There are many mysteries of human biology. Among those perhaps least considered, what do our bodies sound like?
This was the question on the mind of the founders of Biota Beats, a collective of biologists and biology enthusiasts making music that explores the sound of the human microbiome.
The microbiome is made up of all the bacteria that are part of our bodies—the stuff living in our gut and our belly buttons and between our toes. To translate the microbiome into music, researchers took swabs of bacteria from their armpits, belly buttons, feet, mouth and yes, even their genitalia, then sealed those swabs onto laser-cut records. They assigned a certain region of the record to each region of the body and incubated it. In essence, the record player doubles as a petri dish plated with human bacterial cultures. An algorithm then translates images of the bacterial colonies in sound, using data points like bacterial density and location on the record.
Even famous artists are now getting into microbial beat-making. As Kong revealed at the conference, he recently took a microbial swab from DJ Jazzy Jeff, who’s slated to have a secret track made from his microbiome on his next record. “DJ Jazzy Jeff is a biohacker,” Kong said.