In consultation with Professor Rob Scott of RAL Space, several translations of astronomical and climate data have been created. Below are four examples.
The Distant Harmony series sources ‘bonded melorhythms’ whereby the orbital periods of planetary systems are sped up by powers of 2 (essentially octave transpositions) until they enter the 1) rhythmic and 2) pitch domains of human perception, producing both a polyrhythm and a harmony. In contrast to historic approaches to the ‘Music of the Spheres’ these projects use highly accurate NASA data, and renders them electronically to millisecond and cent (1/100th semitone) accuracy. This results in microrhythmic and microtonal, unbounded by earthy musical conventions. Distant Harmony has been broadcast and discussed on Radio 4’s Rhythm of Life series hosted by Evelyn Glennie, the New Scientist Podcast and employed in several international conferences and exhibitions.
Video animations by Anna Tanczos.
Distant Harmony I Solar System (2015) The orbital frequencies of the Solar System’s planets are here translated into rhythms (24 octaves up) and pitches (35 octaves up). These are presented as independent and circular (rather than elliptical) orbits for visual clarity.
Distant Harmony II 55 Cancri (2015) A bonded melorhythmic translation of the planetary orbits of 55 Cancri, a binary star system about 41 light years away. The planet 55 Cancri E (the first to appear in the animation) is thought to have 1/3 of its mass made up of diamonds, with a value of about £18 quintillion.
Distant Harmony III HD10180 (2015) A bonded melorhythmic translation of HD10180, the largest known exoplanetary system, and similar to our solar system in its planets’ sizes. Orbital periods are transposed up 24 and 33 octaves respectively.
Four Warnings for Piano (2020)
Commissioned by Heidi Leathwood for The House Explodes – A concert for the climate crisis (2020),. This piece has been created through the systematic translation of climate data 1880-2019. No information has been added or removed. Any gaps represent periods where data was not documented or where values are repeated within a fine margin of error. A customised Max for Live device (Weather Report from DataLoop) was built for this project but the statistics are directly sourced from NASA and freely available. The time scale has been compressed to a quaver per year (1880-1958), and one bar per year (a quaver per deciyear) thereon. At the indicated tempo this results in a performance of approximately two minutes, however any master tempo can be elected. Furthermore each era (indicated by double barlines) can have its own time-scale against that master tempo (ie any musical subdivision can be used to represent a historic time slice) As an option, an analog metronome placed on the piano clicking crotchets or quavers can be used for performance to represent the urgent passing of time. This can run for as long as required at the outset of the piece, and is to be stopped immediately when we reach 2020 while the piano still resonates. This may be played by 2-4 pianists on the 1-4 pianos (with the lines suitably distributed).