Fathom; Hudson River Data as Music by Ben Neill and Mimi Goese


Fathom is an audiovisual performance piece created in 2016 by composer/performers Ben Neill and Mimi Goese in collaboration with the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries (BIRE) of Clarkson University. The work is scored for Neill’s self-designed electro-acoustic Mutantrumpet and Goese’s voice with interactive computer audio and video.

BIRE is a not-for-profit environmental research organization working to expand understanding of rivers and estuaries. One of BIRE’s most important projects is monitoring of environmental data in the Hudson River through their REON system, which streams from multiple sensor arrays. Neill and Goese were commissioned by BIRE to create a musical piece based on this data in 2016, and received a New Music USA grant for its creation.

The musical material in Fathom is directly derived from data collected during Hurricane Sandy, a dramatic environmental event. Using a variety of computer software, Fathom directly translates the chaotic structures of the natural environment into a work of multimedia art. The patterns either generate sounds directly or are translated into conventional musical notation for the performers. During the performance real time video animations of the patterns are projected using a video performance program, making the connection between the scientific data and the music very clear. The graphs are mixed with crowdsourced video of the Hudson River collected from the public through an open call by the artists through their social media and website. As the work unfolds, the graphs and video are processed and manipulated by the performers, turning the science into art in both the sonic and visual realms. The piece is made up of three sections that correlate to data collected prior to, during and immediately following Hurricane Sandy.

Goese’s lyrics and melodies are woven into the music, telling stories of life, industry and beauty as well as the long history of human intrusion on the Hudson River. Fathom was performed in 2019 at the International Computer Music Conference in New York City.


In 2021 Ben Neill presented Fathom on the International Conference on Auditory Display (ICAD). A video demonstration outlining the background and process used to create the work can be viewed here: