We had a fantastic time at We The Curious for the After Hours event with visitors hearing the sound of the star Kepler 36 and making the visual pattern of its frequency (hz) appear, the theme was Time.
hertz is an Unlimited R&D award recipient, lead artist Juliet has been collaborating with scientists and a mathematician. hertz is supported by The University of Reading and The university of Birmingham.
So here’s the overview of the night with some time related facts about the stars: We The Curious pdf
Quotes from the night:
“hertz was really exciting! As an artist I really enjoyed being able to see the patterns created and how I might be able to work with those. It was great to meet Juliet and be able to talk to her about the actual development of the work!”
“Being able to visualise the patterns really helped me connect to the sound – I especially liked where the frequencies began to look like constellations and stars themselves. There was a real buzz from our visitors who were really intrigued by the subject matter I thought. Using art to be able to bring infrasound to life really seemed to work for them!”
We have been giving people some truly extraordinary experiences with a few public outings of hertz recently:
Last month I was at the Be There At The Start conference at the Attenborough Arts Centre Leicester. First off, I and Dr Andrew Gibbs were on a panel talking about cross sector collaboration. During the Panel discussion, we played the sound we had translated from Bull Chaplin’s research data, of the star Kepler 36 which lives in our constellation of Cygnus. It was the stars first public outing and was rewarded by a round of applause from the audience
Click ‘here’ for a transcribed interview and podcast of interview with Bill Chaplin, including a recording of the sound of Kepler 36, explaining How and why the stars make sound and why he is collaborating on hertz
I then had a fantastic afternoon showing of the hertz prototype that lets people experience the inaudible symphony of our planet aurally and bodily For the first time people could experience the secret sounds of our planet in realtime. In this instance Leicester’s urban composition.
Below are some pics click ‘here’ For a transcribed interview and podcast with Dr Graeme Marlton explaining infrasound and his interest in hertz.
Quotes from visitors about both elements of hertz:
‘Epic’, ‘Groundbreaking’ ..’a whole world around me I couldn’t see but felt connected to’
‘In this piece I can time travel and contemplate the geometry of sound into matter – wow – mindblowing’
‘I heard the stars sing in Newbury!’
Next up hertz will be at After Hours at We The Curious in Bristol with the theme of Time on the 19th April. See you there!
A lot of work has been going on hertz – wise recently.
Unlimited has offered co-commissioning funding for a tour linked to Seasons for Change which is very exciting. So I have been beavering away to drum up business and develop the prototypes. If you are interested in co-commissioning hertz I would be very pleased to here from you!
I have been doing some professional development at 101 in Newbury, a wonderful place if you are interested in making work for the outside check them out. It’s a Willy Wonker’s factory for creatives.
I will be on a panel talking about cross sector collaboration on the 23rd March at The Attenborough Centre where I will be also showing the prototype which allows you to hear and experience the very low inaudible symphony of our planet. We have been working to be able to do that in realtime and will be showcasing that aspect on the 23rd.
The prototype which allows you to hear the sound of the stars and see the patterns their frequencies make is being worked on so that it can be shown at an After Hours event at We The Curious in Bristol on the 19th April so if you can do come and enjoy a fascinating and fun evening.
lastly for now but not least I am finally posting the article about hertz written for Disability Arts Online, the latest picture of the star machine at 101 and a clip of Graeme Marlton’s reaction to experiencing the infra sound of a summer storm 100 kilometres off the coast. You can’t hear the deep noise through computer speakers you can only experience and hear them through a large low frequency sub woofer speaker.
For Graeme experiencing the summer storm click here
Below, images of the professional development at 101, a close up of sand patterns of star frequencies and the new adjustable tripod legs. Hmm, should we sand blast them back to the metal or spray paint? decisions, decisions….
