Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Music of Life

by Jen (writer), San Fernando Valley, August 28, 2007


Many of us have sat down in front of our iTunes for the purpose of arranging our favorite songs into what I like to call “the soundtracks of my life.” Even if you’ve never heard of iTunes you likely have at some time sat cross-legged in front of your stereo surrounded by a pile of records, tapes, and CD’s in order to put together a “mixed tape” for yourself or someone you love.

But have you ever wondered what your body would sound like if your blueprint, or DNA, was converted to musical notes instead of, well…you?

Now, thanks to researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles you can stop wondering. In an effort to elucidate genetic patterns and provide a means for the visually impaired to study genomics they have converted genome encoded protein sequences to musical compositions which, according to at least one composer I know are “pretty amazing…there's even counterpoint... not just a static melody.”

In order to accomplish this researchers needed to “find a mode of converting genomic sequences…to piano notes that sound reasonable to a musician's ear while remaining faithful to the science of the protein sequences.” Earlier attempts to extract melody directly from DNA were complicated by the limited range of notes that can be generated from the four species of nucleic acids found in DNA resulting in “a string of notes that has no recognizable theme or musical depth as a composition.”

In order to achieve recognizable theme and musical depth each of the 20 amino acids was initially assigned a note over a 2.5 octave range. In order to make the music more “musical” the amino acids were then grouped together based on the their physical properties. All members of a group are then assigned the same fundamental note. The notes within the group are then distinguished from one another "by being given a different version of their respective chord”. Rhythm was then introduced by assigning quarter, eighth, and half notes to the three codons that encode each amino acid in the genome. The more a codon is used in a particular organism’s genome, the longer the note is held.

So far the group has made music out of approximately 20 proteins. These include a somewhat somber and discordant SRY: Male Determining Factor and a deceptively pastoral adaptation of the precursor of Prion proteins which are known for their ability to cause Spongiform Encephalopathy’s (more commonly known as “Mad Cow Disease") in mammals. On its website the group also offers up compositions from other musically inclined molecular biologists which includes a jazzy little ditty for Alcohol Dehydrogenase, a most important protein for the “Thank God Its Friday” crowd.

Intrigued? Listen here.

Know of a genomic sequence you’d like to put to music? Create your own here.

Image: Partial human ThyA protein sequence with rhythm based on the human codon distribution from “Takahashi R, Miller JH., “Conversion of amino-acid sequence in proteins to classical music: search for auditory patterns.”, Genome Biol. 2007;8(5):405.

About the Writer

Jen is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
Want to write articles too? Sign up & become a writer!

5 comments on Music of Life

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Jen on August 28, 2007 at 11:37 pm
Joe- If your guitarist has a weakness for pizza and beer then you and I must be courting the same guitarist...
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By crisdel on August 29, 2007 at 11:51 am
Thanks Jen, Beautifully done. This is so exciting and intriguing to me because I am involved in research into the vibratory connection between numbers and harmonics. Having listened to some of music you linked to, it’s possible that it would be most effective for therapeutic massage because the vibes would be recognizable to the body and, therefore, more conducive to relaxation and smoother energetic movement! Great for meditation, too. Looks like I now have to buy QuickTime Pro in order to save it to my computer, unless anyone knows of any other way to save the mp3's.
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Jen on August 29, 2007 at 01:30 pm
Savage- yours and mine, although mine probably sounds a little more like Wierd Al... Crisdel- I'm on a PC. I was able to save the MP3 by right clicking on the link...saving the file...and then playing it in the Windows media player. You can also import the files into your iTunes (provided you have iTunes) and play it from there. Thanks for the comments :)
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By crisdel on August 29, 2007 at 07:12 pm
Thanks Jen - iTunes worked fine.
 Report abuse

Log In To Vote   Score: 0
By Ewalda88 on June 22, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Great also is rekuperacja warszawa

 Report abuse

Add A Comment!

Click here to signup or login.

Rate This Article

Your vote matters to us