Scientist MIT Spiderweb Music
Photo credit: Aurelie Cenno
A team of scientists in collaboration with artist Tomás Saraceno have managed to translate the three-dimensional structure of a spiderweb into music, and it resulted in the interactive musical instrument called Spider’s Canvas. This project was started to better understand the three-dimensional architecture of a spider’s web and also learn about the vibrational language of the eight-legged arthropods.

Spiders perceive the various frequencies of different vibrations are as colors or notes on a piano, while some even use vibrations to communicate with each other. When talking about a spiderweb, the strands of silk vibrate at one frequency or another depending on their length and tension, similar to the strings of a guitar. To translate these vibrations traveling through a spider’s web into sounds, the team used lasers to model the webs of tropical tent-web spiders and calculated each thread’s frequency. These frequencies were then shifted into the range of sounds audible to the human ear.

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‘Spider’s Canvas’ is truly the most collaborative project I’ve ever been involved in. It’s not just interdisciplinary but literally interspecies. The real ‘first mover’ was the spider herself. In performance, all four humans have an equal effect on everything the audience sees and hears,” says Professor Evan Ziporyn.


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