Musical tales – One composer in residence and three movements of science

Musical tales – One composer in residence and three movements of science

Author: Ana Lucia Mena – Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, Portugal

Science and art projects are becoming more and more popular, bringing together the scientific and artistic communities. These projects may involve artistic residences in research centres, where artists and scientists can engage with each other in a routinely basis for a short period of time. Works of art gain shape as outcomes of such interaction. However, it is not that common to find musical pieces inspired by science and composed within the frame of an artistic residence.

The artistic residence of the French-Dutch composer Camille van Lunen at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), in Portugal, is one of such rare examples. With complete freedom to interact with scientists from that biological research institute, Camille was inspired to compose the piece “Quatuor pour l’Aurore des Temps”. This musical piece has three movements that address cell division, crystallization of proteins, and a viral attack to a cell. To create it, the composer had to understand the biological basis of these processes, and to imagine how they would sound if one could hear them.

Contrary to what happens with a painting or a sculpture, which once finished is ready to be exhibited, the performance of a musical piece requires further work from the musical perspective. In the pre-premiere of this piece the composer and a scientist joined hands to talk about the science and the creative process behind this piece to an audience composed of lay public and scientists.

In this communication I will reflect on the work developed during this artistic residence, the impact it had in the scientific community, and the challenges faced to present this science & music project to the public. The premier of “Quatuor pour l’Aurore des Temps” can be heard here:

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Show, tell and talk
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Comparing science communication across cultures