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HIV Makes Music

Ever since the 1970s, when Iannis Xenakis began composing music based on mathematics, architecture, and physics, science and music have been trying to find common ground. In October, University of Georgia graduate student Alexandra Pajak will become part of that rapprochement of music and science when she releases an album of original music that she composed based on the DNA of HIV, she told the Daily Scan. "Sounds of HIV is a musical translation of the genetic code of HIV," Pajak's liner notes read. "Every segment of the virus is assigned music pitches that correspond to the segment's scientific properties." Pajak has assigned certain notes and pitches to specific amino acids and nucleotides. The composition's Prelude and Postlude correspond to the first and last 100 nucleotides, and the sections named after the proteins (Proteins 1-9) represent translations of the amino acid sequences, she says. Pajak got the idea to compose DNA-based music when, as an undergrad, a genetics professor asked her to compose a symphony based on the DNA of the college founder's mother. At various conferences ever since, several researchers have commissioned CDs from her, she says. Pajak is currently recording with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and part of the sales proceeds will go to the Emory Vaccine Center, which conducts HIV research.