VIDEOS: Artist and scientists create music from air pollution


Sound artist Robert Jarvis has worked with scientists at the UK’s University of Birmingham to create three musical compositions using air quality data.

Researchers compiled air quality data from urban and rural locations at different times of the day. These were then used to produce sound works using a variety of different instruments and styles, inviting listeners to ‘hear’ differences in air pollution.

The Sounding Out Pollution project has three pieces. The first is based on pollution data comparing countryside and cities across the UK. The second charts how air pollution changes on an hourly basis across the West Midlands region of the UK. The third illustrates how the air we breathe changes as we journey from Birmingham’s rural outskirts and into the city centre.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the exploratory project was developed in collaboration with WM-Air, a University of Birmingham research project to improve air quality and health across the West Midlands.

Dr Catherine Muller, project manager for WM-Air, says: “We’re all aware that air pollution is harmful and that it affects all of us – but because it’s invisible it’s hard to maintain that awareness. Sounding Out Pollution offers people a fresh perspective on pollution – and maybe an incentive to occasionally walk or choose public transport rather than get into a car.”

“Perhaps from years of listening to music, people are pretty proficient at deciphering sonic information,” says sound artist Robert Jarvis. “As a result, by using audio in this way we can quickly form new understandings. My hope is that Sounding Out Pollution offers a useful way in learning about how our immediate environment is changed by the choices we make.”

Piece 1

Piece 2

Piece 3

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