Sonification of a 3-D Spider Web and Reconstitution for Musical Composition Using Granular Synthesis

Isabelle Su, Zhao Qin, Tomás Saraceno, Ally Bisshop, Roland Mühlethaler, Evan Ziporyn, Markus J. Buehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Three-dimensional spider webs feature highly intricate fiber architectures, which can be represented via 3-D scanning and modeling. To allow novel interpretations of the key features of a 3-D Cyrtophora citricola spider web, we translate complex 3-D data from the original web model into music, using data sonification. We map the spider web data to audio parameters such as pitch, amplitude, and envelope. Paired with a visual representation, the resulting audio allows a unique and holistic immersion into the web that can describe features of the 3-D architecture (fiber distance, lengths, connectivity, and overall porosity of the structure) as a function of spatial location in the web. Using granular synthesis, we further develop a method to extract musical building blocks from the sonified web, transforming the original representation of the web data into new musical compositions. We build a new virtual, interactive musical instrument in which the physical 3-D web data are used to generate new variations in sound through exploration of different spatial locations and grain-processing parameters. The transformation of sound from grains to musical arrangements (variations of melody, rhythm, harmony, chords, etc.) is analogous to the natural bottom–up processing of proteins, resembling the design of sequence and higher-level hierarchical protein material organization from elementary chemical building blocks. The tools documented here open possibilities for creating virtual instruments based on spider webs for live performances and art installations, suggesting new possibilities for immersion into spider web data, and for exploring similarities between protein folding, on the one hand, and assembly and musical expression, on the other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-59
Number of pages17
JournalComputer Music Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Media Technology
  • Music
  • Computer Science Applications


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