Fight of the Antimicrobials

PRiSM 8³ |Fight of the Antimicrobials

Composer: Brittany Collie, The University of Liverpool

Scientist: Dr Raechelle D’Sa, Senior Lecturer in Antimicrobial Biomaterials, The University of Liverpool

The composer Brittany Collie writes “Fight of the Antimicrobials is a product of the collaboration between Dr. Raechelle D’Sa and myself and musically depicts the overarching theme of bacteria being everywhere. Further, throughout the piece we see the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria being shown through different motifs, and these flourish throughout the work similarly to how bacteria can flourish throughout the body. Scored for flute, alto saxophone, cello and piano, the project was an opportunity to work with an expert in the field and to share ideas about how these two seemingly worlds-apart issues could coexist as a piece of art.”

“Sharkgirl” Dr Raechelle D’Sa. Art by Jess Irwin for Liverpool LightNight – The Antimicrobial Avengers

“Based on the scientific research supporting what we know about the make-up, behaviour and evidence around bacteria, our discussions and conversations provided a springboard for my own research into surrounding fields and offered a landscape on which to become immersed in a somewhat unlikely topic. Notwithstanding this, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to expand my musical influences to the natural world and draw inspiration from new areas. This can be seen throughout the piece with the textural and lyrical development between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacterial motifs, and we looked to show the fight between these in a way that could be understood and interpreted by the musical ear. The light and dark in the piece, structured intentionally chaotically, highlights the juxtaposition between these two themes, that they do not coexist without argument and can in a very literal sense bring destruction in the way of disease and illness.

A further key theme to mention is that of antibiotics, however the listener soon learns that this is not as impactful as one may have hoped; later replaced by the Komodo Dragon (saxophone) and Shark Skin (cello) motifs. Keen to align with Raechelle’s key studies and work, I took particular interest in work on the use of Komodo Dragon’s blood and the biological make-up of shark skin as antimicrobial, in that that they may offer a solution to the problems caused by the overuse of antibiotics. Both working to eliminate ‘bad’ bacteria, these methods provided the good versus evil narrative that can be clearly heard throughout the piece as it dissonantly moves through the story.

The work concludes with the ‘good’ bacteria motif ending the musical journey on which I have taken the listener. My work with Raechelle has taught me that this ‘good’ trumps ‘bad’ narrative ending may not be as easy as finishing on a certain motif. However, through consistent research and perseverance, I understand that the problems caused by bad bacteria can hopefully be overcome in the future.”