AGE ART - Science meets music

The art of protein origami

September 27, 2019

If only we can turn structure of proteins in to music…

In an unanticipated matrimony of science and art, this AGE ART event brought the house down as 200 plus audience members filled the auditorium. The evening began with a thoughtfully delivered lecture by Dr. Peter Walter who introduced the audience to the structures of proteins, the basic building blocks of all living things. In recapitulating his work for the past 30 years, Dr. Walter spoke of a serendipitous path of discovery. How his discovery of unfolded protein response, has made direct impact in understanding and treating Alzheimer's, cancer and other diseases.

One particular memorable snippet from his talk was a moving image of a theatrical play mimicking the process of protein folding and how misguided proteins are corrected. Certainly Dr. Walter’s journey from a scientist to that of an artist is evident, doing something no one has done before.

The musical segment began with a lyrical transcription of the Bach Italian Concerto for the saxophone quartet, performed by the Signum Saxophone Quartet. There was not a sound of pin drop as the audience set mesmerized by the sonorous reverberation. Out of nowhere the explosive chirping and glissandos took over the stage with Astor Piazzola’s Four Tango. The piece originally written by Piazzola for the Kronos String Quartet, echoed the fiery and impassioned dance as the quartet swayed and thumped to the music

The third piece in the program, the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Bernstein seemed like an effortless transition- from tango to rumba, both coexisting in the idiomatic Latin timbres. Tapping was obliged. For the final spread, the quartet brought out the classic, Chick Corea’s Spain. Certainly, the performance had no boundaries, taking probabilities to another level or in Dr. Walter’s words, “unpredictable paths to discovery”.

The Protein Symphony may be just around the corner. Then, reversing the process, they can introduce some variations into the music and convert it back into new proteins never before seen in nature.

by Helen Antebi

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