Employing Music To Underscore Scientific Discovery
(Jean Painleve 1968)
At the beginning of this month I performed Diatoms: There Are Galaxies Beneath Our Feet at Dartmouth's Collis Hall. This improvised composition is set to the scientific underwater art film by French innovator and filmmaker Jean Painleve and presented in the format of a silent film. Diatoms are marvelously otherworldly creatures that live beneath our visual capabilities in over 1/3 of the world’s oceans and soft soil terrains. Diatoms are a group of algae from the Jurassic period. Discovered upon the invention of the microscope, these nano-sized living “stained glass windows” contribute in myriad ways to our everyday lives. Not only does their presence aid in forensic and archeological research, they also contribute to nanotechnology fields, the making of petrol, and common household products due to their silica exterior. Furthermore, diatoms disproportiounately export carbon from oceanic surface waters acting as biological pumps. In this performance I pay tribute to diatoms by using music to highlight their scientific significance. In the composition I employ aspects of Wagner’s Leitmotif principle to translate the data of their minute movements and socialization to the audible and visual spectrum through improvisation and direct audio-visual mappings.