A stage for musical cells

Media artist Anne Niemetz teamed up with nano-scientist Andrew Pelling to create The Dark Side of the Cell, an audio-visual event exploring a recent discoveries in nano-biotechnology: cellular sounds.

UCLA researchers found out that yeast cells oscillate at the nanoscale in 2002. Amplifying this oscillation results in a sound that lies within the human audible range. Manipulating the cell with chemicals will result in a change of oscillation. Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) for example, will change a “singing cell” into a “screaming cell”. And a chemical such as sodium azide will kill the cell, causing the emitted frequency to die away, leaving only noise.

The dark side of the cell is a composition that uses cell sonics (listen).


In Niemetz’ installation, the staging of the “musical cells” takes place in a darkened, acoustically immersive space, enhanced with a number of sculptural objects, onto which microscopic imagery of the sonic cells and their cellular sonograms are projected.