Four months ago, when we started this residency, I did not know what to expect. Christina and I had similar scientific upbringings. Where we differed was in art. I do music, Christina does dance. We both have a passion for integrating our arts and science and pairing up with Christina has allowed us to look at our crafts, both science and art, in new ways. The residency has been a great experience that has allowed me to think differently about my science, how I communicate it science, and my interests in data sonification.
We started off with some basic ideas. Maps, drawings, music, dance. Slowly, after a few conversations, we started to break apart the essence of each of our ideas. Maps and drawings represent a two-dimensional space. Music and dance are abstract versions of three dimensional space. Going into this project I have been trying to translate 2D information into 3D (maps to music), while Christina went from 3D to 2D (dance to drawings). After a few weeks we started to pull out this theme.
For me, satellite imagery is a scientific tool to help with our understanding of the world around. The pictures, and the different layers within the pictures, can provide unique perspectives that can not be seen by the naked air. Similarly, music is an artistic tool that also helps us make sense of the world around. Music and insight happiness, insight fear, excitement…
Putting these together we can tell a story, that has traditionally only been told through complicated charts and graphs.
What Christina and I have been working on, and plan to continue collaborating on after the end of our residency, is to make some of this information more exciting by translating digital image information into music and movement. But on a deeper level we are trying to reconcile the transition between 2D and 3D.
Our project is still under development, but many of the pieces have already been connected. We had some relatively high expectations that we both still want to pursue. At this point now, I have revised the data sonification code to include multiple satellite imagery datasets. This includes MODIS daytime spectral data, MODIS night lights, radar elevation data, as well as stream network models derived from elevation. This integration alone was time consuming as there was a lot of rewriting and troubleshooting that needed to be done. Because of this, I was not able to provide Christina with a finalized version of the music from the Susquehanna River. Though we have been able to produce a small sample of music translated from all of those different data sources. Future iterations of the music will need to be refined slightly before the final composition.
In addition, the 360 camera is up and running. It has been tested with imagery, which has come out amazing and can be viewed in virtual reality. I am really looking forward to working with Christina to integrate the 360 camera with her dance movements. I believe the 360 camera will help add an immersive layer to our project. So not only do we keep our 2D-to-3D themes, but we can add to the Virtual Residency Program with Virtual Reality.
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David Lagomasino is an award-winning research scientist in Biospheric Sciences at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, and co-founder of EcoOrchestra.
Christina Catanese is a New Jersey-based environmental scientist, modern dancer, and director of Environmental Art at Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.