A new novel by Lori Andrews called Immunity contains a character named Peter Gena, a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who creates computerized programs that turn the DNA sequences of various diseases into pieces of music. Although Peter is not truly fictional: in fact, he was my composition teacher in grad school at Northwestern, and he really does make a wide variety of scintillating pieces for Disklavier and other electronics from DNA sequences. Andrews heard about him through a mutual geneticist friend whom Peter collaborates with, and mentions him twice in the book, on pages 9 and 41. Immunity is a kind of action novel about a sexy geneticist named Alexandra Blake who tries to unravel an epidemic caused by someone infecting drinking water with a toxin that makes people fatally allergic to man-made substances. Blake listens to DNA sequences through Gena’s program to try to hear dissonances that alert her to problematic viruses. It’s a very fast read that comes off like a would-be film script, with all the characters using the same kind of curt, snappy dialogue. I spent a lovely weekend with Peter the last couple of days, and realized again what a felicitous meeting of minds we were, and how lucky I was to have studied with him. (Among hundreds of happy coincidences: I’ve been meaning to listen to Saint-Saens’s Third Symphony because McLaren recommended it to me in a recent comment. Peter put on a CD to show off his new stereo components. “What is this?,” I asked. It was Saint-Saens’s Third Symphony.) Thank goodness Peter wasn’t merely fictional.