This waveform represents the sound of each Pulse nightclub victim's birthday over a 50-year period.

As our newsroom worked on this week’s show about gun violence in Orlando, Florida, and beyond, Reveal’s Michael Corey and I started thinking about a way to represent data on the mass shooting through sound.

We used a process known as “data sonification” last year as part of an investigation into Oklahoma’s drilling-linked earthquake epidemic. This time, our goal was to represent the lives of the 49 people killed in the Orlando shooting over the course of 50 years.

We start in 1966. The first tone represents the birth of Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, who was the oldest person to be taken away that night. The last tone is for Akyra Monet Murray, born in 1998, the youngest person in the nightclub. There are 18 full cycles where every note plays, until we get to June 2016.

Listen to the story

Subscribe to the Reveal podcast to get this and other stories.

I thought of bells and bell-like tones and their meaning across different cultures. We recognize them in many places, from European village bells and the way that they signify important moments in communities to gamelan performances and the additive effect of overtones produced by a body of many different, interdependent instruments.

We find music in the moments when tones, like lives, intersect. They are meant to be funereal but also celebratory.

On first listen, it may feel like the repetitions go on for too long, as though we’re waiting for them to end or to change. But the ultimate statement of this piece is that there is beauty in those cycles and new life within every beat.

Sometimes, that life ends too soon.

Jim Briggs can be reached at jbriggs@cironline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @jimbriggs3.

Jim Briggs III is the senior sound designer, engineer and composer for Reveal. He supervises post-production and composes original music for the public radio show and podcast. He also leads Reveal's efforts in composition for data sonification and live performances.

Prior to joining Reveal in 2014, Briggs mixed and recorded for clients such as WNYC Studios, NPR, the CBC and American Public Media. Credits include “Marketplace,” “Selected Shorts,” “Death, Sex & Money,” “The Longest Shortest Time,” NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” “Radiolab,” “Freakonomics Radio” and “Soundcheck.” He also was the sound re-recording mixer and sound editor for several PBS television documentaries, including “American Experience: Walt Whitman,” the 2012 Tea Party documentary "Town Hall" and “The Supreme Court” miniseries. His music credits include albums by R.E.M., Paul Simon and Kelly Clarkson.

Briggs' work with Reveal has been recognized with an Emmy Award (2016) and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards (2018, 2019). Previously, he was part of the team that won the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for its work on WNYC’s hourlong documentary special “Living 9/11.” He has taught sound, radio and music production at The New School and Eugene Lang College and has a master's degree in media studies from The New School. Briggs is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.