Sonification as art: Developing praxis for the audification of compost
Parker, J. no.e
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This paper introduces compost as a rich site for creative exploration and expression via the medium of sonification art in the context of Composing [De]Composition, a large-scale audiovisual installation/performance work to be presented at University of California Riverside’s Culver Center for the Arts from June-October 2015. Here, the author non-reductively describes the multiagential and poly-temporal nature of compost through detailing the evolution of an artistic praxis involving: the observation, audification, and sonification of compost temperatures; the development new sensing methods for data-collection; and sound-mapping strategies. The main observable driving the project is incalescence—the heat generated by the composting process. Audification of this biological process brings a perceivably silent activity into the tangible reach of human hearing. The collection and real-time audification of temperature data using a custom interface to route sensor data to MAX/MSP enables listeners to better understand the complex ecology of a heterogeneous mass that is simultaneously decomposing, supporting a myriad of life forms while also enabling the bioavailability of macronutrients to the soil. In addition, the recontexualization of temporally-based temperature data into sound creates fertile ground for exploration in the compositional realm, as the collection of data over time depicts inherent patterns occurring in the systems analyzed, while the basis of music also builds upon the use of patterns (pitch based, rhythmic) through time. Sonification of these patterns enables the composer/sound artist to create compositions in partnership with her subject/phenomenon of study.