On 2 November 2017, I held an Open Day at my studio in Oxfordshire and invited current project collaborators, interested future parties and a journalist from Disability Arts Online to experience progress we have made so far on hertz.
hertz, after all, in its current incarnation remains a research and development (R&D) project, so it felt like a significant step in its evolution to allow people to peer through the looking glass, so to speak, of my studio and see work in progress. At the beginning of the Open Day, I delivered a presentation. Below is an extract focusing on my motivation for founding the project:
hertz is fantastic for me in that it gives me the opportunity to go more in depth and develop a particular side of my practice, and it brings together beautifully passions and interests of mine:
A love of music and fascination with sound that began with classical training in voice and was followed by 20th century composition and contemporary art at university
An awareness that everything around us resonates; that we are living in an invisible world of harmonics, both natural and manmade. This web that surrounds us fascinates me
Also, as a singer and a teacher of singing I’m very aware of acoustics and resonance in different environments and how resonance is used by and affects our own bodies
A love of the natural sciences. I had parents who were keen to share their own love and knowledge of the natural world including constellations and moon cycles
I am a member of darkskies.org and painfully aware that we are losing our dark skies for the next generation and the environmental effect of light pollution
A deep respect and affection for scientists and what they do. My father was a research scientist – a plant physiologist – who encouraged curiosity and creativity. He was also a great friend. We had many debates about art and science and he was an uncredited collaborator on a number of works. He would have been itching to get involved in hertz
Lastly but not least I am innately curious about how things work, why things are and what they do. My least favourite answer to a question is, ‘Because that’s how it is’, or, ‘It’s always been like that’. I earnt the nickname of ‘Fingers’ Robson in my family for my ability to take things apart and not be able to put them back together again, something I am still guilty of. I blame my grandfather who I was close to and was an engineer and inventor
As I was first researching for a potential project, I came across the amazing fact that stars really do make music in an article by Birmingham university. An idea formed to make the sound of the stars audible and to use a Chladni plate to make the signatures of those sounds visual.
So, I got in touch with Professor Bill Chaplin from Birmingham university’s Astronomy and Physics Department and politely asked if he was interested in collaborating and supporting an art application for R&D. Happily he was! Through conversations and visits, Bill explained that gases inside sun stars create harmonics like air passing through musical instruments and create their own unique pitch and tone. This trapped resonance makes them gently breath in and out, creating regular fluctuations in the light they emit.
The Singing of the Stars
Bill leads a team from within the international Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium (KASC) responsible for studying stars similar to our own sun. Asteroseismology is a rapidly growing field of astronomy. Bill has been using data from the Kepler Project, which has recorded the ‘singing’ of more than 2,000 stars in our galaxy.
He studies these stars searching for orbiting planets in our galaxy, fluctuations of light and therefore resonance, which tell him how big and how old the stars are. Through that he can find planets which maybe like Earth lie in a ‘Goldilocks Zone’ like ours – i.e. not too hot and not too cold to support life.
In Bill’s own words: “Stars resonate like musical instruments. KASC may be able to use this ‘music of the spheres’ to help us understand the origins of solar flares and coronal mass ejections, so we are better able to predict events like solar storms and their impact on us.”
At the same time as the partnership with Bill was developing, I sent another email outlining the project to Reading university, also enquiring if there was anybody working with inaudible frequencies who would be interested in working with on the project.
Another lovely man, Andrew Gibbs, a mathematician and a sax player got back to me. Andrew’s PhD research broadly focused on what happens when sound hits two-dimensional obstacles and bounces back. Dr Graeme Marlton from the University of Reading’s Meteorology Department brilliantly also responded.
The Human Range of Hearing
Through the Atmospheric Infrastructure Research in Europe (ARISE) project, Graeme has access to infrasound data recorded at international stations of many natural and man-made phenomena below the human range of hearing.
This data can be used for research to observe events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as well as detecting nuclear explosions. These sensors are constantly recording and storing this data. They are also recording and storing a treasure trove of other fascinating phenomena that is not used in research. Myself and Graeme want to bring them into the light of day for people to experience. These include things, as I mentioned earlier like, the movements of glaciers, oceanic waves and even comets hitting the earth.
