Immunophonology was composed in 2013 by Joanna Lee as part of BCMG's Resolution project funded by the Wellcome Trust. The piece is written for a mixed ability, mixed range vocal ensemble featuring one solo voice.The piece's structure is derived from the way in which the human body develops an immune response.
The Resolution project brought together composers and biomedical scientists from the University of Birmingham's Rheumatology Research Group, part of the Centre for Translational Inflammation Research based in Queen Elizabeth Hospital to work with young people to create new music around the theme of auto-immune disease. Funded by a Wellcome Trust Small Grants Award, the project ran in three secondary schools: Turves Green Girls School and King Edward VI Handsworth Girls School in Birmingham and Light Hall School, Solihull. The project was led by composers Fraser Trainer, Liz Johnson, Jackie Walduck, Jeremy Clay, Joanna Lee and Ruta Vitkauskaite, scientists Beth Clay and Rachel Bayley and Hannah Hope, Education Officer at the British Society for Immunology. The project culminated in an evening of music and science on 22 March 2013 which included the music composed by and for the young people. You can listen to recordings of the music on our main website. As part of the project three pieces were composed for the young people to perform:
The scores are free to download from the links below. If you perform any of the pieces, please let us know. If you have any questions regarding performing the pieces or about any other aspect of the project please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is a recording of the premiere performance of Immunophonology by King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls:
The structure of Immunophonology follows a 'normal' immune response or, its alternative, an autoimmune response:
The terminology used in immunology provided the text for the piece and leading on from this, the phonetics and vocal sounds. The chosen words also link to groups within the International Phonetic Alphabet and vocal techniques (see below).
Pathogen, Infectious, Virus, Disease
Fricatives: th, ff, sh, vv, zz
Immunology, Rheumatology, Inflammation, Autoimmune
Vowels: ih, oo, aw, ee, ah
Nasals: mm, nn
Chanting and humming
Examples: Gobble, Gulp, Sizzle, Zap
Plosives: d, t, p
Dendritic Professional Antigen Presenting Cells
T Cells; Cytokines; B Cells; Antibodies
Beatboxing sounds: bm – bass drum, ts – hi-hat, zz – interference, kk – crash cymbal, brrr – bass drum
Connected to this, different characters of cells and processes were also conveyed through the music. For example, a section about macrophages, which digest foreign bodies, involves eating sounds and onomatopoeia and, a section about pathogens, which cause illness and instigate the immune response, involves haunting and menacing whispering.The work uses small musical cells that layer-up and come together to give an overall picture; this parallels with science (small molecules and cells working together to form something on a grander scale). Above the small musical cells, a linear text occurs providing a narrative of what is happening in the immune response. Thus, the work acts as a teaching tool that verbally tells the story and information about the science.