DNA Sequence (Nucleotide) Player: Converting nucleotide sequences to (midi) Music



All source data is retrieved from the "Nucleotide Database" (DB) via National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NCBI) at

Miller Puckette for the J08.classicsynth


the creator(?) of the vlist2symbol abstraction.


wget, Linux command line web retrieval tool
ggee, [shell]
cyclone, [counter]

Use Case:

Actors: those who want to hear the patterns in DNA nucleotide sequences and/or comprehend how Nature makes Music not "noise"/Gene sequences are like one of Nature's "voices"/

Enter the "Accession" (identification number (id)) of a NCBI DB entry into the id symbol field

Click on "LOAD"

Click "PLAY".


1-Go to the DB ( and find an Accession(id) of a sequence;
2-Enter that value into the ID [symbol] box of the patch
3-Click the "LOAD" [button/bang];
4-Set pitch, velocity, duration, and repeat for G,A,C, and T (representing the four nucleotide bases of a DNA strand — guanine, cytosine, adenine, and thymine);
5-Toggle "PLAY" to 1, i.e. to On, to hear the sequence using the variables you set in 4) and to "0" to stop it.

How It Works:

The patch takes the input ID and packs it into a string as the FILE(Path) for wget.

The wget command is then sent as a list to a shell object.

The output of the shell object is then parsed (using an intermediate [text] object) into a [text] object with each line being 4 characters long, each character being either G,C,A, or T.

Once loaded and Play is clicked, each line is then reconstructed as a midi note with the pitch as determined by the first character, velocity (2nd) and duration (3rd) and repeated as many times as the 4th character dictates (as set in 4) above).

Once the entire sequence is played, the player stops sending notes.

Inlets(left to right):

id, either numbers or symbols
values, a 16 item list of 4x4 sets of pitch, velocity, duration, repeat (i.e. one set per nucleotide type, G,C,A, or T) (Note: the sequence, if loaded, will play immediately upon receipt of this list.)
beats per minute, bpm, esp. as it relates to note durations.

the current midi note, i.e. pitch/velocity/duration
id (of the gene sequence)
sequence name, as listed by the NCBI DB
nucleotide being played as a string, ex. GGAC


  1. Since it really is only sending midi value it can be connected to whatever synth you would like;

  2. Elsewhere on this Forum, I shared a patch which took "noise" as its input and converted it into music using sigmund~, in that case "running water" as its source. (See for reference: This patch takes that concept and applies it to what might also be called "noise", DNA sequences, were it not that the results (like the running water, yet even more so) sound like "Music".

This exploration has me wondering...

How can we delineate what is noise (only natural at this point) and what is music?

Is the creative/ordering/soulful nature's being expressed in our own music not also being expressed by Nature itself? that we might be considered one "bow" playing upon it?

And, if by Music we mean notes laid down on purpose, might not it be said that is what Nature has been done? Is doing?

I hope you find the patch useful, stimulating, and exciting, or at the very least funny to think about.

Love through Music, no matter in what state Life may find you,