The Hydro-Acoustic Big Bang Filter


The installation is effectively a large musical instrument that allows members of the audience (or InterActors) the opportunity, not only to experience the sound of the Big Bang, but to ‘play’ it. The installation consists of three hydro-stanchions, realised in two metre lengths of high-pressure cast acrylic tubing. At the top of the structure are sonic transducers, which excite the columns with the Big Bang audio signal. At the base is a pump system, which fills the stanchions with water, each stanchion being filled independently. This allows the InterActor(s) quite a delicate level of control over the pitch of the resultant sound by changing the level of water in the stanchions.

At the same time, the installation operates as a kind of synthesiser, as the changing water levels constantly modulates the sound, and with the three stanchions operating independently a number of very interesting effects are created. The advantage of a synthesiser such as this is that the InterActors not only hear, but quite dramatically see, the results of these modulations.

The sound used in the installation is an audio manifestation of the Cosmic Microwave Background(CMB),widely believed by cosmologists and astrophysicists to be residual radiation from the Big Bang itself, some 15 Billion years ago. It was first isolated by Arno Pensias and Robert Wilson at Bell Labs in 1965, a discovery for which they were later awarded the Nobel Prize in 1978.

The sonification used in this installation is derived from the work of Professor Mark Whittle of the University of Virginia, who has undertaken an extensive study of modelling this Big Bang sound, that he has termed Big Bang Acoustics.

The Hydro Acoustic Big Bang Filter (2007) on Vimeo.