For whatever reason, scientists translated a spider web into actual music. The results are not so great, but that’s hardly the point.



There’s been a lack of new material from the arts and entertainment community for the past year; a vacuum blamed squarely upon the pandemic. What to do in the absence of same? What are the critics to critique if no new content is made available?

NME – of all outlets – decided to publish a piece entitled ‘Here’s what happened when scientists translated a spider web into music’, presumably because they were apparently tired of re-treading Morrissey’s path to decline into alt-right neo-conservatism, isn’t it a shame that you can’t enjoy The Queen is Dead no more, things were better in my day by gum.

The (mostly) reliable British music tome reported that a group of scientific researchers at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have pioneered “spider web sonification” after investigating the combined vibrations of individual strands.

The bizarre experiment was spearheaded by Markus Buehler, a scientist who holds a postdoctoral degree in material science and seems to have been able to translate the vibrations into a cacophony of stirring and, admittedly, slightly unsettling noises.

The results were captured by the team having laser-scanning a spider’s web to map 2D cross-sections, before using computer algorithms to reconstruct the cobweb’s 3D network. After assigning different sound frequencies to each strand, they were then able to play the reconstructed web like a harp to explore the different sounds it would make.

I mean, Barry Gibb heard the sounds of his car tyres driving over the dividing sections of a bridge and came up with the intro to ‘Jive Talkin’’, so – same-same here, but spiders.

Feel free to click the link if you want, but unless you ever wanted to know what the deleted tracks from a lesser Brian Eno record or Phillip Glass recording sounded like, go no further. It’s like every other multimedia exhibit at a museum of modern art sounds like, which probably says a lot for your modern installation artist, or that they’re all spiders.

The big ‘why’ of this process comes down to wanting to communicate with spiders. “We’re trying to generate synthetic signals to basically speak the language of the spider,” said Markus Buehler, the man running the operation. “

Dr Buehler holds a postdoctoral degree in material science.

“If we expose them to certain patterns of rhythms or vibrations, can we affect what they do, and can we begin to communicate with them? Those are really exciting ideas.”

Many have assumed over the years that 9/10 spiders are perpetually thinking, “How can best we freak out the humans when they leave their houses at night?”

It’s probably worth noting that NME’s calling the eventual music “a cacophony of stirring and, admittedly, slightly unsettling noises,” is slightly better a review than the most recent Yoko Ono LP got from them. 

Also, we’d not recommend the piece as something you should listen to if you suffer from tinnitus, with a few of the longer strands hitting a bit close to home. Nor is the final product something you’re going to want to try out on karaoke night.

So, if you’ve been wondering what a certain cadre of the world’s leading minds have been up to with their postdoctoral qualifications, look no further. We may have to adjust the Australian vulgarism to include the pogrom of their theses: “I’m not here to fuck spiders; (I’m here to listen to their latest track).”

At least we can rely on the NME to once again find a reason to put one of the Beatles on the cover.



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