Flute or Flute and tape (2016)

When Michal Rosiak asked me to write a flute piece for his recital, I knew I wanted to both connect it to his interests and reflect his energetic personality. I had recently watched a TED talk by performance artist Sue Austin, during which she talks about how her wheelchair gives her freedom, and this became my inspiration; I knew Michal was interested in limitation, ability, and disability from our time together at Banff, when he was working on a piece for a one-handed cellist. Watching and listening to Austin’s TED talk, I got to thinking about how technology is used to help people with seemingly limited abilities interact with the world, and how these individuals can sometimes be seen as evolving beyond our inherent biology into hybrid biological-technological beings.

This imaginative intersection of biology and technology in evolution was what gave me the idea for 0r161N. Here I have taken the beginning of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and translated it into binary code, the language of computers – the technology that now infuses our lives. I printed out the code and then slowly translated it into music, in a fashion similar to the way that DNA code is copied. I began with a simple pattern, 0 = G, 1 = A, and slowly introduced mutations and errors that cause the music to grow and change into something utterly unrecognizable. Occasionally, I also spliced (cut) and replicated sections where I felt artistic need. This process was not one of direct translation -- far from it, for as we know biology is a messy business. Rather, it was one of evolution, guided by chance and artistic instinct.

The specific text used to create the binary translation can be found below. Darwin’s Origin of Species begins with this simple observation, one that he would travel halfway around the world to begin to develop an answer to:

"WHEN we look to the individuals of the same variety or sub-variety ofour older cultivated plants and animals, one of the first points which strikes us, is, that they generally differ much more from each other,than do the individuals of any one species or variety in a state of nature."

To download a sample page from the score or listen to a recording, please see the links on the left.

To order scores or parts from the catalog, or contact Katherine Saxon with regard to a commission, please take a look at the contact page.