Thursday, February 25, 2021

Musical Miscellany - Symphonic Planets, Dark Cells, Synthesizing Mushroom, Novel Virus, Volatile Market, Noisy Colors

The Symphonies of the Planets
NASA Voyager Recordings

"Soaring to the depths of our universe, gallant spacecraft roam the cosmos, snapping images of celestial wonders. Some spacecraft have instruments capable of capturing radio emissions. When scientists convert these to sound waves, the results are eerie to hear. The probes picked up the interaction of solar wind on the planets magnetospheres, which releases ionic particles with an audible vibration frequency."
The Dark Side of the Cell
Anne Niemetz and Andrew Pelling

"Professor James Gimzewski and Andrew Pelling at UCLA first made the discovery that yeast cells oscillate at the nanoscale in 2002. Amplifying this oscillation results in a sound that lies within the human audible range. The tool with which the cell sounds are extracted - the atomic force microscope - can be regarded as a new type of musical instrument. The AFM 'touches' a cell with its small tip, comparable to a record needle 'feeling' the bumps in a groove on a record. With this interface, the AFM 'feels' oscillations taking place at the membrane of a cell. These electrical signals can then be amplified and distributed by speakers."

Pink Oyster Mushroom Playing Modular Synthesizer
Myco Loco

"Electrical resistance is measure by passing a small current through the mushrooms similar to a lie detector test. The changes in resistance are then converted into control signals which determine the rhythm, pitch, timbre and effects parameters of the modular synthesizer."
Protein Counterpoint Sonification
Markus J Beuhler

"The proteins that make up all living things are alive with music. Markus Buehler, musician and MIT professor develops artificial intelligence models to design new proteins, sometimes by translating them into sound. The Covid-19 outbreak was surging in the United States, and Buehler turned his attention to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the appendage that makes the novel coronavirus so contagious. He and his colleagues are trying to unpack its vibrational properties through molecular-based sound spectra, which could hold one key to stopping the virus."
Sounds of a Volatile Market
Jordan Wirfs-Brock

"With the craziness of the stock market lately, there have been some nice visualizations flitting around. I set out to sonify the stock market data with the goal of conveying both the recent precipitous drop and the crazy volatility. I focused on two metrics: the daily percent change (conveying volatility) and the daily closing price (conveying overall market movement)."

The Colors of Noise
Mark Frauenfelder

"White noise is a blend of random frequencies with a flat spectrum - any frequency band has the same amount of power as any other. I find white noise to be sharp and harsh. Most white noise generators don't actually play white noise - they play a 'colored noise' that's more soothing. Colored noises have a blend of random frequencies but some frequencies play at a higher volume than other frequencies. This gives the noise a 'color' or distinctive tone."


  1. This post is the best post. My mind is blown, a little less by the sounds produced by these unorthodox instruments (musicians?), and more by the ingenious insight that we can find music everywhere if we want to look.

    1. I'm glad I could share these with you, Ben. Yes, it's like learning there's a whole new way of perceiving the world. It makes me want to learn more, find out what else is out there.

  2. Yesssss Yesssss, let me hear the screams of the mushrooms!

    1. "The Dark Side of the Cell" does include a track of the screams of dying yeast cells that have been exposed to isopropyl alcohol.