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The Poseidon Ensemble

The Poseidon Ensemble is a project that generates an orchestral composition and data visualisation from over 100 years of global seismic data.

It is made up of over 780,000 data points and runs for nearly 8 days.

How it works

The globe is divided into 8 segments with each representing a single or group of instruments. Each seismic event constitutes a single note, with pitch determined by the depth of the event, and the velocity determined by the magnitude.


Due to the fact that density of data points increased as the years went on, the composition has been broken up into 7 different tempos.

Start Year End Year Time Acceleration
- 1939 500,000x
1940 1959 250,000x
1960 1972 100,000x
1973 1989 10,000x
1990 1999 5,000x
2000 2009 1,250x
2010 Present 750x

Bezier curves between sites identify patterns between seismic events. Stronger lines indicate that events in one region tend to follow another.

5 remaining MIDI channels are reserved for special events (earthquakes > magnitude 8, low and high RMS, etc.)




The Processing sketch requires the themidibus library to run. It uses 13 MIDI channels on a virtual MIDI port named Poseidon, but you can use your own by modifying this line of code in Poseidon.pde

bus = new MidiBus(this, -1, "Poseidon");

How to create virtual MIDI ports


A Python script to download and merge all the seismic data from the U.S. Geological Survey has been included.

You can manipulate the URL query string in if you wish to filter the data further. You will need to look at the input names on the search page and adjust the URL accordingly:

url = "{0}%2000:00:00&minmagnitude=0.1&format=csv&endtime={1}%2023:59:59&maxmagnitude=10&orderby=time-asc"

Ableton Live

To use the Ableton set provided, you will need Ableton Live 9 Suite with the following packs.

  • Orchestral Brass
  • Orchestral Mallets
  • Orchestral Strings
  • Orchestral Woodwind
  • Samplification

Or create your own live set!


A project that generates an orchestral score from global seismic activity.







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