Published Apr 06, 2020Scientists have created a musical representation of the proteins and molecules that make up COVID-19 and formed a new instrumental song titled "Viral Counterpoint of the Coronavirus Spike Protein (2019-nCoV)" — and it's strangely beautiful.
McAfee Professor of Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Markus J. Buehler, uploaded the track to his SoundCloud last month. The nearly two-hour-long piece makes an audible form out of the virus's gene sequences and was created with a multi-layered algorithmic composition technique.
Read his explanation below:
While we cannot see small nanoscopic objects like proteins or other molecules that make up virtually all living matter including our cells, tissues, as well as pathogens such as viruses, our computational algorithm allows us to make its material manifestation audible. This piece is a musical representation of the amino acid sequence and structure of the spike protein of the pathogen of COVID-19, 2019-nCoV (protein data bank identifier 6VSB ).
A virus' genome hijacks the host cell's protein manufacturing machinery, and forces it to replicate the viral genome and produce viral proteins to make new viruses from it. This musical art teaches us something about the fine line between beauty of life and death as an opposite pole. As you listen to the protein you will find that the intricate design results in incredibly interesting and actually pleasing, relaxing sounds. This doesn't really convey the deadly impacts this particular protein is having on the world. This aspect of the music shows the deceiving nature of the virus, how it hijacks our body to replicate and hurt us along the way. So, the music is a metaphor for this nature of the virus to deceive the host and exploit it for its own multiplication.
What you hear is a multi-layered algorithmic composition featuring both the vibrational spectrum of the entire protein (expressed in sound and rhythmic elements), the sequence and folding of amino acids that compose the virus spike structure, as well as interwoven melodies — forming counterpoint music — reflecting the complex hierarchical intersecting geometry of the protein.
The resulting track is a strangely beautiful classical/avant-garde piece that would make the perfect soundtrack to your work-from-home setup.
Listen to the song below.