Waves Records is a project about ecological, social and aesthetic reflection on large bodies of water - the first one in this series being Lake Michigan, close to our residence in Central Indiana. With the scientific support of Dr. Cary Troy, an expert in fluid dynamics at Purdue University, we were able to measure two different types of waves: surface waves and internal waves measured below the lakes' surface by temperature changes in the water. The waveforms of the recorded water waves were then pressed in microscopic format as grooves on a vinyl record that can be played back as sounds. Already in the 17th century, explorers and early missionaries in the Great Lakes region felt this unique connection between a natural environment and sound. In 1676 Father Louis André wrote about the waters of Lake Michigan as "a vast Aeolian harp, wind driven into vibration over a wide range of frequencies and resonances."1) While some of the wave data is gathered from surface waves, influenced by wind and other meteorological conditions, most of the sounds are from sensor recordings of waves in a depth of 35m. They are less influenced by the current weather above and represent fluctuations in the lakes' thermocline as an indicator of long-term changes in the environment's climate. We translated the data as directly as possible avoiding as much subjective interpretation of the wave data as we could. A custom script in MatLab turned data points into individual samples of an audio waveform. The vinyl record thus becomes both a playback medium for the sonified water waves and a storage medium for the sensor data. Tapping into the visual properties of the recorded data sets as grooves on the record, the installation of this project features large format prints of the sensor data. The presentation of Waves Records is further accompanied by a documentation video that captures the production process of the record and the project's socio-ecological context.
By translating the phenomenological qualities of a changing natural environment into sounds our goal is to create a discursive object in form of the vinyl record bringing together scientific research, environmental awareness and artistic experimentation.
1) Mortimer, Clifford H. "Lake Michigan in Motion." Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.