#HearForYou: A Sonification Experience

By Kendra Pierre-Louis, Reem Alfaiz, Maddie Kim, and Julia Appel

Sculpture Context: This is a project proposal for World Relief, an international relief and development organization that works in the United States and internationally providing help to those affected by war, poverty, and disaster.


World Relief US is seeking proposals for an interactive data-driven experience to be installed in the lobby of their Atlanta headquarters on World Refugee Day: June 20, 2016. The purpose of the installation is to raise awareness of the rampant anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment that has reached a fever pitch in the presidential election cycle. The call to action is to donate money to World Relief to aid their ongoing efforts to help ease resettlement among Muslim refugees to the United States.   

Sculpture Intent: This sound sculpture is called #HearForYou. It was created using data from BuzzFeed on the inflow of refugees to the United States. We looked at the proportion of Muslim refugees to total refugees for the past 10 years, from 2005 through 2015. Using a Python code we translated those frequency data into midi files; we created two sound files, one corresponding to the total number of refugees over the 10 year period, and one to the total number of Muslim refugees over the 10 year period. We can follow the user through the experience using the schematic diagram shown in the Keynote presentation. The user walks into a long rectangular room with 10 speakers mounted on the wall on each side of the room, 10 labels on the floor, and a TV screen at the far and of the room. (Each speaker and label corresponds to one year.) The TV screen at the front of the room is playing a short video of clips of presidential candidates’ bombastic anti-refugee and anti-Muslim sentiment, with subtitles. As the user walks through the room, they hear music coming from either side of them: on the right, the music corresponds to the data set of total immigrants, on the left it corresponds to the data set of Muslim immigrants.

The cacophony of the music — tonal and varying in frequency, but not melodic — is meant to mirror the discordant sound of the anti-Muslim and anti-refugee political rhetoric that has become increasingly difficult to ignore. This is further emphasized by the video playing on loop in front of the user the entire time she is in the room, which shows political candidates bombasting their xenophobic policy positions. The final four shots of the video are as follows: a still image of refugees overflowing from a rickety boat, a still image that reminds the user of World Refugee Day, a still image of a mother and child taking refuge on the beach, and finally a still image of the World Relief logo with the call to action.

Call to Action: At the end of the video, overlain onto the World Relief logo, is a call to action that says

Spread The Sound. #HearForYou. Donate: www.worldreliefatlanta.org