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Shane Byrne: Reinterpreting Environmental Data

I spoke previously about reinterpreting the environment around us using devices such as wind chimes and The Singing Ring Tree in Burnley. There are other examples of such reinterpretations such as an instrument called the aeolian harp. This instrument uses the power of the wind to excite an array of strings in order to produce long drone like tones.

These above examples have only one method of achieving this reinterpretation due the mechanical factors that they rely on. For example, wind chimes will always sound like a percussion instrument due to the fact that their excitation source (the wind) causes the various chimes to hit off each other and subsequently produces the percussion sound that we are used to. It will never sound like a wind instrument or a string instrument due the the instrument’s physical characteristics.

Another method of reinterpreting the environment in this age of digital information is to collect the data provided by weather monitoring systems and similar measurement devices and reimagine this data as sound through the use of electronic resynthesis. This method allows the composer to design their own instrument that will use the given data to inform the music gestures of this reinterpretation therefore allowing the voice of the environment to be malleable. Changing the voice of the instrument is simply a matter of synthesis design seeing as the given data is constant. This method allows scope for the instrument to be heard in various different ways through multiple timbres and with almost infinite harmonic possibilities.   

Electronic composition is my own area of focus within the grander spectrum of music so it is this method of reinterpreting is something that particularly interests me. One good example of this method that has been a source of inspiration for me whilst considering my own work is a project called Weather For the Blind.

Weather for the Blind is a streaming site on which listeners can hear the reimagining of the weather in New Orleans as monitored by a system called the Weather Warlock. The weather sensors are connected to an analog synthesiser which outputs a series of tones based around an E major chord. It results in an extremely harmonically rich piece of drone music that is in constant flux. Listeners can tap into this reimagining of the weather at any time by accessing the live stream that is available at the below address:

http://weatherfortheblind.org/

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