IN VIVO - IN VITRO
Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) | Eduardo Kac | Stelarc | Joe Davis | Karl Sims | Eva Sutton | Daniel Lee | Susan Alexjander | Polona Tratnik | IN VIVO - IN VITRO
SEQUENCIA, THE MUSIC OF DNA 1988
by Susan Alexjander
Listen1 | Listen2 | Listen3
The songs of SEQUENCIA are derived and inspired by the resonant frequencies of DNA, the complex building block molecule that contains the blueprints for all life on earth. Adjusted to the registers of the human ear, SEQUENCIA offers an exciting and unusual glimpse into the often haunting, often beautiful whispers of the invisible world within.
In SEQUENCIA, raw data derived from the light absorption spectra of the four bases (adenine, cytosine, thymine, guanine) that make up the DNA molecule is converted into sonic frequencies. These are programmed to a Macintosh computer and sent to a synthesizer, and then arranged into four pitch collections (or four 'scales' based on the individual base molecules). These synthesized notes mixed with vocals, cello, tabla, and violin become the palettes for Alexjander's compositions, which range from somber and zen-like to fanciful and improvisational.
Both of these recordings were created by Dr. David Deamer. an esteemed biologist at UCSC noted for his breakthrough work on the origins of life and my partner for Sequencia. They use a technique called "mapping" to plot musical rhythms and combinations of tones which are charming and tuneful, as the bases proceed along the double helix. DNA Suite is informational and fun, while DNA Music is for a more meditative mood.
Susan Alexjander is Director of Science & The Arts, which furthers scientific research into the 'musical' universe of frequency; honors a holistic, vibrationally connected vision of creation; and supports outreach through lecturing, writing, and composition. Her CD Sequencia is internationally known for its pioneering work with the molecular frequencies of DNA rendered into sound. It has been featured on CNN, BBC Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, and has been on exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Museum of Santa Barbara. It is currently part of a New York City-wide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA.
Alexjander has taught at the university level and is currently an adjunct faculty member of Union Institute in Sacramento, California and Goddard College, Vermont. Her compositions have been performed throughout the United States, including collaborations with dance companies and film. She holds a Masters degree in Music Composition and Theory from San Jose State University.
Awards include a Fellowship from the Alden B. Dow Creativity Center in Midland, Michigan, to explore the geometry of the mineral kingdom as musical data, and a Leighton Studios Residency in Banff, Canada.
Works in progress include a CD entitled The Fifth Sun (on the Logos Series) featuring the sounds of pulsars, elements, and other natural rhythms. A sound design for film entitled The River – Into Being will open at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in April 2003.