Smog blankets Beijing in February 2014. Alexander Yuan/AP

Three years of air-quality readings in Beijing are mixed into this unsettling track.

Smog—you can smell it, taste it, and now groove to it, too, thanks to this weirdly compelling track from New York's "data-driven DJ" Brian Foo.

The experimental musician took three years of air-quality readings from a U.S. State Department site in Beijing (current status: "Unhealthy"), and mixed them with samples from the Nine Inch Nails song "32 Ghosts IV."

Why that particular track? "Industrial Music: is a genre of music that generally uses electronic technology (such as synthesizers and white noise ) in a harsh and abrasive manner," Foo explains. "I believed this would be the most appropriate types of sounds to sample from since much of China's pollution is driven by its recent industrial and technological boom."

The result is an unsettling but magnetizing score, with a pounding bass beat invoking the dread of the Jaws theme. When the music starts blipping like crazy, that's when you know you've entered a period when Beijing was awash in noxious fine-particulate matter. Here's Foo with more:

The song becomes "polluted" after many consecutive days of unhealthy readings rather than being affected by any single daily reading. Conversely, the song will "clear up" after many consecutive days of good or moderate readings. I decided to create the song in this way because it was more [analogous] to the impact of pollution on a Beijing resident's health over a longer period of time.

This is an animated version of the asthmatic anthem. Look for the pollution to peak in the winter, usually around January:

H/t TreeHugger

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    How Manhattan Became a Rich Ghost Town

    New York’s empty storefronts are a dark omen for the future of cities.

  2. A pink-shaded map of Los Angeles showing student debt burden
    Equity

    The Neighborhoods Buried In Student Debt

    How much of your paycheck goes towards student loans?

  3. Transportation

    Why Public Transportation Works Better Outside the U.S.

    The widespread failure of American mass transit is usually blamed on cheap gas and suburban sprawl. But the full story of why other countries succeed is more complicated.

  4. Equity

    Why Are So Many People In San Jose Fighting Housing for Teachers?

    The school system’s plan to build affordable apartment units for the city’s teachers has triggered a fierce backlash in one affluent area.

  5. Equity

    How a Booming City Can Be More Equitable

    In Durham, North Carolina, abandoned factories are becoming tech hubs and microbreweries. But building a shared commitment to its most vulnerable citizens could be a trickier feat of redevelopment.