Transforming Data to Music – Moonlight and Rain

Quite a few years ago,I lived outdoors for a summer at the base of Mt. Evans in Colorado. Each night I slept in the moonlight, feeling a little lost during the new Moon when it wasn’t visible. As our relationship grew over the years, I became aware of other things happening within the Synodic period of the Moon; one of them being the amount rain or snow that fell during the new and full Moon. In my research I found that it is true; there is a relationship between the lunar cycle and precipitation. No surprise really, considering the way the Moon affects the tides and other earthly events. I grabbed a year’s worth of lunar cycle data and matched it by date to precipitation data for the same period. You can get it here US Naval Observatory

Since lunar data is cyclic, one way to visualize it was a sine wave, so I assigned the pitches to match the peaks, valleys and transitions. The first sounds resembled Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata – so cool !!. Next I added precip data which did indeed cluster about the new and full moon. Some editing of the data was necessary in order to make it play a little less ragged due to the differences in the moon movement and our date system. In electronic music we call this Quantization, the process of making sure the notes hit on the beats. This is especially important because at some point I intend to perform this piece accompanied by yours truly on the electric violin. If not for Quantization, it would be like playing with drummer possessing an irregular sense of time.

The lunar cycle is represented by the lower piano arpeggios and the koto plays the rain ( or snow ). Made a few more adjustments for aesthetics sake. The Naval Observatory also collects data on the movements of the planets and stars. My mind reels with the possibilities of the data. It could be the real Music of the Spheres !

To add inspiration, I listened to The Planets by Gustav Holst as I worked.


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