Sunday, December 14, 2008

Worth Seeking (V)

I wrote yesterday about a fragment originally written by the Greek poet Sappho, who spoke of how the stars are harder to see when the moon is full. However, at the other end of the monthly cycle, when the moon is hidden, the stars blaze forth in their glory, and to view them on a clear night down the country is a wonderful, vertiginous experience. But, with the right kind of ears (essentially ones that could convert radio waves into audible sounds) the night sky would be a deafening tumult, a wall of roaring noise that would force us to have our houses hermetically sealed against the external cacaphony, making sound-proofing technicians the best-paid professionals in the world. In fact, as the sun and planets also emit radio waves and the stars are still present during the day (if not visible), the protection would need to operate around the clock and we'd have to wear ear-plugs constantly if outdoors...
Alright, so I'm getting a bit fanciful here (and there's nothing wrong with that) but it is accurate to say that celestial bodies do produce, if listened to with the correct equipment, a rather delightful dissonance. Joni Mitchell once sang that God must be a boogie man; on this evidence, it's fair to say that His preferences are closer to Karlheinz Stockhausen and Sun Ra!
(A disclaimer: not all of the celestial sounds to be found on the net, especially on YouTube, are to be trusted, as they may have been distorted or fabricated. The following are ones which I'm fairly sure are accurate (in that they've been sampled from NASA or some such authority). Also: these sounds must undergo considerable processing (such as lowering frequencies and so forth) before they can be made audible, so they are not totally authentic. But you sonic purists needn't slam the desk with your palms and yell "charlatan!" at me; if the radio waves were played as transmitted they'd be inaudible, and what's produced through such processes is amazing!)
First up is the sound of the Earth from space (its Auroral Kilometric Radiation (AKR) to be precise). See here for more information.
Next up on our interplanetary journey is that most sinister and beautiful of worlds, Saturn. If you listen to nothing else here, listen to these: they are startlingly eerie and unsettling! More info here and here.

Here's a link to some different sounds from Saturn, this time from its rings. More information here, with lots more celestial noises. But now we're heading much further out, into the gulf of deep space, to listen to that most terrifying of interstellar objects, the Black Hole.

I had intended on putting in more cosmic racket for your listening pleasure, but for some reason my computer is seizing up as if afflicted by a form of cyberparalysis. So I'm going to leave it at that for the moment, but I may post more in the future if the mood takes me, and if my delicate machine returns to robust health.

6 comments:

Claudia said...

Those noises are actually very interesting...
Of course, it was a bit hard to discover that the moon is probably not speechless, after all...

Than you for your presentation. Looking forward for more.

Claudia said...

It's thank you...

Not much silence in the universe...
Better cherish our inner one, if we can attain it...

A Doubtful Egg said...

Unfortunately (or thankfully) the Moon is quite silent, even in terms of radio waves (to the best of my knowledge)...
I'll leave a longer response in a day or two. Having just spent nearly four hours getting home due to a massive traffic snarl-up in New Ross, I'm fit for nothing bar staring vacantly at the television!

Sean Jeating said...

Amazing, indeed.
Somehow, I felt reminded of the Football World Championship 1962 in Chile. While listening to the reporter one would hear similar noises, sometimes low, sometimes so loud that the reporter's voice would 'vanish'.
And I remember I thought these were the waves of the Atlantic, but then my Dad would tell these were 'etheric waves'. :)))
Another great post, D.E., thank you.

Sean Jeating said...

ahem: ... etherial. :)

A Doubtful Egg said...

There's a lot of websites devoted to the sounds of the cosmos, and I hope to post some more soon. My computer tends to get very testy if I try to upload too many video files! It's interesting to see the way that some people will take these amazing sounds and transform them into easy listening, thinking they're improving them whereas they're often removing what makes them exciting in the first place.
It was the old long-wave radios that used to get all that ghostly interference, wasn't it? It reminds me of the crackle that you get on old, worn vinyl; it gives a real sense of distance, whether temporal or spatial.
Thanks again for the comments.