Monday, July 20, 2015

sounds of space

Are these really the sounds of space?

Not really.... these are waves that have been translated into something audible to humans

"The specially designed instruments aboard the space probes were designed to pick up and record electromagnetic vibrations. This information, when sent back to Earth and decoded, can be heard as intriguing and beautiful sounds from space. The real music of the spheres.
The sounds you hear are from decoded information on interactions of the solar ionic wind, the planet's magnetosphere, plasma wave phenomena and interactions between the planet's ionosphere and magnetosphere.
These vibration frequency recordings are all within the range of human hearing (20-20,000 cycles per second). These recordings have been specially processed, filtered, and spacially mastered in 3-D sound with frequencies for achieving deep states of relaxation.In order to achieve the best possible quality in audio reproduction, these tapes are processed on special high-end chrome tape, Coherence Technology� for removing all extraneous noise, HX Pro for super high fidelity, 3-D sound processing using the BASE System�, and our own BMR Processing�.The epic space flights of Voyager I and II soar across our Solar System. This unique series of recordings is created from original Voyager recordings of the electromagnetic "voices" of the planets and moons in our Solar System." [blurb for the Nasa Voyager Recordings CD at]

I wonder what sono-ideological assumptions and biases are lodged deep within these various supposedly neutral filters and processes that have been applied to the raw electromagnetic data? Concepts of "listenable" and "pleasantly eerie", perhaps? Possibly even marketing concepts seeped in there subliminally  -  a sense that the CD's prime attraction would be to fans of New Age and relaxation tapes.

You could imagine a different apparatus of filtering etc etc might have been applied if they had aimed to sell the record to....  fans of power electronics and noise.

Another source: "Strictly speaking, the plasma wave instrument does not detect sound.  Instead it senses waves of electrons in the ionized gas or "plasma" that Voyager travels through. No human ear could hear these plasma waves.  Nevertheless, because they occur at audio frequencies, between a few hundred and a few thousand hertz, "we can play the data through a loudspeaker and listen," says Gurnett.  "The pitch and frequency tell us about the density of gas surrounding the spacecraft.""

Still as doctored and constructed audio-productions go, these are pretty cool, aren't they?  They do  sound freakily rather like the intended-to-evoke-space sounds of mid-20th Century electronic, tape music, and radiophonia -  as well as the more uncanny-abstract zones of space music of the Seventies and Eighties.

In some cases they are more entertaining e.g. c.f. Charles Dodge's Earth's Magnetic Field - which seems like it's going to be really exciting but is a bit of a snooze.

Back to Voyager's eavesdropping on the cosmos....

(moon of Uranus, that one)

Now maybe you recall this - there was a lady composer/scientist who  took radio waves from a distant galaxy and turned them into music...  Dr. Fiorella Terenzi.

The results were cheesy as fuck - an insult to the universe. 

"In a new Island Records CD called Music from the Galaxies, Italian Astro-physicist and composer Fiorella Terenzi has used the most modern radio-tele- scopes and computers to convert the natural radiation from a galaxy designated UGC6697 into the audible range then add instrumental harmonies. A fascinating demonstration of human intelligence." -  I BEG TO DIFFER!

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