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UCIRA Artist Phil Acimovic “Lake Tahoe Sonification Project” Updates

by Phil Acimovic

The Lake Tahoe Sonification Project, which received a UCIRA grant last winter, is getting ready for its second showing. The installation will be up for three weeks in the UC Davis Nelson Gallery.

Lake Tahoe Sonification Project
October 12 – November 2, 2014

Introduction to the Project
The Lake Tahoe Sonification Project is a sound installation which represents multiple aspects of Lake Tahoe’s environment, both above and within the lake. Weather data from the lake is crafted into sound, creating a continuous aural experience that is artistic in design, and intelligible to a listener. This sound installation will create an absorbing experience for all who wish to listen.

The Lake Tahoe Sonification Project is possible due to the work of the water scientists of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC). Precise measurements of the internal waves that constantly move through the lake are regularly collected by TERC. Professor Geoffrey Schladow, the director of the center, has worked closely with our team to explain the data and the behavior of Lake Tahoe. We have also collaborated with Professor Naomi Saito of the Department of Mathematics, who has worked closely with the data from the lake.

What is Sonification
Sonification is a fresh method of artistic representation, a way to hear phenomena. This project sonifies the environment of Lake Tahoe. Sound, like the movement of a lake, never ceases. Unlike pictures, graphs or charts, this approach can establish a veridical time relationship with the lake. Fusing sound and science, we seek to embody the motion of Lake Tahoe through sound to understand the lake in a way never before experienced. By creating aural landscapes we can listen to the movement of the water over broad time scales, thereby gaining the ability to listen to a day’s (or year’s) worth of temperature or pressure changes in only a few minutes. Various patterns and cycles of the lake may become apparent when listened to at accelerated time rates. There is great potential to enhance one’s understanding of Lake Tahoe through experiencing our sonification.

Who We Are & How We Work
Our project team consists of several UC Davis graduate students and faculty, working in collaboration with the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, the Department of Music and the Department of Mathematics at UC Davis. The project team has the collective experience of artists, programmers, welders, sound designers and composers.

Our team of sound artists is making extensive use of the computer application Max/MSP to create sonic structures from the movement of water through Lake Tahoe. Eight speakers will be placed around the space to isolate each person’s contribution to the installation. Handcrafted speaker arrays will also line the walls of the gallery. The final product will consist of five unique interpretations that run simultaneously; the listener may concentrate on one area or choose a central location to hear everything at once.

Phil Acimovic
Gabriel BolaƱos
Matt Gilbert
Fang-Wei Luo
Sam Nichols
with additional contributions from:
Kevin Corcoran
Alex Van Gils

Image: photograph of Lake Tahoe by Sam Nichols

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