Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sonifying data with TwoTone

Today we're making some noise (no pun intended) by releasing TwoTone, a free, open source, browser-based tool to sonify data. Simply upload any data set of up to 20MB or 2,000 rows, select the variable or variables you want to transform into sounds, choose instruments, playing speed and other features —and listen to your numbers! Here's Maarten Lambrechts, who made global warming data into a tune:

TwoTone is the product of a collaboration between Datavized and Google News Initiative; my role, as usual in this series of data projects and tools, was to give some feedback during development. To learn more about how TwoTone was created, read this write-up by Datavized's Hugh McGrory.

Data sonification has a long history and plenty of tools exist; TwoTone's goal isn't to surpass any of them in terms of power, complexity or features, but to be simple enough for anyone to learn in a few minutes and a couple of tutorials and begin experimenting right away:

If you prefer to read tutorials, see this document. TwoTone's website contains many examples to give you some inspiration. Finally, if you're a developer and want to tweak the tool or expand on it, consult its Github page and scroll down to find the instructions. You can also contact Datavized if you have suggestions or comments.

Not surprisingly, I've been playing with TwoTone myself. Here's the sound of the U.S. unemployment rate between January 2009 and December 2018 (here's the data set and here's the mp3 for better sound quality):

You may notice that there's a second variable in the data set linked above. What would happen if we added a second instrument to the mix? Would it sound harmonious? I encourage you to try, or use your own data. Have fun!