About the Music
Employing a similar instrumentation to Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals (minus one of the two pianos,) each movement of Carnival of the Microbes uses a defining characteristic of a particular tiny creature to create a musical rule. Four different microbes are the inspiration for this orchestral work.
Each movement of Carnival of the Microbes uses a defining characteristic of a particular tiny creature to create a musical ruleIn Verrucomicrobial ectosymbiont, a small bacterium riding on the outside of a larger microbe functions as a weapon-like defense system, shooting out a harpoon 15 times its length to destroy predators. Musically, this is a long, ascending line ending with a violent-sounding percussion instrument, “the lion’s roar,” which, microbially speaking at least, punctuates the enemy organism and literally spills its guts.
In the second movement, Noctiluca scintillans, the organisms eat diatoms (microscopic sea creatures) and photosynthesize to glow in the dark. They are beautiful and sparkly, especially when stirred up. In my musical interpretation, the sparkles are made by metallic percussion instruments that are more active the more “stirred up” the music.
The unusual pision method of Corynebacterium glutamicum, a microbe commonly found in dirt, is the inspiration for this movement. It grows in small clusters and instead of piding in half when ready, these microbes snap off – scientists have even made recordings of the snapping sounds and video of the vibrations. So in my musical interpretation, the strings use a technique called tremolo, which is a series of quick back and forth bow strokes. Various member of the ensemble “snap pizzicato” and make percussive snapping noises.
Epulopiscium fishelonii is inspired by the huge shape and size of the microbe, as well as its method of reproduction. This microbe is large enough to see with the human eye—and shaped like a long cigar. I traced the shape on a piano keyboard—up on white keys, down on black—to create the main theme. These microbes have an unusual method of reproduction in that they fill themselves with miniature versions, open up, and birth them. In between full keyboard runs (the mothership themes) you will hear the birth of diminutive miniature themes across the orchestra.