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Compositional Sonification of Cybersecurity Data in a Baroque Style

Part of the Lecture Notes in Networks and Systems book series (LNNS,volume 271)


Compositional sonification is a musical mapping algorithm that transforms a dataset into a soundscape for humans to hear numbers within a musical structure. In this study, we used three methods to sonify data: 1) a Baroque-style gestural mapping algorithm that emphasized timing and rhythm using an analog method of handwritten composition, 2) an electronic online pitch sequencer, and 3) the classical instrument Harp performing notated music. We investigated related sound mapping algorithms and the sensitivity of pattern representation of cybersecurity data, including the malware distribution network datasets. Our preliminary experiments showed that a Baroque-inspired timing element based on gestures plays a critical role in aural sonification. Using a sequencer with visualizers helped listeners grasp the patterns more effectively since they were able to watch and hear the results simultaneously. Performing the sonified data live on the harp helped make the compositions more relatable and thus connected with a broader audience. The harp also added a visual element which helped listeners identify patterns. We found that listeners were able to accurately identify the sonified data patterns in both the baroque-style analog handwritten compositions performed on harp and the compositions produced by the Online Sequencer. While non-musicians were able to answer questions about the data patterns they heard with a high percentage of accuracy, their results improved when visual elements were added.


  • AI
  • Creativity
  • Sonification
  • Computer music
  • Baroque
  • Composition
  • Augmented reality
  • Malware
  • Computer virus
  • Network
  • Sequencer
  • Harp
  • Classical music
  • Classical instruments

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-80624-8_38
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The authors are grateful to students and interns Sebastian Peart, Lulan Harberson, Ben Graham, and Grace Kong for their programming. We would like to thank program managers Martin Otto, Jeb Benson, Scott Ledgewood, Sarah Houghs, Neta Ezer, Justin Vivirito, Erin A. Cherry, Isidoros Doxas, Donald D. Steiner, Paul Conoval, Jason B. Clark, and Dennis Fortner for discussions, reviews, and advice. This study is in part sponsored by Siemens, Northrop Grumman Corporation, NIST PSCR / PSIA programs.

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Correspondence to Yang Cai .

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Polaczyk, J., Croft, K., Cai, Y. (2021). Compositional Sonification of Cybersecurity Data in a Baroque Style. In: Ahram, T.Z., Karwowski, W., Kalra, J. (eds) Advances in Artificial Intelligence, Software and Systems Engineering. AHFE 2021. Lecture Notes in Networks and Systems, vol 271. Springer, Cham.

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