The Music of a Sunset

What would you do if you suddenly went blind and could never again see the sun set? How would you again experience this often breathtaking phenomenon? One answer is music, orchestrated by the sun and the Weather Warlock.

Built by the musician [Quintron] (builder and inventor of insane electronic instruments), the Weather Warlock is an analog synthesizer controlled by — you guessed it — the weather. It translates temperature, moisture, wind and sunlight into tones and harmonics with an E major root chord. UV, light, moisture, and temperature sensors combined with an anemometer set up outside feed the weather data to a synthesizer that has [Quintron] dialing knobs and toggling switches. The Weather Warlock steams 24/7 to the website weatherfortheblind.org so that the visually impaired are able to tune in and experience the joy of sunrise and sunset through music.

While listening to a summer thunderstorm¬† or the wind rustle through trees has its¬† own appeal, this is using the weather to create a melody of a slightly different kind. [Quintron] envisions a global network of Weather Warlocks that would allow listeners — visually impaired or not — to experience the music that different climates have to offer.

There are many large, retro-inspired, and otherwise exotic musical instruments, but using the weather to create an instrument with the express purpose of granting the visually impaired the ability to experience a sunset again is a marvelous feat.

[via Anonymous and Great Big Story]

12 thoughts on “The Music of a Sunset

  1. i don’t get these things
    its one persons interpretation resulting in simply noise (not music!) that is utterly abstract.
    good for him that he built it i guess but if i went blind and this guy offered to let me experience a sunset and this was his solution i would be bitterly disappointed.

    1. All music is interpretation.
      Yes, this is a poor comparison to the visual experience of a sunrise, as are travel documentaries and shows of live concerts when compared to actually being there.
      This stuff *is* appealing for those who have never seen a sunrise.

      1. it’s no comparison at all
        i doubt anybody could identify that it was supposed to be a sunset, even those who have seen one.
        you can recognise and sort of appreciate a travel documentary, a concert live or not can be appreciated to tell a story where instrument voices play characters and themes etc and even if you don’t get it someone explains it and you think oh ok that’s clever I see now.
        ‘bleep blop whoop’ isn’t anything.

  2. I generally like stuff like this, but claiming it is anything more than using weather to control parameters in a larger and very specific system is, at best misunderstanding, and at worst willfully misleading.

    He lets you hear a amalgamation of electronic music devices with parameters being controlled by weather.

    Another way to ‘hear the sunset’, just as valid as this one, would simply be a photocell and 555 timer…. (or arduino with 4 lines of code, of course)

    ive made similar devices to what this guy has made, and said somewhat similar pablum and stretched not-even-sort-of truth about them to the delight of the totally naive and credulous, but a lot of other people were probably rolling their eyes at me… Also I was 18 and 19ish, not 35ish.. Lol.

    Remote sensing for music and art use is still compelling, but IMO only when it is described accurately, and not used as an opportunity to confuse the uninformed while pandering to your own ego.

    1. Even an NE555 is overkill, two 2N2222s or BC109s or whatever you rake out of the junk box rigged as multivibrator with an LDR bias… been there, done that nearly 3 decades ago, though I had more fun with it as more like a shadow operated theramin.

  3. For a web site that features stuff like the useless machine, binary keyboards and death trap DIY motorcycles, you guys sure pick weird moments to get nasty. Have you actually listened to the site? It’s pretty awesome- like a white noise machine that changes throughout the day. Some folks like it, some folks don’t. Relax- it’s not the new national anthem.

    1. Here is why, though I know I shouldnt say it.

      Q: Why did you make a binary keyboard? A: To learn
      Q: Why did you make a crap motorbike? A: To learn

      NOW:

      Q: Why did you make a noise generator then claim it was the sound of the sun? A: For attention

      Do you see?

      Note: I am probably wrong.. Didnt look at the guys site.. And now that I have crossed over into being a dick, I will go look at his site and likely come back and agree it was awesome!

      1. >> Q: Why did you make a noise generator then claim it was the sound of the sun?

        A: To learn. It uses analog sensors (sunlight, wind and rain) to alter the output of an analog synth. That’s a hack in my book.

      2. Nah, Quintron has been experimenting with electronic / mechanical music-making devices for decades. He’s quite famous among whoever it is who listens to that sort of thing. This is one more in his line of inventions. Of course it’s not a useful tool, to allow blind people to appreciate sunsets, but it’s interesting to see the regular patterns, and the randomness, of weather and the Sun, turned into the patterns and randomness of music. Expressing one thing in the form of another.

        You don’t have to listen to it, but the bloke is quite serious about what he does. It’s a hobby, though he performs in public too. Pure research, pure experimentation, play. Ideologically pure, from our point of view!

        Quintron is most famous for his “Drum Buddy”, which uses a coffee can with holes or slots cut into it. A light bulb goes in the middle, the can goes on a record player turntable. Light shines through the rotating holes. 4 light sensors pick up the light, and trigger sound effects. So it’s a mechanical, coffee-can based drum sequencer. A clever idea, I thought! Only sequencer I can think of that doesn’t use buttons or electronic memory for it’s tracks.

  4. Lol.. Two things..

    1) I just realized not only have I seen this man perform live in Chicago at the Hideout, one of my favorite places in Chicago, but he is mutual friends with many people I know. Weird.

    2) He is basically ‘old school’, and has been doing this stuff for like 20 years maybe.. Since before make magazine was conceived, before the word ‘maker’ was used to describe ‘us’.

    3) I admit I am a dick.

    4) Elements of what i said are true.. But all is fair in love, war and art.

    1. Wow. What a cool and reasonable interaction. Thanks for being human!
      I was a bit surprised no one here knew who he was- he invented the drum buddy optically triggered drum machine- he’s super.
      This project isn’t trying to recreate sunsets. Weather Warlock is sonifying natural patterns. It is music. It has melody and rhythm- it just stretches over a 24 hour cycle.

  5. See also sonification. Nasa does this a lot too but I’ve never heard people complain that the sounds aren’t similar to what they represent… Google the somewhat recent recording of Juno crossing the border of Jupiter’s magnetic field as an example. Of course you can’t hear the field, but it gives the listener a “sense” of it that they couldn’t otherwise perceive.

    I think this is more artistic than driven by data but the effect is the same. Cool stuff.

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