When work brought him to Charleston, John Kammerer found himself walking along the beach one day, looking at the Atlantic Ocean and thinking about the Pacific.
As a Columbia-based sound designer, he knew the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had buoys across the Pacific that collected real-time data on the ocean.
“I have a close friend in Taiwan. I thought about building a sound bridge and using the ocean itself to generate the audio,” he said.
The idea led to Kammerer to write a software program using ocean data to make music. Not in the soothing, crashing waves sense, but rather digital pings based on the current meteorological and atmospheric conditions in the Pacific.
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“It’s all very digital, but the end result is something that sounds fluid and natural. All I do as the composer is provide the spark, then step back and let nature provide the piece,” he said.
The finished project, “BeAsPacificAsPossible::26,” is on display at Tapp’s Arts Center until Feb. 2.
The piece uses 26 Pacific Ocean buoys, 26 sinusoidal oscillators and was created at the end of Kammerer’s 26th year.
Viewers can experience the audiovisual installation by entering a large dome set up on Tapp’s first floor.
Visuals provided by multimedia artist O.K. Keyes use three projectors that create lights, color, frequency and fading based on sound input from Kammerer’s program. The overall effect is that of being submerged, perhaps in a part of the ocean so deep light does not penetrate, where ambient noise surrounds you.
“The audio comes from the ocean, but it’s indistinct enough that I would want people to draw their own conclusions about it. It is the sound of the ocean, but the sound of the ocean right now,” Kammerer said.
The NOAA updates data collected from sensors on these buoys in real time, usually hourly or every 6-10 minutes.
When you use data from ocean buoys to make music, the music never ends, unless the oceans dry up. There is no beginning, middle or end. That natural fluidity is what Kammerer said he finds fascinating.
“I hope (viewers) can see that anything can be turned into music. There are no limits.”
If you go
WHEN: Through Thursday, Feb. 2
WHERE: Tapp’s Arts Center, 1644 Main St.