Scientists translate cobwebs into music to better understand their three-dimensional architecture

scientist mit spiderweb music


Photo credit: Aurelie Cenno
A team of scientists, in collaboration with artist Tomás Saraceno, have succeeded in translating the three-dimensional structure of a spider web into music, resulting in the interactive musical instrument Spider’s Canvas. This project was started to better understand the three-dimensional architecture of a spider web and also to learn more about the vibratory language of the eight-legged arthropods. Read More

Spiders perceive the different frequencies of different vibrations as colors or notes on a piano, with some even using vibrations to communicate with each other. When we talk about a spider’s web, the strands of silk vibrate at one frequency or another depending on their length and tension, similar to the strings of a guitar. To convert these vibrations traveling through a spider’s web into sounds, the team used lasers to model the webs of tropical tent web spiders and calculate the frequency of each thread. These frequencies were then shifted to the range of sounds audible to the human ear.

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‘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 itself. During the performance, all four people have an equal effect on everything the audience sees and hears,” says Professor Evan Ziporyn.

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