MUSIC BY OCEANS
Music composition. 2017-2019
Music composition. 2017-2019
Is there music in the behavior of our oceans and how does it sound? Does it have a magnificent quality or is it chaotic and alienating? Does the Atlantic Ocean sound different from the Indian Ocean? And how does music manifest itself when its creation depends on an external, natural influence? Music By Oceans uses oceanographic data as a source from which new music is created. Collaborating with professors Erik van Sebille and Will de Ruyter of Utrecht University, I created an array of new compositions based on data measured by Argo floats.
Throughout the world’s oceans, thousands of probes are constantly collecting data for use in weather forecasts and climate models. These Argo probes float a kilometer below the surface, and re-emerge every ten days to transmit the data they have collected via satellite.
“More than 90% of the excess heat absorbed by the Earth since the 1970’s is stored in the oceans owing to the high heat capacity of water compared to air, the ocean’s large volume, and its ability to transport heat from the surface to the deep ocean. This makes the ocean [...] an ideal place to identify long-term warming trends in our climate system. With its high-quality sensors, global spatial and temporal coverage, and large depth range, Argo is well-suited to monitor year to year fluctuations and long term trends in ocean heat content.” (https:// argo.ucsd.edu)
Different methods were used to distill musical material from the ARGO data. The first experiments connected movement to pitch by placing a grid on top of the float’s trajectory. Each open square held one of the notes of the twelve-tone row (cc#-d-d#-e-f-f#-g-g#-a-a#-b). Following the trajectory resulted in a melodic material that has been used in an unaltered way (composition 1901728), or accompanied by harmonic interventions, made by the composer (composition 6900741).
After these first two compositions, experimentation started with different methods of collaboration between human and ocean. Inviting the non-human other into the composition process proved to be a fruitful way to broaden the musical and artistic frame of mind. It was important to break away from the limits of direct data-sonification in which the resulting music can sound robotic. The goal of the project was to use acoustic sounds to interpret the digitalized abstraction of oceanographic behavior. From the natural, to the digital and back again.
To do so, music was reduced to its most basic elements; pitch, harmony, rhythm, dynamics and tempo, and divided between the ocean and composer. This new method resulted in a more integrated partnership. One where nature would always be the leading factor. Each division created a new method of translation. In the composition 5902339 for example, the ocean is responsible for the pitch of the cello melody as well as the harmonic accompaniment, whilst the composer was in charge of the dynamic and rhythmical elements.
World Harp Festival, USA 2020
Music by Oceans - De Lieve Vrouw, NL 2019
UUnited Festival - Tivoli Vredenburg, NL 2019
Noordzeedagen - fort IJmuiden, NL 2019
Expeditie NEXT - Maassilo, NL 2019
Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, NL 2019
Volvo Ocean Summit, NL 2018
Boekmans Stichting Symposium - Singelkerk, NL 2017
Music by Oceans Symposium - Leeuwenberg Gasthuis, NL 2017