Wave Machine

Live sea wave data streamed from a marine observation buoy is transformed into a continuous electronic soundscape. Using the Pure Data (Pd) programming platform, the various sea and wave measurements are used to shape and control the different parameters of sound.

A network of buoys around the English coast feed information to a freely accessible online API data stream. The patch is programmed to retrieve and process values from a single buoy: 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 data is updated every 30 minutes 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, and as part of festival CHAT 2020 curated by the Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory group.

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