Composing [De]Composition recontextualizes the biota of compost into an artistic material and collaborator—joining the seemingly unconnected practices of home composting, data collection, sound art and music composition into a research-based BioArtwork. The project establishes compost— a complex, living material—as an “actant” … a source of action that has sufficient coherence to make a difference.

This website is organized descending chronologically as the different iterations of the project develop.

Scroll down to read more on:

C[D]C’s Techno-Ecological Approach

Real-Time Auditory Display of Data

  Data Listening Sessions

Musification: Data Interpreted for Human Performance

Related Publications

March-July 2020

C[D]C was exhibited at San Francisco’s Center for New Music Window Gallery

October 2018

Leonardo 51:5, 2018

Composing [De]Composition: Data Sonification for Sound Art and Music was ranked one of the top 12 dissertation/thesis abstracts of 2017 by Leonardo Journal Abstract Services.

The abstract was chosen for its special relevance to topics at the intersections between art, science and technology and appears in Leonardo Vol. 51, No. 5, [October 2018].


November 2017

C[D]C at IRCAM’s 1st Music & Hacking Conference @ Musee du Quai Branly, Paris



October 2017

P1080198New research begins in the Shasta Trinity Forest, CA


May-August 2017

 C[D]C fieldwork moved to Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia.

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Research for a new work using home compost and industrially-produced compost generated by the entire county of Gianyar.

Balinese Compost Sonifications coming soon!


October 2016

#8.EmMeio :: Composting in Brasilia’s National Museum

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Compost was created and its temperatures audified in real-time for the initial four days of #8EmMeio: the 8th Computer Art Exhibition at Brasilia’s National Museum.  Visitors tuned into the live, Hertz-based soundscape driven by compost temperature using gallery provided headphones,

After the audification period, the live compost was removed and the resulting 5760 point dataset was translated into a microtonal composition for electronic piano and contrabass that was looped continuously for the remainder of the exhibition.

January 2014 – October 2015

Read  Sonification as Art: Developing Praxis for Audifying Compost for project background on developing tools, methodologies, and performative aspects of data sonification.


June – October 2015

Compost Data Sonification Lab

@ UC Riverside’s Sweeney Art Gallery

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A recipient of a UCR Culver Arts Research Laboratory  Residency (CARL) in 2012, Parker continued her practice-based research at the Culver Center by building and designing a BioArt installation to investigate the sonification of compost temperature data.

Between July 18 and August 18, 2015, the gallery was re-purposed into an active BioArt/Data Sonification research lab to audify and collect real-time temperature data from compost in-situ. The live compost temperatures created an immersive low frequency soundscape projected into the room via a biodegradable, 8-point data audio display. After a 30-day dataset was collected, the live compost was removed. The dataset playback rate was compressed to 30 minutes and the resulting sonification looped in playback mode for the remainder of the exhibition.

A Techno-Ecological Approach


A custom temperature data auditory display creates the gallery’s slowly evolving soundscape. The audio display consists of a hardware and software interface integrating an array of eight temperature sensors to read/record real-time temperatures while playing each discrete value as Hertz through one speaker of an eight point array mirroring the sensor placement inside the compost.

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The lab’s ongoing research wall gave visitors a direct window into the techno-ecology informing the artist’s process, research and methodologies. The wall was updated regularly with the artist’s findings on:

  • Successful maintenance of an indoor composting environment
  • Development of temperature and decomposition sensing techniques
  • Data audification—generating a live soundscape of out of real-time data
  • Strategies for the translation of the collected datasets into music

A Real-Time Auditory Display of Data


Visualization of the 350,000 point dataset collected during the UCR Sweeney Gallery Indoor Compost Temperature Study shows the trajectory of temperature in eight zones as different colored lines.

For this audification, temperature data was linearly translated to Hertz–i.e., if the temperature in one of the eight zones was 78.5˚F, the resulting frequency emitted from the corresponding speaker was 78.5 Hz.

The resulting soundscape was described by one visitor as “Low, slow, and calming like a happy little dirt crockpot.”

 Data Listening Session

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The 8-point listening session at the Sweeney gallery featured time compressed playback of the dataset  using different parameter mappings:

  •  Hertz
  •  microtonal MIDI  work for  eight electronic pianos.

The spatialization of the audio display isolated changes within different temperature zones and allowed listeners to observe where/how often/and to what extent temperature changes occurred.

Sweeney Sonification [Day 1] Microtonal MIDI (2015)

Stereo Mixdown. Parameter mapping: 8-point microtonal MIDI // 8 electronic pianos Premiered at UCR Sweeney Gallery Data Listening Session.

Musification: Data Interpreted for Human Performance

While audification allows listeners to hear parameter mapped data in real time, sonification enables us to hear data without the presence of its source. Musification is yet a third type of data listening experience–one that transforms collected information into “musical” material–one that is not as “strict” in translating the data, but rather scales the information to fit into parameters set by the designer’s chosen musical scaling system (chromatic/Major/minor/raga, etc.); manipulation of the resulting sonic materials for aesthetic reasons (ex., representing the data by pitches any number of octaves apart) parameters of instrumentation (pitch range, acoustic or digital format, etc.); and desired performance quantization (human, computerized, robotic, etc).

Desert Winter for Solo Piano (2014)

An outdoor compost temperature study // Parameter mapping: MIDI Note #//Data collected by hand 2x/day using a digital thermometer//

Performed by Karl Larson, March 2015

Sweeney Summer [2]  (2016)

for MIDI Violin, Percussion and Piano

Days 7-10 of the UCR study // Parameter mapping: chromatic scale //MIDI Instruments//Data scaled and quantized to fit instrumental and human parameters// Premiered by LA’s Panic Duo and Justin DeHart, May 2016.

To hear the difference between sonification and musification, compare Sweeney Summer [2]  with the microtonal MIDI Note Number translation above.

 Sweeney Summer [2] (2017)

arranged for Solo Alto Saxophone

The challenge of this work was to try and depict the dataset using a solo instrument of somewhat limited chordal capacity and the extended technique of bisbligando. Here, only 6 of the 8 data streams are represented.

Premiered  by Kelsey Broersma  @ Lineage Performing Arts Center Pasadena,California. (Mentioned in  New Classic LA)

Related Publications

  • “Special Section: Leonardo Abstracts Service: Top-Rated LABS Abstracts 2017,” in Leonardo Journal, Volume 51, Issue 5 (October 2018): MIT Press, Cambridge MA. 528.

  • “The Techno-Ecology of Composing [De]Composition” in Acoustic Space (16), published by RIXC Center for New Media Culture in collaboration with Art Research Laboratory of Liepaja University (April 2017).



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