More Reich than Glass? Scientist cracks musical code of Coronavirus

More Reich than Glass? Scientist cracks musical code of Coronavirus


norman lebrecht

April 22, 2020

Researchers have converted the bug’s spiky protein structure into music in the hope of understanding it better.

Each amino acid was matched with a unique note and then converted by an algorithm into music.

MITS’s Professor Markus Buehler said: ‘You would need many different images, many different magnifications to see with your eyes, what your ears can pick up with just a couple of seconds of music.’

Listen here.

To my ears it sounds more like Reich than Glass.


  • Gustavo says:

    John Williams “Stargazers”

  • Gustavo says:

    Or rather “Fluffy’s Harp”?

  • annnon says:

    Maybe they can play it at a funeral.

  • John Borstlap says:

    A couple of observations seem appropriate:

    The virus does not deny its Chinese descent, a property quickly understood by Mr Trump who is, as we know, a refined and erudite cultural expert and a very sensitive man where musical identity is concerned.

    Its sense of tonal direction seems rather flawed, which is surprising, given its easy spread throughout the world.

    It is surely as infective as minimal music, which it tries to imitate; probably it got its inspiration on that point from the American minimalists.

    • mary says:

      “does not deny its Chinese descent”

      The creator should’ve chosen the pentatonic scale, or notes from Nessun Dorma, or Die Fledermaus.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    I could imagine a 3-part invention using the structures of the same spike protein from the original SARS virus and the MERS; perhaps listening that way could reveal subtle differences in structure more easily than staring at the images — and increase the musical interest at the same time.

  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    The COVID-19 spike protein is 1255 amino acids long. The music takes an hour and 50 minutes to play. To a computational biologist actually working on aspects of spike protein function, listening to the music seems like a very hard way to get information. The ribbon diagram of the protein’s experimentally determined structure, which Norman has posted above is, for a protein scientist, an almost instantaneous key to a huge amount of information. I can imagine that, for a non-scientist, the music might provide some vaguely defined connection to the biology of COVID-19. But believe me, the devil is in the details here.

  • Hmus says:

    SOunds like to me that if you can just remove that inherent B-flat pedal tone you might have the cure for the virus…

  • ffambeau says:

    Beethoven’s 5th?

  • Gustavo says:

    Langsam. Schleppend. Wie ein Naturlaut – Im Anfang sehr gemächlich

  • Fritz Curzon says:

    Before reading on, I assumed the Third Reich would come into it….