Ocean ARTic Journal 25/V/2021

Whilst waiting for some data to arrive from Lukrecia I continue to work on the FESOM model from our ealirer sketches covering the Ronne polynya region in the southern Weddell Sea, Antarctica.

I removed all the synth/MIDI mappings and regenerated the fields for polynya area, polynya ice volume, average ice thickness, average air temperature, average offshore wind, average salt input and average salinity form the bottom of the ocean as sinusoidal oscillators. To give richness and movement, each value is fed into its own array of oscillators which automatically reproduce harmonic series for each input frequency.

For each of the seven data columns there is an array of six oscillators. Each oscillator has its own gain control which can be modulated to rise and fall according to a further scaled data input. This is what gives it, potentially, such an oceanic sense of movement.

The results of the sketch show that there is a sense of ocean swell in the sound, which also, on occasion sounds like an Aeolian harp. When the values change sharply the effect, however, is more like a theremin.

I’d feel happier if I could get the same range of movement and colour from manipulating noise rather than pure tones. However, creating filters for the noise is a lot more involved than simply pointing a frequency at an oscillator.

Taking this approach - abstracted waveforms with no diatonic constraints of fixed pitching, harmony, etc - does give the sense of the work as an installation rather than a recording to be listened to in ones own home. The sounds somehow suggest themselves to a public place, the movement of others, the visual stimuli of material ideally related to the sounds.

I’ve made contact with Finlo Cottier at SAMS, who tells me about lots of fascinating work he has down which could become quickly relevant to the work. He has images from robotic gliders that swam on continuous survey lines to gather the varying properties of the Arctic waters through space and time from polar night through to the height of summer. He alludes also to other data charting periodic activity - tides, ascent and descent of zooplankton, pulses of phytoplankton growth, seasonal decline and growth of nutrients. This all suggests some manner of finely tuned polyrhythmic representation of the environment - a kind of seasonal landscape in which the project is located.