White noise from the coloured river

Brian House, via Verge

We’re not alone in using “sonification” to nudge people into thinking about the things that make our world go round (sometimes less smoothly than we’d like). US artist Brian House is translating pollution data from water quality sensors in the Animus River in Colorado into music. The data is run through amps linked to sheets of four different metals, all of them metals that have exceeded safety levels in the river. The artist describes it like this:

“Changes in the clarity of the water, invisible indicators of the dissolved metals within it, and the dynamics of its daily and seasonal flows all become sound in the gallery, producing timbral “color” from the river’s continually changing composition.”

It’s a really interesting concept, but a quick listen (below) reinforced for me something that composer Tony Haynes noted at the very outset of the Song of Contagion collaboration: music driven exclusively by data are more conceptually than emotionally compelling. The more I hear of pure sonifications, the happier I am to have a real, live, passionately inspired composer at the helm of our show.

HT The Verge, via Mark Zip.