What Is Weather for the Blind?

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By Soundfly Mentor Andrea de Carlo

Picture this: The sun rises and sets in the misty air. Shades of synthesizer tones slowly reshape as expanding and contracting bands of light bathe over the earth around you. Sounds lovely, right?

Well, it gets even better when we realize that everything we’re hearing is an audio translation of those various weather and light parameters in real time, captured by outdoor sensors, without any microphone inputs whatsoever. You’re not just listening to music during sunrise; you’re listening to the sunrise itself!

Enter Weather for the Blind. This amazing project, developed by instrument inventor and electronic music pioneer, Quintron (a.k.a. Robert Rolston) in New Orleans, streams the sounds of this new musical instrument being played every day by the weather itself, online for free for the world to listen to.

The instrument, called the “Weather Warlock,” which is currently located in a base station  at the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, California, is a low voltage weather-controlled drone synthesizer. Weather sensors placed outdoors in direct sunlight detect temperature, wind, sun, and rain readings in real time, and the synthesizer translates those electronic signal impulses into a wide range of tones and harmonics based around a consonant F major chord with special audio events occurring during sunrise and sunset.

If you want to (or need to), you’re able to check the weather in Los Angeles just by tuning in to the music it produces on Quintron’s website. If more base stations are built around the world, listeners would be able to experience musical interpretations of different climates and time zones all at once.

Check out this video to see the Weather Warlock in action.

An earlier prototype of the “Weather Warlock” was Quintron’s project called Singing House: a drone synthesizer installed in a house that provided its inhabitants with a pleasing chord that was also constantly altered by the weather. The aim of that project was to use these sounds to bring “mental relaxation and healing to the modern home or institution.” So, naturally, it expanded into an internet channel broadcasting to the entire world.

But this project isn’t only designed for those who want to check the weather in L.A. It’s a theoretical (and somewhat practical) experiment designed to simulate the relaxing nature of sunrise, sunset, and all the weather variations we can imagine in the audio realm for those who can’t see these phenomena occurring.

The name “Weather for the Blind” is in fact a reference to a circadian rhythm disorder suffered by many sight-impaired people, the Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder (or, Non-24). People whose circadian rhythms are not synchronized with the normal flow of night and day (due to the time of year or location) have a hard time achieving restful sleep and routine functioning.

While Quintron makes no medical claims that his instrument is physically or mentally curative, his hope is that “it could be of some help to those experiencing any type of sleep disorder, or to anyone suffering from stress or health issues which might benefit from a direct musical connection to nature.”

Thus, the synthesizer is built to produce pleasant and consonant sounds, slowly changing like the weather, without large leaps in dynamics, to make sure it’s not making anyone’s sleep situation any worse.

If you’d like to experience this machine up close, you’ll have to hurry up. The Los Angeles weather station site will be only on view (and online) through the end of March! But don’t worry, you’ll still be able to access the “Audio Archives” section of Quintron’s website for old material.

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