Ars Electronica 1999
Festival-Website 1999
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Festival 1979-2007


[prints] vier aminosäuren in folge

'Robert Spour Robert Spour / 'Mario Veitl Mario Veitl

  • a space

  • a hand, a rose, an egg, a fish

  • four dna sequences

  • four times four tonal and rhythmic correspondences

  • at the center, a visual and aural [primordial] soup pot

  • evolution-specific algorithms continuously producing new variations

  • the composer as GJ (gene jockey) exploring aesthetic positions in the performative process
How does a humanoid gene structure sound? That of a plant? Of an animal? Are there audible differences between these transformed structures? And how do the neo-organisms that result from them sound?

Even as early as der geklonte Klang (The Cloned Sound), a work commissioned for the KRONOS QUARTET on the occasion of the opening of Ars Electronica 93, I have been experimenting—then in collaboration with Klaus Obermaier—with the musical translation of a genetic fingerprint. We used an excerpt from the digitally scanned image of a fingerprint as a pattern which constituted the rhythmic framework for the tonal elaboration of four string instruments.

In collaborating with Mario Veitl on [prints], I wanted to go a step further. On one hand, we use the entire genetic fingerprints of four different initial materials—a human hand, a plant, an egg, a fish—as a digital and, subsequently, as a musical representation of their materiality (a tone is assigned to each nucleotide and, subsequently, to each amino acid, thus resulting in four tones for the four nucleotides [bases] and 20 tones for the amino acids that are generated in a temporal sequence); on the other hand, evolution-specific algorithms continuously produce new variations of these four DNA strings and their combinations. In these ”neo-organisms” or, rather, the musical depictions of them, I have mixed tonal particles of foreign substances (genetic fingerprints of pigs) into the performance. The resulting mutations, in turn, undergo—in their tonal correspondence—what is tantamount to cosmetic modification by means of special filters and equalizers. Along with the generation processes that run in ”automatic” or evolutionary mode, the performer is also provided with possibilities to carry out interventions both with respect to substance as well as aesthetically, and thus to generate new designs.

The spatial conception of the installation/performance has constituted an essential element of this project for us. In the four corners of the space, we have positioned four rostrums on which have been placed the four initial materials (hand, rose, egg, fish). Each rostrum is equipped with an independent loudspeaker unit and a light source. While walking through the space, the visitor—depending upon the individual’s mode of encountering sensory phenomena—will perceive the differences, similarities or equivalencies of the four substances with respect to their tonal correspondence. The center of the space is occupied by a visual and aural [primordial] soup pot, in which the neo-organisms are ”cooked,” so to speak. Also located there is the electronic and computer-supported ”control center” for the performer/GJ—in which capacity I will creatively intervene in the course of evolutionary and/or musical events.