1945-1998, Overkilled, and The Names of Experiments by Isao Hashimoto

1945-1998 (released in 2003) is a work by Isao Hashimoto that sonifies and visualises the 2053 nuclear explosions between the first nuclear test in New Mexico until the test by Pakistan in May 1998 (the three tests announced by the DPRK since 2006 are not included in the work).

Hashimoto has a clear political view on nuclear arms. This stems from his upbringing in Nagasaki, where he saw the consequences of the nuclear bomb that was dropped at eth end of the war. From the liner notes on the website: “This piece of work is a bird’s eye view of the history by scaling down a month length of time into one second.  No letter is used for equal messaging to all viewers without a language barrier.  The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted.  I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world.”


A metronome is set at a BPM of 60 and plays out the time: one month is scaled into one second and plays a sound at every second an explosion took place. Each of the seven nuclear powers  (the USA, the USSR, the UK, France, China, India, and Pakistan) is represented by a different note, and the sequence of explosions results thus in a polyphonic composition.

Starting with a sparse soundscape, as there were only three explosions in 1945 (the test bomb in New Mexico and the two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the sound gets denser as the USSR and the UK are performing nuclear tests. Furthermore, every New Year is denoted by a high-pitched sound and when a new nuclear power arises, a note is repeated four times.

Hashimoto sourced the data in the Nuclear Explosions 1945 -1998 report by Nils-Olov Bergkvist and Ragnhild Ferm.


All explosions are shown in a world map with light-up circles, in seven different colours. The flags of the nations who are responsible for the explosions are shown at the top and bottom of the screen and the number of accumulated explosions is shown as well. A clock counts the months and years.

Related work

Hashimoto has created two other works addressing nuclear proliferation. In Overkilled, he lets us experience the sheer amount of nuclear arms that there are in the world by dropping small balls on a metal surface.

In The Names of Experiments, Hashimoto sums up all names of the nuclear weapons, set to the music of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. This one is obviously not a sonification like the other two but to be complete, I included it here.

About the artist

Isao Hashimoto was born in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan in 1959. He studied at Department of Arts, Policy and Management of Musashino Art University, Tokyo. He worked for 17 years in the financial industry as a foreign exchange dealer and is currently working for Lalique Museum, Hakone, Japan as a curator.

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