Arvid Tomayko-Peters knows the joke. “After double concentrating in computer music and geology,” he says, “I’m qualified to make rock music.” Tomayko-Peters builds software capable of making geologic data playable as music. “Geology is history, or the result thereof,” he says. “And that’s deep time, time that we can’t really imagine. Music, also, is all about time — rhythms, pitches, structure, etc. So I like to relate the two.”
It’s hard for us to wrap our brains around the difference between, say, 100 million years and 1 billion years. But we can detect differences in musical rhythm, pitch, and tempo. If the incomprehensible time-spans of geology are expressed in musical terms, maybe they’ll feel more accessible?
Tomayko-Peters’ newest work is Massachusetts Geophonic, software that uses map data from the U.S. Geological Survey to create a playable, music interface. Listen to Tomakyo-Peters explain Massachusetts Geophonic to Stylus:
The software interface is intended for improvisational performance. Rock age dictates pitch, sedimentary grain size causes modulation, and fault lines are like skips in a record. If the concept sounds a bit heady, don’t be intimidated. The software is straightforward, easy to use, and free to download. And, if we’re being honest, it’s really, really fun.
Tomayko-Peters hopes that “some people will use it to first explore the geology of Massachusetts in a different way. Then, once people figure it out a little bit, make music with it.”
Give it a try. You’ll be making rock music in no time.
Downloads and instructions are available here. A big thanks to Arvid Tomayko-Peters for updating his software so we could make it available to you now!