Wave Machine

Live sea wave data streamed from a marine observation buoy is transformed into a continually evolving electronic soundscape.

A network of buoys around the English coast feed data to a freely accessible online resource. Using the Pure Data (Pd) programming platform, the various measurements recorded by the buoy are used to shape and control the different parameters of sound.

Wave periodicity sets a tempo, while wave height determines the amount of pitch-bend. Wind direction determines the sound’s movement across the stereo field. Sea temperature is indicated by a single modulating tone, with a tremolo effect increasing as the sea warms. The initial tonality of all sound within the patch is determined by the coordinates of the buoy, giving each buoy around the coast a unique sound signature. The buoy records data every 30 minutes and the patch is updated via a live internet connection making it possible for Wave Machine to run perpetually.

Wave Machine was created for Profound Sound Festival 2020, using data from a buoy at Folkestone, and exhibited in a shipping container on Folkestone Harbour Arm, with over 200 visitors to the installation across the weekend.

Wave Machine also exhibited at Ramsgate Festival of Sound using data from a buoy at Goodwin Sands.

An experimental live online broadcast of Wave Machine was streamed on 27th March 2020.

Recordings of Wave Machine featured in Mark Vernon and Barry Burns’ Radiophrenia, broadcast from the Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Arts in November 2020.

Data supplied by the Channel Coastal Observatory.
Photos of the Folkestone buoy by Fugro GB Marine Ltd. and Channel Coastal Observatory. Used with permission.