The Sharkness

The Sharkness

generative sound design for a shark aquarium

In this project we created a generative and algorithmic sound design for a shark aquarium. The goal was to create an immersive audiovisual experience based on the contrast between the sharks being dangerous, yet fascinating and calm, and the intimate and zen-like visual experience you have when standing in front of the giant aquarium.

The concept of the sound design is based on a metaphor of sound elements being born on the bottom of the aquarium, and slowly making their way to the surface while mimicking the elements they pass using sound; the depth of the water is represented by a deep, explosive impulse; the gliding movement of the sharks is represented by slow, harmonic drones and pads; and the light dancing on the surface of the water is represented by bright, flickering piano tones.

When new sound elements are born and make their way to the surface, they weave in and out between the existing ones and create new harmonies and chords which evolve in a unique and non-linear manner. The algorithm driving the sound design is based on chord theory, and ensures that the overall sound stays harmonic and that it evolves in a unique manner every time.

The Sharkness is designed in such a way, that no matter what is going on inside the shark tank, the visitor should always be able to make some kind of connection between what is heard and what is seen – but it is not adaptive as such as there are no sensors keeping track of the sharks. Rather, the sound design is based on pre-observed visual patterns.

The audio is created by a mixture of sound synthesis, sample playback, and real-time processing. Max/MSP was used to design and implement the generative sound system and also to do the real-time processing of the sounds.

The Sharkness is designed and developed by bitCrushers and was exhibited at the shark aquarium at Kattegatcenteret in GreenĂ¥, Denmark.

(photo credit: Allan Lee)