The Music of Outer Space

When science meets music
May 10, 2022
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The Music of Outer Space
The frontier between science and music might be finer than you think | © galacticus / Shutterstock

Electronic musicians have been fascinated with the universe for as long as we’ve known it exists (or, at least, since the invention of tape). Probably this is why we refer to the electro genre as the music of outer space.

One of the earliest electronic music compositions, musique concrète, was born thanks to editing recorded fragments of environmental sounds – both natural and industrial – using tapes. 

Since then, technological advancement has pioneered the ways we create electronic music, opening the doors to fresh possibilities of using the universe as a springboard for inspiration. 

Science and music have more in common than you think

They might seem like two parallel lines with no point of intersection, but science and music share similar gists.

The elemental one is sound waves and frequencies.

In a bid to unite the worlds of quantum physics and music, the Quantum Music project was pioneered by a group of scientists and performers. 

They created a device that was attached to each key of a piano. When a pianist plays, the information is rendered to a computer and synthesizer. The latter’s duty was to play quantum tones alongside the familiar notes of the piano. 

music of outer space
Music is all about sound waves and frequencies | © Vladimir Hodac / Shutterstock

Scientists have also come up with new ways of rendering logistical data into universally recognized audio formats.

Essentially, electronic music is any music that is produced or modified by electronic processing. 

Sonification is the process of translating non-audible data to sounds, which can be created to represent elements in a data-generated image. A few examples here are colors, light, exposure and pattern. 

The space between the seemingly contradictory fields inches closer together – all thanks to technical formulas and scientific tools.

Black hole music

The world around us is no stranger to being a muse for artists and creatives alike. Science has oftentimes been the link between our curiosity about the world and our attempts at understanding it through art. 

One mathematician has taken his preoccupation with outer space and channelled it into another one of his passions – electronic music production.

music of outer space
The last beat drop you experienced might have been fuelled by science | © Marcela Laskoski / Unsplash

Using information gathered by a space probe floating 14 billion miles away from earth, Valery Vermeulen turned data about electromagnetic radiation waves emitted from black holes into musical compositions. 

And thus, the Voyager Satellite, which has been journeying through space since 1977,  became the most recent instrument used to channel inspirations from the outside world into music creation.

Vermeulen’s finished product – called Mikromedas – reveals how music is both magical and strangely uncanny. The ambient sounds appear to exactly reflect what we’d like music in outer space to sound like. 

Take a peek:

Solar System Music

But Vermeulen isn’t the first person to fuse scientific data with music production. 

Scientists are on a constant quest to discover the darkest parts of the universe – and one of these mysterious forces is the imperceptible sound of space. 

Back in 2003, NASA commissioned a musical work based on radio waves gathered from distant parts of our solar system. Over 40 years of collected sound signals captured on the Voyagers, Galileo, and Cassini’s journeys through the solar system were used to create the final piece. 

The data was given to Kronos Quartet, a performing arts association, as well as composer Terry Riley, who then produced an amalgam of the recorded plasma waves along with a performance by the Quartet. 

Music of outer space is not that exclusive

With the evolution of the technological tools available at our fingertips, music creation through scientific data is no longer restricted to professionals. 

All you really need to create an electronic music piece is a computer, sound system, digital audio workstation (DAW) and a set of headphones or speakers. As for data, much of it is widely available on NASA’s online databases. 

TikToker Louis Futon, who considers himself a “bedroom producer“, recently revealed how he created a new cosmic beat using galactic sounds generated by a space telescope launched by NASA. 

The music producer discovered the music on NASA’s own SoundCloud account, which contains hundreds of sonification tracks based on data collected from the universe. 

While the real sound of space may always remain mute to our human ears, we still wonder how our synthetic creations may reflect sounds beyond those we perceive. Maybe that’s the soundtrack of outer space.


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