January 20, 2018 at 3:04 pm #51603
September 29, 2017 by Emmanuel Barraud, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
Thanks to an innovative technology for encoding data in DNA strands, two items of world heritage – songs recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival and digitized by EPFL – have been safeguarded for eternity. This marks the first time that cultural artifacts granted UNESCO heritage status have been saved in such a manner, ensuring they are preserved for thousands of years. The method was developed by US company Twist Bioscience and is being unveiled today in a demonstrator created at the EPFL+ECAL Lab.
“Tutu” by Miles Davis and “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple have already made their mark on music history. Now they have entered the annals of science, for eternity. Recordings of these two legendary songs were digitized by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) as part of the Montreux Jazz Digital Project, and they are the first to be stored in the form of a DNA sequence that can be subsequently decoded and listened to without any reduction in quality.
This feat was achieved by US company Twist Bioscience working in association with Microsoft Research and the University of Washington. The pioneering technology is actually based on a mechanism that has been at work on Earth for billions of years: storing information in the form of DNA strands. This fundamental process is what has allowed all living species, plants and animals alike, to live on from generation to generation.
All electronic data storage involves encoding data in binary format – a series of zeros and ones – and then recording it on a physical medium. DNA works in a similar way, but is composed of long strands of series of four nucleotides (A, T, C and G) that make up a “code.” While the basic principle may be the same, the two methods differ greatly in terms of efficiency: if all the information currently on the internet was stored in the form of DNA, it would fit in a shoe box!
Recent advances in biotechnology now make it possible for humans to do what Mother Nature has always done. Today’s scientists can create artificial DNA strands, “record” any kind of genetic code on them and then analyze them using a sequencer to reconstruct the original data. What’s more, DNA is extraordinarily stable, as evidenced by prehistoric fragments that have been preserved in amber. Artificial strands created by scientists and carefully encapsulated should likewise last for millennia.
To help demonstrate the feasibility of this new method, EPFL’s Metamedia Center provided recordings of two famous songs played at the Montreux Jazz Festival: “Tutu” by Miles Davis, and “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. Twist Bioscience and its research partners encoded the recordings, transformed them into DNA strands and then sequenced and decoded them and played them again – without any reduction in quality.
The amount of artificial DNA strands needed to record the two songs is invisible to the naked eye, and the amount needed to record all 50 years of the Festival’s archives, which have been included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, would be equal in size to a grain of sand. “Our partnership with EPFL in digitizing our archives aims not only at their positive exploration, but also at their preservation for the next generations,” says Thierry Amsallem, president of the Claude Nobs Foundation. “By taking part in this pioneering experiment which writes the songs into DNA strands, we can be certain that they will be saved on a medium that will never become obsolete!”
At EPFL’s first-ever ArtTech forum, attendees got to hear the two songs played after being stored in DNA, using a demonstrator developed at the EPFL+ECAL Lab. The system shows that being able to store data for thousands of years is a revolutionary breakthrough that can completely change our relationship with data, memory and time. “For us, it means looking into radically new ways of interacting with cultural heritage that can potentially cut across civilizations,” says Nicolas Henchoz, head of the EPFL+ECAL Lab.
Quincy Jones, a longstanding Festival supporter, is particularly enthusiastic about this technological breakthrough: “With advancements in nanotechnology, I believe we can expect to see people living prolonged lives, and with that, we can also expect to see more developments in the enhancement of how we live. For me, life is all about learning where you came from in order to get where you want to go, but in order to do so, you need access to history! And with the unreliability of how archives are often stored, I sometimes worry that our future generations will be left without such access… So, it absolutely makes my soul smile to know that EPFL, Twist Bioscience and their partners are coming together to preserve the beauty and history of the Montreux Jazz Festival for our future generations, on DNA! I’ve been a part of this festival for decades and it truly is a magnificent representation of what happens when different cultures unite for the sake of music. Absolute magic. And I’m proud to know that the memory of this special place will never be lost.”
Tony Blair and George W Bush should be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the Iraq war, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said.January 20, 2018 at 5:15 pm #51606
Sorry for my broken English.
