2020 Honorable Mention – Alain Sullivan


DNA is a double helix nucleic acid containing the genetic information which forms the basis of all life. They contain a four letter alphabet, made of base pairs: Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine. These base pairs form bonds with each other in specific ways as DNA is formed. Purines (Adenine and Guanine) always bond with pyrimidines (Thymine and Cytosine) and Adenine and Thymine, and Guanine and Cytosine always bond with each other, forming the classic Base Pairs. These base pairs can be read to produce specific proteins that form every component of a biological species.

A,G,C also happen to be notations for musical notes, so I wrote a song using only A,G and C chords; I substituted E for T (the sound ‘t’ has an ‘e’ sound in it, and in the alphabet A, C, E, and G are all the same distances apart, so I thought it would fit, where everything is in a certain order, like base pairing [ A B C D E F G ]. In the song, G and C chords have to match together, as well as E and A. This, coincidentally, happens to work extremely well, as the V/I cadence is the most basic form of harmony in music, and in music, G is the fifth of C, and E is the fifth of A, forming a “musical base pair.” 

However, as DNA is made, sometimes mismatching can occur, where the base pairs are incorrectly matched. In this piece, this results in some more unique harmony. Even so, there are techniques in the cell to fix mismatching; in this piece, the proteins involved in mismatching repair are represented by the turnaround chords (the section with chords other than the common C/G and E/A chord pairings), allowing us to continue our musical base pairing with the chords.

I hope you enjoy this piece and that it allows you to reflect on the simplicity and beauty in our genetic code and base pairing.