The Sound of Data Launch Event on May 1st, 2022

“Science meets Music”: Sounds from data, music from lightning and a colour-hearing cyborg 

On 1 May, the Esch2022 project “Science meets Music” will officially launch at the Rockhal: an event for the whole family and… perhaps a unique opportunity to hear a black hole.

How can an image be converted into sound? Can you really tell if a piece of music was created by a human or a computer? What is the science behind these sounds? How can you create lightning in rhythm using a Tesla coil? And what would happen if we met aliens? Would we be able to understand the meaning of the sounds they create? Well, there are many questions. And on the 1st of May, you will have a unique opportunity to explore the answers to all these questions. That’s the date at which the event “Science meets Music” will take place at the Rockhal, from 2 to 7 pm. This event also kicks off the Esch2022 project “The Sound of Data”, which was jointly initiated by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), the Centre de Musiques Amplifiées Rockhal, the University of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

Science meets Music in a nutshell

The “Science Fair” will take place in the foyer of the Rockhal from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Interactive workshops combining music and science will allow families – adults and children alike – to experiment, to experience, to become of part of the transformation from data to sound, and most importantly to have fun.  

In Rockhal’s “Club” space, there will be a parallel programme aimed more specifically at scientists, musicians, artists and tech geeks. Highlights include:

  • A “futuristic talk” by Neil Harbisson, the first recognised cyborg who can hear colours with the help of a sensor in his head.
  • A performance by Neil Harbisson and Pol Lombarte, in which the heartbeats of the audience are sonified on stage.
  • A lecture performance by musician and scientist Valery Vermeulen, who will explain how he generates music from data.
  • A panel discussion on creative ways for scientists, musicians, and artists to work with data.

“Science meets Music” is about experiments that combine science and music, and in this context more particularly about the many facets of “sonification”, namely the process whereby data is transformed into sounds. The basic principle is like that of data visualization. But instead of using elements such as lines, shapes, and colours, sonification relies on sound properties such as volume, pitch, and rhythm. Basically, you hear something that you would normally only be able to see.

Sounds a bit abstract to you? It probably does, but we can promise that it will be an aha experience for the whole family. Participants and visitors will not only get a better understanding of sonification thanks to the many workshops and installations; they can also contribute to the creation of tones and sounds, for example through the movement of their own body or their scribbles. Visitors of “Science meets Music” will discover how machine learning works, what diverse possibilities it opens for music, what can be done musically with data from a 3D body scan and much more.

Futuristic talk and performance by Neil Harbisson: not seeing but hearing colours

While the activities and installations in the foyer of the Rockhal, are primarily aimed at families and especially at young audiences, the event also offers a parallel programme in Rockhal’s Club, more geared towards musicians, tech geeks and scientists.

A particular highlight here will be Neil Harbisson’s keynote and performance. The avant-garde artist who lives in New York is the world’s first person with an implanted antenna in his skull and the first cyborg officially recognised by a government agency. Neil Harbisson has been colour-blind since birth but can recognise colours with the help of his antenna. A sensor detects the colour frequencies and converts them into audible frequencies via a microchip in his head. So, the artist does not see the colours, he hears them. Together with his partner Pol Lombarte, Neil will convert the heartbeats of the audience into colours and sounds.

How do black holes and traffic data sound…?!

Other highlights include an Ableton workshop, the Cymatics performance by Mathieu Lebrun and Kevin Muehlen, a panel discussion on sonification featuring Cristian Vogel (among others) and, last but not least, the participation of Valery Vermeulen. The Belgian is a researcher at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Antwerp and is considered one of the pioneers in the field of data sonification. In his lecture-performance, he will demonstrate, among other things, how black holes sound. So, if you haven’t seen a black hole yet, on May 1st is your chance to find out how it sounds.

Practical info

Admission to the event is free of charge and no registration is needed. All activities (workshops, talks, performances, discussions, etc.) are open to everyone. And if you feel hungry or thirsty, there will be a food truck as well as plenty of drink choices.

See also our information in our events section and on Facebook.

Published On: April 11th, 2022