Sonification refers to the use of sound to represent data - the resulting audio can be thought of as a "sound graph." I'm currently working with Dr. Douglas Blank of Bryn Mawr College to code software that will make sound graphs from real data sets related to climate change, patterns of species diversity, population growth, and other exciting ecological patterns.

And, check out This Science Friday Segment on sonification.

Why Sonify? Though there may be many good reasons to convert scientific data into sound, my main goal is to make patterns in the natural world more understandable, memorable, and meaningful to a wide audience. Soon I'll be using sound graphs in my classes to emphasize important patterns researchers have discovered like the ones below! Beyond that, I'm interested in the idea that converting data to sound could make certain patterns more discernible to researchers than a visual graph really not sure if that will be the case. And of course, some of us think making sound graphs is just plain fun!

Scroll down for an example showing a traditional graph followed by various sound graphs. The line graph immediately below represents average global temperature converted to Fahrenheit (data available at nasa.gov) from 1880 to 2014 (click on graph to enlarge). Despite a lot of variation, there's a pretty clear increase in global temperature over that time period. What happens if we combine that graph with sound? Scroll down further to find out!





If you play the video animation shown below (make sure the sound on your speakers is turned up), you'll hear one interpretation of the sound of global warming. To sonify this graph, average global temperature data (available at nasa.gov) from 1880 to 2014 were converted to midi notes ranging from 21 for the lowest temperature year (1909) to 108 for the highest temperature year (2014) - this is the range found on a standard piano. The midi data were then used to play a virtual acoustic piano. The tempo was set to a leisurely pace of 120 beats per minute . . . the sound of global warming played on piano.





Now hear what the data sound like when played on a virtual drum kit, electric piano, and string synth section:





And here's the same "trio" of instruments at the rapid pace of 360 beats per minute:






And finally, just a super-fast audio file at the blazing speed of 1000 beats per minute:




global warming at 1000 bpm


Check back over the coming months and years for more examples. Next I'm planning to combine different data sets (like CO2 levels) with temperature data in the same sound graph. Stay tuned . . .

For sheet music to this sequence of notes, click here.












This site created and maintained by
Dr. Rhine Singleton
Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science
Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, NH 03461
You can contact me at: singler at franklinpierce dot edu