“Sonifications of the Universe (and more),” a research project by Mark Ballora, associate professor of music technology, is currently on display in the Borland Project Space (BPS), 125 Borland Building, through December 12.
BPS will host brown-bag lunches with Ballora, noon–1 p.m. on Fridays, Nov. 20 and Dec. 4, and Wednesdays, Dec. 2 and 9. The public is welcome. A closing reception, featuring a panel discussion with Ballora; Jenni Evans, professor of meteorology and research fellow at Penn State Institute of Energy and the Environment; and Russell Graham, professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum, will take place Tuesday, Dec. 8, 4–5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. BPS is open weekdays, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. See Ballora at work weekdays, 2– 4 p.m.
This project—in which data sets describing natural phenomena are displayed as sound—explores how sound can envelop viewers, creating a visceral experience that is not possible to achieve when looking at imagery alone. Ballora will extend his work leveraging the sensitivity of the auditory system to subtle auditory patterns, opening up the possibility that science can be experienced as music, and thus understood in new ways.
The project began on Nov. 2 with a display of sonifications of hurricanes. These will be expanded upon and joined with sonifications of cosmological phenomena and animal life.
Ballora began collaborating with Evans and Graham in fall 2014, when Evans commissioned sonifications to be added to 11 satellite videos of storm systems. She took them to an international hurricane conference in Korea, and Graham later exhibited them in the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum as the first entry of a “Sounds of the Earth” interactive exhibit, which could be broadened to include other sonifications of scientific datasets. The BPS exhibit includes interface created for the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum that allows people to browse the storm systems and get information on how the hurricane data is mapped to sound. The BPS exhibit also includes other material to be included later at the museum, including sonifications of arctic squirrel body temperatures and data about Antarctic ice.