Sturm, Bob L.

2001

Composing for an Ensemble of Atoms: The metamorphosis of scientific experiment into music

Organised Sound: Vol. 6, no. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 131-145.

URL: http://journals.cambridge.org/jid_OSO

Language(s): English

Keyword(s):

Interdisciplinary Studies Mapping Microsound

Abstract:

In quantum mechanics a particle can behave like a particle or a wave. Thus, systems of particles can be likened to a superposition of waves. Since sound can be described as a superposition of frequencies, it can also be described in terms of a system of particles manifest as waves. This metaphor between ‘particle physics’ and sound synthesis is quantitatively developed here, suggested initially from some similarities between the two domains. It is applied to a few fundamental physical principles to show how these can be sonified. The author discusses the process of using a simulated ‘atom trap’ to compose a piece that does not require a physicist to appreciate it. This metaphor blurs the distinctions between science and art, where scientific experiment becomes musical composition, and exploring a musical idea involves playing with particle system dynamics. In the future, methods like these could be used with a real system of particles - the particle accelerator will become an expressive musical instrument, and the particle physicist will become the composerscientist.