The Star Womb Project
Monad to Nomad

Garth Whitcombe—

When first introduced to the Star Womb project, I was presented with columns of numbers representing floating cell voltage and the various states of hydrogen. At first glance there was no apparent path to representing this data as music in any meaningful way.

As a composer I build and layer patterns creating a web of moving, evolving ephemeral structures within the music that shifts mood and emotion, and conveys meaning. Star Womb was unlike any project i had ever encountered. The numbers would not translate directly into music, at least not the music of the Western 12 tone scale. The subtitle, “From Monad to Nomad” gave me a foundation, the Monad, the One. In music the One is the root or key note.hublot replica replica watches replica watches uk

Since the experiment is about Hydrogen, I decided the Monad of the sound design should relate to the resonance frequency of Hydrogen.

Daniel provided with this data: The resonance frequency of atomic hydrogen is 2,466,071,324,384,700 ± 2,400 Hz. if we bring this down by 42 octaves (i.e. divide this by the number two 42 times) then we get 560.7 Hz. The closest note in A440 standard tuning is C#.

C# became the key note, the monad, for the sound design/composition.

The most obvious pattern within the experimental data is the floating cell voltage, which shows a regularity of 10 equal descending values over 10-second intervals. The equal tempered scale we use in the West offers intervals of 7 whole tones or 12 half tones (calibrated at 100 cents each.) The pentatonic offers a 5 note scale, but the intervals are not equal. I chose an Eastern scale still used by Indonesian gamelan orchestras. This system divides the octave into five equal divisions of around 240 cents per interval. To facilitate a unique sound experience each time an observer enters the Star Womb, I extended the float cell voltage interval by a factor of 10 so each interval lasts 100 seconds and the entire sequence takes 16 minutes to complete.

Background noise is an underlying factor in the experiment, so I extracted a piece of room ambience from a video of Barbaraʼs Winter exhibition at the Phoenix Gallery. The room ambience has an overlay of white noise from the steam pipes as well as mid and and low frequency resonance from the city beyond. This piece of room noise is featured in each of the 5 channels in various states of alteration. For the float cell voltage I aligned the noise to the gamelan tuning using processors in Logic Studio. For the representation of H I ran the noise through an equalizer and boosted the frequencies of the harmonics. For the different H states I left either only the even harmonics or only the odd harmonics. The intention of the sound design is to explore the boundary between sound and music, noise and meaning. Based upon Danielʼs experimental data, the sound field introduces a random experiential element both temporally and spatially.