We are all made up of music.

There’s a brief article in the current issue of The New Yorker that details how the band OK Go are releasing their most recent album on DNA. Anybody who buys it in this format would get a few drops of water, in which would be a few nanograms of DNA which would represent a few thousand copies of the album. I doubt that anybody has a player for such a thing but that’s not the point. It’s more of an art project showcasing the fact that DNA and digital information are interchangeable (the article also mentions a recent case of somebody turning a book into a strand of DNA).

If that’s the case—and I’m the first to admit that if I tried looking up the specifics of how this works my head would explode—would it work the other way around? If that’s the case, then we would all be made up of music. What do we sound like? (If I sound like country music I might have to kill myself.) I imagine a composer taking his or her own DNA and coding it into a symphony. Perhaps certain strands could be used for different parts; the eye color could be transposed to the string section, the hair color could be percussion and so on.Could this affect DNA testing, such as when people are trying to determine if somebody is the deadbeat father of a child or not? The assumption would be that family members would be more harmonious, or perhaps “in tune” with each other. I imagine it would be like trying to tune the strings on a guitar. If the note is just off enough the match would be questionable.To take this idle speculation further, if the above example did work I would think that the science could be used to make perfect matches with couples, or at least as far as mating is concerned. The cliché of “we would make beautiful music together” would have some merit. Perhaps the music wouldn’t be beautiful to listen to but by identifying what music matches goes with what other music in perfect matches we could have a shorthand for identifying such matches ahead of time. We could, in fact, redefine beauty in a way.But if all of that works, what about taking it in the other direction? One could “compose” a super virus without anybody noticing People would think that they’re just composing a piece of music. “This is my ‘Biological Weapon in D Minor.'” Governments would have to actually ban certain types of music in the interest of national security.Alright, I know I’m going too far with this. Aside from the fact that I’m only having fun with ideas on a topic I know very little about, I’m also only talking about user interface, not the actual resources to pull any of this stuff off. If the above technologies exist the musical connection wouldn’t make much of a difference in how they play out. At the same time, however, there would be some benefits. Aside from the composer making a symphony of their own DNA, somebody could build an art installation in which people could spit into something and then hear themselves. Or a composer could help advertise a blood donation drive by taking blood samples and turning them into works of music. Even charities need marketing.

One final thought about this: if such a device to play the DNA in your bodily fluids does become available, I just imagine a guy coming home drunk and accidentally vomiting on his DNA player. In that state I can imagine that suddenly hearing yourself would be quite disconcerting.


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