Planetarium was conceived in 2001 after attending a lecture at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The idea was to create representations of planetary orbits in a “musical” way so they could be sensed or (in this case) heard. Each planets’ size (diameter) is represented by a tone (sine) within a fixed spectrum. Initially, this spectrum was too large (first experiments were set at 40-10k Hz) and resulted in sounds (even) I thought to be unlistenable. I decided to limit the spectrum to the current 2-octave range of 415-1660 Hz (Jupiter and Pluto being the extremes). The “years” are reduced to 1/10,000,000.

Note: This was before Pluto’s reclassification and exile to the Kuiper belt.

Many iterations of this project happened in the last 10 years. Tone duration was once a/2 and in the original spectrum of 40-10k? 6 minutes of 10k = not pleasant. There were planet specific “remixes”. The original “piece” represented 2 Plutonian years (approx. 496 Earth years), divided the Earth year (3.16s) into a 2-bar phrase and had 1/4-note kicks. At 151.89 BPM, a 1/4-note would equal about 45 days + 8 hrs.

I decided to re-examine the whole idea recently; I just couldn’t let it go. The expression of “music” didn’t seem to serve the concept. The intent is philosophic, not musical. To remove boundaries of macro/micro/faith/science. Kubrickian Zen.

I added two other (new) attributes to the tone-loops: Pan is assigned in relation to each planet’s average distance from the Sun (3.67 billion miles : 127). Gain is assigned based on a fixed range of 40 dB and each planet’s average distance from Earth (Earth = 0 dB). Durations are: a/4 + linear fade.

So now you know. This is why Planetarium is now (completed and) an online installation that loops forever if you want.

Start time is chaotic re: loading tone-loops. Consider it a Big Bang.

Above: Original graphics for Planetarium.

Above: At Meteor Crater, Arizona 2001.


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