for two bassoons
The Immortal Jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii) is a small, quarter-inch jellyfish found in tropical waters throughout the world. Like most jellyfish, it begins life as a larva called a planula that settles on a hard surface near the sea floor, grows into an anemone-like polyp that feeds and replicates itself, and buds off ephyra that become medusas, the mature jellyfish we so easily recognize. What is unique about this species is what happens when the medusa’s body is damaged beyond repair. Genes in the dying medusa’s cells turn on and off, changing the cells into a blob-like cyst, which becomes a polyp, and the life cycle continues. This phenomenon has been observed in several other jellyfish species and in their relatives, hydras.
For me, the Immortal Jellyfish is a fascinating and inspiring example of resilience in the natural world. It is a metaphor for the possibility of transformation and rebirth in our own human lives.
This piece was commissioned by Miriam Webber and Sarah Elizabeth Lee for their Silent Voices project. It is dedicated to my sister Anna, tidepool seeker, jellyfish watcher, nymph of the sea.
Immortal Jellyfish was premiered in April 2021 as part of Bemidji State University's Honors Lecture Series, and was selected for presentation at the July 2021 International Double Reed Society Virtual Symposium.
Read about the Immortal Jellyfish in National Geographic, Discover Magazine, and the American Museum of Natural History,