The first release from Steambot Recordings on 12/12/12 is a collaboration between the sci-fi soundtrack composer Rubber Band Banjo and art/science high school students from Tory Peterson's class at Perpich Center for Arts Education in Minnesota. Synthetic Biology II: The Evolution Machine is the second album in a synthetic biology trilogy that aims to educate and entertain the public about the emerging field of synthetic biology through soundtrack music and spoken word recordings, using the STEAM (Science-Technology-Education-Arts-Mathematics) movement as inspiration. The musical approach used to create this album was abstractly analogous to the assembly of genetic circuits, where musical elements were assembled like biological parts, as described in the album artwork. Inspired by the concept of the evolution machine, a real-life machine that evolves organisms in the lab, all the tracks on this album were subjected to various random and non-random audio mutations as the music progresses. The result of this approach is a recombination of different musical styles that include sci-fi jazz, progressive rock, dub, spastic pop, and experimental electronic music, all filtered through scientific concepts.
The front cover artwork created by Elsie-Marie Ibes depicts the evolution machine as a powerful machine for evolving futuristic green technology. At the same time, the title track illustrates the ability for this technology to go horribly wrong. In this sci-fi dialogue between a mad scientist and his lab assistant, the mad scientist wants to evolve humans in the evolution machine to become resistant to a virus, while the geeky assistant warns the professor that, “The evolution machine only allows for mutation accumulation and not natural selection, the very basis of evolution!” Of course he doesn’t listen to the student who has implemented a "simulated natural selection function" on the machine and things go awry. The other tracks feature spoken word recordings from synthetic biology scientists and artists Adam Zaretsky, John Cumbers, Daisy Ginsberg, Evan Clark, Oron Catts, Andrew Hessel, and Mac Cowell. Craig Hoffman provides some killer sci-fi sax recordings on Genetic Pollution, How Would You Design Nature?, and The Ethics of Synthetic Biology. The topics discussed include synthetic biology, evolution, genetic pollution, space colonization, transmission of DNA into outer space, designing nature, gene weaving, bioart, ethics, lab automation robots, and transhumanism.
Synthetic Biology II: The Evolution Machine is out on the STEAM-inspired record label Steambot Recordings on 12/12/12. For more info, visit steambot.org.