Songs of the

A Sonified Environmental History of the Changing Riverscape
from the Chaudière Falls to Kettle and Duck Islands, 1880 to 1980

About the Project

“Songs of the Ottawa” is an experiment in the digital data sonification of the Ottawa River’s pasts between 1880-1980.
The three “songs" offer a way into the stories of the river’s flows, of commerce and industry extending
up and downstream, and of recreation on the water and shores.

Above: 1887 examination of the Ottawa River between Chaudiere Falls and Gatineau River. Public Works. Stewart A. Gray. [Map], 200 feet per inch, Library and Archives Canada 1887.

The website

This website is the online home for "Songs of the Ottawa." It gathers images, the songs themselves, and the code used to generate them. The project examines a stretch of river extending from below the Chaudière, Akikodjiwan, or Kana:tso Falls, past the points of confluence with three important waterways – the man-made locks at the Rideau Canal, the tumbling Rideau River falls and the low-lying delta of the Gatineau – to the sandy Kettle and Duck Islands. “Sonifying” the history of the river means to express history to achieve a particular sensual engagement with the past. Sonification is the “visualization” of historical data auditorially, to achieve a particular sensory affect. This project asks readers and listeners to hear uncanny, affective pasts and consider the ways in which storytellers can “de-form” and “re-form” data and sources.

Explore the site and accompanying code, and annotate it with your comments through, linked on the top right corner of the page.

The essay

As well as the three songs in the sections above, the project also consists of a written essay. This essay includes a more extended discussion of data sonification as a method, as well as chapters describing the historical research undertaken and the technical methods developed in each case. Download the PDF file here, or click "The Essay" in the menu above.

About Cristina

"Songs of the Ottawa" is the Master's Research Project of Cristina Wood, under the co-supervision of Dr. Joanna Dean and Dr. Shawn Graham. She completed her Master's of Arts in Public History with a Specialization in Digital Humanities at Carleton University in spring 2019. She will continue her explorations of the Ottawa River in the Ph.D. program at York University this fall. Be in touch with Cristina on Twitter or send an email to hello [at] cristinawood [dot] ca.


Other reading about the project

Telling Stories of the Ottawa River through Song, by Nick Ward, with photos by Ainslie Coghill. Carleton University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Garth Wilson Fellow Cristina Wood Describes Her Latest Research Interests, press release, Department of History, Carleton University. April 4, 2019.

Songs of the Ottawa: Using sound to interpret historical data, by Tom Everrett, Ingenium Channel. April 5, 2019.