Turning Climate Data Into Music

Did you know that you can turn climate data into music? I’ve made music using climate data — and you can too!

Climate music is a small but growing body of music that references the climate crisis in some way. Most songs about climate change feature music and lyrics composed and performed by songwriters and musicians. However, it’s surprisingly easy and rewarding to create climate music that takes climate data sets and converts them directly into musical notes or chords.

Data sonification is the process of turning data into sound. It’s the auditory equivalent of data visualization, which turns data into images.

If you’ve ever looked at a chart, graph, or map, you’ve seen data visualization. Data sonification is a less common, but still important, way to convert scientific data into sensory input. This can help scientists and non-scientists alike deepen their understanding and appreciation of the significance of the data. It’s been beneficial in other scientific fields, including the somewhat famous case of audio astronomy. Climate communication and climate science itself may benefit from the increased use of climate data sonification.

Climate data sonification takes climate data sets, such as global or local average temperatures recorded over the course of a period of time, and converts each data point into a sound. In the case of climate data music, each data point is converted into a musical note or chord.

So far, I’ve published two simple songs that are based entirely on global average temperature data. You can find these songs on SpotifyTidaliTunesApple Music, and many other streaming services. You can find my artist profile, including a list of songs, on most streaming services by searching for “Treesong.”.

These first two songs are mostly intended as proof of concept. I wanted to see how the data sonification app works, what I could do with it as a beginner/amateur musician, whether or not I could actually hear the rising temperatures over the course of the song, how easy it is to publish a song to streaming services, and so on.

I’m happy with the results on all fronts.

My first two songs will probably have a few niche audiences: people who like low-key ambient music, people obsessed with climate change, and climate communicators who are looking for tracks to use as background music on social media. How can you resist having a song called “Global Warming” as the background ambient track for your climate change videos?

Now that I’ve published these first two songs, I’m ready to work on two new climate music album concepts. One involves developing more complex musical compositions. The other involves taking audio tracks based primarily or entirely on climate data and combining these with spoken word vocals. If you want to stay up to date on my progress on these projects, please subscribe to my newsletter, follow me on social media, become a member of Treesong’s Ko-fi, or all of the above.

Composing and publishing climate music is a small side project for me. It may take a while for me to devote the time to this project that it deserves, so I don’t have a release date yet for either or both of these albums. But I’m excited to see this project through. I expect these two albums to reach a broader audience than my first two climate music singles. I also hope that my climate music will inspire reflection, discussion, and action in support of climate justice.

Are you a musician? If so, please feel free to create, perform, and publish your own climate music! The more, the merrier. You can either compose your songs using your usual methods or visit my climate data sonification page for more information on how to turn climate data into audio tracks (MP3, WAV/PCM, or MIDI) for use in your music projects.

If you’re not a musician, but you love listening to music, be sure to seek out artists who are publishing climate music. If music listeners demonstrate a demand for climate music, more musicians will create and publish it. Climate music can be both musically compelling and a provocative form of climate discourse. Your choice to listen to climate music and support the musicians creating it will help ensure that more climate music gets made.

Whether you’re a musician or music lover, thanks for reading!

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