Lonely Speck, Cosmic Dark
[ Art + Installation ]
In May 2015 we were invited to undertake a six week in-store residency at Selfridges in London as part of their Work It season. Partnered with designer/maker Tim Burrel-Saward of ELK, the project involved the synthesis of NASA deep space data into audio and physical form. The data, captured by the Voyager and Cassini probes and acquired with help from the University of Iowa Physics Department, came to us in the form of short, low quality audio conversions of radio and plasma wave radiation, which was refined into a series of epic compositions originating from sources including Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and their moons. We then took the same waveforms and converted them into physical form, embedding electronics inside to create a series of enigmatic, abstract musical devices acting as portals to the farthest reaches of the universe.
The four compositions; Enceladus, Ganymede, Jupiter and Saturn, can be heard here:
These compositions went on to be featured at Northampton Contemporary Art gallery in an audio physical exhibition:
The next iteration of the project came in the form of an audio-physical installation commissioned by the Tate Britain for one of their Late at Tate events.
Commissioned by the Tate Britain in June 2016, the second piece in the series uses as a base a high resolution three-dimensional scan of the Gale Crater on Mars, the landing site of the Curiosity rover in 2012. The 3.6 billion year old crater measures 154km in diameter, with the central peak, Aeolus Mons, rising 5.5km from its centre.
From NASA’s topographical data that we used to create the sculpture we also synthesised waveforms. To do this we took 200 vertical slices into the topography of the crater giving us essentially 200 curved lines. These lines were then translated into tiny waveforms which were in turn converted into sound. This sound was then stitched together and affected using an EQ, the curve applied to the audio spectrum also followed the topography of Gale crater. The resulting sound matched the moving light that illuminated the sculpture. As the moving line of light slowly traces the surface, cresting its peaks and sinking into its troughs, the resulting waveform is translated into an ethereal, otherworldly, microtonal composition.
Listen to the composition here: