The meaning of the words cloning, sequencing, genomes or chromosomes is often unclear to a majority of non-scientists. To what extent could art, and music in particular, help us to become more familiar with those concepts? To try to answer this question, SIB commissioned French composer Olivier Calmel to compose a work for string quartet inspired by the theme of human genome complexity. This project was sponsored by the Cogito Foundation, whose aim is to encourage dialogue between science and technology on the one hand and the humanities and social sciences on the other.
The resulting work, named Opus 23 - Music for a Gene, is divided into seven movements. Each of them is based on a scientific concept and written in its own style inspired by one of the major musical trends of the 20th and 21st centuries. As such, this piece is also a musical manifesto. The main recurring theme throughout the work is the musical transposition of a short sequence from the UGT8 gene, in which a tiny variation may explain some differences in individual musical aptitudes (for more information, see the scientific article by H Park et al, 2012).
Opus 23 - Music for a Gene was premiered in Geneva in June 2014 by the Ramsès Quartet composed of Abdel Hamid el Shwekh and Sidonie Bougamont (violins), Galina Favereau (viola) and Alain Doury (cello). Several other performances were organized in Geneva and Bern. Each of these performances included a scientific presentation by the CALIPHO Group leaders Amos Bairoch and Lydie Lane, specially adapted to the audience (students, general public, researchers, medical doctors...).
In September 2015, the Ramsès Quartet was able to record the work onto a CD. Produced by SIB and partly supported by a crowdfunding campaign and a collaboration with the Haute école de musique de Genève (HEM), the CD is now available! The album contains a 52-page booklet with detailed explanations in French, English and German.