Installation view of the Lake Tahoe Sonification Project at the Nelson Gallery

The Lake Tahoe Sonification Project was a sound installation representing multiple aspects of Lake Tahoe's environment, both above and within the lake. Weather data and temperature data from the surface of the lake to the bottom over the period of a year were crafted into sound.

The Lake Tahoe Sonification Project was made possible by the work of the water scientists of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC). Professor Geoffrey Schladow, the director of the center, worked with myself and several music composition grad students at UC Davis work with these datasets as sonic and spatial material.

Close-up of 2 of the popping speaker array housings

My contribution to the exhibit, Cascades was composed of an array of 64 small speakers that produce a limited range of popping sounds. Patterns of pops travel back and forth across the array representing the movement of water in Lake Tahoe, from the lake floor on one side of the gallery to the lake's surface on the other. When the surface of the lake is warm in the summer months, the lake is more stratified and the movement of water is stifled, while in the colder months, water is exchanged between the surface and the lake floor. Pitched pops representing different water temperatures can be heard traveling along the array in patterns determined by daily and seasonal changes.

Concurrently, the composers' contributions were projected in the space across six speakers. Here is a sample recording. The spatial aspect of Cascades is lost here, but the density and pitch of the pops can give you an idea of the movement.

Close-up of 2 of the popping speaker array housings

Engineering Notes

The speakers in Cascades were controlled by a network of eight Arduino clones and 64 ATTiny-based drivers, and a "master" Arduino that received MIDI from a laptop running a Max patch. The circuit boards were produced with my PCB scriber method in my studio, along with the speaker housings. I also contributing the Java and Max/MSP programming to convert the weather data into a format suitable for driving the composers' Max patches.

Lake Tahoe Sonification Project was sponsored by a grant from the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts.