The Cosmic Radiophone

This is effectively a large musical instrument that offers members of the public the opportunity, not only to hear the sound of the Big Bang, but also to play it. The work being presented through an on-going exhibition project which intends to visit a variety of locations across the UK. The idea is to make the cosmic sound stream available for public interaction at each location for a limited period of one hour.

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 of the Big Bang itself, some 15 billion years ago. This usage designed to highlight the growing application of sonification techniques in certain areas of contemporary space science. The CMB 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 sound is "played" by the participants by controlling the movement of water within a two-metre length of high-pressure cast acrylic tubing, allowing for quite a delicate level of pitch control of the resultant sound.

The CMB radiation appears to be present everywhere in the universe and surrounds us wherever we are in our daily lives. This exhibition project is an attempt to momentarily make audible this distant echo of the creation of the universe at a variety of everyday locations. In this way, members of the public will be able to discover and interact with the Cosmic Microwave Background in a number of unexpected situations.

Part interactive music-making opportunity, part innovative public art presentation and part science communication, The Cosmic Radiophone is a kind of sonic time machine, radically projecting our awareness of the oldest matter in the universe into the contemporary present, thus highlighting the very close proximity of the cosmic to our daily existence.