When microscopic particles are added to liquid, they – as you’d expect – bounce around and interact.
Now what you might not expect is that this has been made into music. By Mark Fell.
Fell, a founding member of techno reductionists SND and one of the electronic music underground’s most reliable teachers, has been making this music as part of a project called Scale Structure Synthesis, developed for the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind.
The BBC report that first, chemical engineer Jonathan Howse built a “simple microscope” (tenner says it’s not actually simple at all) to observe particles of polystyrene, which are bumped to and fro by the “jostling molecules” of liquid – an effect known as Brownian motion. These particles, which measure up at around a millionth of a metre across, have their motion tracked by a microscope with a camera attached, and Fell translates this into music. The sound comes from eight speakers, each assigned to a different tracked particle: the pitch decided by the distance a particle moves, the timbre by the angle of the movement.
Speaking to BBC News, Fell explained that “The piece we’re doing could be thought of as quite confrontaitional. It’s not nice, drifty, atmospheric kind of soundscapes, it’s quite pure, resonant, frequencies. Aesthetically it could be quite challenging.”
“It’s not like I’m trying to induce any kind of feeling or specific response, my hope is that it’s aesthetically out of what people might normally encounter and prompts some kind of curiosity.”
Howse, meanwhile, explains that “The way particles behave in solution is hugely important, from industrial processes to drug delivery – that’s why I deal with particle technology. There will be some weird sounds coming out but also it’s underpinned by science.”
The Festival of the Mind begins this Thursday, and focuses on science specialists collaborating with non-specialists “in the name of public engagement. A sample of what these particles sound like is available to stream here, and, if you ask us, sounds more than anything like dubstepper Gemmy’s debut single ‘Bass Transmitter’: