Nasa brings music of space to concert hall

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The Independent Online

Pythagoras first wrote about the music of the spheres in the 6th century BC. But Nasa has made the idea an audible reality by commissioning new music incorporating the genuine whistles, hisses and chirps of outer space.

The music marks the 25th anniversary of the Voyager space missions and includes, courtesy of a mixing desk, some of the crackles and explosions recorded by Nasa as its probes hurtled past Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Other phrases and rhythms in the piece, called Sun Rings, are inspired by the sounds retrieved from millions of miles away by Dr Don Gurnett, an American astrophysicist.

The resulting fusion will be performed by the Kronos Quartet and a choir in its European premiere at the Barbican in London tonight.

Nasa has sponsored artistic projects for more than 30 years, commissioning works from artists including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Laurie Anderson.

Sun Rings was composed by Terry Riley, a pioneer of sampling and tape-looping, working with Dr Gurnett and David Harrington, the leader of the quartet. It will be accompanied by a multimedia show by Willie Williams, a visual designer who has worked with U2, REM and David Bowie, incorporating images of Jupiter, Mars and Earth recorded by the Voyager probes.

"You don't necessarily need to have a great depth of scientific understanding to appreciate the beauty of these images and sense of wonderment," Mr Williams said yesterday.

A Barbican spokesman said: "The project follows in the footsteps of a long tradition of artists, philosophers and scientists who have been inspired from time immemorial by the stars and the cosmos."