Nashua, N.H., BAE Worker Creates Sept. 11 Remembrance
"I worked with DNA to signify our common humanity," said Quinn, a musician and composer as well as a senior software engineer with BAE Systems in Nashua. DNA is the long chemical compound that spells out the code of life, but in Quinn's hands it becomes something else: Music.
Quinn took some of the DNA code from chromosomes 1 and 9, which can be downloaded from the Web site of the Human Genome Project, and turned the four "letters" of the nucleic acids into drum sounds, the pairs of acids into marimba sounds, and the three-letter combinations into string sounds.
Then he did the same thing with parts of the U.S. Constitution -- "Signifying that the two codes of life, one physical and one spiritual or communal, are both necessary" -- and with the names of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, then wove it all together into a six-minute musical piece.
His wife, Wendy, then created a dance for the music, working with choreographer Benjamin Hatcher of Montreal, and enhanced it with visual effects such as a projected list of victim's names that scrolls to form an environment of light that envelops the dance.
It has been included in BAE's Sept. 11 tribute to those who died in the terrorist attacks, including three BAE employees. One of those employees, Chuck Jones, worked at the Nashua-based Information & Electronic Warfare Systems division of BAE Systems North America.
The work has been performed for BAE staff at the 14 Court St. theater in Nashua, and there will be two performances of it this morning for BAE employees in the auditorium of the South Nashua campus.
It will also be performed at 7 tonight at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, as part of that city's Sept. 11 observance. Turning names, words and the code of life comes naturally to Quinn, a Lee resident who has worked with BAE for two years. Part of his work at the defense contractor involves turning data into music, a process called "sonification." Although unknown to most people, this is part of a well-established field of research that even has its own professional group (International Community for Auditory Display) which will be holding its annual meeting in Boston next year.
"I work on applied sonification for the defense industry. … I want to build on our predisposition toward music -- the fact that the brain likes music -- and use our listening abilities to filter out certain sounds or focus on other sounds," he said. "It can give people another avenue for the information to come in. If they have to focus visually on some task; we can provide them the ability to not have to look at another screen, by providing (data) through sounds or music."
The Quinns, who live in Lee, are no stranger to the state's arts scene. The family, including their daughter, has been performing together for a decade.
Their show "Magic Bird" has toured Europe and the Far East, and they have also put on a more recent stage production, the 75-minute "The Seven Valleys," based on mystical writings from the Baha'I faith. They also helped create an annual Sacred Theater Festival in Portsmouth.
And if some see a conundrum in an artist working for a defense-electronics firm, Quinn says they're all wrong.
"Sanders (BAE's predecessor) had a long history of supporting arts in the area, and so does BAE," he said. "The company is very open to new ideas, has been quite supportive of my work."
And there is, he notes, a long history of art and arms going together.
"After all, there are Fourth of July celebrations, and military bands. And there are arts events at the Pentagon," he pointed out.
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