The eerie and usually unheard sounds of space captured in the deep cold ofAntarctica could be the next hot hit, thanks to a new research, musical andartistic collaboration.
The unique project takes recordings of Earth’s natural radio sounds, normallynot audible to the human ear, and stunning imagery captured at the HalleyResearch Station to create a 90-minute soundtrack set to piano. The resultingalbum, Aurora Musicalis, is released today.
The trio behind the space soundtrack are musician and composer AssociateProfessor Kim Cunio from The Australian National University’s School of Music,Dr Nigel Meredith a space weather researcher based at the British AntarcticSurvey, and Cambridge-based, artist-engineer, Diana Scarborough.
For the soundtrack Dr Meredith worked with four years of data from the HalleyVery Low Frequency (VLF) receiver and carefully selected a day featuring arich variety of radio emissions made by the planet, including spherics,whistlers and chorus.
This data is normally used to investigate space weather storms, the impact ofspace weather on our climate and to detect lighting, but conversion to soundreveals a series of weird and wonderful noises, known as the ‘sounds ofspace’.
“Near-Earth space is full of rich variety of plasma waves that we can’tnormally hear,” Dr Meredith said.
“But we can take these electromagnetic waves and turn them into audiblesounds. The result is these eerie noises that make you feel you are on the setof a classic science fiction film, but which at the same time are strangelyfamiliar.
“Take ‘spherics’ for example. They are the radio pulses caused by lightningflashes, sometimes up to 10,000 kilometres away. When converted into audiofiles, they sound like the gentle crackling of a fire or the pop of a distanttransmission from outer space.
“Then there’s the ‘chorus’, which are emissions from deep within themagnetosphere, the magnetic bubble surrounding the Earth. When you convertthese into audio, they sound like a host of bird whistles in a forest.”
Associate Professor Cunio spent a day composing and playing piano, “ameditation” inspired by the space weather audio.
“ Aurora Musicalis is a statement that science and art can work together,”he said.
“Not solely to entertain as such collaborations were imagined generations ago,but to unite us in telling the story of our planet as it struggles undermultiple stresses, each of which could change our civilisation within ageneration.
“We must trust our scientists, who by nature are not activists, but truthtellers who usually shy away from political or social conflict over theresults of their findings. Music and the arts have a role to play ingalvanising us into facilitating the urgent and immediate care that our planetneeds.”
Diana Scarborough combines the resulting soundtrack with original visualsequences – using photos and images captured at Halley.
“The Halley Research Station is located in the remote Brunt Ice Shelf. It’snot only ideal for capturing these incredible sounds, but also stunningvisuals, including spectacular auroras that light the horizons with bright andcaptivating colour,” Ms Scarborough said.
“These images provide an enthralling video for the soundtrack. They are alsothe perfect way for the human eye to soak in what the ear hears on this album.
“I was really inspired by the rich archive of images collected at Halley andknew they would be the perfect way of helping people ‘see’ the amazing soundsselected by Nigel and the beautiful, mesmerising music composed by Kim.”
Aurora Musicalis forms part of the ‘Sounds of Space’ project and isavailable on BandCamp.
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