Musical Gene Genius

Pandora’s Music Genome Project is well known by now, but an article published yesterday in the fetchingly-titled Genome Technology Daily Scan reports that a couple of lawyers have filed a U.S. patent for music generated from the genetic information within a DNA sequence…

However, it seems unlikely that such a patent request could succeed, considering that the concept of synthesising music from genetic seed data has been around for quite a while now. A comment in the GTDS claims that a tape of such music was distributed at an international conference on the structure and function of the ribosome in 1995, in Victoria, British Columbia.

More recently, a baby called Sophia Herzog-Sach inspired Herb Moore to create a CD which came to be known as Sophia’s Garden. Sophia suffered from Niemann-Pick Type A, which meant that she could not synthesise an enzyme called Acid Sphingomyelinase (ASM). Herb decided to use the DNA from the properly functioning gene responsible for producing this enzyme as the basis for the album. This is how Herb explains the process:

“Music for “Sophia’s Garden” was created by translating the genetic instructions from the gene that codes for the synthesis of ASM into information that can be used by various synthesizers and other types of musical instruments. In this way the genetic sequences have become the themes and motifs for the music.

For the final selection of the CD, I recorded the sounds of Sophia’s voice so that she could “sing along” with the music. All of the musical sounds and the sound effects on this selection were derived from the recorded sounds of Sophia’s voice. These sounds were then correlated to the genetic instructions via the same method as in the other pieces on the CD.”

This is a remarkable undertaking – a compassionate, intelligent, innovative and creative celebration of a young life tragically shortened (Sophia died on July 25, 2005 at age four). There is simply no logarithmic scale broad enough to compare on one chart the gentle beauty of this dedication to the crass patent attempt of the other. For more information on Sophia’s Garden, visit Melodious Sync.


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