Audiblization / sonification of data

What are people doing and is R a good launchpad for it?

Robert Grant (

History / background reading & listening

  • International Conference on Auditory Display
  • Sonification Handbook
  • Engineering ... safety ... visually impaired users
  • Music of Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001)

What is visualization for?

  1. Giving an overview
  2. Conveying scale and complexity
  3. Exploring the data and comparisons therein
  4. Communicating information
  5. Telling a story
  6. Attracting attention and stimulating interest
  • (Gelman and Unwin, 2013)

Extant efforts from datasets

R packages

  • audio - basic I/O functionality
  • tuneR - more sophisticated, writes to .wav files and can open in a media player
  • playitbyr - sends instructions to Csound synthesizer package, uses a nice ggplot-inspired syntax
  • audiolyzR - sends instructions to its own standalone synth package, also requires QuickTime


  • can we avoid additional external packages (especially if we have to learn anything about them?)
  • what about hearing sounds on the fly?
  • what about using samples and audio processing, not just synthesis?

Some potential solutions