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A Song of Our Warming Planet
July 18, 2013 12:02 PM   Subscribe

"University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford did something very clever: He took surface air temperature data and converted them into musical notes, one for each year from 1880 to 2012, and played them on his cello." Direct Vimeo link.
posted by brundlefly (21 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why is there so little apparent correlation (except in general trend) between the overlaid graph and the music?
posted by yoink at 12:10 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would have liked the developing graph to actually match the notes, but that was still really great.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:12 PM on July 18, 2013


As it got higher and higher I was almost expecting it to turn into the music from the shower scene in Psycho.
posted by jenjenc at 12:22 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


A problem this shares with many sonifications is that the significance we attach to note relationships has no meaning in the context of the data. If a temperature is 5 arbitrary quntized steps above a previous measurement, that only matters in terms of relative magnitude, not in terms of the precise number of steps.

On the other hand musically a specific number of steps of pitch between two notes is often the primary content, and the relations are not linear - ie. in standard western harmony a difference 5 steps being more "similar" to 7 steps than it is to 6 steps.
posted by idiopath at 12:26 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Clever? What dataset hasn't been transliterated to music these days?
posted by demiurge at 12:30 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


that only matters in terms of relative magnitude

If a musician performs a set of notes that trend with a rapidly increasing pitch, and you are told that the notes are connected to physical phenomenon like average global temperature, the point isn't that the notes should map to some Western or other arbitrary music scale, but that the rising notes and the performance communicate raw emotions like tension, fear and uncertainty for the future.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:35 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


jenjenc: "As it got higher and higher I was almost expecting it to turn into the music from the shower scene in Psycho."

Spoiler alert: if we something isn't done about climate change, we will probably all end up in the trunk of a car sinking to the bottom of a swamp, metaphorically (or maybe not).
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:42 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The blahblahblah ends at 1:34, if you just want to skip to the music. Though I feel like this is one of those things where once you've heard the concept there's not a lot of reason to listen to the actual thing.
posted by ook at 12:44 PM on July 18, 2013


As just a tone row, however evocative, I feel like it's a good start, but could have gone a lot farther. I'd like to see this as a toccata and fugue, or theme and variations, or otherwise developed into a full composition.
posted by KathrynT at 12:45 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let me show you my Shepard Tones.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2013


I was expecting something a little more like Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, actually.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: "If a musician performs a set of notes that trend with a rapidly increasing pitch, and you are told that the notes are connected to physical phenomenon like average global temperature, the point isn't that the notes should map to some Western or other arbitrary music scale, but that the rising notes and the performance communicate raw emotions like tension, fear and uncertainty for the future."

Yeah, but the problem is two-fold: first, pitch contour is a pretty blunt affective instrument, and second, musical intervals have semantic content, but here they're just incidental byproducts of the contours of the data, a perceptual jumble, which is basically idiopath's point as I read it. If the line in the accompanying graph inexplicably changed colors as it was being drawn, we would justifiably regard that as confusing and sloppy. I think the effect here is pretty similar.
posted by invitapriore at 1:01 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clever? What dataset hasn't been transliterated to music these days?

US Census Bureau Data on Meat Consumption by Type and Country?
no, wait
posted by Smedleyman at 1:02 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


SimEarth had a feature that would do something like this.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:06 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


psssssssssshhhhhh we've got time, dude never even reached thumb position
posted by nathancaswell at 1:22 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder if it couldn't be livened up a bit with some rhythmic variation and phrasing to accent particular intervals. One could argue that that would be an arbitrary way of representing the dataset, but it's no less arbitrary than the choice of using a cello to communicate these ideas, and you'd end up with a nice serialist-style piece that possibly evokes some real emotion.
posted by swift at 2:35 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nice concept, but it could use a lot of work. I like some of the suggestions other people have: "rhythmic variation and phrasing," "toccata and fugue." Maybe transpose the whole thing up an eighth, or make the jump more drastic.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:51 PM on July 18, 2013


"Too many notes."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:03 PM on July 18, 2013


As a player of a similar. but chordal, instrument, my first thought was to play the *pairs* of each year's max/min temps.
More legato bowing would have been an opportunity to add meaning of slower or more rapid change within multi-year intervals. Also, why glissandi sometimes but not others? Maybe some left hand plucking or spicati (striking with the wood of the bow) to indicate hurricane/monsoon events above a certain intensity scale point?
posted by Dreidl at 3:35 PM on July 18, 2013


Tough audience. I thought it was great.
posted by shibori at 11:52 PM on July 18, 2013


Beautiful horror.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:38 AM on July 19, 2013


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