Trust Massive Attack to mark the 20th anniversary of their claustrophic 1998 album Mezzanine by encoding it in DNA.
In a press release, the band say that Mezzanine was “the first album to be made available as a free stream from the internet using Real Audio player” (remember that?) and to mark 20 years, they have done it in a Massive Attack fashion stating that coding an album in DNA “could be an answer to the problem of archiving the increasing amount of information that the world is creating. ”
Massive Attack apparently began coding the album using DNA technology developed at ETH Zurich by Professor Robert Grass and they partnered with the Zurich-based company Turbobeads and the U.S. company, CustomArray to make it a reality.
Digital audio binary code will be translated into genetic code and stored in DNA strands housed in tiny glass beads.
According to Glass in a New Atlas article:
“The digital audio was first compressed down to 15 MB using the Opus codec, which is considered better quality than the popular MP3 format. ‘While the information stored on a CD or hard disk is a sequence of zeros and ones, biology stores genetic information in a sequence of the four building blocks of DNA: A, C, G and T,’ explained Grass”.
This data will now be divided between 920,000 short DNA strands by an unnamed US company before the molecules are poured into 5,000 glass spheres – each just 160 nanometers in diameter. All of the spheres will be stored in a single small bottle of water, but will be too small to be seen by the naked eye. This process is expected to be completed within the next 2 months.
“This method allows us to archive the music for hundreds to thousands of years,” said Grass. “Compared to traditional data-storage systems, it is quite complex and expensive to store information on DNA. However, once information is stored on DNA, we can make millions of copies quickly and cost-effectively with minimal effort.”
In addition, Robert Del Naja is “especially interested in the idea that the synthesised DNA can be added to paint or ink and where that might lead in the creation of art and artefacts.”
So there’s that. Whether it’s strictly true or not, I am now listening to Mezzanine for the first time in about 6 years.