Victoria Shennan



Microbial music 

What if you could hear the rhythms of nature that underpin existence? 

The body is an ecosystem, teeming with microbes. Human cells only take up 43% of the body’s total cell count.  Understanding this hidden half of ourselves is rapidly transforming our understanding of disease.

Bacteria are an embodiment of presence and absence, unseen and barely perceptible apart from their effects. They connect people and places, creating an intangible but occasionally palpable experience.
It’s critical that we explore the ecology of the body and its microbial habitats to understand the role of these creatures in human health. What if you could connect with this unseen world and listen to “microbial music” derived from different habitats of the body?

Working in collaboration with Dr Linda Long, Exeter University Medical School Research Fellow and award-winning creator of Molecular Music, and composer Jack Hurst, to capture the symbiotic relationship humans have with our microbes. Translating both our microbial worlds and the vital enzymes and proteins they produce into sound compositions. Using data of 3 areas; the hand, mouth and gut, the team converted the RNA sequences of microbes and the 3D structure of crucial proteins they produce into sound, mapping this unseen symphony.

These compositions explore the performances of the body and processes of life at a micro scale, illustrating the rhythms of nature that underpin our existence.

*Anthropocene – the human impact on the Earth and its ecosystems

Ever changing and resourceful, this piece explores strands of bacteria that are essential for humans and others that have adapted to modern changes in lifestyle:

Staphylococcus Aureus

mutating into MRSA

Streptococcus Mutans

feasting on sugar in our mouths

Bifidobacterium Longum

which is the bacteria in breast milk which colonises the infant gut, blocking pathogens

Escherichia Coli

which synthesises Biotin, an essential mineral for converting food to energy.

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