Wednesday, January 19

Listen to music based on rain data


When USA TODAY began reporting on how climate change affects precipitation, it found an impressive change in the way rain falls across much of the United States.

East of the Rocky Mountains, more rain falls and comes in more intense gusts. In the West, people wait longer to see some rain. Some areas are experiencing more dramatic shifts between the two extremes, going from rain and drought to rain again.

While the impact of this change is being felt across the country, some states are taking an additional hit, USA TODAY found. These states include Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arkansas, and Iowa.

Read the full investigation: How an Extreme Weather Summer Reveals a Surprising Change in the Way America’s Rain Falls.

To help explain the impact of those changes on rainfall, USA TODAY turned to Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. Faculty members at the music and recording school agreed to compose original music for each state based on more than a century of precipitation data.

Each composer used different musicalities to bring their pieces to life, but all used real rain sounds in their work.

Hear the pieces, view the data, and learn more about the artists and how they chose their approach below:

Pennsylvania, by Timothy Stulman

Timothy Stulman, songwriter and head of the music composition department, used a melody line to represent peak rain and peak drought years for the state of Pennsylvania.

Stulman scaled the highest and lowest rainfall amounts to musical parameters in his software.

Using flute and cello sounds, he compared the year of highest rainfall to the highest and loudest flute lines he could get and the lowest amount of rain is represented by the loudest and lowest cello line.

He collected recorded sounds of wind, thunder and rain, then combined them with flute and cello melodies.

The higher peak years are represented by taller and stronger flute lines, while the drier years are represented by three cellos playing descending melodies. Density and volume directly correlate with Pennsylvania annual precipitation data from 1895 onward.

“I wanted to create my own virtual storm to have more granular control over its intensity. So instead of using a single recording of a storm, I used individual sounds of rain, wind and thunder,” he said. there was a year of very high rains, I would choose recordings of heavy rains, strong winds and mix them with strong thunder. Therefore, it is not a single recording of a storm, but several elements of the storm combined based on the rainfall data. “

Each year is represented by two seconds of music and sound.

Tennessee, by Thomas Owen

Thomas Owen visited Tennessee with his family over Christmas break last winter and had fresh memories of snow covering the ground. That piqued his interest in the state’s rainfall, and he found that the annual data had “an interesting shape.”

“You see these huge peaks of heavy rain,” said Owen, director of the recording arts department and associate director of the interactive audio course. “Probing that is really easy to listen to and to be able to tell the difference in the weather.”

For this project, instead of a musical composition with theoretical elements, he decided to try to create a soundscape of the weather within Tennessee, with real sounds of rain and wind. He used a series of actual recordings of rain and wind from the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

For much of the 1900s, the data was fairly similar from year to year, so the listener will hear consistency in the first half of the article, he said. In the second half, especially during the last 30 years, “you’re going to hear the volatility of having an extreme amount of rain.”

Five of Tennessee’s 10 wettest years of the 105 years of data come from the last 10 years.

Every second of his music represents a year of time.

Arkansas, Iowa and Michigan, by Marc Pinsky

From the moment Marc Pinsky heard the proposal to create musical pieces from the data that reveal the changes in precipitation, he was thrilled.

“My thought was that this is the exact project I was waiting for. It hits a lot of my passions, ”said Pinsky, director of the audio production course. His goal was to make the pieces aesthetically pleasing to someone who listened to them as music.

Pinsky was too excited to choose just one state, so he wrote articles for five: Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. (We share three of them here) In the pieces that analyze the 10 driest and wettest years, there is a constant tick for each year, the top 10 driest are represented by low-pitched plucked strings, while the 10 wettest they are represented by treble. sharp plucked strings.

He ranked each decade on a scale between 1 and 13, and used those numbers to represent notes on the C minor scale, played by a violin.

This served as a “score,” resulting in a melody that allows the listener to hear how the amounts of rain increase and decrease over time, he said. As the rain increases, the pitch of the violin increases, and as the rain decreases, the pitch decreases. He also layered a recording of background rain, which also waxes and wanes over time.

He chose a violin tune for pieces that convey annual precipitation per decade, because that sound, with the highest notes of a violin, reminded him of the sound of a raindrop.

A single note on a violin can be “such an eerie sound and when played the way it was played here,” he said. “It really penetrates the soul in my opinion and that melody line didn’t sound good on any other instrument.”

For the annual rain chunks, he rounded the data to a whole number, then assigned it to a note on the C minor scale, creating a melody that rises and falls in pitch with the changing amounts of rain.

To more clearly identify drier years, note values ​​activate the sounds of low-pitched instruments, including double bass, bassoon, contrabassoon, and synthesized guitar. The wettest years are represented by high-pitched instruments such as piccolo, flute, oboe, and clarinet, as well as the bell sound of a glockenspiel.

Musical performance speaks to someone in a way that words cannot, he said. “I hope it hits them emotionally.”

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