Sounding Out Pollution

VIDEO: Artist creates aural art from air pollution

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 13 April 2022

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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Scientists at the University of Birmingham and sound artist Robert Jarvis have worked together to create three musical compositions created using air quality data.

Researchers compiled air quality data from urban and rural locations at different times of the day.

These were then used to produce sound works using a variety of different instruments and styles, inviting listeners to ‘hear’ differences in air pollution.

‘Sound is often a striking way to express data that is normally presented through one of the other senses. Perhaps from years of listening to music, people are pretty proficient at deciphering sonic information. As a result, by using audio in this way we can quickly form new understandings. My hope is that Sounding Out Pollution offers a useful way in learning about how our immediate environment is changed by the choices we make.’

ROBERT JARVIS
Sound artist

Maintaining awareness

Entitled ‘Sounding Out Pollution’, the project consists of three distinct pieces. The first is based on pollution data comparing countryside and cities across the UK.

The second charts how air pollution changes on an hourly basis across the West Midlands.

The third illustrates how the air we breathe drastically changes as we are taken on a journey from Birmingham’s rural outskirts and into the city centre.


 

‘We’re all aware that air pollution is harmful and that it affects all of us – but because it’s invisible it’s hard to maintain that awareness. Sounding Out Pollution offers people a fresh perspective on pollution – and maybe an incentive to occasionally walk or choose public transport rather than get into a car.’

DR CATHERINE MULLER
Project manager for WM-Air

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the exploratory project was developed in collaboration with WM-Air, a University of Birmingham research project to improve air quality and health across the West Midlands.

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