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Listening for the sounds of the sea

The hidden voices of the ocean will be explored in a new public lecture by a JCU creative artist this week.

Listening for the sounds of the sea

First published November 20, 2013

The hidden voices of the ocean will be explored in a new public lecture by a James Cook University creative artist this week.

PhD student Robert Johnstone will give a lecture on JCU’s Townsville campus tomorrow (November 21) on his forthcoming (2014) PhD Sound Art Installation - called 'Coral Symphony'.

The lecture is part of JCU’s popular Science & Society in the Tropics Public Lecture Series.

Mr Johnstone said the installation sounds were derived from the transformation of Great Barrier Reef data into sound - a process call sonification.

“I will explore the development of Coral Symphony - a Sound Art installation using sonification to unveil voices from the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

“I will also provide some insight as to what people will hear when the installation is mounted - sound sketches based on data which has been provided by AIMS, or the Australian Institute of Marine Science.”

“The Sound Art installation will focus on the beautiful simplicity of the Great Barrier Reef waters in flux - and seek to answer the question: Can Sound Art successfully represent the sounds of the Reef; revealing aspects of a hidden underwater world?”

Mr Johnstone said there was a rich history of artists representing the visible world through imagery.

“But what of the invisible? What if you could harness hidden voices of the natural environment?” he said

“That's exactly what I, as a sonification specialist, do. Artistic sonification is an emerging creative practice at the intersection of mathematics and music.”


Robert Johnstone is a sound artist and PhD student at JCU where he is the William Williams scholar. He uses sonification techniques to reveal the unseen connections between people and the environment.

The William Thomas Williams Scholarships/Bursary

In 1995, William Thomas Williams bequeathed to JCU the whole of his estate, which included a property and a music collection. The proceeds from the sale of the property are held in a dedicated restricted fund. The funds are used by the School for the promotion of and education of music.


Science & Society in the Tropics

Public Lecture Series Invitation

The Faculty of Law, Business & the Creative Arts presents: Creating a Coral Symphony

Presented by: Robert Johnstone

Date:  Thursday 21st November

Time:  5.30pm Refreshments, 6.00pm presentation starts

Place: Education Central, Building 134-010, James Cook University, Townsville Campus

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175