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Plants are seen, touched, smelled, and tasted, but what if they could be heard? “Flora’s Song No1. in C Major” is composed using a sequence of DNA from two invasive plants, Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and Brown Knapweed (Centaurea jacea).  This song is a translation of the nucleotides in DNA (A, T, C, G), to the notes in the chords E minor7 (E, G, B, D) and C major7 (C, E, G, B) respectively, which play simultaneously on a pipe glockenspiel within a handmade music box.


This collaborative project between Dr. Scott Pownall, founder of Open Science Network, and artist Laara Cerman, began with species selection, genomic DNA extraction, amplifying specific genetic regions in plant DNA through polymerase chain reaction (PCR), followed by sequencing the DNA barcode. The entire genome of a plant can be billions of base pairs (A-T, C-G), though only a small number are needed for plant identification. 576 base pairs were sequenced in the creation of “Flora’s Song” and 112 of those are played as music. This selection is from the same sequence in each plants genome.


Mechanical musical instruments are an early stage in the evolution of recorded music which have become obsolete with the advent of vinyl, CD’s, and now digital formats.  Hearing an antique music box is one way to directly experience history as the preserved music has not degraded over time. We are now at the dawn of a new way to preserve history, that of life’s DNA.

Special thanks to:

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