Finally, An Excuse For Music Bloggers To Post About Swine Flu

Apr 30th, 2009 // 4 Comments

Stephan Zielinski is a San Francisco musician who was into the idea of translating a gene into a piece of ambient music–and thanks to the swine flu epidemic and its attendant craziness sweeping the world, he found the perfect gene to turn into a song that would result in a bunch of Google-fueled attention being paid to his music. And it only took him about six hours total! MP3 and an explanation of how he did it after the jump.

The algorithm I used is a bit complicated, but just in case you’re curious: since the gene is expressed as a surface protein antibodies can sense, it’s considered as a string of amino acids. Each beat corresponds to one amino acid, and the piece is in 3/4 time, so each six measures would correspond to five turns around the alpha structure. (I’m weaseling because I haven’t the foggiest idea how the protein actually gets folded.) Amino acids with side chains that are neither aromatic not aliphatic control the piano and organ: the nine non-hydrophobics the piano, and the four hydrophobics the organ. The three amino acids with aliphatic side chains control the low synthesizer, while the four with aromatics control the percussion. Strictly speaking, this is a version of swine flu hemagglutinin, FJ966952:


MKAILVVMLYTFATANADTLCIGYHANNSTDTVDTVLEKNVTVTHSVNLLEDKHNGKLCK
LRGVAPLHLGKCNIAGWILGNPECESLSTASSWSYIVETSSSDNGTCYPGDFIDYEELRE
QLSSVSSFERFEIFPKTSSWPNHDSNKGVTAACPHAGAKSFYKNLIWLVKKGNSYPKLSK
SYINDKGKEVLVLWGIHHPSTSADQQSLYQNADAYVFVGSSRYSKKFKPEIAIRPKVRDQ
EGRMNYYWTLVEPGDKITFEATGNLVVPRYAFAMERNAGSGIIISDTPVHDCNTTCQTPK
GAINTSLPFQNIHPITIGKCPKYVKSTKLRLATGLRNVPSIQSRGLFGAIAGFIEGGWTG
MVDGWYGYHHQNEQGSGYAADLKSTQNAIDEITNKVNSVIEKMNTQFTAVGKEFNHLEKR
IENLNKKVDDGFLDIWTYNAELLVLLENERTLDYHDSNVKNLYEKVRSQLKNNAKEIGNG
CFEFYHKCDNTCMESVKNGTYDYPKYSEEAKLNREEIDGVKLESTRIYQILAIYSTVASS
LVLVVSLGAISFWMCSNGSLQCRICI



The crazy thing about the track: It actually gives me a headache. Um… that’s not on the symptoms list, is it?


[MP3]
Swine Flu HA As Ambient Music [Stephan Zielinski; HT CNN]
[Pic via xaminmo]

  1. Also: If people weren’t freaking out about the swine flu, where would we get all that content?

  2. Ugh, this kind of grad-student “process” music drives me up a wall. I don’t care how complicated your algorithm is (which isn’t even really the case here) if the end product involves General MIDI and sounds so confrontationally simplistic.

  3. That kid is proving Rick Santorum’s worst fears true. Also, M.I.A. is doing her part to encourage pun blog posts with this tweet: http://twitter.com/_M_I_A_/status/1643622416.

Leave A Comment