Visualization often wins out over sonification when it comes to making data clear. But sound has one key advantage: it can make time and scale apparent, by tapping directly into our perception of forward time.
Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto, born well into the Nuclear Age in 1959, uses that property to chilling effect. The sounds in “1945-1998” are made still more unsettling in their rendering as tranquil, musical sounds rather than explosions. Quietly, World War III is waged not in wartime, but in the 2053 nuclear explosions that erupt mainly in thermonuclear tests (led, ironically, by the United States). This isn’t just political noise, either; the scale of thermonuclear tests has made virtually everyone reading this site a child of the fallout of the testing age, quite literally. And this falls on the anniversary of the deadly blasts detonated by the US to close World War II.
The 2003 work was dedicated as a kind of universal message, thanks to its rendering in sound:
This piece of work is a bird’s eye view of the history by scaling down a month length of time into one second. No letter is used for equal messaging to all viewers without language barrier. The blinking light, sound and the numbers on the world map show when, where and how many experiments each country have conducted. I created this work for the means of an interface to the people who are yet to know of the extremely grave, but present problem of the world
Sound, after all, can convey real messages, not only about our past and tragedy, but about our future.