This science-art collaboration brings geology to life allowing the user to enter the realm of crystal space. The installation turns scientific data from crushed rock samples into an audio-visual sensory ‘bath’.

How we do it: X-ray diffraction is a common analytical technique in the Earth and Planetary Sciences. Powdered rock is exposed to a beam of X-rays to generate a diffraction spectrum, which gives detailed chemical information about the mineralogy of the sample. Because each rock type is made up of different minerals, the diffraction spectrum is unique to each sample.

To generate music, we convert the diffraction angles and peak magnitudes from each diffraction spectrum into frequencies and amplitudes, to end up with a set of notes (i.e. a scale) that is also unique to the specific rock type. We process the notes in a DAW, to produce tracks that are eerily representative/evocative of the specimen in question.

The sensory experience is delivered using a custom hardware system we have developed which consists of binaural audio hardware and a cirved video wall mounted inside a mirrored unit. The audio tracks are then processed and analysed using bespoke software to generate highly synchronised data visualisation content. Audiences are encouraged to close their eyes and let the lights wash over them.

Collaborators: Richard O'Flynn
Joe Gardner