Simulating extreme Spacetimes, CC license

Seeking to combine his love of numbers and data with music and emotion, a Belgian mathematician has created an electronic music album derived from data gathered from black holes.

By translating data from simulations of black hole mergers, gravitational waves, neutron stars, elementary particle behavior near black holes and white dwarfs into sounds, Valery Vermeulen created music, and even got himself signed to a record deal with Ash International.

Valery worked with the cosmologist Dr. Thomas Hertog, a former colleague and long-time collaborator of Stephen Hawking, to collect gravitational wave data for the project, entitled Mikromedas AdS/CFT 001.

A lot of the data Vermeulen gathered came from the Voyager Satellite, which is currently sitting around 14 billion miles from Earth, and captures primarily electromagnetic radiation given off by various galactic objects.

It then uses “data sonification” to transform the radiation readings into sound.

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Vermeulen then blends that data sonification with other data sources which he reinterprets himself using electronic music software like Max MSP to create tracks.

Carolien Teunisse

The music itself is dark and representational, and is exactly what one might expect a black hole to sound like. But before you stop and think, General Relativity clarifies for us that we would not be able to detect sound near, far away, or from within a black hole with our ears, even if our bodies weren’t unmade in the process.

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What’s striking about the results of Vermeulen and Voyager’s work is that every sound one hears is not the demented flight of fancy of a far-out electronic music producer, but an auditory representation of an important piece of observed real-world data, meaning that there’s no fluff and no unnecessary details.

(Have a listen to the audio below.)

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