Sonification in an Artistic Context

  • Samuel Van Ransbeeck
Part of the Gaming Media and Social Effects book series (GMSE)


After only 18 years, the 21st century might already be called the century of data. Internet usage has boomed and terabytes of data are being generated every day. Hence, it comes as no surprise that these data are used in ways other than originally intended. Data visualization as well as data sonification has become a widespread practice for scientific and artistic purposes. In the case of their use in artistic contexts, visualization and sonification are not limited to simply conveying information to users. Artists can use data to control specific elements of their works such as musical or visual parameters, reinterpreting the data, and creating awareness and engagement. In doing so, the artists transform abstract data into an aesthetic experience. This chapter focuses on sonification and discusses some projects that use the pair “data-sound” as a key building block. Looking at these projects, an aesthetic framework for sonification in an artistic context is then proposed.



I would like to thank my supervisor António de Sousa Dias for his continuous (incremental!) revisions and careful guidance in writing this chapter. This research is sponsored through a Ph.D. scholarship by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Art with reference SFRH/BD/72601/2010.


  1. Agostini, A., & Ghisi, D. (2012). Bach: An Environment for Computer-Aided Composition in Max (pp. 1–6).Google Scholar
  2. Barlow, C. (1980). Bus journey to Parametron: All about Cogluotobusisletmesi (Vol. Feedback papers). Cologne: Feedback Studio-Verlag.Google Scholar
  3. Bayer, F. (2000). De Schönberg à Cage. Klincksieck.Google Scholar
  4. Bioacústiques, L. D. (n.d.). LIDO: Listening to the Deep Ocean Environment. Retrieved November 20, 2010, from
  5. Danto, A. C. (1998). Beyond the Brillo box: The visual arts in post-historical perspective (3rd ed.). University of California Press.Google Scholar
  6. de Campo, A. (2008). Toward a data sonification design space map. In G. P. Scavone (Ed.), Presented at the Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Auditory Display (pp. 343–347). Montréal.Google Scholar
  7. Derivart. (2008, May 30). Spread.player. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from
  8. Devisch, O. (2008). Should planners start playing computer games? arguments from simcity and second life. Planning Theory and Practice, 9(2), 209–226. Scholar
  9. Doornbusch, P. (2005). Pre-composition and algorithmic composition: Reflections on disappearing lines in the sand. Context: Journal of Music Research, 47(29/30).Google Scholar
  10. Ebcioglu, K. (1990). An expert system for harmonizing chorales in the style of JS Bach. The Journal of Logic Programming, 8(1), 145–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fux, J. J. (1965). The Study of Counterpoint from Johann Joseph Fux’s Gradus Ad Parnassum. (A. Mann & J. Edmunds, Trans.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  12. Guljajeva, V., & Sola, M. C. (2011). The Rhythm of City. Geo-located social data as an artistic medium. In Presented at the International Symposium for the Electronic Arts (pp. 1–5). Istanbul.Google Scholar
  13. Harman, S. (2011). Twitter Powered Synthesis. B.Sc. Degree in Music Audio Technology (pp. 1–11).Google Scholar
  14. Hazard, C., Kimport, C., & Johnson, D. (1999, October 1). Fractal Music. Retrieved October 1, 2013, from
  15. Hermann, T., & Hunt, A. (2004). The importance of interaction in sonification, (pp. 1–8). Retrieved from
  16. Johnson, S. (2003). Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software. New York, United States: Scribner.Google Scholar
  17. Kramer, G. (1994). An introduction to auditory display. In G. Kramer (Ed.), Studies in the Sciences of Complexity Proceedings (Vol. 18, pp. 1–78). Readin, MA: Santa Fe Institute.Google Scholar
  18. Livet, K. (2011, October 2). Radioactive Orchestra. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from
  19. Maurer, J. A. (1999, March 1). The history of algorithmic composition. Retrieved October 1, 2013, from
  20. Mazzola, G., Park, J., & Thalmann, F. (2011). Musical Creativity. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McKay, C. (2002). Final Project Report SpeciesChecker 1.0. Montréal: McGill.Google Scholar
  22. Nussbaumer, S., & Kachel, E. (2007, November 28). Sound Of Mercadolibre—Ubermorgen.Com—Text To Sound Generation—Robots Chaos Structure—Mexico. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from
  23. Polansky, L. (2002, April 15). Manifestation and sonification. Retrieved September 1, 2013, from
  24. Polli, A. (2004). Atmospherics/weatherworks: a multi-channel storm sonification project. In Presented at the Proceedings of the 2004 International Conference on Auditory Display. Sydney.Google Scholar
  25. Quinn, M., & Meeker, L. D. (2001). Research set to music: The climate symphony and other sonifications of ice core, radar, DNA, seismic and solar wind data. In Presented at the Proceedings of the 2001 International Conference on Auditory Display (pp. 56–61), Espoo.Google Scholar
  26. Roden, S. (2012, January 20). Question about Earth.Google Scholar
  27. Saladin, M. (2007). Stock Exchange Piece. (Mattin, Ed.) w.m.o/r (32nd ed., Vol. 50).Google Scholar
  28. Sodell, J., & Soddell, F. (2005, December 28). Microbes, L-systems and music. Retrieved October 1, 2013, from
  29. Schottstaedt, B. (1984). Automatic species counterpoint (No. STAN-M-19). CCRMA reports (p. 70). Stanford. Retrieved from
  30. Supper, M. (2001). A Few Remarks on Algorithmic Composition, 25(1), 48–53. Scholar
  31. Taube, H. (2004). Notes from the Metalevel: An Introduction to Computer Composition. London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Thomas, A. M. P. (2012, January 20). Question about the Earth work with Steve Roden.Google Scholar
  33. Van Ransbeeck, S. (2015). Transforming the Stock Markets into Music using DataScapR, 7(4), 1–12. Retrieved from
  34. Van Ransbeeck, S., & Guedes, C. (2009). Stockwatch: A tool for composition with complex data. Parsons Journal for Information Mapping, 1–3.Google Scholar
  35. Walker, B. N., & Nees, M. A. (2011). Chapter 2 Theory of Sonification. In T. Hermann, A. Hunt, & J. G. Neuhoff (Eds.), The Sonification Handbook (pp. 9–39). Berlin, Germany: Logos Verlag.Google Scholar
  36. Worrall, D. (2009). Sonification and information. In Sonification and Information: Concepts, Instruments and Techniques. Canberra, Australia.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CITAR | Centro de Investigação em Ciência e Tecnologia das Artes, Portuguese Catholic UniversityPortoPortugal

Personalised recommendations