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    Arthur Jeffes- The Guy Who Created Music From Gravitational Waves


    By Dashmeet Kaur

    There are some artists that refer to the Universe as their muse, the magnificence that ignited their deeper selves to create exceptionally talented works of art. A scientific inquiry, like artistic production, is an essential creative process. For composers, when you listen to their finished masterpiece, it’s like perceiving a vignette of the whole Universe itself.

    That is exactly what Arthur Jeffes has accomplished. The man who struck the chord is an English composer, musician and arctic explorer who was inspired by the confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves and re-imagined the star signals from over a billion years ago. He has taken the gravitational waves–ripples in the curvature of space-time– and turned it into something kindred to a “chill spacedub”.


    Jeffes has always been beguiled with space sounds. He collaborated with Samaya Nissanke— a NASA astrophysicist who was a part of the team that detected the gravitational waves and whose friendship goes back several decades with Jeffes; and started planning about the music project for about 18 months. Back in 2012, he also worked with Nelly Ben Hayoun, a French designer, to turn a strong narrowband radio signal– Wow! signal into music.

    This time around, he chopped, stretched and overlaid his own music over the data taken from two black holes colliding by using an audio editing software. According to Jeffes, the waveforms are like exponential curves that reach higher pitch as they peak. He took those curves and then mapped them into MIDI patterns in order to obtain his piano lines. “If you stretch them (the waveform models) out, you get other waves inside them. You can get the computer to just track the shape of the waveform–and that’s how I was getting all the piano melodies,” he also stated.


    The melody that the algorithm produces sounds like a nursery rhyme with small intervals when they get a planet that is as similar to that of Earth, Jeffes said. A planet with disparate attributes like that of say, Jupiter, would generate sounds that would not be so pleasing to the ears.

    Here’s the piece “Black Hole 5.0”

    Up next, Jeffes, Nissanke and Jean-Michel Desert (another NASA astrophysicist) will be working with Marshmallow Laser Feast to bring their music to life audio-visually. They wish to propagate this at an interactive level and allow users to feel like they are directly viewing and listening to the gravitational waves.

    There are many such crazy yet cool innovations. Click here to see.

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    Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.

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