Sound and Science symposium UCLA

A fascinating collection of presentations by scientists and artists working with sound and sonification. Video streams of the lectures at Sound and Science

Prof Peter Narins presented research discoveries on the ultrasonic calls and hearing of certain frogs to adapt to environmental noise. The spectograms of the sound recordings clearly show how limited our own hearing range is in the total sound scape we inhabit. He implied that ultrasound is a relatively new and unexplored area of science, and put the recent interest down to now available field technology, such as the Sound Devices 722 that he used on a field trip in China.

Laura Peticola presented work using sound to communicate data about solar winds. As a space scientist she described the need and difficulties of making the concepts of solar storms, magnetic fields and even plasma to a general public. The team decided to use sound, rather than visualisation, to create sonifications of live solar wind data received by two satellites orbiting the sun. The project clearly showed the difficulties of how to choose which sounds to use, what decisions to make in the translation of the data, and the ramifications of these decisions in the final apprehension of the sounds. It became very apparent to me from this talk that musical techniques known by composers about timing and the need for space in sound textures are invaluable to this kind of sonification work. It also showed the uncomfortable situation of presenting scientific data through “interpretation”, a discussion usually only found amongst musicians.

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