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Presentating Scientific Research Through Soundscape Composition and Audio Installations

As the Acoustic Ecology Institute has developed this new initiative aimed at highlighting sound art works that are central to the presentation of new scientific research, we've found that there are very few people doing original research and presenting their findings sonically.

Much more common is "sonification," wherein sound artists create sound works that use scientific data as a fundamental apsect of their composition; for example, turning temperature variation data into a melody. Such work often has viable scientific purpose: some patterns within the data may be more perceptible when listened to, rather than looked at. However, most of these sound artists' work, while interesting, is not quite getting to the heart of science in the ways that we are trying to explore.

We have come across a few sound artists whose work falls somewhere between our ideal and more simple sonification. Here, we highlight some of the artists whose work has intrigued us, either for its scientific integrity or for its effectiveness in addressing today's environmental crises.


Resonating Bodies - A fascinating art/science gallery installation and website from a group of Toronto sound and video artists and pollinator experts. Hear music made with bees, see beautiful and engaging "Bee Trading Cards" and Bee DNA Bar Codes. [WEBSITE]

John Bullitt: Deep Earth Dome John Bullitt is a sound artist who spent a decade in the academy, studying geology and seismology, including a stint at MIT. Somewhere along the line, he got off the bus, pursuing Buddhist studies and returning to his sound art roots. His Deep Earth Dome project is an ambitious surround-sound installation that uses actual seismology data to immerse the listener in a dome-shaped space that resonates with the patterns of earthquake activity around the earth. He is also producing a CD that presents this seismological data in stereo (generally speeded up roughly 10x-20x to enter the range of human audibility). [HOME PAGE] [DEEP EARTH DOME SOUND CLIPS]

Katie Paterson: Vatnajokull (the sound of) Katie Paterson is a sound artist who has become deeply engaged with the sounds of global warming, specifically, the melting of glaciers. An early project involved recording the sounds of melting and collecting glacial meltwater, then casting a long-playing record out of the ice, so that meltwater itself could share its farewell song (until the ice platter melted...). More recently, she treked to the largest European glacier, in Iceland (a glacier also featured in a beautiful track from Chris Watson that appears on his Weather Report CD [GO THERE]; an excerpt is part of EarthEar's The River show [GO THERE]). There, Katie installed a hydrophone to record the sounds in a bay that is littered with fragments of the metling glacier, and set up a cell phone call line so that people could call in and listen live to the sounds of our warming planet. [VATNAJOKULL PAGE] [ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN]

Andrea Polli: Heat and the Heartbeat of the City Andrea is a NY-based sound artist whose work often involves sonification of climate and weather data. This fascinating Flash-based presentation uses temperature data from Central Park to invite the listener into contemplation of the increasing warmth experienced since 1990, and as projected forward to 2080. [POLLI HOME PAGE] [HEAT AND THE HEARTBEAT OF THE CITY PAGE]

90 Degrees South - Andrea Polli again! She visited Antarctica in early 2008, and posted short notes and many sound files: some field recordings, many intereviews with scientists about their work, and about listening. The sound files take a little while to load, but it's worth the patience (let the page load while you read the posts or do something else); once loaded, you can click to listen on the page, or download the MP3s to listen at your leisure. [WEBSITE]

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