Music of Data Centers

Composer records ambient noise of data centers and makes music out of it

2 Min Read
Music of Data Centers
Cold aisle at a Google data center (Photo: Google)

The only sounds the Internet makes on the end user side are those coming out of PC speakers or headphones – preprogrammed, prerecorded, contrived. While the boomy, echoey machine sounds of a factory making physical products is not hard to summon for anyone in their memory, your average iPhone user has no idea what the factory that produces their Facebook news feed sounds like (or that it has a sound).

Server fan noise may be a nuisance for people working inside data centers, but for a sound artist, the seemingly monotone humming and hissing can be a complex multitimbral source of inspiration. Composer Matt Parker visits data centers around Europe, records their sounds and turns them into minimalist electronic music (scroll down to hear his work).

He submitted the first composition in what he plans to be a series to Cities and Memory, a project that collects recordings that are representative of physical places and remixes of those sounds, in April. It is a recording of sounds from the server aisles inside a Birmingham City University data center and a piece of music using those sounds as the source.

Here is how Parker himself described it to Cities and Memory: “I have been working on capturing recordings of data centers and turning them into compositions. I am hoping to travel to some ‘DCs’ across Europe over the course of the next year and taking their unique and intense sounds and creating some interesting sounds from them.

“The idea is to highlight the physical nature of ‘cloud computing’ and to remind people that whilst their phones might be sat silently in their pockets, somewhere out there, a huge hive of hard drives and fans is spinning around frantically, managing our digital identities. My most recent visit was to a recently built and highly praised medium-sized data center at Birmingham City University in Edgbaston Birmingham.”

Here is Parker’s recording of the data center:

listen to ‘Birmingham City University, Edgbaston Campus Data Centre’ on Audioboo

And here is the music he made out of it:

listen to ‘Birmingham City University - Edgbaston Campus Data Centre (REMIX)’ on Audioboo

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