Singing Worms – the Microscopic Opera

Ok, here we go. This is my first post on KI researchers blog. So I was wondering how should I start? What is good starting post? And then inspiration came directly from KI.
My friend Was helping with organization of special event in Stockholm lately. Mysterious name of that was “Sounds of the Unseen”. As Facebook event page mentioned it was “a unique event exploring the synchronicity of science and music”. Karolinska Institutet, Mother Events, Unhinged Science and Pomme Van Hoof had their hands in it. But what was it exactly?
The idea behind it was simple. Organizers wanted to show how close is from the science to the art. From the lab to the art studio. And to bring those two worlds together. Here music was meant to be the common ground.
Looks like regular magnetic stirrer? Wrong! That's hipster-science musical instrument ;) Pic by Michael Haas.
Looks like regular magnetic stirrer? Wrong! That’s hipster-science musical instrument 😉 Pic by Michael Haas.
Scientists very often work with matter so small that is impossible to see it with a naked eye. Things so transient and fleeting that our minds are sometimes confused trying to catch them. Artists are trying to translate and transmit things that are also sometimes hard to grasp. And their are doing it by inducing experience using various techniques. And this way of perception is more natural to me, then just absorbing data. During “Sounds of the Unseen” artists were trying to extract the Art Element from the world of science and laboratory.
One attraction of the night was Sound Lab Sculptors group – trio of unique composers who were mixing Delia Derbyshire, Joe Meek, Bruce Haack music and also improvising with lab equipment. Who would have thought that magnetic stirrer can be such a good instrument 😉
Sound Lab Sculptors. Pic by Michael Haas.
Sound Lab Sculptors. Pic by Michael Haas.
But the centerpiece of the night was Microscopic Opera by Matthijs Munnik from Netherlands. In this performance, we could experience live opera sung by Caenorhabditis elegans! Yes ladies and gentlemen – C. elegans, that small, ugly worm itself.
Big Brother in a dish - Worms edition. That's litte microscope. Pic by Michael Haas.
Big Brother in a dish – Worms edition. That’s little microscope looking at C. elegans. Pic by Michael Haas.
Matthijs was fascinated by the life of these little guys. They grow in small dishes in a lot of labs all around the world and what is sad – they cannot communicate with us other way then on pretty immunohistochemistry images or by results of some PCRs. Matthijs wanted to give them the voice. He wrote special software which keeps track of worms in a dish and translates their movements into opera sounds.
Matthijs conducting his worm choir.  Pic by Michael Haas.
Matthijs conducting his worm choir. Pic by Michael Haas.
I have to admit that it was super weird experience, but really cool to watch and listen to. You should have seen live broadcast from microscopes and those creepy sounds worms were making! If you didn’t have a chance to see it, check out this video:

 

Microscopic Opera from Matthijs Munnik on Vimeo.

I think that C. elegans shoudl be happy to have Matthijs on their side. Thanks to him, this little worms could affect our world in a completely new way. That was inspiring evening, which made me look differently on the cells that I grow and to listen in a new way our centrifuge – maybe there is something more it wants to communicate with its beeep beeep beeep..? 😉

All awesome pictures were taken by Michael Haas. Check out his Flickr to see more 😉

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