Data Sonification in Chuck



Data Used

All data obtained from DataMarket

Casualties and detainees in the War in Afghanistan, 2004-2009 (Civilians, Friendlies, and Host nation)

NYMEX Futures Prices: Crude Oil (Light-Sweet, Cushing, Oklahoma)

Data Files




I chose my data sources because I felt that they had more weight than some of the other sets I was finding. I originally stumbled on the Crude Oil Futures in Cushing, Oklahoma and immediately went looking for military-based data. I couldn't have found a better data set to pair it with.

When I originally put the data into miniAudicle, I had slowed down the update to 300ms. I felt that that much of a wait for new values was boring, and went back to 100ms. This was already a haunting experience with the oil prices droning while increasing in both amplitude and frequency as the markets flourished, all the while deaths and casualties in Afghanistan are creating these yelps or screams underneath the droning. To amplify the emotional power of the droning, I switched to a Sawtooth Oscillator.

Around 2009, the oil industry tanked, and almost directly after the drop, you hear a small group of yelps in the Afghanistan data. The two most haunting moments are the large screams near the end of the piece. The first of these happens just before I cut out the Cushing data in Audacity. The second happens at the end of the piece, in the solo portion. You can Google these dates (08/18/08 and 10/25/09) and get some interesting information about what happened in Afghanistan on those days.

The first is the date of the Uzbin Valley ambush. That day, 10 friendlies were killed and 22 were wounded. The second can't really be nailed down to one event. This was in the middle of Afghan election runoffs, as well as the same day as a bombing in Baghdad, Iraq. The Almanac of American Military History says that October 26th, 2009 was "one of the deadliest days for US troops in Afghanistan." Seeing as the data I used has no deaths listed on the 26th, I believe this data to be representing the 26th.

Reader Excersises

  1. Why are the values for gain squared? The gain values are squared because really gain is a measure of power, which is proportional to amplitude squared. This is due to the fact that sound is actually measured in dB SPL (sound-pressure level), which is a logarithmic scale.
  2. Why use MIDI keynums for the freq values? What happens if they're mapped linearly, instead? If you were to map frequencies linearly, you would not get a large dynamic range of frequencies. You would only have a few frequencies around one particular frequency. The MIDI scale allows us to represent a lot larger range of frequencies.
  3. What happens if the 100 ms update rate is increased or decreased significantly? It takes more or less time for waveform to change to the next pitch.