The “Artistic” Side of Natural Radio

While this site is primarily concerned with the technical aspects of Natural Radio signals and the details of Space Weather, we shouldn’t lose sight of the intrinsic beauty and awe inspiring nature of these sounds. Many listeners listen just for the sheer enjoyment of hearing the signals and aren’t concerned about collecting data on every listening session. Of course, knowing about the origins of signals doesn’t necessarily decrease the sense of wonder or the joy that one gets in hearing the perfect whistler or a clear and beautiful appearance of chorus.

Probably the biggest online collection of Natural Radio sounds is recorded by Stephen McGreevey, whose fascination and appreciation of these sounds is well known and has been shared with many people on his website, www.auroralchorus.com.

Professor Don Gurnett, James A. Van Allen/Roy J. Carver Professor of Physics, from the University of Iowa, is in the unique position of being able to collect “space sounds” from active satellites as well as terrestrial sources, and they are on his Space Audio website at:
http://www-pw.physics.uiowa.edu/space-audio/index.html.

Prof. Gurnett was also involved in the production of Terry Riley’s “Sun Rings” performed by the Kronos Quartet which combined Natural Radio signals and live music.

Recently, I received an email from a young audio producer in the UK, Patrick Sykes, about a radio program he had produced. Patrick is a freelance radio producer working mainly with Whistledown Productions in London.

Patrick’s show is called “Sunsong” and features the voices and recordings of Dan Tapper, sound artist; Stephen McGreevy, VLF recordist; and Dr Simon Foster of the Imperial College in London; as well as Patrick’s own recordings. He describes his project this way:

The skies are never silent. Invisible to the naked eye, VLF, or Very Low Frequency radio waves, are the sonic equivalent to the stunning visual aurorae that illuminate the planet’s poles. Caused by the interaction of solar energy with the charged part of the Earth’s atmosphere, they can only be made audible with special equipment.

This audio feature blends the sounds with the voices of those who work with VLF, from science to sound art, King’s Cross to California.

This is a well-done production that really gives a good introduction to Natural Radio without being didactic in approach, and emphasizes the artistic side of the phenomenon.

The show is available at SoundCloud, with more information about Patrick and his production process. https://soundcloud.com/patricksykes/sunsong.

Dan Tapper, whose work was featured in the show, has his information available at: www.magneticsignals.tumblr.com. There are photos of Dan’s recording setup and some of his recordings also. Dan’s free publication, VLF: A Sound Artist’s Guide is also available at that address. This book is a manual for the budding VLF sound artist, explaining how to listen, record and process Very Low Frequency Sound.

Dan also performed his VLF sound installation A Machine To Listen To The Sky at The American Museum in Britain, Bath, UK, on May 2nd, 2013. This public exhibit attracted many visitors and introduced them to the wonderful sounds of Natural Radio. Pictures and more information are available a the link given above.

I find it extremely inspiring to see young new artists, using the latest innovations in social media and new distribution techniques giving us a new interpretation of the ancient sounds of the solar system.