Verbum, Genoma in Musica

The Residence for Researchers, making the saying "science is culture" its own motto, and in a permanent effort to encourage and promote both cultural and scientific creativity has developed activities such as the series of conferences on "Gens Millenium"; "Nanotechnology: XXI century paradigm"; "Proteomica: Tools for Daily Life in the Postgenomic Era"; "Contemporary Music; present prospectives in Catalonia"; or the exhibitions "People and Gens" and "Life Secrets: DNA cells. The cicle was held to celebrate de 50th anniversary of the double helix first structure description. Now we want to go further so as to link the world of science to that of culture at the very beginning of the new century: to put together the most contemporary musical creation to one of the scientific discoveries that is to revolutionise our existence: the decipher of the human genom.

Through this initiative, the intention is to humanise and to put music to the extended debate this great scientific advance has generated over the future of our human species. The project was originated when Professor Joan Guinjoan was asked by the Residence for Researchers to compose a piece of music. The Professor, gifted by a spirit in permanent search and open minded to any new scientific advances, once he got to know the human genom, he felt a great creative impulse that resulted in this piece of music. Among the 30.000 genes that are thought to form part of the human genom, we were suggested and consequently given by the Professors Roderic Guigó and Francesc Abril, bioinformaticians at Pompeu Fabra University and signers of the first publication of the human genom (1), the gene sequence associated to speech, the FOXP2. Professor Guinjoan has represented the sequence in a poetical and musical transcription.

Leaving apart the musical interpretation, we would like to point out that this gene has caught Professor Svante Pääbo's attention (2). This scientist is the Chief and Director of the Molecular Genetics Department at Max Planck Evolutionist Anthropology Institute. Professor Pääbo says that from FOXP2 it would be possible to determine the precise moment when a qualitative jump was made by humans, changing their behaviour completely; that is, when we achieved articulated language which enables us to sing, to produce sounds, music and poetry.

Dr. Sc. Francesc Farré i Rius

Dr. Lluís Calvo i Calvo

(1) Science, Vol 291 No5507 June 2001.
(2) S.Pääbo et al...,”Molecular Evolution of FOXP2, a Gene Involved in Speech and Language”
Nature 418: 869-872 (aug 22, 2002)