Geysir, musical translation of geological noise

The sounds of geological phenomena are generally noise. Wind, glaciers, oceans, streams, and other geological sounds present a vast content of frequencies that often obscures individual pitches or groups of pitches. However, noise varies from sound to sound with different pitch predominance and patterns. This variance contributes to the signature that makes several noise sounds unique. In this study, the sound of one the geysers in the Geysir system of the Haukadalur valley, 180 miles Northeast of Reykjavik, Iceland, is recorded and analyzed in multiple time segments, each with its own pitch predominance and, therefore, signature. The analysis is further adapted into a piece for seven spatialized pianists and electronics of my authorship, Geysir, which features the amplitude and predominant pitch class fluctuations throughout the geyser sample.

In this study, 11 minutes of recording are analyzed using a suite of software for the identification of amplitude and frequency (pitch) content. The pitches are quantized –simplified– to equal temperament (C, C#, D, D#, etc.) in order to be adapted to the piano’s tuning affordances. The details of the process are included in the paper "Geysir: musical translation of geological noise", co-authored by Jon Gomez and myself, published in the proceedings of the 2019 Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research conference in Marseille.

The audios provided below are examples illustrating pitch sets derived from the pitch predominance analysis. The examples present the pitch collections in the following order: 1) as the featured pitch collection in ascending order (as a scale), mapping loudness to predominance; 2) as a cluster with all the notes sounding simultaneously at equal intensities; 3) as a succession of notes or chords featuring high predominance, medium predominance and low predominance pitches in succession. See the full score for notation and transformations of these sets.

Following the examples is the recording of the live telematic/spatialized performance of the resulting piece –Geysir, for seven pianists and electronics.

Three pdf links are provided below: 1) the published paper in the 2019 CMMR proceedings; 2) amplitude contours of the geyser by octave; 3) full pitch predominance analysis code results; 4) full geyser transcription for seven pianists and electronics.


Sound example (Staff 1)

Sound example (Staff 2)

Sound example (Staff 3)

Sound example (Staff 4)

Sound example (Staff 5)

Sound example (Staff 6)

Sound example (Staff 7)

Geysir, for seven pianists and electronics