Sonification: the music of the planets

In a modern society that is constantly bombarded by sensory over-stimulation it is surprising that the importance of sound and audio is greatly under-appreciated in comparison to visual media. The Vedic literature of the Hindu faith looks at sound as  “that which conveys the idea of an object, indicates the presence of a speaker and constitutes the subtle form of ether.” Essentially, it is a symbol for the make up of reality as we know it. When combined with the visual arts it becomes an art form which is elevated and altogether unique. In an attempt to translate and represent various aspects of the physical world in terms of auditory stimuli, composers and scientists have used sonification (connecting data to procedures which generate auditory material) to uncover new ways of viewing art and science. This can be seen in the work of serial composers such as Milton Babbit and aleatoric compositions of John Cage among many others. In the feature video, the contemporary composer, Robert Alexander demonstrates and explains how such a process can be useful for making art, but also for practically interpreting scientific data because it allows the researchers to view the raw material from a wholly different perspective. In the sciences we see that often the most important and focused data is represented and interpreted visually. As you will see in the video, however, an auditory understanding of the data reveals insights that can be very important to its analysis. What is inspiring about this story is that it illustrates the merging of visceral creativity with the scientific process in such a way that there is true camaraderie and synthesis between these two seemingly divergent disciplines. It represents a step forward in the consciousness of both worlds that everyone should be able to appreciate.