A big update to the Sonification Art database

I have made a rather substantial update to the database. It contains now 256 projects, making it an interesting catalogue for sonification art. Besides adding new works, I also cleaned up some things. I think the database is pretty varied and can be a resource for anyone who wants to work with sonification and data-driven storytelling. Practically, I kept it as a Google Sheet. It’s not very fancy but this way you have an easy overview of all the data. You can have a look here (non-editable spreadsheet).

Format of the database

Title, artist, and topic of dataset remain broadly the same. For the data category, I added a second column because some projects use more than one category of data, for example social media mixed with environmental data. The topic of the dataset can be subjective, some people might put it in another category but I hope to have provided the best categorization possible. 

Image sonification is a special thing: an image sonification adds and removes a layer of abstraction simultaneously between the source and the sonification. Hence, I decided to mark them  specifically as image sonification. In the first category column, I put the topic (for example a painting), in the second category, I put <image>. In a future blogpost I will write about my thoughts about image sonification.

Direct sonifications are projects that amplify sounds, for example amplifying electromagnetic fields through modified headphones. That is also something different from other types of sonification as the artist has very little control over the sound or data. 

Data source stays the same. I tried to get that information in every project but some projects did not share that information. 

Type of output: Some works have more than one type, hence, I put a second column. I have identified the following types of output: audio, audio-visual (audio with a visual component, not necessarily a data visualization, can be simply an accompanying video), installation: can be interactive (users have influence), reactive (the installation reacts to the environment but the user cannot control/manipulate anything), website (can be interactive or only generative).

Realtime or historical data: if the data are fetched realtime and translated at the moment they come in, I consider it a realtime sonification. If a record of that sonification is made, I still consider it a realtime sonification. If a work uses historical data but presents them in an installation format, I consider it as using historical data, although the sound is being generated in real-time. 

In the short description, I give a one-sentence description. It does not say everything but it gives the essence of the work. 

In remarks, I add some extra information: is the project down nowadays (older projects tend to become abandoned). 

For the date of release I use dd/mm/yyyy. In most cases a precise date of release was not available, hence I used 1st of January for those.

The links is probably the most important part. I went through all the links and replaced dead ones with updated ones. Many people have changed their website so the original link would not work but the work would still be online. In some cases, the whole project is dead so I looked for a version on the wayback machine which in some cases worked. Dead links are marked in red. Projects that are still online but have parts missing are marked in orange.

If the work has external media (Youtube, Vimeo, Soundcloud), I put that address in a separate field. Should the original website go down, the external media will probably stay online. 

The other fields are just for my own housekeeping. 

Playlists!

Seeing that many works have external media, I decided to create sonification playlists for each medium. Some works are a collection of tracks/videos. In that case, I usually put one or two tracks in the playlist. You can then click on the artist profile to find the rest. The playlists do not follow the order from the database. 

I will continue to add sonification art, and probably will further refine the categories and descriptions. However, as it stands now, the database is an exploratorium where you can dive in to start exploring sonification art.

I have listed the playlists here as well:

Future work

I will obviously continue to add works to the database. As it grows, I want to transform this into a better searchable database. I am afraid that I will run into the limits of WordPress however so probably will move it to a different site. Whereas I wanted to write ab out every single work, I think that that is unnecessary, nor useful. Many sonifications use the same kind of techniques so there would be little value in writing in detail about all of them. What I will do however, is to take a series of works and write about them in one post. I think that that will be more interesting in the long run. For example, there are quite a few astronomical-focused sonifications. Comparing them would be interesting. If you have any suggestions let me know.

4 Replies to “A big update to the Sonification Art database”

  1. Hey Samuel. I’m Samuel as well.

    Thanks for putting this together. As I dive deeper into the spreadsheet I can see the amazing source of info it is!

    I’m particularly interested in the astronomical data, as sonification is part of a research I’m doing for my post-graduation course in astronomy.

    Curious: where do you get the astronomical sources? Is that all through Google, or do you look into other specific places as well?

    Looking forward to reading your astronomical focused article.

    Congrats, and keep up the great work!

    Like

    1. Hi
      Thanks for your kind comments! On finding the astronomical data: if you mean about the projects themselves, yes, I mainly find them on Twitter. Other sources are creativeapplications.net. Those two are the most newsworthy places to find new stuff. And Youtube usually throws some sonification in my feed so I am always encountering new projects.
      Regarding the data, usually they are mentioned in the articles I am linking. If you want to sonify astronomical data yourself, NASA is giving away lots of data so they are a good place to get started. Artists that are quite prominent in astronomical sonification are Robert Alexander and Matt Russo (@astromattrusso on Twitter).
      Curious about your research project!

      Like

      1. Hey, Sam.

        Thanks, will check those names!

        Another name in the astronomical sonification field is Diaz Merced. She’s a strong advocate of using sonification for astronomical research for both sighted and visual-impaired people. She’s doing an incredible work!

        Another one that I just found on Linkedin (that’s right, Linkedin) is Phia Damsma. She’s also participating on the ‘The Audible Universe’ workshop that’s taking place this week (looking forward to seeing the results that will come out of it).

        My research is not exactly aimed at sonifying data (at least not at this point), but rather studying how it can be used to help astronomical research.

        Not sure if you checked this Chandra URL before, but it has some great astronomical sonification examples that you might include in your file: https://chandra.si.edu/sound/index.html

        Like

      2. Indeed, Wanda Diaz-Merced is at least in my opinion the example figure for how to use sonification in astronomical research. I haven’t heard of Phia Damsa, so I am looking her up right now. She seems to have an interesting story to tell. That Chandra site is pretty cool! I just listened to some pulsars and it sounds like space techno.

        Like

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