“A Glowing Wake”: Noctiluca and Music Online

Neurologist Oliver Sacks speaks of a particular sea creature he encountered off the island of Pingelap. He describes the specimen in The Island of the Color Blind:

“The waters of the Pacific are full of a tiny protozoan, Noctiluca, a bioluminescent creature able to generate light, like a firefly…[It is] a phosphorescence most evident when the water was disturbed. Sometimes when the flying fish leapt out of the water, they would leave a luminous disturbance, a glowing wake, as they did so – and another splash of light as they landed.”

Sacks’ description rattles the imagination. Take their population density as well. “There may be as many,” he adds, “as thirty thousand of these tiny bioluminescent creatures in a cubic foot of seawater…” In such a small space, thousands upon thousands of creatures exist under the surface and illuminate when prodded.

Under the surface of the Internet is numbers. Many of these are constructed into the music we hear on a daily basis. The code lies dormant, waiting until our provocation. Then it all lights up – we click a link or push play and sound emerges from our speakers. It is similar to the Noctiluca and no less miraculous.

One has to wonder whether the activities of bioluminescent creatures could serves as an analogue to the qualities of music online. Density within a compact space and toggling that is dependent on prodding are a start to fruitful associations.


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