Your Ocean Sound – Portrait: Artur Sommerfeld

Christel Clerc

By Christel Clerc
22.06.2021 | 10 minutes reading time

In spring of this year, we organized the hackathon „Your Ocean Sound“ . 130 audio files with biotic and abiotic ocean sounds inspired the participants to create almost 30 compositions. In this last post of our series, we introduce you to participant Artur Sommerfeld.

Artur Sommerfeld (3rd. Place) – Singing ice

Artur Sommerfeld - Singing ice

00:00:00 / 00:00:00
Licensed under: CC BY-ND | Open in data portal


Artur welcomes me digitally in his studio in Kreuzberg, and I get a guided tour. Microphones, lots of keyboard keys, hanging cables, and many foreign objects that I can’t name. With his electronic piano, he knows no boundaries. Here, he is producing soundtracks for commercials and films. But his interest lies mainly in sound installations & audio guide dubbing. He prefers to use his expertise for artistic content. That’s why he took part in the Your Ocean Sound Hackathon and reached third place.

Artur has been playing the piano since he was 10. Ever since, he’s been appreciating this powerful instrument as a tool with which he explores topics and expresses himself. Initially, driven by social pressure to do something “rightful” in life, he studied mechanical engineering. However, he later decided to turn to music. As a career changer, he worked as a sound designer for years and eventually dared to take the step into self-employment a few years later. Parallel to his work he also produces music !

We all know what it sounds like in a forest. But I was surprised at how animals sound underwater - a whole new world opens up. Seals shout like aliens. There's something strange about the noise they make!

—Artur Sommerfeld

© Miriam Ewering
© Miriam Ewering

Artur, tell us more about your submitted composition.

I was first interested in the sounds of the wide variety of species and their peculiar sounds. Then, I noticed that I was dealing with two different anthropogenic noise sources: direct and indirect. In my composition, “Singing ice”, sounds from both sources meet. By direct noise, I mean, for example, engine sounds from ships or sirens, while the sounds of breaking and collapsing ice arise from anthropogenic induced global warming. In my composition, I was concerned with conveying the seriousness of the situation. I made the song dystopian and alarmist. The sirens are reminiscent of a war scene.

The core message in my song is the severe situation, and how anthropogenic noise negatively affects animals. The narrative plays a central role as in all my compositions. With sound storytelling, you can convey an incredible amount of stories and emotions!

What was your experience with the hackathon? What did you particularly like and dislike about it?

I liked the concept of bridging the gap between art and science through a musical exploration of animal voices. Researchers see these technical recordings very differently. I think it’s exciting for them to see how they can be the basis for musical compositions. As an artist, you have entirely different associations and see something different in these recordings. The organization of the hackathon was great, and the Mediasphere team was friendly!

I found the data portal easy to use. I especially liked the location functionality that points out where the sounds were recorded. However, I would have liked to see a functionality that allows downloading multiple sounds at once. That would saved some time.

What other sounds would you like to have in the data portal?

In general, I would like to see recordings of other animal species in the data portal, not just underwater animals. So far, I have not heard of any freely available database specializing in animal sounds. But in my practice as a sound designer, I use animal sounds more often when making soundtracks for movies or videos. If I had to search for animal sounds in the future, I would think of the Museum of Natural History first! Thematically, it fits.

The Animal Sound Archive of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin is one of the oldest and most extensive collections of animal voices worldwide. Many recordings can also be accessed via our data portal .

Why did you decide to participate?

Because of the topic. My heart beats for natural sciences! Also, because I liked to experiment with animal sounds in a musical way and wanted to challenge myself.

What particularly appealed to you about the underwater sounds?

Above all, I found it exciting to discover sounds that we don’t perceive in everyday life. Of course, we all know what it sounds like in a forest. We can easily make this experience. But I was surprised how animals sound underwater - an entirely new world opens up. Seals shout like aliens. There is something strange about the noise they make! We, humans, have little awareness of ocean sounds. I want to explore this world further.

Would you participate in another music hackathon?

I was thrilled to be shortlisted and would love to participate again!

In this series, we let the hackathon participants have their say and listened on different levels. It is essential to the Mediasphere team to inspire new narratives with collection-related media and spark knowledge-based conversations about contemporary issues. Through the music hackathon, we got to know multiple perspectives on underwater noise. In our next blog post, we will introduce to you the brand new music player of the data portal, with which you can easily explore all the recordings again.