Witness Engines
Giving voice to solastalgia

Solastalgia is the term describing the acute anxiety experienced by living through environmental change.

Michael has developed a series of software instruments that consume live, real time and archival data and transform the data into musical information.

Michael has sonified data relating to lunar and solar eclipses, weather stations, air quality, earthquakes and arctic ice melt.

These instruments form the basis of sound installations, as well as acting as a musical collaborator in recordings and performances

The early development of the software has been supported with grants from Help Musicians UK, and a Connected Innovators award from Creative Informatics/Creative Edinburgh.

The engines have drawn on open data made available through OpenAQ, CopernicusEU, OpenWeatherMap, USGS and others.

A series of WITNESS recordings, featuring contributions from Clodagh Simonds, Ben Ponton, and the Black Glass Ensemble were released during the Covid lockdown year, 2020.

Custom manifestations of the Engines will always be of interest to build!

This is no ordinary music – it lives and evolves, dynamically, in real time for so long as the engine remains on and active. The Witness Engines offer new perspectives, and new modes of engagement to our sense of solastalgia our anxiety concerning our environmental crises. For the scientific research community, the Witness Engines provide unprecedented potential for outreach and engagement.
From Michael Begg, Watchman: “The Witness series works out a way of tapping into environmental parameters & sets out to fix them in a form of beauty linked to affect, called art.”
- Denis Boyer, Feardrop (FR)