Links du jour

• Terry Nathan and Wendy Silk of UC-Davis steered me to “Whether Weather Affects Music,” a short piece by Karen L. Aplin and Paul D. Williams in volume 93, issue 36 of Eos (a publication of the American Geophysical Union). The piece is based on “Meteorological phenomena in Western classical orchestral music” (Weather 66: 300-6, 2011) by the same authors. Neither publication seems to be accessible to non-subscribers, but here is the abstract of the latter.

Depictions of the weather are common throughout the arts. Unlike in the visual arts, however, there has been little study of meteorological inspiration in music. This article catalogues and analyzes the frequencies with which weather is depicted in a sample of classical orchestral music. The depictions vary from explicit mimicry using traditional and specialized orchestral instruments, through to subtle suggestions. It is found that composers are generally influenced by their own environment in the type of weather they choose to represent. As befits the national stereotype, British composers seem disproportionately keen to depict the UK’s variable weather patterns and stormy coastline.

• Another science-and-society friend, Kathy Barker, sent me a link to Opinion: Singing About Science, written for The Scientist by Joachim Allgaier.

While the use of videos in science communication might have been expected, a rather unexpected variation of this theme has arisen: science music videos. Some such clips are made by professional artists, predominately for entertainment purposes. (See examples below.) But researchers, research teams, and scientific organizations also see the potential value of music videos—using them for all the same reasons that drove the use of science videos in general, including outreach, advocacy, and education.

• Finally, as a follow-up to a previous blog post on turning data into sounds, here is a new LiveScience.com feature on sonification of microbial data.

[Peter] Larsen and his colleagues created different compositions to represent different aspects of their data. For example, the tune “Bloom” illustrates how some algae species bloom occasionally, becoming much more abundant for short periods of time. “The melody is the abundance of microbial species — low notes correspond to lower abundances, and high notes correspond to higher abundances,” Larsen told LiveScience. “Chord progression is taken from physical parameters — day length, chlorophyll concentration in the water. When we combine those two, we select a note in the chosen octave that is in harmony with the chord that associates with the physical parameters.”

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