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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:

Lake Tahoe Sonification Project (Nelson Gallery, 2014) -
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My contribution, Rise/Plunge, focused on the oxygen content of the water at various depths.

Sound Clip 1 of Rise/Plunge:

Rise/Plunge - Phil Acimovic
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Sound Clip 2 of Rise/Plunge:

Rise/Plunge - Phil Acimovic
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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 water.

   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).

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