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Cancer's last note – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra create 'unfinished symphony' to support new cancer centre

Musicians from Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing the 'Unfinished symphony' outside the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery

One of the world’s leading cancer research organisations, The Institute of Cancer Research, London has teamed up with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) to create a beautiful new piece of music with a twist – it has been left deliberately unfinished.

Entitled ‘Let’s Finish It’, the unfinished symphony abruptly cuts to silence three-quarters of the way through – mirroring the unfinished state of a building being created by the ICR to spearhead efforts for new cancer cures.

The ICR's Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery will be one of the world’s most important buildings and home to the most successful academic cancer drug discovery scientists anywhere. However, the building needs an additional £5m in donations to be completed and for the scientists to be able to start their urgent work in finishing cancer.

If the building is finished, hundreds of scientists from different disciplines will come together to lead an unprecedented ‘Darwinian’ programme that aims to overcome cancer’s ability to evolve resistance to drugs and ‘herd’ it into more treatable forms. This could turn cancer into a manageable disease that can be controlled long term and effectively cured.

We are building a new state-of-the-art drug discovery centre to create more and better drugs for cancer patients. To make our building a reality, we urgently need your philanthropic support. 

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Music inspired by the building

The ICR commissioned Callum Morton-Huseyin, a 25-year-old emerging contemporary classical composer, to create the original unfinished anthem and for Britain’s national orchestra, the RPO, to perform it. The piece is inspired by the incomplete building itself, the efforts of researchers to outsmart cancer’s evolution and their currently unfinished business in defeating the disease.

Passages in the track are based on the ICR’s efforts to understand the way cancers change and evolve, with the ups and downs of the music reflecting the historic successes and frustrations of cancer research. As the anthem progresses, the music takes an upward turn, reflecting the building’s construction, the ICR’s science and the game-changing future discoveries that could overcome cancer’s evolution.

However, around three-quarters of the way through, before the contemporary classical symphony can reach its most optimistic heights, the music abruptly cuts off and the remaining minute of the track plays in total silence – a musical metaphor for the current unfinished state of the cancer research building.

The music will remain in this unfinished state until the ICR’s building has received the funds it needs to be completed. At this point, the piece will be finished by Callum and the RPO, before becoming the official anthem for the completed Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery.


Let’s finish it’ - Watch this beautiful new piece of contemporary classical music with a twist

'No other building like this in the world'

Dr Olivia Rossanese, who will be Head of Biology in the ICR’s Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, said: “There will be no other cancer research building like this in the world. We’ll have computational biologists, geneticists, evolutionary scientists and drug discovery researchers all working hand-in-hand in an unprecedented way to find new treatments that can overcome cancer evolution and drug resistance.

"It has the potential to completely change everything we thought we knew about cancer treatment, but firstly, it needs to be finished. The unfinished symphony beautifully illustrates the importance of raising the final £2m so we can get to work on this exciting new area of research.”

Callum Morton-Huseyin, who composed the music for the ICR, said: “Myself and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are immensely proud to be a part of the fundraising campaign that will assist in finishing a very important building in the world of cancer research. The music’s ominous beginnings gradually turn to hope and promise, designed to reflect the building itself and the revolutionary science that will take place there. However, the anthem never reaches its crescendo, being deliberately released in an unfinished state, with around a minute of silence.

"I’m eager to get back into the studio and finish it because that will mean that the building has received the funds it needs, and ICR’s scientists can make the discoveries that will ultimately finish cancer.”

To download the currently unfinished anthem or to donate to the new Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, visit our Cancer's last note page.

Updated 2020-05-22 to reflect reduced fundraising target.


Olivia Rossanese Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery Let's Finish It
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