Sonification: Making Data Sound

Sep 13, 2019
  • Capacity: 50
  • 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
  • Location:
    Peter Wall Institute Seminar Room
    6331 Crescent Road
    Vancouver, BC

The workshop is open to all interested members of the UBC community, but registration is required.

Computers and music have been mingling their intimate secrets for over 50 years. These two worlds evolve in tandem, and where they intersect they spawn practices that are entirely novel. One of these is “sonification,” turning raw data into sounds and sonic streams to discover new musical relationships within the dataset. This is similar to data visualization, a strategy that reveals new insights from data when it is made for the eye to perceive as graphs or animations. A key advantage with sonification is sound’s ability to present trends and details simultaneously at multiple time scales, allowing us to absorb and integrate information in the same way we listen to music.

In this workshop, Chris Chafe will lead a discussion of the practice and application of sonification in a wide array of disciplines, drawing on his own extensive experience in this field. Using examples from a variety of datasets, he will show how sonification can lead to the creation of innovative new musical pieces, and to a deeper understanding of many natural and human-influenced phenomena. The presentation will be followed by a hands-on tutorial, where participants will have an opportunity to explore sonification as a new approach to their own datasets. Participants in the hands-on tutorial should plan on bringing a laptop with Firefox installed and their choice of a simple text editor. Go here for an introduction. Light refreshments will be served.


Chris Chafe is the director of Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), and a 2019-2020 Peter Wall International Visiting Research Scholar. He approaches the practice of sonification from a background in computer-generated musical composition, using algorithms in the sculpting of musical detail. As a Wall International Visiting Scholar, Prof. Chafe will be collaborating with a number of UBC researchers in the production of the “Earth Symphony”, using sonified environmental data over the past half century to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.