Science and music – Follow my rhythm!

The music industry moves masses. So, could science reach more people through music? A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched a couple of years ago the Biota Beats project, one of the first initiatives to bring science and music together.

Lately a lot of effort has been dedicated on bringing science and art together. It is a proposal to bring science to different audiences, make it more attractive and incorporate it into our daily lives. For example, in 2016 the Center for Genomic Agriculture Research (CRAG) invited 5 professional sketchers to spend a day at the center to draw the research that is being developed there. After the event, the center published a book in which it is explained the projects and discoveries of the CRAG in a didactic way.

Another example is the use of comics to explain a scientific process, such as the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) and the comics of Miriam Rivera (@miriamriig). Some months ago the VHIO published an article in the journal Nature Communications in which a new cancer drug with one unusual mechanism of action was presented. This discovery was published in La Vanguardia accompanied by a comic that easily illustrated the action of the drug and the importance of the discovery.

To bring science to our daily life we also have the sculptures of Marc Boada, located in the Jardí de les Percepcions (Garden of Perceptions) in Terrassa city. This garden was designed to stimulate thought, to question perceptions and to make you wonder why things happen.

Although when it comes to science and art we usually refer to plastic arts… Do not forget that music is also an art! In this sense, there are also interesting initiatives:

The rhythm of the microbiota

The iGEM Competition is an international competition for students interested in synthetic biology. It is organized by the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation and is held in Boston. In the year 2017 during the closing ceremony a song made with the microbiota of the participants was presented.

During the days that the competition lasted, those in charge of the Biota Beats project collected samples of microorganisms from different parts of the body of students from around the world. Each part of the continent was assigned a part of the body, which in turn played a specific role in the final song.

Among South American students samples of the scalp were obtained which composed the percussion. The microorganisms of the hands of the African people gave the deep basses. The atmosphere of the song was defined by the microbiota of the Americans noses. To give it a funky harmony, the microorganisms of Asian ears were added. And finally Europe gave the electronic melody with its forearm microbiota.

The samples were collected in Petri dishes with culture medium, which were incubated to detect growth and then photographed. These images were analyzed using algorithms that converted the colonies of microorganisms into midi and finally into music.

Listen to the result here.

This piece of electronic music was created with samples from students all over the world. Even so, the Biota Beats project contemplates the possibility of creating a song for each individual, generating the line of each instrument from the microbiota of each part of the body, thus creating a human symphony. One of the main objectives of this program is to bring microbiology closer to the fans of electronic music, talk about microbial in the big masses that the music industry moves.

Finally, it is not necessary to go to the United States to find projects that join science and music. For example, a piece composited for organ and based in nanotechnology will be presented shortly within the NanoCaedre project (of Catalan origin).

And we hope that more initiatives like these will emerge to fill concert halls of people with thirst for science!


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