Usually seismic waves have a frequency spectrum below 1 Hz and therefore cases are rare where earthquakes are accompanied by hearable sounds. The human audio spectrum ranges between 20 Hz - 20 kHz which is much above the spectrum of the earth's rumbling and tumbling. This is one of the reasons why seismometric records are commonly studied by the eye and visual criteria. Nevertheless if one compresses the time axis of a seismogram by about 2000 times and plays it on a speaker (so called 'audification'), the seismometric record becomes hearable and can be studied by the ear and acoustic criteria. In the past a few attempts have been made to use audification of seismograms as a method in seismology. In the 1960's Sheridan D. Speeth proposed it for discriminating atomic explosions from natural quakes. G. E. Frantti and L. A. Leverault rechecked it in 1965 and Chris Hayward transposed audification to seismic research in 1994. But these attempts faded away with almost no response, - in our opinion - because a more general reasoning and founding theory of "Auditory Seismology" was missing. We would like to intercede for this research topic by the following considerations:

Philosophical and psychological research results show that there is a substantial difference between seeing and hearing a data set, because both evolve and accentuate different aspects of a phenomenon. From philosophical point of view the eye is good for recognizing structure, surface and steadiness, whereas the ear is good for recognizing time, continuum, remembrance and expectation. In studying aspects like tectonic structure, surface deformation and regional seismic risk the visual modes of depiction are hard to surpass. But in questions of timely development, of characterization of a fault's continuum and of tension between past and expected events the acoustic mode of representation seems to be very suitable.

Sound Examples

A collection of audified seismograms can be heard via the web to give an audible impression of the earth's sound (Your browser needs herefore a Flash player. In case it has not been installed already you can download it here.). The sound-material is organised by 5 different aspects:

Time-Compression, Distance, Region, Site-Response, Tectonics.

All samples employ the vertical component of registration (BHZ). The amplitude is normalised in all samples. The time-compression factor is 2.200 when not mentioned differently. The seismological data used for these records were provided by the IRIS Data Management Center, Seattle, Washington.


Florian Dombois
Tel.: +41-78-689.38.39




Cellini, Andrea; Mariotti, Mauro and Nucera, Francesco: "Fonosismologia, un approccio nuovo per l'analisi sismica". In: ARS 73.3/4 (2000), 22-24.

Dombois, Florian: "Über Erdbeben. Ein Versuch zur Erweiterung seismologischer Darstellungsweisen". Diss., Berlin, 1998. (download; See Chapter 17)

Dombois, Florian: "Earthquake Sounds. Volume 1: Kobe 16.1.1995, 20:46 ut". St. Augustin, 1999. (Audio-CD)

Dombois, Florian: "Listen to Seismograms. About Acoustic Interpretation of Seismometric Records." In: Geophysical Research Abstracts 3 (2001), 982. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Using Audification in Planetary Seismology". In: Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Auditory Display, Espoo, Finland, July 29 - August 1, 2001, 227-230. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Seismic Stations". Cologne, 2002. (Picture Book)

Dombois, Florian: "Underground Sounds. An Approach to Earthquake Prediction by Auditory Seismology". In: Geophysical Research Abstracts 4 (2002), EGS02-A-02741. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Auditory Seismology. On Free Oscillations, Focal Mechanisms, Explosions and Synthetic Seismograms". In: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Auditory Display, Kyoto, Japan, July 2-5, 2002, 27-30. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Erdbeben hören. Rückblick - Umschau - Aussicht". In: Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ed.): ERDE. Cologne, 2002, 90-101.

