Scientists to create history at jazz festival

Published: 8 July 2015 at 14:35

Data arriving directly from Large Hadron Collider will be performed live on stage

Scientists will be creating history on Thursday, 9 July when they join a musician on stage at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland to “perform data” coming directly from the Large Hadron Collider – the first time this has ever been attempted.

Dr Domenico Vicinanza of Anglia Ruskin University and GEANT (the European backbone for research and education) will be turning the scientific data, arriving in real time from CERN, into music, which will then be performed by American jazz pianist Al Blatter.

Joining them on stage in Montreux will be Juliana Cherston of MIT Ewan Hill, of the University of Victoria, British Columbia. The team created a system that will “catch” the data arriving from CERN, which is 60 miles away at the opposite end of Lake Geneva, “filter” the measurements and map them to music notes.  

Dr Vicinanza will in particular be looking after the process of data sonification, which involves producing musical melodies or phrases by spotting patterns in the scientific data.

Dr Vicinanza has previously been commissioned to carry out data sonification projects for the likes of NASA and CERN, including producing the score for a film to mark the beginning of new experiments at the Large Hadron Collider earlier this summer.  

However, this is the first time that such a data sonification performance has been attempted live, using live data from a working high-energy particle experiment, in front of an audience.

Dr Vicinanza, Director of the Electronics and Sound Engineering Research Group at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“Performing live scientific data in this way has never been attempted before, and obviously we don’t know quite what to expect because everything depends on the results of the experiments being carried out inside the Large Hadron Collider.
“My previous project for CERN was to create an accessible way to celebrate a major scientific achievement, which was the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.  Sonification has proven once again to be an extremely relevant technique, both in science and art, to investigate, describe and study the world around us.”