appropriate response

aural ecosystem

pulse train music

the observational soundscape

the past is a ghost

the sentiment machine

< sferics 2: bell cloud

the soundscape composer

Lightning emits a distinct radio signature, which can be received hundreds of miles away. For this installation we built a pair of "VLF" radio receivers and matching antennas to monitor atmospheric radio disturbances. The real-time information is fed into a computer which controls the ringing of bells suspended from the ceiling. Each lightning strike rings one bell, and an algorithm compares new strikes to recent ones to determine which bell to ring next.

The result is a kinetic soundscape that reflects the radio energy passing through us all the time. The "song" of the bells is composed by the probabilistic laws of the atmosphere itself: On a calm day the room is a nearly silent contemplative space, but nearby storms sometimes increase the tempo to a chattering din. The patterns of activity seem at once familiar and unpredictable, like the reflections of light on water, or peepers singing in a pond.

Sincere thanks to John Carney, Sean Taylor, D.M. Ingalls, Clifton Moser, Gene Nichols, Owen Smith, the University of Maine Intermedia MFA Program & the U. Maine at Machias Music Department for helping make this project possible.