Monday, February 1, 2010

Trees in Pop Culture: The Darwin Electro-Opera


Did you ever think you'd see a phylogenetic tree displayed in laser light as the backdrop to an opera? Well, neither did I, but that's exactly what happens during an opera based on Darwin's life and works written by the Swedish synth-pop innovators and Pitchfork darlings known as The Knife. The image above is a screen capture from the 2:37 mark of a 7 minute preview video in which one of Darwin's hand-drawn trees is clearly visible. The soundtrack releases via theknife.net tomorrow, but you can preview it now at NPR. Reviews and commentaries on this work are all over the place. NPR's All Songs Considered blog links to a twenty minute roundtable discussion with The Knife and their collaborators (Mt. Sims and Planningtorock) that is almost as bizarre as the video. If one thing is clear, it's that they've taken the task of learning about Darwin and his theory rather seriously. The resulting music is fascinating and full of meaning, but its also a bit abstract for the minds of most scientists.

5 comments:

Dan Warren said...

In a sort-of-but-not-really related video, one half of The Knife recently gave the strangest award show speech in history for her solo project Fever Ray:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymCP6zC_qJU

Tom Near said...

Is this the "Tommy" of the science world?

Glor said...

I think this one may lack the mass appeal of Tommy...

mfb said...

Tom - perhaps you are thinking of the original cladistic rock opera 'Rommy'?

Glor said...

Yes, I had forgotten about ROMY! The performance at the Guelph meetings was one for the ages.