadically turn up and pique the ears."
- NewMusicBox SoundTracks
What others are saying about the GENOME CD:
"Fascinating...unusual...good results!" - WNYC's New Sounds
"It's great!" - Robert Wilson, artist and theatre director