CamFest Speaker Spotlight: Dr Domenico Vicinanza

Dr Domenico Vicinanza is a pioneering expert in data sonification from Anglia Ruskin University. He will take his audience on an auditory journey through the seismic wonders of Yellowstone National Park and, in conversation with Earth scientist Dr Carrie Soderman from the University of Cambridge, will discuss new ways of understanding the planet at Geysers to Grooves: The Symphony of Yellowstone’s Seismic Secrets on 26th March, 4-5.30pm, at Anglia Ruskin University. 

mountain peak

Photo by Lucas on Unsplash

Photo by Lucas on Unsplash

What did you do as a scientist at CERN?
As a scientist at CERN, my primary focus was on exploring the fundamental properties of matter and the universe. This involved conducting experiments, analysing data from particle collisions, and collaborating with colleagues from around the world. In particular, I was part of a team of scientists working on the design and development of a new particle detector for the Large Hadron Collider. 

When did your interest in musical composition begin?
I was always fascinated by music composition and music creation and I loved its ability to convey emotions and tell stories. As a child I was very curious and passionate about creating stories using sounds or noises. I then started to study physics and piano, composition and orchestration, and I always refused to pick just one path. I felt that both music and science make who I am; they both define me. 

What was your first foray into bringing science data and music together?
The first time I used music to describe science was when I was a science teacher and I had a blind student. Luckily, we had a piano in the school and every time I had a graph, I reached for the piano and played a melody following the same path and shape of the graph. 

Then I worked with geophysicists, to create audible signals from the infrasonic rumbles of volcanoes. Finally, during my time at CERN, I started experimenting with ways to translate complex scientific data, such as particle collision events, into musical compositions. 

How did you get involved in data sonification and auditory display?
I became involved in data sonification and auditory display as a natural extension of my scientific work. I saw it as an innovative way to communicate complex scientific concepts to a broader audience and to explore new ways of understanding data through sound. 

How did the Yellowstone Park event come about? 
We wanted to create a unique experience that would bring together the beauty of nature, the wonder of science and the power of music. By sonifying seismic data from Yellowstone National Park, we were able to create a mesmerising auditory representation of the Earth's movements. The initial aim was to create a series of music concert pieces as a way to explore the unique and wonderful worlds of Yellowstone’s geothermal physics. Music was proposed as a way to offer a special opportunity to tell stories about Earth physics for the general public, raising awareness of what makes Yellowstone so special, its geysers, bubbling hot mud pools, springs, rivers and lakes. 

What will your event at the Festival involve? 
At the Festival, my event will involve a joint presentation with Dr Carrie Soderman, a geophysics expert from the University of Cambridge, about Yellowstone and how to create music from science and a live performance where real-time scientific data from one of the about 50 seismometers in Yellowstone will be turned into melodies. The audience will have the opportunity to not only listen to the music but also to see the data being transformed into sound in real-time. 

What do you think science can learn from music and vice versa? 
I believe that science and music can learn a lot from each other. Music can help scientists communicate complex ideas in a more accessible way, while science can inspire musicians to explore new creative possibilities. Both disciplines require creativity, curiosity and a willingness to explore the unknown, making them natural partners in the quest for knowledge and expression. 

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