London Under the Microscope

London Under the Microscope

Earlier this year I created a sonification of London's Covid-19 data as part of Valentina D'Efilippo's beautiful "London Under the Microscope" animation.

Now, the entire video is online - I recommend listening loud with headphones!

Here's how it works. There are two melodic saw wave drones separated by an octave - the higher represents cases, and the lower represents deaths. The chords that make them up each reflect the balance of different variants over time. As the data spikes, so does the filter cutoff.

The bassline reflects movement data. When people are moving around the city a lot, you hear the bassline move faster. During lockdown, when people were confined to their homes, it slows to a single beat for each bar.

There are a number of "ping"-like earcons in the mix, which reflect Covid-related events. Some represent lockdowns beginning, for example. Some are new variants - these audibly disrupt the sound.

Near to the end of the track you hear a new voice emerge - which my sonification collaborator Miriam Quick calls the "science sound". This represents vaccinations - increasing in volume as more people are vaccinated once and twice.

I created the entire soundtrack for the animation in the amazing and free Sonic Pi software:

Sonic Pi - The Live Coding Music Synth for Everyone
Sonic Pi is a new kind of instrument for a new generation of musicians. It is simple to learn, powerful enough for live performances and free to download.

If you like this and you want to hear more data storytelling with sound and music, you should definitely check out my data sonification podcast, Loud Numbers, which I created with Miriam. Want a sonification of your own? Hire us!

Loud Numbers
A data sonification podcast from Miriam Quick and Duncan Geere

Finally, one last note that it was a total joy to collaborate with Valentina D'Efilippo and Arpad Ray on this project, and I'm blown away by the incredible animation they put together which accompanies the sonification.