A Song of Our Warming Planet: Cellist Turns 130 Years of Climate Change Data into Music

If you use data graph­ics and tech­ni­cal illus­tra­tions to explain cli­mate change to most Amer­i­cans, their eyes will glaze over. So Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta under­grad Daniel Craw­ford is try­ing a dif­fer­ent approach. He’s using music to com­mu­ni­cate the lat­est in cli­mate sci­ence. Draw­ing on a method called “data soni­fi­ca­tion” that con­verts glob­al tem­per­a­ture records into a series of musi­cal notes, Craw­ford and his trusty cel­lo have cre­at­ed “A Song of Our Warm­ing Plan­et.” Here’s some of the tech­ni­cal back­sto­ry you need to know:

Craw­ford based his com­po­si­tion on sur­face tem­per­a­ture data from NASA’s God­dard Insti­tute of Space Stud­ies. The tem­per­a­ture data were mapped over a range of three octaves, with the cold­est year on record (–0.47 °C in 1909) set to the low­est note on the cel­lo (open C). Each ascend­ing halftone is equal to rough­ly 0.03°C of plan­e­tary warm­ing.

In Crawford’s com­po­si­tion, each note rep­re­sents a year, ordered from 1880 to 2012. The pitch reflects the aver­age tem­per­a­ture of the plan­et rel­a­tive to the 1951–80 base line. Low notes rep­re­sent rel­a­tive­ly cool years, while high notes sig­ni­fy rel­a­tive­ly warm ones.

Craw­ford has released the score and sound files under a Cre­ative Com­mons license.

Down­load the sheet music (PDF) | Down­load the audio file (MP3) | Play the audio file only | Code to embed the audio file

To delve deep­er into what’s hap­pen­ing to our cli­mate, we sug­gest you spend time with Glob­al Warm­ing: a free course from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go.

via i09

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Comments (7)
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  • Louie says:

    Inter­est­ing, but it’s real­ly just an audi­tive “graph­ic”: data trans­ferred to a scale, which in this case hap­pens to be musi­cal. I think the point of mak­ing it into music is to inter­pret the data artis­ti­cal­ly, to per­form it some­how. It might as well have been sequenced on MIDI, you don’t get any­thing out of it beyond the data. He could have added some rhythm and phras­ing or some­thing. I’m not hat­ing on the guy, it just seems like this is the first part: trans­la­tion into music. Next you have to say some­thing else through it.

  • Tom says:

    @Louie: You have expressed very elo­quent­ly pre­cise­ly what I was think­ing as I lis­tened. A wor­thy project and a very good first step.

  • Kris says:

    Hey, great idea, but the piece is too short. Why don’t you make the pice like 15 min long, use few hun­dred notes, and play them faster, start­ing with the real high notes you’ll have ;) Cheers!

  • Marcel says:

    unbe­liev­able sil­ly…

  • Paul says:

    It sounds like the sound­track to a Ger­man Expres­sion­ist film.

  • Darin Stevenson says:

    I find it hilar­i­ous that peo­ple think Cli­mate Change is the defin­ing issue of our gen­er­a­tion. That is absolute­ly absurd.

    The defin­ing issue of our gen­er­a­tion is that we are addict­ed to wip­ing out ecosys­tems and liv­ing beings and rela­tion­ships in order to build tox­ic objects, tech­nolo­gies, minds, and false col­lec­tives.

    Cli­mate change is the OUTCOME of that. Say­ing that the defin­ing issue is cli­mate change is like say­ing that, after break­ing all the bones in our body by run­ning full speed into a brick wall, over and over again, the defin­ing issue is the marks on the wall.

    I am absolute­ly appalled at the abject stu­pid­i­ty of sci­ence and my gen­er­a­tion. Our prob­lem is object tech­nolo­gies and our addic­tion to absurd and cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly unsur­viv­able addic­tions to mak­ing cars and oth­er mechan­i­cal tech­nolo­gies that com­pete direct­ly against our own health, the his­to­ry of life on Earth, and every cell and rela­tion­ship in our bod­ies. Those tech­nolo­gies are win­ning, and we are using them to ‘talk about cli­mate change’.

    This is like pump­ing gaso­line into a fire and yelling about ‘the ter­ri­ble prob­lems with a spe­cif­ic com­po­nent of the smoke.

    If this prob­lem was in your own body or home, it would kill every­thing there long before you got your sec­ond com­plaint out.

    Our ‘the­o­ret­i­cal’ col­lec­tives are dumb­er than a burnt shoe.

    If you think they can res­cue you, you are out of your mind.

    We either STOP doing what we are doing with tech­nol­o­gy, RIGHT NOW, or we DIE. First by the mil­lions, then the bil­lions. In about 1 geo­re­la­tion­al minute.

    Wake up, humans, your habits are lethal. All of them.

  • Dan Brielmann says:

    Very pow­er­ful mes­sage. I have been around since the 50’s and I have seen us going from denial to doubt and then to accep­tance and then.…silence…It is time we go from the know­ing to the doing. Dan Briel­mann e‑Awakening.com

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