Celestial Incantations

by Sounds of Space Project

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    This is the second album by the Sounds of Space Project a collaboration between Dr Nigel Meredith, Diana Scarborough and Dr Kim Cunio. Ten new tracks are digitised for this project, featuring a “spectrum” of space “sounds” from the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy and beyond, together with voice, western and non-western instruments. Like their first album 'Aurora Musicalis', it is a fusion of art and science as unexpected rhymes, textures or conversations. The album includes extensive liner notes and artwork.
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Cataclysm 03:59

about

ABOUT THE ALBUM

We invite you to turn your attention to space. Space is vast as we know. Here we have the opportunity to really think about what this vastness means to us as we listen. Let us imagine time and space in the grandest sense and go on a spectacular journey to hear our planet, our neighbouring spatial bodies, the two giant planets in our solar system, interstellar space, a galactic pulsar, and the merger of two black holes as evidenced by the first observed gravitation wave, an almost unbelievable ripple in space time that Einstein doubted we could ever capture.

Space is a vacuum and utterly silent, with no capacity for the transmission of sound waves. In contrast, electromagnetic waves and gravitational waves can travel in the almost perfect vacuum of space, providing us with information on the astronomical objects within and beyond our solar system. In this album we primarily hear the ‘sounds’ of space through the conversion of electromagnetic waves and gravitational waves to sound waves.

Our journey in space and time starts on Earth with the sounds of ancient bubbles of air escaping from an Antarctic ice core, the same ice cores that measure the build-up of CO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere of the Earth over time. We remain on Earth for the next two tracks where we encounter the natural sounds of our planet from a combination of weather and electromagnetic ‘sounds’. Leaving Earth behind, we travel outwards to Mars for a hot off the press work, Jezero Crater, the setting of the first terrestrial recording of Mars and the first true acoustic recording of that atmosphere. Next, we have a rendezvous with Churyumov Gerasimenko where we listen to magnetic oscillations in the atmosphere of the comet. The next three tracks feature VLF recordings from the further reaches of our solar system and beyond, starting at Jupiter, moving out to Saturn and finishing off in interstellar space. We journey far from our solar system and hear the ‘sounds’ of a pulsar, at a distance of 3460 light years from Earth. We conclude with a track featuring the acoustic ‘chirp’ of the first gravitational wave recorded on Earth, a collision between two black holes that took place 1.3 billion years ago!

One thing that has struck us about these actual sounds we used throughout this project is how similar they are to how we have imagined them over time. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Bell Labs were seminal institutions that explored analogue synthesis so that it could make similar types of sounds, and movie scores such as Return to the Forbidden Planet (1956) with soundscapes that are not so dissimilar to what we hear on this album. As a composer I can almost hear Pythagoras laughing. This is because Pythagoras believed that he could hear the “Music of the Spheres” (Musical Universalis), a series of resonances and possibly even sounds that related to the major celestial bodies. Now we can join Pythagoras in a great imagining thanks to the ability of computers to speed up and transpose these phenomena into our perceptual ranges.

Explorations in space are current news and the Mars landings have fired us and the imagination of millions of others globally. Scientists are proposing new theories on space time, dark matter and our expanding universe based on gravitational wave data and satellite data. Our Celestial Incantations album is a 'musical cocoon' transporting us from Earth into this new wilderness giving listeners time for reflection to ponder on the wonder and mystery of the universe while considering the question of our place in the universe and if we alone in its vastness.

This music is freely available to all of us and is done so in the spirit of cooperation that sees scientists from a number of institutions offer the results of their work freely to other thinkers, researchers and artists. These institutions include BAS, the University of Iowa, the European Space Agency, Jodrell Bank Observatory, and the LIGO consortium.

Enjoy the journey!

Nigel, Diana and Kim

MORE about the Sounds of Space Project

Nigel Meredith is a space weather research scientist at BAS, with over 120 peer reviewed publications in a field that is crucial to the upkeep of international satellites. Diana Scarborough is an artist with an engineering background, who delves into science to make new meanings and permutations. Her multimedia collaborative practice makes the invisible visible and is inspired by space, quantum and nanoparticles from an environmental perspective. Composer and thought leader Associate Professor Kim Cunio, Head of Music at the Australian National University is one of the most adventurous composers of his country, scoring everything from ancient sacred music to the sounds of the human brain.

Nigel keeps his professional ears out for new recordings of space ‘sounds’ as well as making sure that the science is clearly articulated publishing on the project, providing free lectures within the UK and increasingly overseas. Diana, who founded this group finds profound conceptual spaces to imagine as well as creating visuals and animations. She brings in contemporary dancers for performances, creates art films for the Venice Biennale and Dark Skies festivals as part of the collaboration. She is also curator of the online art shop 'Shop of Art and her album artwork will be available to buy as high quality signed limited edition prints in the future. Kim works with the sounds and composes new music around them, drawing on electroacoustic theory, additive and subtractive synthesis, traditional scoring methods and his vast array of musical instruments.

credits

released June 21, 2021

This is a non-commercial album that is freely available for all. We would like to thank the institutions who have provided the audio data used in this project including the British Antarctic Survey, the University of Iowa, Jodrell Bank Observatory, the European Space Agency, NASA and the LIGO Scientific and Virgo Collaborations. We would like to thank Dr Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley (BAS) who, as a promoter and supporter of our art-science collaboration, has been the catalyst for our 'sounds of space' project since 2016. Nigel Meredith would like to acknowledge funding from Natural Environment Research Council Highlight Topic grant NE/P10738X/1 (Rad-Sat), and the NERC grants NE/V00249X/1 (Sat-Risk) and NE/R016038/1.

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Sounds of Space Project Cambridge, UK

Sounds of Space Project is a collaboration with space weather research scientist Nigel Meredith (BAS), multimedia artist Diana Scarborough, and ANU Head of Music and composer Kim Cunio. Our projects emerge through a shared process of creative engagement and cross-disciplinary collaboration inspired by the 'sounds of space' from Earth to beyond the galaxy. ... more

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