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Yellowstone’s Seismic Data Set to Music

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most seismically active places in the United States, yet most people never get to hear the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates shifting far below the surface.

Yellowstone's grand prismatic spring

Now, a scientist and a musician have collaborated to change that by turning the park’s seismic readings into music. The duo behind the innovative Yellowstone score consists of Domenico Vicinanza, a particle physicist and composer at Anglia Ruskin University, and Alyssa Schwartz, a flutist and musicologist at Fairmont State University.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, Vicinanza developed a computer program that can translate the park’s underground vibrations into sheet music, a process known as data sonification.

For Schwartz, the live performance in Atlanta last week at the 2023 Internet2 Community Exchange conference in Atlanta presented a particular challenge: figuring out where among the nonstop notes to take a breath. Since the Earth’s plates are nearly always moving, the data doesn’t leave room for any pauses for human breathing.

Intrigued? Here's Schwartz's performance...


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