I’ve been promising to start a data sonification thread for a while, and so here it is. I thought it’d be fun to chat a little about the art and science of turning data of different kinds into sound and music - a process known as “data sonification”.
Sonification is way more common than you probably think it is. A checkout beep, an ECG monitor in a hospital, a geiger counter, sonar, a burglar alarm, a cuckoo clock, a custom ringtone. All of these are sonifications - conveying useful information or data in the form of sound. Speech doesn’t quality in most definitions of sonification, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your voice as an intrument to make sonifications (I call this “punk sonification”).
In a lines-y context, I love using sonification as a way to add meaning and emotion to generative systems - why just throw random numbers into your quantizer when you could sample the cosmic weirdness and turbulence of the real world instead? There are datasets of global temperature, sunspots, species decline, stock prices, and much more that offer far more complex and nuanced sequencing or modulation than most generative approaches can offer - they come with a built-in story at the same time. There’s a bit more academic discussion about the philosophy and practice of sonification more broadly from @beo, @Net and @samarobryn in this thread from a few years back.
Over the last few years, one problem I’ve found is that it’s quite hard to create interesting sonification work without knowing how to write code, so I’ve invested a bit of time recently in building tools aimed at lowering that barrier to entry - including the Loud Numbers Norns script, and an upcoming VCV Rack module. There are also other sonification-related scripts in the Norns ecosystem - including @markeats’ Arp Index, @obi’s Fibonacci sequencer, perhaps @jaseknighter’s Flora (would you consider this sonification @jaseknighter?) and my own ppm script.
Also worthy of a mention is Brendan Byrne’s World Clock - a Eurorack module that generates clocks that match real-time birth rates in six different regions of the world (thanks to @infovore for clueing me into this) and of course the Plantwave device and Instruo Scion Eurorack module.
If you want to listen to some examples of what you can make with sonification, then you might start with our very own @rycolos’s A Home, Electric, @dennisoven’s NOKO210 work, anything in the Data Sonification Archive, or some of my work - including the Loud Numbers podcast, and London Under the Microscope.
In this thread, I’ve love to hear from folks who have experimented with sonification, or anyone who’s curious about its possibilities. Share your own sonification work, your favourite techniques and datasets, or anything else relevant to this growing, fascinating artform