Reproduction of sound induced by northern lights

Does the aurora borealis make a sound? At least for some it does.

This is a reproduction of auroral sound experience I had while working as a research assistant at Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory in Finland. It’s very much a personal experience, and this is an approximation of what I heard. For somebody else the experience might differ.

The aurora activity was at about its peak back then in Winter 2001. There were five of us witnessing a very vivid and bright display of northern lights one evening. It first consisted of three parallel belts, which suddenly converged into one right above us. At that point I started to experience a sound, which I had never before heard in my life.

It appeared to create its own space inside my head. There was no reverberation or any traditional sense of space in it. In a way it was really dry and wet at the same time. It sounded like an infinite number of noises layered on top of each other. Each of the layers could be distinguished however, and it had sort of infinite depth in it, but at the same time it felt constrained (to my abilities?).

On top of that there were these very soft and deep intermittent pops.

The sound didn’t change much, but it came and went away according to the auroral display. The sound ended when the single belt divided back to three. The properties of the sound didn’t change even though I moved my head.

I couldn’t believe what happened, and I hesitated telling the others first. There was a project going on at SGO to collect experiences of the sound of auroras, and I also reported mine. I made a reproduction of my experience later that night, and this is more modern version of that.

The picture is from Pixabay.


Sound of the Rings of Saturn – A sonification of Space

The rings of Saturn look like a spectrogram, so it occurred to me try how it would sound like. In essence, this a sonification of space!

Sound was created by using an authentic image of rings of Saturn as a spectral source to a series of filters. A 1 pixel slice of the image of the rings was extracted

The ring spectrogram was divided into three color planes, and the color intensity values were transformed into resonant filter cutoff frequencies. In essence one filter unit (per color plane) has 256 sounds playing simultaneously. The individual filters are placed along the x-axis so, that the stereo image consists of 256 steps from left to right. The last two sounds were created with 1024 voices and 3×340 voices.

The spectrum was compressed to a couple of ranges. In some sounds a small variation in certain divider factor per color plane is introduced for a slight chorus like effect. The original lossless sound bits are available on Freesound.


An interactive sound waves building tool based on live video

The interactive sound waves builder was presented at the Helsinki Hacklab stand at WÄRK:fest, a DIY/Hacker/Culture -festival. The system consists of a small table, webcam and Max/MSP/Jitter process. Visitors were able to manipulate the sound waves by (re)arranging colorful objects on the table.

The table was simultaneously scanned in two dimensions, and the extracted data was used to create the sound waves, pitches and amplitudes for the oscillators. Besides the musical piece the rearrangement of the colorful objects created a transforming visual piece.


Sonification of a graphical piece – Sounds of Calligraphy

The three pieces of Sounds of Calligraphy playlist are the continuation from the Sarana performance at the opening of Viiva & Viiru calligraphy group exhibition in Helsinki, Finland. The pieces are based on a real time process that analyzes the images in three color channels, and some of the oscillator sound waves are derived from the image properties too. The process has 128 oscillators and filters per channel, and they are positioned to the stereo panorama to exactly follow the figures. The resulting music is thus a true voyage across the image.

The sonification process was realized with Max/MSP/Jitter. A very warm thanks to the Viiva & Viiru group for their openness to the abstract.


Generative and interactive sound installation

AMBIENT² interprets the sound landscape of Harakka island in Helsinki into music into another language through a computer-abled generative process. We are born into a sound landscape to which we get used to through our lives and we take it as the familiar foundation, compared to which everything is strange and peculiar. It is about interpretation. When the same sound landscape is repeated as music something weird and unexpected is revealed. Video of the interactive sound installation.

Ambient^2 Generatiivinen ääni-installaatioMusic created by the AMBIENT² does not strive to fit its tones into any existing note system. It re-creates the frequencies of the source material by synthetic instruments as a spectral musical application. The final result is a musical work which never quite exactly repeats itself. The composer is the observed space which creates its own tonal system. The music thus created is not aleatory but determined by its own rules.

The basic form of the music is defined by ambient aesthetics, and in this case ambient sound creates the ambient music and the borders of music and the world are seamlessly intertwined.

The work was part of the La-Bas -biennale 2012 and it was presented at the sound art gallery Akusmata.