Reconstructing Apoptosis was inspired by a massive art installation called apoptosis created by artists Katie Caron and Martha Russo and underwritten by the Denver Art Museum. Named for the biological process of cell death that paves the way for new growth, apoptosis graced a 30-foot wall in the DAM in 2010 and 2011 and captivated many DAM visitors. Aside from its enormous size and complexity, Caron and Russo’s installation had three main characteristics that I wanted to “reconstruct” or represent musically in my work. First, I was fascinated by the intricate components, rough textures, and duller colors of certain forms that tended to cluster on the lower part of the installation, somewhat suggestive of mollusks or other shelled animals. I asked myself what apoptosis would sound like if these parts were alive and able to move of their own volition, or what they would sound like if they comprised a musical instrument that could be played. Sections of unpitched scrambling percussive sounds evoke this aspect of the work. Second, I was drawn to the suspended, glowing forms that crown the work. In an effort to capture these, I crafted luminous, pulsating harmonic areas whose pitch content to my mind echoes the colors present in this portion of the installation. The third aspect of the work that interested me was the integration of power lines and the artists’ references to “energy” as one of the thematic aspects of the work. In response to the idea of power lines/energy weaving through the whole, I composed a repetitive, rhythmically driving melody that contrasts with the luminous harmonic areas and the scrambling percussive areas. These three types of music interact across large stretches of time and frequently interrupt one another, resulting in a landscape-like structure with smooth harmonic plateaus, steep inclines, rough crevices inhabited by semi-animate creatures, and a network of energized lines traversing the topography.
(artwork by Katie Caron and Martha Russo, underwritten by the Denver Art Museum. Photo by Jeff Wells)