Plant Proteins Used to Make Music

Plant Proteins Used to Make Music

Josiah Zayner has created a new musical instrument that produces melodies through microscopically small plant proteins.

Combining biology with electronic interfaces has been an ongoing interest for Zayner. Having recently completed a PhD in Biophysics at the University of Chicago, Zayner says that the inspiration for the development of his instrument – the chromocord – was a desire to harness the amazing proteins that we cannot even see, but which power our lives every day, and that no one tends to think about.

Zayner used LOV proteins to create the chromocord. LOV proteins are light-sensitive plant proteins and were a key part of Zayner’s studies as he worked towards his PhD.

Twelve vials of oat proteins are contained in the instrument that Zayner reports is much harder to make than it is to play. When stimulated by light, a spectrophotometer within the instrument measures the reactions of the proteins and the data is then transmitted to software that converts the information to sounds.

To create a number of complex musical arrangements using the chromocord, Zayner has partnered with composer Francisco Castillo Trigueros. While the chromocord is still being perfected, Zayner is already looking towards the development of an instrument that uses cultured skin cells to produce sounds.