As a harmony instrument I have (in the past of course) played seriously nylon string guitar and also for something like two years also piano to learn to accompany singers , but here important, in my opinion, is the universal situation; routines vs. improvisation.
…through this study, we unravelled how precisely the brain adapts to the demands of our surrounding environment…
Miles Davis is not Mozart: The brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently
January 16, 2018, Max Planck Society
Keith Jarret, world-famous jazz pianist, once answered in an interview when asked if he would ever be interested in doing a concert where he would play both jazz and classical music: “No, that’s hilarious. […] It’s like a chosen practically impossible thing […] It’s [because of] the circuitry. Your system demands different circuitry for either of those two things.” Where non-specialists tend to think that it should not be too challenging for a professional musician to switch between styles of music, such as jazz and classical, it is actually not as easy as one would assume, even for people with decades of experience.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig demonstrated that there could be a neuroscientific explanation for this phenomenon: They observed that while playing the piano, different processes occur in jazz and”The reason could be due to the different demands these two styles pose on the musicians—be it to skilfully interpret a classical piece or to creatively improvise in jazz. Thereby, different procedures may have established in their brains while playing the piano which makes switching between the styles more difficult”, says Daniela Sammler, neuroscientist at MPI CBS and leader of the current study about the different brain activities in jazz and classical pianists. classical pianists’ brains, even when performing the same piece.
One crucial distinction between the two groups of musicians is the way in which they plan movements while playing the piano. Regardless of the style, pianists, in principle, first have to know what they are going to play—meaning the keys they have to press—and, subsequently, how to play—meaning the fingers they should use. It is the weighting of both planning steps, which is influenced by the genre of the music.
According to this, classical pianists focus their playing on the second step, the “How”. For them it is about playing pieces perfectly regarding their technique and adding personal expression. Therefore, the choice of fingering is crucial. Jazz pianists, on the other hand, concentrate on the “What”. They are always prepared to improvise and adapt their playing to create unexpected harmonies.
“Indeed, in the jazz pianists we found neural evidence for this flexibility in planning harmonies when playing the piano”, states Roberta Bianco, first author of the study. “When we asked them to play a harmonically unexpected chord within a standard chord progression, their brains started to replan the actions faster than classical pianists. Accordingly, they were better able to react and continue their performance.” Interestingly, the classical pianists performed better than the others when it came to following unusual fingering. In these cases their brains showed stronger awareness of the fingering, and consequently they made fewer errors while imitating the chord sequence.
The scientists investigated these relations in 30 professional pianists; half of them were specialized in jazz for at least two years, the other half were classically trained. All pianists got to see a hand on a screen which played a sequence of chords on a piano scattered with mistakes in harmonies and fingering. The professional pianists had to imitate this hand and react accordingly to the irregularities while their brain signals were registered with EEG (Electroencephalography) sensors on the head. To ensure that there were no other disturbing signals, for instance acoustic sound, the whole experiment was carried out in silence using a muted piano.
“Through this study, we unravelled how precisely the brain adapts to the demands of our surrounding environment”, says Sammler. It also makes clear that it is not sufficient to just focus on one genre of music if we want to fully understand what happens in the brain when we perform music—as it was done so far by just investigating Western classical music. “To obtain a bigger picture, we have to search for the smallest common denominator of several genres”, Sammler explains. “Similar to research in language: To recognise the universal mechanisms of processing language we also cannot limit our research to German.”
More information: R. Bianco et al, Musical genre-dependent behavioural and EEG signatures of action planning. A comparison between classical and jazz pianists, NeuroImage (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.12.058
Journal reference: NeuroImage
Provided by: Max Planck SocietyJanuary 24, 2018 at 11:55 am #51642
There is an old Japanese movie called Hare Kiri about the great feudal Japan and the code of the Samurai. People who had disgraced the houses had to kill themselves. But the movie shoes that it was all cynical and manipulative and there was no honour init. Small people at the top forced others to kill themselves through deceit and manipulation.
There is a nobility and a path, but few humans follow it. It is not so safe to follow other humans, they are not much in the light, one must follow the Light directly at the earliest possibility and leave the trails of men.
Always very beautiful hearing about valour courage nobility honour, but these are like dreams of the future, what a man may one day be, in the best future. It is not what they are at the moment.
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