MIT visiting artist creates spider’s music

“Spider webs were making music in Paris this fall, as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) visiting artist Tomás Saraceno’s “Palais de Tokyo” art exhibit, ON AIR. “Spider’s Canvas,” an exploration that sonifies the threads of a spider web, was designed, constructed, and performed by MIT’s Center for Art, Science, and Technology (CAST) Faculty Director and Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor Evan Ziporyn, Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) PhD student Isabelle Su, CEE department head and McAfee Professor of Engineering Markus Buehler, MIT Music and Theatre Arts lecturer Ian Hattwick, and composer and video artist Christine Southworth ’02. 

“Based on research on spider webs from MIT’s Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics (LAMM), Su, Buehler, and Ziporyn produced an interactive instrument that echoes the parallels of music and materials science. 

“ON AIR combined material from scientific institutions such as MIT, research groups, activists, and philosophers, to examine how human activity impacts the environment and various systems. The collaboration between CEE and CAST reflects the many ways in which music and science intersect. The 3-D spider web itself is a network that portrays this intersection, visually and acoustically embodying the unification of several disciplines.

“’Spider’s Canvas’ is truly the most collaborative project I’ve ever been involved in. It’s not just interdisciplinary but literally interspecies. The real ‘first mover’ was the spider herself. In performance, all four humans have an equal effect on everything the audience sees and hears,” says Ziporyn…”

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