When music mutates musicians and audiences

Image: Gene Tree Trio musicians, Gideon Brazil and Adam Simmons, in rehearsal.

Sometimes you can find yourself in a familiar situation where you know what to do and it’s boring. Like when you catch the same tram to work every morning. Sometimes you can find yourself in an unfamiliar situation where you don’t know what to do and it’s scary. Like when you walk down a dark alley in a strange city.

Best of all, sometimes you can find yourself in an unfamiliar situation where you know enough to feel happy, curious and excited. Like when you travel to an exotic country with a phrase book in your pocket and friends by your side.

Well, that’s what it’s like to be a Gene Tree Trio audience member.

Maybe you feel the power of music and you’re curious about the way biology can describe our world. But you can’t imagine how the arts and the sciences fit together to create something new.

Once you experience a Gene Tree Trio performance or workshop, it’s going to become a lot clearer. And in a way, that’s the journey that the Gene Tree Project members went on too; from curious bystanders to polyglot participants.

In this article we’re meeting a Gene Tree Project musician Gideon Brazil (flautist and saxophonist) to understand how he navigated the big questions of The Gene Tree Project.

When composer and vibraphonist, Elissa Goodrich, invited Gideon to join the team he was immediately intrigued by the concept of exploring evolutionary biology and climate change by using the language of music.

Gideon says, “It’s inspiring to be involved in a project that deals with concepts that actually matter. It’s monolithic. It’s never-ending.” He adds, “Straight up, I was hooked into the science idea. But I wasn’t sure how it was going to take part in the music… It took me a while to realise what I was being part of.”

In the meantime, Gideon applied his skills as a musician and experienced improviser to the project, as well as his natural curiosity. As part of his creative process Gideon is always thinking about the art, being open to new experiences, and asking questions. As an artist Gideon is also thinking about how to invite the audience into that process too. Gideon says, “My role was to take people to places where we could ask questions. I was out of my comfort zone, but not overwhelmed.”

Gideon helps create the sound worlds in a Gene Tree Trio performance. He describes his role as contributing musical ‘hooks’ that help the audience understand where they are and then encourage them to explore beyond. As Elissa also explains, “The musicians are the conduit between the science and the performance. The role of the musician is to help immerse the audience into the experience.”

The choice of instruments can shape the audience’s journey. Gideon plays the tenor and baritone saxophones as well as the flute. The saxophones have big, resonant voices that fill the space with bold rhythms, while the flute is ethereal and creates an atmosphere of airy space. The gentle, melodic flute lends itself well to the concepts at the heart of The Gene Tree Project; the enormous impact of tiny shifts in genetic mutation.

Even the smallest ways that the musicians perform influence the audience’s journey. Workshop attendees from late 2017 may remember when the musicians traced their fingers along pictures of DNA strands. The minute sounds of skin rubbing and tapping paper become musical performances. It was an eye opening and ear opening experience for the musicians as well as the audience. Gideon says, “It made me approach my instrument differently.”

Gideon describes the experience of The Gene Tree Project as one where “it’s not just making music to ideas. Music can influence the science, and they interact.”

Science and Art blend to create something that is more personal for the audience and for the artists. As Gideon says, “By the end, I knew why we did it. And I was moved.”

Come and experience The Gene Tree Trio in June and be transformed too.

Upcoming gigs:
Sunday, June 17th, 5pm – 6pm, Lebowskis – Moreland City Band Hall (behind the Bowling Club), 16/ 22 Cross St, Brunswick, Victoria.

Tuesday, June 26th, 8.30pm – 9.30pm The Brunswick Green, 313 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Victoria.

Written by Cressida Bradley with Gideon Brazil and Elissa Goodrich

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