Auditory Displays Of Electric Power Grids



Patrick Cowden


Patrick Cowden, Luke Dosiek


This paper presents auditory displays of power grid voltage. Due
to the constantly changing energy demands experienced by a
power system, the voltage varies slightly about nominal, e.g.,
120±2 V at 60±0.04 Hz. These variations are small enough that
any audible effects, such as transformer hum, appear to have constant
volume and pitch. Here, an audification technique is derived
that amplifies the voltage variations and shifts the nominal frequency
from 60 Hz to a common musical note. Sonification techniques
are presented that map the voltage magnitude and frequency
to MIDI velocity and pitch, and create a sampler trigger from frequency
deviation. Several examples, including audio samples, are
given under a variety of power system conditions. These results
culminate in a multi-instrument track generated from the sonification
of time-synchronized geographically widespread power grid
measurements. In addition, an inexpensive Arduino-based device
is detailed that allows for real-time sonification of wall outlet voltage

Publication Type:

Conference Paper

Publication Date:



International Conference on Auditory Display


IDMIL Participants:

Patrick Cowden