Sounds of HIV: Music Made of AIDS Virus Nucleotides
By Maria Popova
A few months ago, we spotlighted 7 fascinating experimental music projects, but this is positively the strangest album you’ll ever hear. And possibly one of the most conceptually ingenious. To draw attention to the AIDS epidemic, which claims more than 2 million lives every year, composer Alexandra Pajak decided to capture the “sonic beauty” deep in the genome of the virus. Sounds of HIV “plays” the patterns of the AIDS virus nucleotides and amino acids transcribed by HIV in 17 eerie, mesmerizing tracks.
To create the recording, Pajak used the National Institutes of Health’s record of the retrovirus’ genome to identify the thousands of coded letters transcribed onto DNA once a cell is infected. She then assigned specific pitches to the 20 amino acids manufactured in an infected human cell, ordering them according to their affinity for water. To reflect the profound sadness of the disease, Pajak composed the work in the A minor scale and meticulously double-checked that each of the 9,181 nucleotide-notes was in the right place.
Just knowing that the disease is so devastating and personal, I just wanted to make sure all the notes were right.” ~ Alexandra Pajak
Published November 19, 2010