Art-Science fusion: Contemporary NAO Art

We know that the North Atlantic Oscillation affects everything from North Atlantic Storms to the sex life of Red Deer. And we know that many scientific articles have been written on the NAO over the last 3 centuries. However, have you ever wondered if we can appreciate NAO aesthetically?

This web site shows some preliminary results of a fascinating collaboration between artists and scientists. Charlie Hooker is a leading contemporary artist in the UK who has a deep fascination for science and in particular weather (read more about Charlie's work . In 2003/4, Charlie came to the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading to discover more about weather and climate. He was fascinated about large-scale modes of variability and so Charlie and myself started this collaboration.

By clicking on the MP3 music symbols below, you can have the pleasure of experiencing daily NAO with your ears as well as with your eyes.

Daily evolution of NAO in the Warm Winter of 1994/1995

Art 1


Daily evolution of NAO in the Cold Winter of 1995/1996

Art 2


How this music was made ...

The music that you can hear is derived from the NAO graphs set out above. Using two digital music programmes "Cubase VST and SoundDesigner II" I gave each day`s pressure reading a tonal value, where high and low pressure correspond to high and low pitch. The synthesised instumentation that has been used is intended to mirror the mood and dynamics of the data.

Using a MIDI keyboard enables you to produce musical instrumentation which would be impossible to play. It is easy, for instance, to utilise a "French Horn" sound which can become, at the low end, a sub-bass rumble and, at the high end, something only audible to dogs..! This breadth of sound seems to me to potentially echo the breadth and dynamics of the weather and can help evoke emotion and metaphor to the listener.


Future plans/dreams ...


Conversations between David Stephenson, Maarten Ambaum, Giles Harrison and myself have helped produce a number of sculptural and musical ideas that I intend to pursue over the next 2-3 years. I am very keen to aurally link different locations and the weather systems that affect them. My intention is to utilise meteorological data recorders (possibly from automatic weather stations) to produce digital information which can be converted into musical tones and be broadcast "live" to a collection of receivers. The proposal entitled "SUN AND MOON" describes this process in more detail.

As an artist, as well as producing thought-provoking sculptural installations, it is important to me that my current research might be able to produce other ways to look at data which could be of help to scientists such as David Stephenson. The intention of the collaboration is not merely to produce entertaining events, but to help explore problems in meaningful ways by looking at systems such as NAO from a different perspective. We`ll have to wait and see?


SUN AND MOON - Proposal


SUN AND MOON is a global sculpture with room-sized modules located in different countries, forming a web which simultaneously collects and transmits light-generated sounds through resonating wall panels activated by audio transducers. The layers of sound generated by this process create musical patterns which emanate continuously within each module transmitting "live" night and day music from around the globe.

The weather affects us all. Climate-change and seasonal or daily weather cycles can produce changes ranging from individual emotions to the global economy. The weather has spiritual and practical significance to people from all ethnic, intellectual and geographical backgrounds. These issues, which range from practical concerns of survival and navigation to religious, philosophical and other belief systems have been, throughout history, a constant source of enquiry to artists and scientists. Meteorologists collect enormous amounts of data which needs to be interpreted in meaningful and useable ways, while artists and musicians have used imagination and emotion to relate to and communicate ideas and feelings inspired by these hugely unpredictable phenomena.

SUN AND MOON comprises a series of "live" installations, based in a variety of locations and Time Zones across the globe, which are linked through simultaneously-broadcast sounds produced by natural meteorological and planetary phenomena.

I have utilised meteorological "sunshine recorders" to help create prints and sculptures for a number of years. These devices are situated all over the world (including the North and South Poles) and continually record the sun`s intensity over specific locations. Central to each device is a crystal ball which focuses light to burn an image into specially-calibrated cards. It is possible to link these data-collectors to opto-electronic light sensors to generate ?live? sound controlled by solar activity, linked to cloud cover and the seasonal and daily position of the sun in the sky. These light sensors can also be attuned to audibly record the passage, size and intensity of the Moon.


Charlie Hooker
May 2004

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