Graeme was keen to be involved in hertz so that people can discover more about infrasound, what it is and does, and to learn more about why this inaudible sound is being produced all the time.
Using a large subwoofer of the kind used in rock stadiums, that resonate very low frequencies, we can make infrasound audible. We linked the same frequencies to a transducer called a butt kicker used by videogamers and attached it to a metal framed wheelchair.
Until we made the sound files and put them together with the equipment, we did not know for sure what we would get, so there have been some tense and then excited moments along the way. The funny thing with very low frequencies is that they only become audible through this kind of speaker. When writing the code to translate them, Graeme cannot hear it through his computer speakers and it is impossible to record the sound from the subwoofer and play it back through any kind of normal speaker.
Naturally, there is a real moment of anticipation each time while we wait to see if it has worked and what it will sound like. I have happily adopted Graeme’s catchphrase of, ‘Boom in the room’ every time we play a new file and it works. There is still much to do.
I have been thinking about the fact that on one hand hertz has a visceral experience of phenomena of our own planet, which we are inextricably, physically bound to and on the other a manifestation of the stars that weave through our art, literature, philosophy, religion, science and culture. It provides us with inspiration, aspiration – an opportunity for reflection to put our place in the galaxy into perspective. Ultimately, we want to create truly extraordinary and interactive artworks.
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration” – Nikola Tesla
Imagine being able to hear the stars singing; imagine the sound made visible and our bodies resonating to the inaudible symphony of our own planet. Our fascination with the stars has inspired our myths, science, art and philosophy. Research and development for the artwork hertz brings that fascination to life.
hertz, named after Heinrich Hertz, describes the pitch of any given audible, inaudible note or frequency and is the title of this R&D project which connects two happenings: stars singing and invisibly vibrating to the accompaniment of earth’s hidden resonances.
Artist Juliet Robson, working with meteorologist Dr Graeme Marlton, mathematician Dr Andrew Gibbs and astrophysicist Professor Bill Chaplin, will develop prototypes of ‘instruments’ that translate these secret sounds into visible and tangible experiences.
For interviews and podcasts with all four hertz collaborators, please scroll down
Through interactive presentations and the ‘playing’ of those instruments, people will experience a soundtrack of the songs of the stars and the beautiful resonating visual patterns of their frequencies (hertz). They will feel the vibrations of the imperceptible movement of glaciers through their bodies, via chairs and objects and feel the hairs lift on their arm in real time with the inaudible frequencies of a swelling ocean wave off a distant coast.
hertz is supported by arts commissioning programme Unlimited, which celebrates the work of disabled artists, with funding from Arts Council England. In addition, Dr Graeme Marlton and the Meteorology Department at the University of Reading, Professor Bill Chaplin and the Astrophysics Department at the University of Birmingham and Dr Andrew Gibbs have committed in kind support and match funding to hertz. Dr Marlton gave a presentation on developments in April 2017 to the EGU (European Geosciences Union) General Assembly 2017 in Vienna (scroll down to bottom of this page to see the poster from the event including links to infra frequencies of Mount Etna and an F16 aircraft).
Introducing hertz Collaborators and the ‘Science Bit’
Astrophysicist Professor Bill Chaplin and technicians at the University of Birmingham have been using data from the Kepler Project, which has recorded the ‘singing’ of more than 2,000 stars in our galaxy. Asteroseismology is a rapidly growing field of astronomy and Professor Bill Chaplin leads a team from within the international Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium (KASC) responsible for the study of stars similar to our own Sun.
Professor Chaplin himself: “Stars resonate like musical instruments. KASC may be able to use this ‘music of the spheres’ to help us understand the origins of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Their origins lie in processes occurring inside our Sun, so we are better able then to predict the occurrence of events like severe solar storms and their impact on us.”
Through a number of research visits, hertz Lead Artist Juliet Robson will explore Birmingham university’s star sounds archive and select raw frequency data of star sounds with Professor Chaplin. These frequencies below our range of hearing will then be transposed up and made audible. Next, through using algorithms written by Dr Andrew Gibbs, a prototype ‘instrument’ will be built to create beautiful, oscillating geometric patterns of star songs made of vibrating salt granules generated on Chladni plates.
