Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have empowered a new generation of digital artists by catapulting them to become billionaires and instant celebrities. Thus, making NFTs one of the biggest cultural trends of 2021. NFTs have already made headlines whenever a major collection was dropped (e.g., bored ape yacht club NFTs) or major organizations dabbled in the NFT marketplace with special launch announcements. Now, Covid-19’s genetic sequence was used by Data project Viromusic to launch an NFT collection of songs.
On the resale market, the first song has been sold for 100 Ether, which is currently equivalent to US$380,000. There are 10,000 coronavirus songs in total that have been released as NFTs. With piano-driven orchestrations combined with strings, percussion, guitar, and ambient synthetic noises, the music is best described as new age. According to the project’s organizers, they looked into COVID-19’s RNA to locate data strands that might be transformed into music using a proprietary algorithm that converts data into notes.
The method is known as “DNA Sonification,” and it involves converting the genetic code characters inside the coronavirus into a tune. When we listen to music, we hear the virus’s instructions for self-replication.
The team then turned these notes into a tune using a Digital Audio Workstation. They also used human-played instruments such as the bass, cello, drums, and other instruments to produce a lovely piece of music. Because it is based on distinct note mappings or sections of the viral code, each NFT in the collection is unique.
The first NFT in the collection was created by combining RNA positions 28866 to 29459 (in the nucleocapsid gene). Musical notes are assigned to amino acids in the following order: alanine = Eb5, arginine = Ab6, and so on. The tracks are now up for auction on the NFT space via Rarible.com, with a starting price of 0.07 Ether.
“The idea for this collection was born from an awe of the beauty in the code of life. We hope this project helps to raise awareness that even a virus capable of inflicting such misery is fundamentally based on the same code as every living thing on earth,” said the company.
People who will purchase one of the NFTs in the collection will receive not just a high-resolution audio file of the song, but also information on which genes correlate to the code and what the virus does with them. After payment, the content is unlocked, and it includes a full-resolution WAV file of the NFT. The contract is based on the ERC-721 protocol (OpenZeppelin).
An NFT is a digital asset with verifiable ownership rights that is logged into blockchain technology. The majority of NFTs are created with Ethereum, a decentralized open-source platform that leverages blockchain technology to develop and run decentralized digital apps that allow smart contracts to be created. Government-issued currencies are fungible, meaning that each unit (a dollar) has the same value and may be exchanged between people. Non-fungible assets, on the other hand, are unique and of unequal value, therefore they are not good as a medium of trade, but they are perfect for representing unique assets.
Non-fungible tokens have existed since the 2010s, but with the recent cryptocurrency bubble, several cryptocurrencies have reached new highs.
Collins Dictionary, which publishes an annual list of the top ten terms, has named NFT as Word Of The Year for 2021, after showing an increase in usage of more than 11,000 percent. Meanwhile, NFTs are shown an astounding 1785 percent increase in market cap in Q1 2021, proving once again they are the current hot trend in the crypto world.
NFTs, on the other hand, are not without risk: some projects are fraudulent commodities; others are viewed as tokens of illegal online gambling; some even are caught up in hassles of intellectual rights. Even the new Viromusic project has raised ethical concerns about employing a pandemic virus that has killed millions of people in the last two years as a foundation for an NFT asset.
While there are no dangers in the creation of such NFTs, it points out the grim side of capitalism that gives a free passage to create music based on a virus genome that wreaked havoc on lives, livelihood, and economy, while profiting from the sale of NFTs. Thus, setting up a dangerous precedent of what can be minted as an NFT.