Algorithmic Arts

Genetic Music From DNA and Protein

The sound pieces on this page were all composed using algorithmic music software developed by me (John Dunn) over the past 25+ years. Except where otherwise noted, the music is also by me, although often with help from and in collaboration with others, for both the music and the algorithms and software features that made the music what it is.

Most tracks are based on DNA and protein genetic data sequences that are freely available on the Internet. Two excellent sources of genetic sequences are the Swiss Protein Data Bank and the NIH GenBank.

Please note that while these .mp3 music file downloads are free for personal use, they are copyrighted material and may not be redistributed.

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AlgoWonk (2008-2012)

These pieces were created with ArtWonk software using various software synthesizers or sampler synths as the sound sources. This album is a work in progress with at least one more track planned.
Download entire album as a single zip file.

Ten Minutes of Cold (2010) - Companion to image by Jamy Sheridan. Based on scanned pixel values, 8 top to bottom voice lines that follow the time lapse image details from left to right. The rather complex ArtWonk patch to scan images and create music lines is available as a free ArtWonk Package. Sound source is the EMu EMulatorX3 sampler and the EMu Planet Earth sample library.
Spidroin (2008) - Based on the genetic data from spidroin, the major protein of spider dragline silk. The sound is generated with a bank of 16 Sonic Core Scope DSP synthesizers set up as 8 symmetrical voices, controlled by an ArtWonk algorithm that phases the two halves of each voice in a chase sequence - sort of a musical image of the DNA double helix.
Spidroin2 (2012) - Another piece based on the genetic data from spidroin. Shows how the DNA data can be interpreted completely differently depending on algorithms used, instrument choices, etc. Spidroin, which has a distinctive repeat structure has been used for several different pieces. Here, the sound is generated with a similar ArtWonk phasing patch as above but with very different settings and using the EMu EMulatorX3 sampler soft synth as the sound source.

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Variations on a Patch by Burt (2012)

A set of variations based on ArtWonk patches originally created by Warren Burt using the genetic data from the nightshade family. Burt's original compositions and notes are available here. ArtWonk patches are not scores in the traditional sense because modifications and parameters may be changed far away from the original, as you will hear by comparing them. Still, the original data and patch structure was preserved and the intent of each piece has been, if not preserved, at least paid homage to. For this set of variations sound source is the East West Quantum Leap Play sampler/synthesizer. While ArtWonk was used for the original patches, the variations were done using MusicWonk.

Download entire album as a single zip file.

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Dunn & Clark: Life Music (1998)

A collaboration with biologist Dr. Mary Anne Clark, produced from the primary and secondary structure of protein sequences, using BioSon software (built on KAM), and EMu Proteus (Clark) and Morphius (Dunn) synths. In each piece, pitch is determined by amino acid identity and instrumentation is chosen according to protein folding pattern, with different instruments representing regions of alpha-helix, beta-strands and turns. An article detailing this work has been published in Leonardo On Line. The title is: Life Music: The Sonification of Proteins. (Notes on the genetic data by Dr. Clark: Beta-globin , Calmodulin, Gamma Lens Crystallin, Alcohol Dehydrogenase, Lysozyme C, Spidroin, Collagen.)

Download entire album as a single zip file.

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RFA Performances (1995)

Created for collaborative performances during the first year of my RFA (Research Fellow in the Arts) appointment at the University of Michigan. All were created with KAM (Kinetic Art Machine) software. HIV DNA tracks are from samples taken from an AIDS patient over a 4 year period, showing virus mutation. Live sound source for the DNA pieces was a stack of 4 EMu Morphius synthesizers controlled in real time by the running KAM program. Recorded sound source for Folding, Frog and Kazoo used the EMu EMulator sampler and the Kyma/Capybara sound design synth. (Notes on the genetic data: HIV DNA, Alpha/Beta/Folding.)
Download entire album as a single zip file.

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Genetic Music (1992)

These are samples of DNA music created with KMM (Kinetic Music Machine), an expanded version of the original MusicBox, with DNA algorithms developed in collaboration with University of Hawaii botanist Dr. K.W. Bridges. Sound source is EMu Proteus synthesizers. (Notes on the genetic data: Human Sex Hormone, DNA of HIV, Vampire Bat, Scorpion Stinge)
Download entire album as a single zip file.

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Theta Music (1985) (15:16). Created with a prototype of MusicBox, which was an attempt to emulate in software the sequencers, clocks and logic modules of my Serge modular synthesizer. I wanted to somehow keep the flexibility and real time immediacy of synthesizer modules yet tame the tangled patchord confusion that accompanied large, complex patches. The resulting interactive modular clock-based real time algorithmic composing paradigm worked very well for me, and I went on to develop subsequent versions that over time evolved to become the current ArtWonk. Theta Music is based on the brain wave theta rhythm, that is associated with meditative states. Sound source was the Yamaha TX816, basically a rack of 8 DX7 digital synthesizers, sans keyboard. Download Theta Music.

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Copyright © 1996-2010 by John Dunn and Algorithmic Arts. All Rights Reserved.