A hymn to the hum – serving up music from the cloud

Matt Parker

Matt Parker

They were drawn towards the Hum
Plenty more where they come from.
[The Hum, Killing Joke]

Apparently each data centre has its own “unique pitch” when it comes to the processing of data, and this has attracted the attention of a musician. He has turned information crunching into electronic music…

New Scientist picks up the story. Aviva Rutkin writes:

The ambient hum of European data centres has been turned into electronic music. The first composition, based on machines at Birmingham City University in the UK, was released online last month.

Most data centres generate a kind of white noise from the whirring of many small fans cooling the servers. Their movement occurs at many different frequencies, resulting in a nearly full spectrum of sound. But each centre has a different number of fans spinning at different speeds, creating its own “unique pitch,” says Matt Parker, the freelance composer behind the music.

After recording each centre, Parker strips out any undesired background noise. He isolates different frequencies to build a harmonic scale, playing around with the different sounds as they unfold.

In the long run, he hopes that the music will pique people’s interest in what happens to their digital data. Modern devices run quietly, making it easier to forget about the immense machinery required to make them work.

“Ultimately, the information that we’re using on our mobile phones and things is being transferred somewhere else,” Parker says. “I wanted to find a way to make a reminder of the physical and mechanical nature of the cloud.”

Parker plans to visit data centres in southern England and Sweden next.

“I want to create a whole body of work reflecting these different places and the sounds that they create,” he says.

Listen to the raw recording of the data centres (3MB).

And listen to Parker’s remix here (4.5MB).

Google Server farm

Google Server farm

 

Tags: cloud, electronic music

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