Dr Gibbs’s PhD in applied mathematics specialised in modelling the interaction of acoustic waves with two-dimensional obstacles. A key part of acoustic wave modelling is predicting the frequencies at which resonance and other phenomena occur, such as the formation of Chladni patterns. Dr Gibbs will design algorithms and simple experiments which can be used to predict the shape of the Chladni-style plate on which patterns will form when specifically excited by sounds of stars.
Also at the University of Reading, through the Atmospheric InfraStructure Research in Europe (ARISE) project, meteorologist Dr Graeme Marlton has access to infrasound data from international stations of many natural and man-made phenomena below the human range of hearing, such as imperceptibly moving glaciers, earthquake tremors, volcanoes, oceanic waves and even comets hitting the earth. The stations are constantly recording and storing this data, of which only a tiny amount from specific events is used in research and ever sees the light of day.
hertz will use these ‘forgotten’ infrasound signals to provide modulated vibrations that will drive a silent subwoofer to shake a chair, wheelchair or object, so that we can experience their hidden resonances.
In addition, an infra wave sensor with another subwoofer audio speaker will provide low frequency tones of events, but from sensors picking up signals in real-time. Participants will experience this, through for example the hairs on their arm being lifted in conjunction with invisible frequencies’ natural happenings.
It’s been busy on the hertz front. The latest happenings were in the studio last week.
We were testing out our latest crop of infrasound files – including the recent storm front when it was about 200 kilometres out to sea; the urban noise from Reading – building work, rush hour and regular trains; and contrasting that with frequencies picked up from my garden in a rural location.
The results were more than we hoped and all very different. It is difficult to explain the huge, exciting, laughter-inducing, at times meditative and sometimes frankly rather nerve-racking vibrations and sensations. They course through the metal frame into your body from the transducer (‘buttkicker’) attached to a wheelchair, while the subwoofer pulsates the air around you with the usually inaudible frequencies of our planet. It lifts the hairs on your arm and face and draws you into its world. The experience is immersive. I would of course post the sounds, but without a large subwoofer you cannot hear the low range frequencies.
Not sure what the neighbours thought but they are a tolerant lot. So it is onwards and upwards on the infrasound front. The next stage will be collecting the infrasound of an Icelandic glacier. In September, Dr Graeme Marlton will attempt to record the inaudible frequencies of the Aurora Borealis if it is gracious enough to appear on a work trip with the University of Reading. We will also be working on being able to experience and identify infrasound in real time.
To read or listen to an interview with Dr Graeme Marlton and hear what journalist Glenn Bryant thought about the experience in his own words, please scroll down.
Below, you will also find interviews with Professor Bill Chaplin from the Astrophysics Department of Birmingham university, one with myself and other information about hertz including a description of the R&D project as a whole. Back soon with more hertz updates.
hertz is an innovative research and development project, and the creation of experienced Lead Artist Juliet Robson. It is supported by arts commissioning programme Unlimited, which celebrates the work of disabled artists, with funding from Arts Council England. hertz diversely marries four fields of study: art, astrophysics, mathematics and meteorology. The project aims to allow audiences to discover what noise, trapped inside stars in space, sounds like – and what it looks like in the shape of patterns it creates. Further, hertz aims to translate infrasound, which we cannot hear, into physical sensations people can experience.
Professor Bill Chaplin – of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham – is collaborating on the project. Here, he describes what drew him to hertz and explains how stars create sound in the first place, and what we can learn from it
Professor Chaplin, why did you first become involved in hertz?
It was through being contacted by Lead Artist Juliet Robson. I was very interested and intrigued by what she had to say. Personally, I have a long-standing interest in collaborations between artists and scientists, which is manifested in collaborations I have had with other artists previously.
