Bacteria and music are two completely unrelated concepts for most of us. But not for the group of artists and scientists behind Biota Beats.

The iGEM synthetic biology competition gathers teams of enthusiastic students every year in Boston. But this year, it also gathered the bacteria of the participants. The team from Biota Beats asked students from different parts of the world for a sample of their microbiome to put together a three-minute song.

After culturing the bacteria for four days, the team fotographed the petri dishes and used a computer algorythm to transform the data into music patterns. The mouth microbiome from the European teams was the source for the melody, while ear bacteria from the Asians played the harmony. African hand microbiome was responsible for the drums and South American scalp microbiota did the percussion. North America contributed nose microbes for the final atmospheric sounds.

The Biota Beats team keeps exploring the possibilities of making microbiome music. They have collaborated with hip hop DJs and organize workshops where people from all ages can create their own microbiome music and learn about the two fascinating subjects of music and microbiology at the same time.

But they are not the only ones exploring the strange interface between music and microorganisms. Another team of artists and scientists in Slovenia has created a device called Mycophone that records the electric signals produced by microbiome cultures and transform it into live music. Slime mold can play piano duets with humans through a biocomputer interface, and human neurons have toured the world performing in concerts. Music is clearly no longer a thing by and for humans alone.

Images and video via Biota Beats

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