(Nov. 8) -- We're always hearing sobering news about the widespread AIDS epidemic, but, until now, you've probably never "heard" about HIV quite like this.
Alexandra Pajak, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, has just created a whole new way of looking at the complexities of HIV by combining the biology of the disease with music.
For months, Pajak carefully studied the different types of DNA that make up the AIDS virus and assigned musical pitches to each individual strand.
What resulted was a 17-track, 52-minute album of transcribed "DNA music," appropriately dubbed "Sounds of HIV."
"I wanted to show all of the properties that the DNA in HIV contains. Hopefully it's a whole new way for people to learn about the science behind the disease," Pajak told AOL News.
The graduate student -- who studied music as an undergrad at Agnes Scott College -- said the project took her more than three painstaking months to complete because she wanted to compose the most accurate musical translation possible of the genetic code of HIV.
"I stayed very loyal to the DNA. Every segment of the virus was assigned music pitches that correspond to the segment's scientific properties. The sounds literally reflect the nature of the virus," she explained.
Pajak said she first broke down the basic nucleotides in the DNA -- scientifically abbreviated A,C,T and G -- and assigned tones to those. Luckily, A, C and G are also already musical pitches in the scale, so she said matching up that part was easy.
"There was a lot of logic involved in this. I also broke down 20 amino acids and proteins and assigned pitches to those. I used the A-minor scale for the amino acids based on their level of attraction to water. So, when you hear this CD, you're literally hearing the entire genome of the HIV virus. It's pretty cool," she added.
Pajak said she wrote and composed all of the classical tunes on her keyboard first, and then called for help from an instrumental band named "Sequence Ensemble" to lay down the final tracks.
The band brought a piano, flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and cello to blend all of her rhythms and patterns together and, to Pajak's surprise, the songs ended up sounding rather "pleasant."
"The pitches sound really interesting together. It was weird because no matter how slow or fast I set the tempo, the songs always came out sounding good. The music is complex and strange, but also has an eerie, spooky kind of vibe to it," Pajak said.
Pajak hopes her unique way of breaking down the AIDS virus comes off as a "socially minded, human take on HIV." She insists it's not meant to offend those affected by HIV in any way, shape or form.
In fact, a portion of the proceeds from her trippy, psychedelic-sounding CD are being donated to the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta specifically to fund AIDS research.
Carl Schmid from The AIDS Institute told AOL News that Pajak's project is not in the least offensive. In fact, because it's so unusual, he said it could really help garner more attention toward HIV awareness.
"Anything to raise awareness and educate the public about AIDS is a good thing. By connecting AIDS to music, the album could even help reduce the stigma associated with the disease," Schmid said. "I've never heard of anything quite like this. It's very interesting."
Pajak said she's already gotten feedback on the tunes from a few people infected with HIV and so far, so good.
Pajak said she has no plans to add lyrics to her songs because that would interfere with the accuracy of the DNA music.
Out of respect for science, and those who have HIV, she said she won't be singing on the album anytime soon.
For now, listeners can enjoy the classical instrumentals and the fact that for once, this particular news about HIV/AIDS is actually music to one's ears.
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