Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Let us now listen to the music of the spiders

A spider weaving a web.
A spider weaving a web.
Photo: Gabriel Bouys (Getty Images)

The humble spider has always been well represented in the musical world, from Ziggy Stardust and No Doubt to The Who, Wilco, and Lil B’s amateur arachnology. For too long, though, we’ve refused to let the little multi-limbed creeps relate their experiences to us more directly. That’s now changed, thanks to the work of scientists who are turning spiders’ vibration-based perceptions into music.

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Vice recently profiled the work of MIT engineering professor Markus Buehler, who leads a team (made up of himself, Ian Hattwick, Isabelle Su, Christine Southworth, and Evan Ziporyn) that’s working to translate web vibrations into sounds we can actually hear. The project uses “the physics of spiderwebs to assign audible tones to a given string’s unique tension and vibration” through a process called data sonification. The resulting models can be explored through virtual reality software or listened to via examples recorded by Buehler and his collaborator Tomás Saraceno. The music created by manipulating the models is incredible—an eerie approximation of how spiders understand their environments.

Buehler says that the project’s goal is both to “expand how we generate sound in music and how we compose music” and to practically demonstrate how “for something like a spider, there’s a whole different way of experiencing the world.”

“Researchers say the project could eventually be used to reverse engineer spiders’ reality and communicate with the arachnids,” Vice explains, somewhat ominously. Buehler elaborates, saying that he’s planning to play AI-generated spider sounds to the creatures and “gauge [their] reactions.”

For more on Markus Buehler And The Spiders From Earth, read the full article or check out Buehler’s YouTube channel over here. In the meantime, we’ll be just be sitting around, waiting for the day when we can finally communicate with the spiders and propose an alliance with them against our mutual enemy: The mosquito.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.