Alexandra Pajak is a medical student with classical music training from Athens, GA who has recently released an album entitled "Sounds of HIV: Music Transcribed From DNA." It is, needless to say, one of the most unusual albums I've received lately.
"Sounds of HIV" is a musical translation of the genetic code of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Every segment of the virus is assigned musical pitches, thus taking the listener on an aural tour of the entire HIV genome...A portion of proceeds from the sale of this CD will be donated to the Emory Vaccine Center, which conducts HIV research." The booklet that comes with the cd breaks it all down into more detail, for you rock 'n' roll geneticists out there.
It makes for an interesting companion piece to the "Speak!" album I reviewed the other day - experimental musical takes on the gay experience. (Yes, I know anyone can catch AIDS, but there's no denying the impact that the disease has had on the gay world.) So what does this journey thru the entire HIV genome sound like? Rather pleasant, actually. It's scored for a 6-person chamber ensemble (flute, cello, winds), but these tracks feature just piano:
Alexandra Pajak & The Sequence Ensemble: Protein 2
Alexandra Pajak & The Sequence Ensemble: Proteins 5 & 6
"Protein 2" is busy, hop-scotching around the keyboard, while "5 & 6" has a gently hypnotizing Minimalist feel to it.
I really don't know how to feel about this album. Should it be "enjoyed" like any other piece of music, or should it be approached scientifically, the audio equivalent of a textbook illustration? I guess I felt that something that has caused so much death and misery should sound heavy, goth, atonal, and noisy, and not this nice (if a bit somber). But, on the other hand, a disease is simply the work of nature, and nature isn't evil. It's just going about it's business. Pretty thought-provoking stuff for such innocuous music...