Kepler Sonification

Producing auditory constructions of star data for aesthetic design...

Primary Skills:

Matlab Programming

Digital Signal Processing

Audio Synthesis

Audio Editing

Sonification Principles

Click the links below to view press coverage of this project:

Georgia Tech - CNN - MSNBC - Wired - Space.com - Huffington Post - ScienceDaily - EarthSky

Sonification of data has long been explored for functional purposes - helping those with vision impairments to navigate through an environment, playing back stock market data for trend analysis, or expressing coordinate graphs with sound to help students learn mathematical concepts. However, can sonification techniques be used to produce a 100% aesthetically focused product? In this exciting project, an alternative/reggae group called Echo Movement approached the Sonification Lab with a fascinating idea and motivation.

Kepler Album Cover
Echo Movement Album Art by Jay Alders

Having always been interested in the heavens and stars, Echo Movement wanted to use numerical data from real stars in space as auditory stimuli in their most recent album, "Love and the Human Outreach." The data, pulled from a public repository of findings from NASA's Kepler Telescope called Planet Hunters, was manipulated into appropriate sounds. As the project leader, my involvement entailed manipulation of the data in Matlab and other environments, as well as communication with the band's manager, Dave Fowler.

Kepler Graph
Sample of light curve data from the Kepler Telescope

From one star's data, we produced 23 musical pitches of one timbre - essentially creating a "Star Piano/Keyboard" where Echo Movement then used those pitches to produce the desired melody for their musical creation. Then, we polished this melody by using data from another star to apply a tremolo envelope, changing the sound to be even more natural and pleasing.

Kepler ICAD Poster
Poster presented at ICAD 2012 documenting the project

The results of this project have since been released in several formats. First, Echo Movement's album has been pressed and distributed as of September 4, 2012. Second, we presented our project's methodology and results at the 2012 International Conference on Auditory Display. Third, the press has taken a significant interest in the project, as news networks and others agencies have posted articles of the project. All of these combined to yield a fascinating impression of auditory principles through the eyes of music.

© Copyright 2014 Riley Winton