Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre

Project Items



If you could hear a human embryo as it developed, what would it sound like?

Supported by a small grant from NICAP (Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice) and EngageFMS, Jackie Leach Scully and Simon Woods have been collaborating with composer and musical director Mark Carroll, conductor Monica Buckland, and developmental biologist Susan Lindsay to explore this question. Together with children from three local schools, they are using music as a route to exploring ideas about human embryonic development.
This project was inspired by research in human developmental biology which provides important knowledge for understanding how human development is driven and in what ways it can go wrong. The development of human embryos over approximately the first eight weeks of life is more usually represented visually; this project adds a novel and creative twist by inviting children to submit short melodies stimulated by ideas of human growth. Selected melodies will be used by Mark to build a unique musical composition that maps out the development of an embryo in real, musical time.
Mark’s final composition will be performed by four professional musicians in the Great North Museum on 11th March 2018. However, the focus of the project is as much on the process as the end product, as the children have been encouraged to experience their roles as composers and possible scientists of the future.