Rocks meet sound, geology meets art, the science of rock deformation meets interactive 3D space. Aftershock is the result of the collaboration between composer and sound-artist Natasha Barrett and associate professor of geoscience Karen Mair and Norwegian Centre of Excellence for Physics of Geological Processes (PGP), University of Oslo. At PGP, research helps us understand the patterns and processes operating in the Earth. Through collaboration, experimentation and abstraction, these processes shape the elements of Aftershock.

The four works

Cleavage Plane

Shearing apparatus, Iceland Spar Calcite, ultrasonic microphone, one loudspeaker, real-time frequency transposition.

Cleavage Plane makes audible the deformation of the calcite mineral Iceland Spar. In this work a shearing rig is fitted with a computer controlled stepping motor that advances in micrometer intervals applying a shearing force between the cleaved Iceland Spar sample and an abrasive material. The resulting deformation creates ultrasonic acoustic emissions far above the range of our hearing. Real-time transposition places these frequencies in the audible range. To postpone rapid total destruction of the Iceland Spar sample a proximity sensor activates Cleavage Plane only when the public are close by.


Interactive video and sound, wireless headphones, helmet with motion tracking system, loudspeaker array and ambisonics spatialisation.

Crush-3 is an interactive work exploring the microscopic forces released during the process of crushing rock. The installation draws on geological research: 3D numerical simulations of grain fracture and fault gouge evolution during shear - the work of Dr Karen Mair (PGP) and Dr Steffen Abe (Geologie-Endogene Dynamik, RWTH Aachen, Germany), and the study of real acoustic emissions from granite, basalt and sandstone under compression - the work of Dr Alexandre Schubnel (Laboratoire de Geologie de l'Ecole Normale superieure, Paris).

Crush-3 uses 3D sound so the listener can move through a virtual, immersive space, experiencing the dynamics of deformation from "inside" the rock. The interactive video is made specifically for ROM, programmed in the open source gaming software Irrlicht. The video juxtaposes and expands concepts of time and space. Research and project development was carried out during a grant from the Norwegian Composers Remuneration Fund 2010. For more information about Crush, see Crush-2.


Six channel sound arranged vertically.

The Sotano de las Golondrinas is a karst pit cave, shaped by the dissolution of soluble carbonate bedrock. The dissolution begins deep underground and the top of the cave moves upwards like a 'bubble' until it finally reaches the surface. When the roof of the cave approaches the surface the land collapses. In populated areas, this process has been known to swallow houses.

In 2009 PGP sent a research team to the Sotano de las Golondrinas (Cave of the Swallows) in Mexico to research how this type of cave is formed. Golondrina is created using patterns from a 2D numerical simulation describing the formation of this cave. Data is from the work of Dr Oyvind Hammer at PGP.

Fractures Frozen in Time (Frieze 1, 2 and 3).

Nine channel sound, 50 miniature loudspeakers, bass and low mid loudspeaker cluster.

The work of Dr Alexandre Schubnel studies the rupture behaviour of different rocks under compression. In experiments using ultrasonic transducer arrays, Schubnel and his team capture fracturing events in time and space as they occur through the rocks. Fractures Frozen in Time explores one fracture time slice from three different rocks: Fontainebleau Sandstone, La Peyratte Granite and Azores Basalt.

Aftershock (2011), Gallery ROM, Oslo. Short documentation video. from Natasha Barrett on Vimeo.

Crush-3 video improvisation (2011). Binaural audio for headphones. from Natasha Barrett on Vimeo.

Cleavage Plane. Photo: Natasha Barrett / PGP.

Golondrina LIDAR scan. Digital model: Oeyvind Hammer, Walter Wheeler and Tim Redfield