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Physics and music collide at the Montreux Jazz Festival

Highlights from "The physics of music and the music of physics" at the Montreux Jazz Festival (Video: Yann Krajewski/CERN)

CERN gave a cosmic performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival on 9 July at its third annual workshop of ‘The physics of music and the music of physics’.

The event kicked off with ‘The physics of music’ demonstration by Robert Kieffer from the CERN Beam Instrumentation Group and Gaëtan Parsihian of the Laboratoire de Mécanique et d’Acoustique, CNRS, Marseille. They explained sound spacialization using a cutting-edge circular speaker system, then improvised a song from sounds recorded around CERN with an electromagnetic wave sensitive microphone.

Jazz pianist Al Blatter performing a duet with a sonification of LHC collision data. Courtesy Matilda Heron/CERN.

The ‘music of physics’ then followed up with a musical performance produced by converting data collected from the Large Hadron Collider into musical notes. This is a long-standing project by Juliana Cherston from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab in the US; Domenico Vicinanza of Anglia Ruskin University in the UK and the GÉANT Association; and Ewan Hill of the University of Victoria and the TRIUMF lab in Canada, as well as the ATLAS experiment at CERN. The “DisCERN” project aims to complement the way mass data is presented and aims at “building bridges between two worlds that normally are quite separate, the artist’s world and the scientist’s,” explains Vicinanza.

Jazz Pianist Al Blatter then brought the show to a close with an improvised duet with sonified near-live collisions from the LHC. Find out more about the event here and listen to Blatter’s full improvisation here.

Read more: Last year, as part of the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of CERN, Vicinanza sonified data from the ATLAS, CMS, ALICE, and LHCb experimets on the Large Hadron Collider. He has also previously used pan-European GÉANT network and the EGI grid computing infrastructure to sonify data from NASA's Voyager probes, brain scans, volcanoes, and more.

- Matilda Heron, CERN

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