Unearthing Biomusic

In response to:

The Music of Big Questions from the February 20, 2014 issue

To the Editors:

In his review of Richard Powers’s Orfeo [NYR, February 20], Nathaniel Rich mentions that the novel’s protagonist, composer Peter Els, “has become fascinated by the nascent field of biocomposing, a field so cutting edge that it doesn’t quite exist in our own reality, at least not yet. A biocomposer turns nature into music.”

I’m not as up-to-date on these things as I once was, but I do remember Charles Dodge’s 1970 piece Earth’s Magnetic Field, which does exactly that, using data from the changes in that field to trigger sonic events. I’m also pretty sure there were more such compositions, and that poking around in, say, the Ars Electronica archives in Linz would unearth more of them.

Ed Ward
Austin, Texas