Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Mark Ballora’s March 23 STEM lecture to offer opportunity to ‘see’ with ears

The public is invited to explore the centrality of sound in human experience at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, in the Life Sciences Building’s Berg Auditorium.

Mark Ballora, associate professor of music technology at Penn State, will present “Seeing with Your Ears: Visualizing Data with Sound.” The event is free and open to the public, and complimentary refreshments will be served. RSVPs are required for attendance; email mac83@psu.edu.

Ballora will guide participants through his research on how sound is an integral aspect of the human experience. Sonification, an emerging field at the crossroads of sonic arts and sciences, is opening new ways to experience and popularize science. Ballora’s research in sound design and sonification creates an experiential map through which to interpret data.

The lecture illuminates the model of sound encountered in “Arctic Rhythms,” a multimedia performance by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) to be presented by the Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. March 23 in Eisenhower Auditorium.

For an on-the-spot sonification demonstration by Ballora, participants are invited to pre-record sounds of their choosing and submit the file via PSUBox to mac83@psu.edu. Files must be saved in CSV format with a filename as “Last name_first initial” (example: Smith_J).

The Engineering Graduate Student Council, in partnership with the Center for the Performing Arts, Student Affairs and the College of Engineering, will present Ballora’s lecture in support of Penn State values of discovery and community.

Ballora received his doctorate in music technology from McGill University and his master’s degree in music composition and music technology from New York University.

His sonifications of astronomical and physiological datasets have been used by percussionist/ethnomusicologist Mickey Hart and in the film “Rhythms of the Universe,” conceived by Hart and cosmologist George Smoot.

At Penn State, Ballora has collaborated with ecologist Michael Sheriff and created a sound project that reflects the fluctuating body temperature of Arctic squirrels. The data helps researchers understand how animals adapt to changes in snow cover.

Watch Ballora’s videos and TED Talk.

Miller, a 2014 National Geographic Emerging Explorer and hip-hop artist, fuses traditional and electronic music genres. His soundscapes are enhanced by a multimedia presentation that transports viewers to polar landscapes.

Go to “Arctic Rhythms” for information about the Center for the Performing Arts presentation.

Watch a video teaser for “Arctic Rhythms.”