I am interested in how artists and scientists can interact professionally and how they can influence each other’s practice. I am particularly interested in hertz in how it might change my views on how I work and how I might articulate that in the future. For example, I might be talking to my wife one evening and she will often preface a question with, ‘Forgive my ignorance, but…’ It usually isn’t ignorance. They are usually questions which make you question your own assumptions on an issue.
What do you hope to achieve through hertz?
Like I have said, I am very keen to see how Juliet and I can influence each other’s practice through collaboration. Also, I am interested to discover new ways to use the astronomical data we have and collect to engage with the public – making it accessible to people who otherwise might not be engaged with science. hertz, I think, is certainly going to provide another way to do that and in a very innovative way. I guess people will come to see and experience hertz for the art, but if members of that audience come away from seeing the work and say, ‘Hey, stars resonate like musical instruments’, that will represent real success.
:Sound of Kepler-36 a sun star found in the Cygnus constellation which can currently be seen in the northern hemisphere.
Cross section of a sun star: sound made by turbulent gas occurs in the orange section.
Professor, describe your background.
I am an astronomer. I study stars and also search for planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. The technique we use to do that is through natural resonances produced by stars, which make sound within their interiors and which resonate like great, big musical instruments. Because stars are big balls of gas – they are not solid objects – that trapped sound makes stars gently breathe in and out. By measuring that breathing we can learn what stars look like inside and, importantly, it is the only way we can do that. It allows us very accurately to calculate how big stars are and how old they are. That is particularly important when we discover a star surrounded by planets, because we only know the planets as well as we know the star which they orbit.
That is the research I do at the University of Birmingham and have been doing in my career for more than 20 years. The fact that stars resonate was first discovered here in the 1970s at the university when we learnt that our sun breathes in and out – which is why I am based here and doing the work that I do in Birmingham.
However, we had to wait until the 1990s to be able to detect these very gentle oscillations in other sun-like stars, through the advent of new satellites and big telescopes like the NASA Kepler Mission, which we use and is making our ability to study stars in detail a reality.
What first inspired you to become an astronomer?
It would have been following and being intrigued by the NASA space programme as a kid. If I had followed that interest through logically, I would have become an engineer, but I didn’t – I got sidetracked by the science and completed my PhD in building instrumentation that could enable us to detect clouds around other stars and also measure this oscillation in stars. I then started studying the sun and other stars for the next 10 years until around 2005. Then we realized things were about to happen with how we study stars through new technology. The data we can now glean from other stars helps us understand our own sun. For many years that understanding was only one-way. The sun was like a Rosetta Stone for astronomers, helping them understand other stars.
Why do stars create sound?
A star like our sun makes sound because its outer layers are turbulent through a process called convection, which can be created simply in an oven or by a pan of hot water on a stove. Convection involves parcels of gas moving around and circulating, and as they do that and buffet one another, turbulence happens which produces changes in pressure and sound waves. Even though a star like the sun does not have a solid edge, it does act as a natural cavity to trap that sound and creates resonances like in the body of a musical instrument. Because the sun is a big ball of gas, the compressions and relaxations of the trapped sound waves make the star breathe in and out.
It might sound a stretch to talk glibly about ‘the music of the stars’. ‘Really?’ But the answer is yes, stars really make sound. A star like our sun produces oscillations which are very tiny but which are very rich and create many harmonics we can observe. Other types of stars called Cepheids, which are much bigger than our sun have a different structure and produce huge pulsations in this way, which can change their brightness by as much as 20 per cent. You can actually observe those changes yourself with the naked eye through a telescope, but if you looked at the sun, no chance, the oscillations are too small.
How far away are the stars being used for hertz?
Some of the stars we are going to look at in hertz have first been observed by the NASA Kepler Mission and are more than 100 light years from Earth. Light would take more than 100 years to travel from them here to Earth.
What do you hope audience members will gain from seeing hertz?
A greater appreciation that stars do make sound.
Finally, is there life on other planets?
Yes, I think there is. My personal view is that it would be a very strange universe if we were the only life within it. Whether we discover definitive evidence within our lifetimes, remains to be seen, but, no, I don’t think we are alone.