Lake Tahoe Sonification Project
The Lake Tahoe Sonification Project is a sound installation that sonically
represents multiple aspects of Lake Tahoe's environment, both above and
within the lake. Sonification is a fresh method of storytelling, a way to hear
the motion of the lake. The data used included surface temperature, water
temperature, oxygen content, surface wind speed, among others.
The project translated the perpetually changing environment of Lake Tahoe
into sound. Unlike pictures, graphs, or charts, this approach allows visitors to
experience Lake Tahoe's evolution in real-time. The sonification of a dataset,
representing motions with periodicities ranging from a few seconds to years,
can provide a beautiful perspective. One month of the lake’s motion, heard
over the course of several minutes, gives a bird’s eye view of the environment’s
behavior. Various patterns and cycles of the lake become apparent when heard at accelerated time rates. We collected additional audio recordings from the surface of the lake and the surrounding hillsides to supplement the sonified data. Our team used temperature readings, dissolved oxygen content within the lake, wind speed, humidity, and rainfall at the surface. We mapped these datasets to different sound parameters (e.g., pitch, volume, duration) for transmission to the listener.
The project was a collaborative effort between scientists at the Tahoe
Environmental Research Center and graduate students at UC Davis. The
installation ran at the Third Space Art Collective (Davis, CA) in March 2014,
and at the Nelson Gallery (UC Davis, CA) in October 2014. The project was
supported by a generous grant from the UCIRA (The University of California
Institute for Research in the Arts).
Sound Clip from Nelson Gallery Installation:
My contribution, Rise/Plunge, focused on the oxygen content of the water at various depths.
Sound Clip 1 of Rise/Plunge:
Sound Clip 2 of Rise/Plunge:
What you are hearing:
The pulsing represents the temperature of the water. Slow pulse indicated
colder water. Fast pulse indicated warmer water.
The different "streams" of pulses represent different temperature contours in
The timbre (sharp/dull quality) represents the oxygen content. Sharp timbre
indicates more oxygen. Dull timbre indicates less oxygen.
In the gallery, the sound traveled slowly across the space, representing the rising and plunging depths through the water. As the listener is transported up and down, inside the lake, they can hear a correlation between the temperature (pulses) and oxygen content (timbre, or quality of sound).
Local Newspaper Article:
Video clips from Nelson Gallery: