Year of Publication
Arts and Sciences
This piece comes from a project that examines the connection between biology and music. Biological proteins are encoded from a sequence of amino acids to form functional motifs. Like notes are the monomeric unit of a musical composition, amino acids are the monomeric building blocks of biological proteins. Similar biological and musical periodicity inspired the concept of utilizing musical modeling to represent human disease states at the molecular level. In this context, data sonification is the process of converting information from amino acids into a digital music piece. The twenty naturally occurring amino acids were mapped to a 3 octave C Major scale. Based on affinity towards water (a key characteristic in determining protein structure and function), amino acids were mapped rhythmically into four groups: strong dislike is represented using 1 note per beat, slight dislike using 2 notes per beat, modest affinity using 4 notes per beat, and strong affinity using 6 notes per beat. In healthy states, proteins within the cell interact in harmony to carry out its normal functions. However, amino acid mutations often result in misfolded proteins which disrupt the symphony of cellular signaling. This piece evaluates the human disease, Epileptic Encephalopathy, which can be genetically caused by the K552T Kv7.2 mutant and is characterized by increased seizure risk. In healthy individuals, the voltage-gated potassium channel interacts with secondary proteins allowing for effective communication among brain cells. This harmonious interaction can be interpreted sonically as the harmonious melody at the beginning of the piece. Once the mutation occurs, a wave shaping distortion is applied to introduce musical dissonance, ultimately representing the diseased cellular state. To evoke an innate understanding of our own bodies, music is a powerful modeling tool.
Daniels, Sydney, "The Symphony of the Cell" (2021). Oswald Research and Creativity Competition. 41.