The Sound Of We Are All Made Of Stars 



The music for We Are All Made of Stars is heavily inspired by recordings of celestial events that I discovered on the NASA Soundcloud page. These recordings are mostly not strictly audio recordings but are taken from various scientific instruments and converted into sound or transposed to be in the human hearing range.

There is something immensely cool about hearing sounds created by readings from interstellar plasma waves, a satellite crossing the tail of a comet or the radio waves created by a planet’s atmosphere. Each planet or event seems to have its own voice that if you know how to listen creates really interesting almost organic soundworlds. If you then add in the regular beating of pulsar flashes transcribed in sound it’s easy to imagine the amalgamation as minimalist music traveling throughout the universe. This is something I wanted to explore for the sound of We Are All Made of Stars. How to pull together the sounds of planets and suns to create a musical language for the installation that is artistically interesting, draws on the long discussions with Marisa Zanotti and can be interactive.

The compositional process started from a novel point for me. Usually I would sit down and begin notating things and develop from there but for this project I started with improvisation. I played the NASA recordings to Tom Hunter (percussion) and Joanna Nicholson (bass clarinet) and asked them to improvise to create something close to those sounds. Over the course of an afternoon with each of them these sounds became a more focused exploration of their instruments. I’ve taken these samples as source material to manipulate in the computer to create the final piece. A lot of what was recorded hasn’t made its way into the final piece but it was very useful to spend time working with both players and developing ideas. Also it was useful to have the opportunity to explore how rather obscure ways of micing effect the sound - like putting a microphone inside an orchestral bass drum or wrapping a microphone in a towel and shoving it in the bell of a bass clarinet

The music has been composed from the start with various sonic spaces in mind. I’ll be working with 8 speakers about the room but these are split into subsections each with different sonic material. Alongside these main sound sources are very small sound sources dotted about the room. This means that each listener will have a unique sonic experience as they move around the installation. The balance between musical elements will be effected by the position they stand in or how closely they listen to a sound source. With the night sky everything seems to change depending on where you observe it from but in fact everything stays the same (at least on human scales), it is the observer that moves and changes the image. The sonic element of the installation is a representation of this, fixed points that change with the movement of the listener.

 Matthew Whiteside