ARTS & CULTURE

Cellist Converts Climate Change Data Into A Haunting Musical Composition

08/29/2013 08:30 am ET | Updated Sep 10, 2013

Daniel Crawford is an undergraduate student of geography and environmental science at the University of Minnesota, who also happens to be a talent cellist.

In an effort to combine his two interests -- and devise a unique way of translating climate change data into digestible information -- he composed and performed a song based on global NASA temperature statistics.

Titled "A Song of Our Warming Planet," the composition maps out statistical data from 1880 to 2012, with each note representing one year and and the pitch of the notes representing the year's surface temperature. For example, the year 1909 -- measuring in at 31 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest measurement of the data set -- amounts to an open C on the cello, the instrument's lowest note.

Crawford used a method called data sonification to create his song, ultimately attributing each ascending halftone to roughly 0.03°C of planetary warming. The result is an sinister melody that climbs in pitch, transforming the already dismal reality of climate change into a sonically intimidating work of art.

“Climate scientists have a standard toolbox to communicate their data,” says Crawford in a description for the song's video, posted above. “We’re trying to add another tool to that toolbox, another way to communicate these ideas to people who might get more out of music than maps, graphs and numbers.”

The short film ends with an appropriately stirring message: Scientists predict that the planet will warm by another 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century. You can download sheet music and an audio file of the song, which we first came across on Hyperallergic, here.

Correction: A previous edition of this article misstated the fact that each ascending halftone is equal to roughly 0.03°C of planetary warming. We regret the error.

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