Discovering Music Already There

This article is best experienced through the podcast! Listen here:

Walking on the coast of Zadar, Croatia you may hear strange tones coming from what sounds like a wind instrument. A series of pipes, running underneath marble steps that lead to the ocean, make up the Sea Organ. Waves push air through the pipes and generate music. It’s an experiment in music orchestrated by nature, and it’s not the only one.

1977, the two Voyager probes left Earth to observe the solar system. They would record, not only images, but sounds as well. Electromagnetic waves from six planets and two moons were recorded and translated into sound by NASA. “Symphonies of the Planets” was released in 1992 for the public to hear. Each planet has its own sound, some more musical than others.

Some of these sounds are hauntingly like human voices singing, giant Tibetan bowls, wind waves, birds and dolphins. Many are familiar in a way unique for each listener.

-NASA’s statement on releasing the CDs

Music can be found in some of the largest bodies in the universe, but it has also been found in the very smallest. After the Higgs boson was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider, a group converted the data from the collision into a melody. The LHC Open Symphony used the largest computing grid in Europe to translate the data into specific notes. Here is what they came up with, as played by a piano:

In the clip, you can hear three notes that are higher than the rest. That is the Higgs boson! The LHC Open Symphony had this to say:

Listening to the melody could, in fact, be useful for many reasons. For example, it would allow a blind researcher to understand exactly where the Higgs boson peak is and how big the evidence is. At the same time, it could give a musician the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of the high-energy physics by playing its wonders.

By hearing the data, they claim, we can better grasp its weight and importance. There is also a lot of data being moved constantly in another place: Wikipedia.

Alongside sonification, Hatnote created a visual for their project.
Alongside sonification, Hatnote created a visual for their project.

A duo called Hatnote (made of Mahmoud Hashemi and Stephen LaPorte) created an algorithm that changes each edit and every newly registered user into a tone, that way nothing is lost in the noise. An addition is marked by a bell, subtractions by a pluck of a string, and new users by a string swell. The pitch of a tone is lower the larger the edit is, but higher when smaller. You can listen for yourself right here.

Whether it is the physical movement of the sea or particle physics at it’s most basic form, music surrounds us. You just have to know how to listen.

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