GÉANT, the pan-European data network serving 50 million research and education users at speeds of up to 500Gbps, has harnessed the data collected by two spacecraft over a period of 36 years to create a new piece of classical music.
Launched in 1977, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are now decommissioned but still recording and sending live data to Earth. They continue to traverse different parts of the universe, billions of kilometres apart, with Voyager 1 actually leaving our solar system last year.
In order to compose the duet, 320,000 measurements were selected from each spacecraft at one hour intervals.
That data was then converted into two “very long” melodies, each comprising 320,000 notes using different sampling frequencies, from a few KHz to 44.1 kHz.
GÉANT said the result of the conversion into waveform, using such a large dataset, created a wide collection of audible sounds, lasting just a few seconds (slightly more than seven seconds at 44.1kHz) to a few hours (more than five hours using 1024Hz as a sampling frequency).
In order to turn the data into a several minute song, a certain number of data points, from a few thousand to 44,100 were each “converted” into one second of sound.
Project leader Domenico Vicinanza, a network services product manager at GÉANT and a trained musician said: “I wanted to compose a musical piece celebrating the Voyager 1 and 2 together, so used the same measurements (proton counts from the cosmic ray detector over the last 36 years) from both spacecrafts, at the exactly same point of time, but at several billions of kilometres one from the other.
“I used different groups of instruments and different sound textures to represent the two spacecrafts, synchronising the measurements taken at the same time.”
Vicinanza continued: “Analysing the melody is exactly the same as looking at data in a spreadsheet, but using the ear. The information content is exactly the same: represented by regularities, patterns, changes, trends and peaks. In fact, data sonification makes it possible to get information about long-range regularities and correlations that are hard to spot just by inspection.”
The result is an "up-tempo string and piano orchestral piece" that can be listened to here.