Musical Sculptures Translate Weather Data Into Art

Nathalie Miebach defies genres and crosses disciplinary boundaries to combine data visualization with color, shape, and sound

Visualizations of music, creative takes on notation, and physical data art are all running fixations at Brain Pickings. Naturally, the work of Boston-based artist Nathalie Miebach, one of this year's crop of extraordinary TED Global Fellows, is an instant favorite. Miebach translates weather and climate change data from cities into musical scores, which she then translates into vibrant, whimsical sculptures and uses them as the basis for collaboration with musicians across a wide spectrum of styles and genres.

"Musical notation allows me a more nuanced way of translating information without compromising it. She uses these scores to collaborate with musicians across a wide spectrum of styles and genres." ~ Nathalie Miebach

External Weather, Internal Storms
Reed, metal, wood, data | 2009


Musical Buoy in Search Towards a New Shore (Dedicated to Melvin Maddocks)
Wood, data, reed | 2009


Hurricane Noel

3D Musical Score of the passing of Hurricane Noel through the Gulf of Maine, Nov 6-8, 2007. Meteorological data comes from two weather stations in Hyannis, MA and Natashquan, Quebec as well as an off-shore buoy anchored on George's Bank in the Gulf of Maine. Data translated includes wind, air temperature, barometric pressure, wave height, cloud cover, historical hurricane data, and solar azimuth.

Each sculpture not only maps the meteorological landscape of a specific time and place but is also a fully functional musical score to be played and interpreted by musicans on instruments as varied as piano, French horn, and electrican guitar.

She's Coming on Strong
9'x9'x1', paper, wood, data, 2011

This piece is a musical score that tracks the paths of both Hurricane Grace and the Halloween Storm, which together created the 'Perfect Storm'.

Miebach uses basket-weaving techniques and materials to interpret the data in three-dimensional space, using the lens of art and craft to look at scientific data with new eyes and glean new understanding.

Urban Weather Prairies - Symphonic Studies in D
16'x15'x15', reed, wood, data, 2009

Urban Weather Prairies is based on data collected in Omaha, Nebraska, during a 2-month period (May /June 2008), while I was an Artist in Residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. I chose to translate the data I collected in the format of an orchestra as a way to more truthfully articulate the somewhat idiosyncratic way I was making sense of my daily weather observations. Just like each instrument in a symphony plays part of the score, each sculpture and wall piece tells part of the story, with the entirety of the piece coming together through the larger behavioral patterns that slowly emerge over time. The wall space uses the rectangle as varies maps of Nebraska or urban centers of Nebraska.

"What I like about this work is that it challenges our assumption about what kind of visual vocabulary belongs in art versus science." ~ Nathalie Miebach

Together, Miebach's sculptures explore the fascinating intersection of art and science—another recurring theme here—with equal parts poetry and precision, making science more accessible and art more cerebral, a pinnacle of the cross-pollination of disciplines at the heart of Brain Pickings.


This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Images: Courtesy of Nathalie Miebach

Presented by

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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