2022 ATMI National Conference
Long Beach, CA

September 24, 2022

Teaching Algorithmic Composition through
Genetic Data Sonification

Reginald Bain, Professor
Composition and Theory
School of Music
University of South Carolina
813 Assembly St.
Columbia, SC 29208 USA


This paper presents pedagogical software that was created for a university-level introduction to computer music course and a semester-long interdisciplinary research experience for biologists and composers. The author uses Cycling ‘74’s Max, an interactive multimedia programming language and real-time composition environment, to create standalone software applications (apps) that allow students to explore basic principles of algorithmic composition in the context of data sonification and genetics. The apps and accompanying tutorials, which are freely available for download, provide students with multimedia learning spaces that guide them through the prerequisite music technology concepts, algorithmic approaches, and sonification techniques. This knowledge is required to execute the final project of the research experience, where groups of student biologists and composers are asked to represent basic processes of genetics and evolutionary biology (especially mutation) using musical processes.


  1. Max Apps: Getting Started with Max & MIDI
  2. Tutorial: Parameter Mapping Sonification of Genetic Data using Max & MIDI

University of South Carolina Courses

MUSC 336 Introduction to Computer Music
Instructor: Reginald Bain
MWF 12:00-12:50 pm, Music Building, R006 and Computer Music Studio B, R011

MUSC 540/(737) (Advanced) Projects in Computer Music
Instructor: Reginald Bain
TBA, Music Building, Computer Music Studio B, R011

BIOL 599 Topics in Biology: Chords and Codons
Instructor: Jeff Dudycha (Professor, Department of Biological Sciences)
MW 2:20-3:35 pm, Coker Life Science Building, R202

Mutational Music Project

This work is part of the the Mutational Music Project, an interdisciplinary project at the University of South Carolina that is focused on the development of music and software that helps students understand genetic mutation concepts. For more information, visit:
Mutatonal Music Project

In addition to engaging a wider audience for scientific research through public concerts and talks, the investigators hope to develop STEM talent and stimulate scientific creativity through interdisciplinary collaborations that involve artistic creativity. For more information about National Science Foundation (NSF) broader impacts, visit:

NSF Broader Impacts – Improving Society

ATMI 2020 Presentation

For more information about the musical end of the interdisciplinary research experience, see my ATMI 2020 paper presentation Integrating Music and Genetics through Sonification and Data-Driven Music Composition:



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____________. 2020. "Integrating Music and Genetics through Sonification and Data-Driven Music Composition." Association for Technology in Music Instruction national conference paper presentation. Available online at: <https://reginaldbain.com/atmi20>.

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Special thanks to all of the students who participated in the Spring 2018, Spring 2020 and Spring 2022 interdisciplinary research experiences.

The investigators also wish to acknowledge the generous support of the University of South Carolina, Dean of the School of Music Tayloe Harding,  and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences Johannes Stratmann.

The Mutational Music Project is the broader impact component of the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant project Mutational variance of the transcriptome and the origins of phenotypic plasticity (NSF award #1556645). Jeff Dudycha is the principal investigator and Reginald Bain is the other senior person on the grant.

Updated: April 7, 2023

Reginald Bain | University of South Carolina | School of Music