Frequently Asked Questions

How are you deriving the musical material / sequences from the molecular structure?

Molecular Music involves the translation of the 3-dimensional positions of a protein's amino acids into note sequences.

Do you arbitrarily assign note values to different types of amino acids?

No. There is no subjective 'musical labelling' of amino acids in order to produce musical tunes. Molecular Music may be more accurately described as the musical mapping of amino acids in a protein structure. X-ray crystallography data (describing the 3-dimensional positions of the amino acids in a protein molecule) is filtered and then mapped onto musical parameters such as pitch and amplitude. Data may be filtered to emphasise either small scale changes or large scale changes, so generating note sequences that describe protein structure on many different levels. In this way, characteristic patterns in protein structure such as helixes (heard as arpeggios) and beta-sheets (heard as a succession of similar notes) emerge as recognisable musical note patterns from the 3-dimensional structural data. The musically pleasing quality of such generated note sequences is incidental, although perhaps not surprising given that it is the repetitive patterns in music that we find most pleasing and memorable.

How do you create musical compositions using this technique?

Proteins are 3-dimensional biological molecules that are conventionally described as having four levels of structure. Note sequences which reflect these differing levels of detail can be generated, and layering of such note sequences produced from a single protein produce protein-specific musical compositions. You could say that these compositions are 'multi-dimensional' as they are describing many levels of a protein's 3-dimensional structure at the same time.

How else can Molecular Music be used?

This method of musical translation of 3-dimensional protein structure generates note sequences that sonically describe the visual features of the protein's structure. This means that rather than simply looking at a protein and seeing structural features, you can hear them. Such note sequences may act as an auditory aid in perceiving and visualising protein structure. Humans have a keen ear for musical patterns and this method of translating structural data into musical form facilitates the recognition of those patterns. This is a different way of looking at protein structures which are normally represented by complex visual models or data sets. Because it is more accessible, it opens up the area of molecular biology to a larger range of people who perhaps would not have access to it. e.g. children and the visually impaired.

What is the CD Music of the Plants?

The samples that you can hear on this web-site are from the CD Music of the Plants. They are 5 pieces derived from proteins from medicinal plants and herbs. All of these pieces, excluding the piece from pokeweed, are entirely derived from the protein structure (i.e. there is no added accompaniment or compositional input apart from the assigning of instruments to the derived note sequences). The exception to this is pokeweed where a single note sequence generated from pokeweed anti-viral protein was accompanied with a composed musical backdrop. The purpose of this is to show that a single protein-derived note sequence is melodious in its own right and that such 'protein melodies' may be used to compose aesthetically pleasing musical pieces.

Does Molecular Music have therapeutic properties?

A number of clinical trials, including randomised controlled trials, have shown music to be beneficial in a number of conditions including Alzheimer's (1) and dementia (2), challenging behaviour (3), pain and anxiety in critical care patients (4), and depression (5,6). Studies in healthy volunteers have found that different types of music may bring about specific changes in heart rate (7), prolactin levels (8), adrenal corticosteroids (stress hormones) (9) and other hormones including noradrenaline, adrenaline, growth hormone, prolactin, ACTH, cortisol and beta-endorphin (10), mood states (11-13), tension and mental clarity (12). Benefits of reduced anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate together with reduced plasma stress hormone levels may have useful applications in the treatment of hypertension / cardiovascular disease, migraine headaches and gastrointestinal ulcers (7).

While a number of studies indicate that music may reduce situational anxiety in healthy individuals (7-10, 12) and stress in hypertensive individuals (14), it remains unclear what specific elements of music or types of music may bring about this effect. Certainly no clinical trials have yet been performed using Molecular Music as a therapeutic intervention and so it is impossible to say at this stage if it has clinically relevant therapeutic properties. However, many people say that they find the music relaxing and uplifting and use it to create a calming environment in their home or place of work. Such music may be particularly useful for complementary therapists who require such an atmosphere in which to optimise the effect of their particular therapy. Molecular Music is perhaps more suited than other types of music (e.g. subjectively composed music) for this purpose as it is derived from naturally occurring biological molecules found, for example, in the human body and medicinal plants.


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(14) Mockel M, Stork T, Vollert J, Rocker L, Danne O, Hochrein H et al. Stress reduction through listening to music: effects on stress hormones, hemodynamics and mental state in patients with arterial hypertension and in healthy persons. Dtsch Med Wochenscher 1995; 120: 745-52