My dream while attending Juilliard School was that music could solve social problems and save human lives – a little further from a violinist’s duty to play only a beautiful melody.
However, when Tod Machover, a professor at the MIT Media Lab, released “Gamified” – music based on medical information that 40Hz gamma sounds are useful for treating Alzheimer’s patients – I thought it was Perhaps it was no longer a dream.
In 2020, the coronavirus arrived in Korea where I live. Almost all concerts have been canceled and many musicians have lost their jobs. However, due to my faith in music, I have visited hospitals and played the violin for quarantined Covid-19 patients and medical staff.
At the time, there was an infected baby and his family who visited Korea from Cambodia and were quarantined in hospital. They felt and expressed their condolences after listening to my Gounod piece Ave Maria & Elgar’s Hello love. As a result, I became convinced that music not only heals human emotions, but musicians can also contribute to the pandemic with music.
My performance at the hospital led to a meeting with Markus Buehler, an MIT professor. He translated the peak protein of the coronavirus into a musical scale of one hour and 49 minutes. It was seen as a potential innovative alternative to cure viral infections through the vibrational frequency of proteins where a vaccine had not yet been released. After Professor Buehler arranged it for solo violin, I played Coronavirus music(Viral counterpoint to the Covid-19 spike protein) in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating South Korea and North Korea in August 2020 – a place civilians have struggled to enter for more than 70 years.
Professor Buehler and I continued to exchange our opinions and in March 2021 Covid-19 Antibody Music (Protein antibody in E minor) finally enjoyed its world premiere. Musically, “viral” music and “antibody” music have very different styles and moods. The viral music is slow and repetitive and sounds a bit melancholy, while the antibody music consists of notes with lively and varied rhythms. Both pieces use a theory developed by Buehler to translate protein structures into musical scores: both proteins – the antigen and the pathogen – have 20 amino acids, which can be expressed as 20 unique vibrational tones. Proteins, like other molecules, vibrate at different frequencies, a phenomenon Buehler used to “see” the virus and its variants, capturing their complex entanglements in a musical score.
The room, Music Antibody Covid-19 has racked up over a million downloads on SoundCloud and we plan to do more Antibody Music concerts this year.
There are many research papers that show that music – or vibrational frequency – stimulates human emotions and increases immunity, and it is currently widely used in music therapy. In the future, music will be used to provide therapeutic value against the threat of viral diseases. I hope that this opinion from a musical point of view will help protect human lives from the current threat of the virus.
Watch: Violinist Plays Classical Music for Hospital Patients in South Korea
Watch: Peace Through Music: Violinist Hyeong-Joon Won