Singing to the Virus

Pia Lindman


Sing along with the artist to the virus. Sing its code as it is ours.

Code of various strands of covid-19, found on the web

What is a virus?
Scientist still argue about whether a virus is a living being or a bio-mechanical unit without life.
We are not sure if it actually originated before or after bacteria, or indeed if not bacteria are a development from viruses. Or vice versa, maybe viruses used to be bacteria, but found a faster and simpler way to reproduce (this would be, in my humble human experience, a pretty irksome voluntary evolution to bot-becoming).

Because the virus reproduces by inserting its DNA or RNA into the DNA strands of an organism it also is a messenger. It proposes new or alternative codes. Recombinations.

It does not always cause the destruction of a cell, but may actually become integrated in the DNA of the cell, and in this way probe evolutionary change.

DNA is packed into Chromosomes, and unraveling, you can see the diploid DNA strand wired around packs of proteins. The DNA, the code of life, looks like a string of pearls.

Pearls like in prayer beads.

Finnish spells, loitsu, or manaus, are versatile, in the sense that depending on your needs and the situation, you may combine different verses and melodies in many different ways – just like DNA – or virus. If you need to heal, you first ask for the maaemo (Earth mom), Päivätär (day-goddess), or the Virgin Mary to come to your aid (over time, this healing-power avatar changed with the state-religion du jour – and Christianity is visible in the last).

You ask the “healing-power avatar du jour” to help you find the origin/birth (synty) of the ailment. Then you compose a spell that drives the cause back to its origins, back to “where it is supposed to be”. (I have a problem with this xenophobic approach).

In order to negotiate our relationship to a virus, according to the ancient Finnish cosmology, we could ask about the birth of this virus. But its birth – origin – is open ended. It originates in other organisms.

So the virus requires some other consideration. Its origin is possibly beyond origin itself. If it preceded bacteria, it is possibly the origin of the code of many – if not partly all – life. At least one of the origins. How do you return an origin (an idea) to origin (its idea)? It is like lighting a match on the surface of the sun.

The virus cannot metabolise and reproduce on its own, but needs a hosting cell for these processes. Indeed it does not become activated until it is in contact with a host cell. And these cells can be any kind of cell: that of a plant, a bacteria, animal, etc.
The virus cannot originate but in our cells. Its origin is everywhere and nowhere. You cannot “send it back to where it came from”, except by sending it back to us.

We can only stay with it, sing it, gently, softly, urging, pleadingly, menacingly, …listening  

Sing its code as it is ours.

So far, Pia Lindman has sung with participants to the virus on two occasions. In order for the singers to pick up one of the ancient melodies, Lindman played in the background the song titled “Väinämöinen’s Wounded Knee” also known as “Birth of Iron”, sung by Anni Tenisova. This recording can be found in the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society and as part of a CD titled “The Kalevala Heritage”, published by Finnish Literature Society, Finland, 1995.

Listen to a sampling of the Singing to the Virus:

Singing to the Virus workshop/subsensorial session, Lindman 2021
Matroona Kyyrönen, Impilahti/Kittilä, casts a spell (1914)
image credit: A.O. Väisänen/Museovirasto

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