What Does An Earthquake Sound Like? Take a Listen

NYC’s own Micah Frank started his Tectonic Sonification Project in 2009. It’s a sound synthesis program he created that takes real time earthquake data from the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] and interprets it into sound.

Seismic activity or earthquakes are constantly taking place all over the earth, we just don’t actually feel them most of the time because the depth and/or intensity of the quake may not be significant for us to feel at ground level.

We may tend to forget that the planet is a living, moving, breathing thing. Yesterday’s event in Japan and the recent quakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, Chile and Haiti are just gentle reminders.

So what does an earthquake sound like? Here is Micah’s sonification of yesterday’s earthquakes off the east coast of Honshu, Japan.

Earthquakes off the east coast of Honshu, Japan - Friday March 11, 2011 by Micah Frank

Tectonic is a realtime seismic analysis and sound synthesis system. Sound is created in realtime by earthquakes as they occur across the globe. A tightly integrated system between Max/MSP, Google Earth and Symbolic Sound’s Kyma processes earthquake data that is translated into sound synthesis parameters. A USGS XML feed is parsed into numerous fields including magnitude, elevation, time of day and geographical coordinates. These data are mapped to synthetic spectrums and processed by granular, aggregate and subtractive synthesis.

This is only a selection of 20 or so individual readings. At the time of this recording, earthquakes are ongoing and there have been almost 40 in the past 8 hours.

Check out more of his sonifications on SoundCloud and this video of Micah explaining his project:

image: NASA Goddard Photo & Video

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