The first tomatoes harvested for food were considered fatal to wealthy diners but harmless to the poor. This had everything to do with chemistry, not economics. During the 1500’s, the tomato’s acidity would interact with pewter flatware commonly used by the rich, who upon ingesting would soon die of lead poisoning. Poor people ate off plates made of wood and thus had no problems.
Today’s tomatoes are the result of thousands of years of genetic sculpting. In the 1950’s, researchers discovered a wild strain of plant where the tomato stayed longer on the vine due to a thicker “joint” holding the fruit to the stem. When crossed into existing breeds, however, the outcomes were disastrous: too many flowers, not enough fruit.
After screening 4,193 varieties of tomato plants, a team of genetic researchers led by Zachary Lippman have recently discovered how to engineer more productive crops through CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. By minimizing the gene that bears flowers and strengthening a modified joint that can hold heavier fruit, it is hoped that tomato farmers will soon have better and more predictable yields.
This is the method by which Suss Müsik created this piece for three pianos. It opens with a seven-note palindromic sequence, interspersed by two patterns of chords played with two separate “joints” — one “thick” and one “thin” to reflect changes in meter. (It made sense at the time). The opening loop is interrupted by another palindrome about halfway through, slowly dropping notes the way a tomato falls off the vine. A lightly bowed electric guitar adds a bit of color.
Suss Müsik admits to being inspired (and a bit intimidated) by the wonderful red ips spider by earthborn visions, a lovely composition in which loops seem to organically flow into each other. A real gem.
The piece is titled Inflorescences, named after the process by which flowers form on branches.