Webcam on the bridge. Press play to hear the soundscape generated by Simona real time.

Simona adds to the natural soundscape of the pond in subtle surprising ways, creating ‘ear-openers’ in infinitesimal variations. Simona is responsive to her environment, producing a ‘soundtrack’ that deepens the emotional dynamics of the everlasting play of the elements. She does that by reacting to the weather and to sudden events such as gusts of wind, or the sun appearing from behind a cloud. This information is processed real-time using data-streams from high-tech sensors on the bridge. To build the soundscapes, Simona uses natural components such as the sounds of frogs, insects, waves and birds that are playfully out of place at times. All sounds are real recordings, but the way the different sounds emerge, combine and interact in the soundscape makes Simona special in many ways. For instance, a frog may start to sing, causing another frog to react, and more individuals chiming in to produce an interactive frog choir that is never really the same.

Simona also adds human touches that are musical (but not simply music) blending with the natural soundscape in ways that are subtly harmonious, soothing and always changing. For example, you may here a kora (traditional African harp) playing notes that are directly driven by the wind which is measured by sensors on the bridge ten times per second. The wind decides which note will be played and how loud. Yet the choices that the wind can make are also limited to fit in an overall musical idea and slowly moving harmonic schemes.

So, what is happening behind the screens? Simona is short for ‘Sensitive Infinite Musical Offering Naturalization Angel’. The soundscapes produced by Simona are essentially musical compositions, where the composer has to provide the basic sounds and phrases (the ‘musical offerings’) and carefully define how the sounds respond (the ‘naturalization’) to the electronically sensed environment (hence ‘sensitive’), to produce endless different patterns (the ‘infinite’). Although the realization of the soundscapes is based on a complex set of Algorithms we found more appropriate to have the letter ‘A’ stand for ‘Angel’. Simona is a living project, where new compositions are regularly added. We also envision it as an open project that can be repeated in various forms in other places. We are therefore happy to share the technology behind Simona with composers and designers that feel inspired to build upon it. Although there is a lot of technique behind the screens, in the end Simona is meant simply as a modest sonic ornament that makes you smile.

Simona is made by Marten Scheffer (design and compositions) and Egbert van Nes (programming) with the help of Salvador Breed and Poul Holleman (programming) and Bert Heusinkveld (sensor technique).

© 2021 SparcS - Synergy program for analyzing resilience and critical transitionS