flute, bass clarinet, french horn/bassoon, violin, viola, and violoncello
for the Ensemble Intercontemporain and Chartreuse PLUS
Each year over half a million American Horseshoe Crabs (Limulus polyphemus) are harvested to produce Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), a medically important product found in the crabs' blood, which is used to detect pathogenic bacteria. The FDA requires every drug they certify to be tested with LAL to ensure that intravenous drugs, vaccines, and medical devices are free of bacterial contamination that could damage patient health. As such, the copper-based and uniquely colored, “blue blood” of the horseshoe crab is in high demand; a quart of LAL typically costs around $15,000. Substantial efforts are put in place to harvest LAL and in these “blood harvests” the crabs are heavily bled — 30 percent or more of their blood is taken and approximately 20 to 30 percent of the crabs do not survive.
The story of the American Horseshoe Crab fascinated me throughout the composition of this piece. I wondered, "at what point do the advancements in medical technology exceed the costs of harming innocent living creatures..." and furthermore, "is it the mere otherness of these crabs, in their alien appearance, which would both enable and justify this sort of action?” The FDA’s sustained harvest of Limulus polyphemus is responsible for the creation and manufacturing of a number of important life-saving medical equipment, however its benefit to humans is endured at the cost of an unprecedented amount of violence towards one of the oldest living species on earth. I sought to engage in this problematic moral dialectic in composition, by means of imposing often violent, and artificial, metrical structures atop subaquatic and crustaceous soundscapes.