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Researchers from the University of Birmingham are thinking creatively about how to highlight the often imperceptible impacts of air pollution.

A subsection of the university's "The Air We Breathe" exhibition, the project, titled "Sounding Out Pollution," transforms air quality data into music.

The offering includes three unique sonic interpretations of pollution, each leveraging air quality data from locations throughout the U.K. The pieces each explore a unique creative concept, including one that captures the subtle changes in pollution by the hour across the West Midlands and another which juxtaposes pollution data between the countryside and major cities throughout the country.

Take a listen to the sonifications below.

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"Sound is often a striking way to express data that is normally presented through one of the other senses," said Robert Jarvis, the project's sound artist. "Perhaps from years of listening to music, people are pretty proficient at deciphering sonic information."

Jarvis has demonstrated an effective ability to translate sociological data into song in the past. His prior project, "SONORA V19," translated case load data pertaining to COVID-19 from countries across the globe into sonic works.

"Hearing how air pollution levels vary can help us to understand how the air we breathe changes with location and with the time of day, Professor William Bloss of Birmingham University added. "For example, some air pollutants are closely linked to road traffic – others less so. Sounding Out pollution helps people understand these differences, and so make decisions that may affect their air pollution exposure.”



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