The combination of arts and science captures our imaginations with compelling narratives of initiative and innovation. People go beyond traditional ways to work in whatever medium best fits their skills and messages. By rooting stories in authenticity, people can spark emotion and action, transmit values and information, foster collaboration, and invent the future.

Lifeforms inhabiting the surface of our bodies need a form of communication for people to understand the information those lifeforms contained. What if we can hear the physical attributes of a microbiota? Music, as a universal language, suggests a certain wholeness. Sonification of the microbiome is an attempt to engage the public and provide a better understanding of the random nature of gene expression, cellular changes, and bacterial evolutions. Such an undertaking can bring personal understanding to what is going on with the surface of our bodies.

Cool… but what is BIOTA BEATS?

Biota Beats is hardware-meets-wetware-meets-software, an interdisciplinary project designed to help translate this complex microbiota-related information onto a higher and more visceral level—music.

As discussed above, there are clear medical applications for microbiome data. From a technical perspective, clinicians could use this to help analyze and diagnose various health concerns. From a social equity-focused perspective, we also note the added value in parsing technical information to create music that lies in increasing accessibility for the average person looking to better understand their health. In linking bacterial phenotypes of interest—speed and patterns of growth, color, origin on the body—to musical features, people can listen to the generated music to obtain an intuitive understanding of the salient points of their microbiome profile. And from an artistic perspective, the interface of music and science core in the design and function of Biota Beats runs beautifully through several metaphors.

Already, the motifs of this project are clear—of community, of transfer and exchange, of life in all its forms.

Get ready to sample some cultures.

What if you could make music from your microbiota?

That’s what our community biology lab at EMW Street Bio wanted to find out. Our team has built a record player called Biota Beats that can hold a petri dish plated with cultures from the human microbiome. Currently, a still image is taken of the colonies and translated into sound by a program coded by one of our teammates, but the ultimate vision for Biota Beats is real-time tracking of colonies and conversion of a video into sound.
With Biota Beats, you’ll be able to listen to music from different cultures!