This article is a short primer on the craft and application of Data Sonification, a fusion of sound based arts with data science. I have been actively researching this art-science recently - in particular, the more compositional practice of data-to-music sonification.
In early 2023 I was awarded a scholarship from the Danish Composers Society 'Nye Vye' program, which funds composers to deep-dive into a special topic. It is a rare and special initiative by the Composers Society to fund music research, and I do hope it continues.Data-to-music sonification is a technique that transforms data into sound based on musical elements. This technique has various use cases, including scientific research, data analysis, and science communication. I use Kyma almost extensively in the process of mapping data sets to musical parameters and I am often working Python and JS to help with the data-wrangling. Alongside my work with the more technically advanced end data sonification, I have also contributed to the development of a more accessible data-to-music sonification app, the open-source TwoTone project from Sonify.io. TwoTone is a good starting point for exploring data sonification without needing to code anything.
Below are some of the most well-known examples of data sonification. These examples demonstrate the potential of data-to-music sonification to help broaden scientific literacy through sound based content - ideal for podcast topics and other applications where sound is the primary medium.
Solar Wind Sonification 5
This example uses data from the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite to create a musical representation of solar wind data. The sonification allows scientists to hear the changes in solar wind speed and density over time.
The Cosmic Microwave Background Sonification4
This sonification uses data from the Planck satellite to create a musical representation of the cosmic microwave background radiation. The sonification allows scientists to hear the fluctuations in the radiation that are thought to be the seeds of galaxy formation
The Sonification of Climate Change6
This sonification uses data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a musical representation of global temperature changes over time. The sonification allows listeners to hear the rise in global temperatures over the past century
The Sonification of DNA1
This sonification uses data from DNA sequences to create a musical representation of the genetic code. The sonification allows scientists to hear the patterns in the genetic code and identify mutations that may be associated with disease
6 https://datajournalism.com/read/longreads/data-sonificationPhoto by Possessed Photography on Unsplash