Case Study: Restless Genetic Mix and the Digital Poets Society

One particular work I was drawn to Thursday night was the Restless Genetic Mix V1 by the Digital Poets Society. As someone living with a mild case of RLS and also being a music major, this work really hit home for me. The Digital Poets Society is a husband/wife duo that has been making ambient electronic music since 2010. Their stage names are DJ Polar Vortex and DJ GravityAngel. After reading their bio, it would seem that Restless Genetic is a perfect example of their desire to express a story through music “from the inside out.” Restless Genetic is the resulting artwork created by mapping instruments to the genetic code for restless leg syndrome. The duo created 3 separate 16-note drum tracks, made up of 16 nucleotides from the RLS sequence. Then they created a vocal track, guitar track and bass track, and mapped each of them to different nucleotides of the RLS genetic strand, each containing 3 separate 16-note sequences. During their mastering process they added a few very minimal sound effects and the end result is what we were able to hear in class last week.

While not overly famous, I have found this piece posted on some very interesting places, perhaps the most being on This site’s founders do exactly what the Digital Poets did with the RLS sequences, they map music to the nucleotides that make up genetic information. I would highly recommend anyone interested in this topic to check out this website. You can literally listen to what heroin addiction sounds like.

I found this piece extremely interesting because it takes into account the human body and its processes and considers them as instruments, or perhaps composers, of unique musical sequences. The Poets caught my attention with their “from the inside out” approach. I have often see the human body used as an instrument, but those instances have been mostly surface, such as slapping the body to produce percussive sounds etc., but I have never before seen the approach used in this project. Using human genetics to create music is actually a lot simpler than one might imagine. As describes, all genetic information comes in one of four nucleotides, Adenosine, Cytosine, Guanine, and Thymidine. Using these four ingredients, the possibilities are pretty much endless. There are so many variables when it comes to making music, you could come up with endless mappings for these nucleotides. Just for some examples you could use them to map pitch, beats per minute, key signature, tempo, special affects, and the list goes on. There is clear potential here and this is something that really interests me, possibly to the point where i may do my senior project on something surrounding this topic.

This reminds me of the material we covered about when x-rays first showed up and how that later became an art form for artists like Rontgen, Fleischmann,and Moholy-Nagy. The sheer excitement of being able to look inside the body for the first time created a whole new realm for these artist, art made up of the insides of living people. Likewise the technological advancement of genetics in recent years has done something similar. Now musicians can actually create songs from “the inside out.”

~Jonathan Yergler


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