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Bay Beat Collective Turns To Samples Of A Different Kind For Their New Album

BBC’s The Genomusic Project, launched in collaboration with ad agency J Walter Thompson, uses DNA samples to create bespoke music for fans

Megha Mahindru Mar 04, 2013
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Bay Beat Collective

Bay Beat Collective

Hit TV show Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper’s music experiments with the theremin may be far from making a stage debut, but musicians no longer seem content with instruments. In 2011, when Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Imogen Heap visited India, she stirred the interest of fans in Mumbai when she strapped on her ingenious musical glove and showcased how the wired mitten could make use of body movements to create music. A year later in Japan, artist Masaki Batoh put on a freakish headset mounted with sensors to extract music from the brain waves of the earthquake survivors for her album, Brain Pulse Music.  

Closer home, contributing to the music industry’s share of unusual experiments is Bay Beat Collective’s The Genomusic Project, which will use DNA samples of fans and convert them into eight tracks for BBC’s upcoming album. The idea, conceptualized by the creative team at  advertising giant J Walter Thompson, features a Facebook app that anthropomorphizes music, asking fans to answer: “If I were a track, what would I be?”.

The idea behind the crowdsourced music album by the bass music group comprising Kris Correya and Sohail Arora is explained in a short video that comes with the app. Said BBC in an email interview, “The idea was to ask a simple question and what better way to interact with music lovers than to talk about music and it’s not like anyone expects to take the track you replied with to the grave as a gold plated disc or something. People are responding with some expected answers and some strange ones, no one holds anything against their choice of tracks.” 

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The Genomusic Project, which has already received 2,050 hits on social media, will pick entries by eight fans, who will in turn be sent a DNA collection kit. Their samples will then be sent to a lab specializing in genetics to establish their individual DNA profiles. While JWT says they are still in talks with a few labs in the US, they add that their ingenious idea will take a final turn with BBC using a “specially designed software to convert each DNA profile into a MIDI samples, which will then be converted into the final track.” Talking about this new-age software, Prajato Guha, Senior Creative Director at JWT says, “It’s a software that converts genomic data to music by using an algorithm that finds a good mapping between chemical sequence and musical sequence. In layman’s terms, when you key in a DNA profile (represented by the molecular letters A, C, G, T) into the software, it converts it into musical notes.”

Still find the idea too outlandish? BBC are not ones to hold grudges for those who call their experiment gimmicky. “We clearly said on our opening post that we are doing something out of the norm here, it is a bit gimmicky but then a lot of artistes do come out with offbeat ideas of promotion often. For eg. Snoop Dogg and his line of Rolling Papers, or Junkie XL performing on the roof in downtown Amsterdam or Oasis hiring buskers to perform tracks of their upcoming album on the streets of NYC. We obviously don’t want to compare ourselves to them and our intention is not to win a Grammy award for this. Also, please don’t get us wrong, we are not claiming to be scientists or going to be walking around with test tubes and medical gear at our next gig,” said BBC.

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 For more on The Genomusic Project, click here 


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