On Data Sonification

Introduction to this page

I have been lucky enough to work with Michaela Palmer at the University of the West of England (UK), and students there, on data sonification.

In a nutshell, data sonification involves processes of putting sound qualities to streams or patterns of data which stem from systems of one kind or another. Data visualisation is a much more common form of sensory data conversion (e.g., graphs, maps, pie and bar charts). Once the data is sonified the created sonification artefact can be played at differing speeds, pitches, registers and so on, thus ‘translating’ processes that are impalpable to human perception/cognition for one reason or another, or to make them amenable in another form.

I think the implications of data sonification are only just beginning to be explored in a range of disciplines.

On this page I will put links to papers and websites created by Michaela and myself and links to a few exciting examples of data sonification of various kinds.

One key aspect of this is that, in certain forms, data sonification is an expression of full-on science-art integration.

Here is a PDF of the paper

Palmer (née Reiser) M. Jones O. (2014), “On breathing and geography: explorations of data sonifications of timespace processes with illustrating examples from a tidally dynamic landscape (Severn Estuary, UK)”; Environment and Planning A, 46, (1), pp 222 – 240.

Palmer and Jones Sonification

And a PDF of a more recent talk given at the RGS-IBG International Conference 2015

“Further towards sonifications of elemental ecological systems/relationships: salt marsh ecology experiments in temporal immersion and exchange”

Palmer and Jones sonifications-2 RGS 2015

Here is a website with a number of Severn Estuary related sonifications

Sonic Severn

This includes the pilot “Breath of the Moon” sonification of tidal rise and fall at Avonmouth

Here is a link to more work by Michaela Palmer

Sedimentsonority is an art project that aims to model some of the sediment movements in the Severn Estuary, UK, using sound.

Below will appear a few – we think – excellent and quite different examples of sonification,  but which are all “giving voice” to nature in one way or another.

Years by Bartholomäus Traubeck

This ‘plays’ the cell patterns of tree growth rings in differing types of wood.

Floodtide  by John Eacott

“makes music from the movement of tidal water. Floodtide Navigate is currently touring aboard sailing vessel Jacomina around Europe, the UK and Ireland, making sonifications of tidal waterways as we go. Follow our progress on our blog.”

Living Symphonies  by James Bulley and Daniel Jones

“is a musical composition that grows in the same way as a forest ecosystem. Portraying the thriving activity of the forest’s wildlife, plants and atmospheric conditions, it creates an ever-changing symphony heard amongst the forest itself.”

“Working with ecologists and wildlife experts, the artists develop a detailed map of the flora and fauna that inhabit the forest site. Each species is depicted by a unique set of musical motifs that portray its changing behaviours over the day and night, coming to life as the species awakens, and moving, developing and interacting just as the organism it represents.”


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