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CNN reports on Swine Flu “music”

May 1st, 2009 · No Comments · Music and Genetics

This story appeared in 2009, but it appears not to have caught on?  Fascinating idea, though.
By Elizabeth Landau
CNN

Swine flu may be inspiring fear worldwide, but for Stephan Zielinski of San Francisco, California, it inspired a song.

The genes underlying swine flu inspired one amateur musician to compose music based on it.

The virus has the classification H1N1 because it includes two key viral proteins, hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). Zielinski took the genetic sequence of a variant of hemagglutinin and created a computer algorithm to turn it into music.

Zielinski, 41, is not a biochemist or a professional musician — he’s a writer, photographer, computer programmer, and blogger who creates music in his spare time. But he’s fascinated that, even though biologists can map the genome of the virus and predict what the hemagglutinin protein looks like, the human body still cannot distinguish it as the “bad guy” — at least, not until there’s a vaccine.Listen to the song

“Although the map is there and you can even make a song out of it, we can’t explain it to these itty bitty little cells in body,” he said.

Using computer programs he created himself, as well as a commercial product, Zielinski composed his song by assigning instruments and musical notes to various properties of the protein.

Zielinski took the various categories of amino acids, the building blocks of the protein, and assigned each a different instrument — piano, organ, low synthesizer, percussion. The melody was created by assigning notes to specific amino acids. Each beat of the song also corresponds to one of numerous amino acids.

The work was done entirely with a computer and took about six hours Tuesday, he said.

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