Dombois, Florian: "Wann hören? Vom Forschen mit den Ohren" In: A. Schürmann and B. Weiss (ed.): Chemie-Kultur-Geschichte. Berlin, 2002, 79-92. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Zu Hören wissen". In: B. Koenches and P. Weibel (ed.): unSICHTBARes. Algorithmen als Schnittstellen zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft. Bern, 2005, 204-221. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Reflektierte Phantasie. Vom Erfinden und Erkennen, insbesondere in der Seismologie". In: Paragrana (2006) Beiheft 2, 101-111. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Kunst als Forschung. Beispiel: Luginsland (2006)". In: "Doing Theory - Ein Jubiläum", 31 - Das Magazin des Instituts für Theorie der Gestaltung und Kunst 8-9 (2006) 57-64. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Für eine Kunst als Forschung – oder: Resonanzböden 1-8". In: H. Schulze (ed.): Sound Studies: Traditionen – Methoden – Desiderate. Bielefeld, 2008, 287-296. (download)

Dombois, Florian: "Sonifikation. Ein Plädoyer, dem naturwissenschaftlichen Verfahren eine kulturhistorische Einschätzung zukommen zu lassen." In: P. M. Meyer: Acoustic Turn. Paderborn, 2008, 91-100. (download)

Frantti, G. E. and Leverault, L. A.: "Auditory Discrimination of Seismic Signals from Earthquakes and Explosions". In: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 55 (1965), 1-25.

Hayward, Chris: "Listening to the Earth Sing". In: G. Cramer (ed.): Auditory Display. Reading, 1994, 369-404.

Kookoon: "Inner Earth. A seismosonic symphony". Berlin, 1999. (Music-CD by Wolfgang Loos and Frank Scherbaum)

Kunsthalle Bern (ed.): "Florian Dombois. What Are the Places of Danger. Works 1999-2009". Berlin, 2010. (order)

Speeth, Sheridan Dauster: "Seismometer Sounds". In: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 33 (1961), 909-916.



Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "Hören & Sehen" at Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 22.-23.10.94 (overview, closeup)

Dombois, Florian: "terra antwort. Sound Experiments with Seismometric Data". Solo exhibition at Galerie Rachel Haferkamp, Cologne, 28.03.-09.05.03

Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "Klangraum-Raumklang" at KHM / Japanisches Kulturinstitut, Cologne, 09.07.-01.08.04 (picture)

Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "The Sound of Music" at VolKSystem, Toulouse, 29.06.-22.07.06

Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "Pre-Emptive" at Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, 18.08.-01.10.06

Dombois, Florian: "Brekzien. Mehrfachreflexionen seismischer Daten". Solo exhibition at Galerie Rachel Haferkamp, Cologne, 13.10.-10.11.06

Dombois, Florian: "a method and a device for reproducing solid body vibrations for the prediction of fracture processes in solid bodies, particularly in the earth crust". Solo exhibition at Marks Blond Project, Bern, 22.02.-27.02.07

Dombois, Florian: "What are the places of danger?". Solo exhibition at Imprimerie Basel, Basle (CH), 1.-21.5.07 (invitation)

Dombois, Florian: "you are here | you are there". Solo exhibition at Marks Blond Project, Bern, 28.02.-20.03.08 (press release)

Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "Art as Research" at Villa Elisabeth, Berlin (Part of SLSA-Conference "Figurations of Knowledge", Berlin, 02.06.-08.06.08

Dombois, Florian in dual exhibition "Essential Landscape" with George Steinmann at Galerie Bernhard Bischoff, Bern, 29.08-11.10.08

Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "Spectropia" at RIXC, Riga Art Space, 16.10.-27.10.08

11.11.08: Performance "The perfect performance is... - A Reply to James Lee Byars, 1978" at Kunstmuseum Bern

08.03.09: Happening "This is not the end" at Via Industriae, Foligno

Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "A Fantasy for Allan Kaprow" at CIC, Cairo, 03.05.-06.06.09

Dombois, Florian: "Off the Record". Solo exhibition at Galerie gelbe MUSIK, Berlin, 06.06.-29.08.09 (picture)

Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "Deutscher Klangkunstpreis" at Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, Marl, 22.08.-03.10.10

Dombois, Florian in group exhibition "SoundART" at Praetorium Köln, 27.10.-07.11.10 (picture)




Last Update: 15.3.2011