The audio for Cosmoscope

Robert Godman (Artist)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

49 Downloads (Pure)


Led by artist Simeon Nelson, Cosmoscope is a Well-come Trust funded interdisciplinary project, researched and produced in collaboration with a team of artists and scientists (Dr. Nick Rothwell, programmer; Dr. Simon Walker-Samuel, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow; 
 Dr. Richard Bower, Professor of Cosmology, Durham University; Dr. Pete Edwards, Director of Outreach, Durham University; Dr. Andrew Goodwin, Professor of Materials Chemistry, University of Oxford; Monia Brizzi, Chartered Psychologist and Daniel Bosia, Structural Engineer).

It culminated in a monumental sound and light sculpture made of 52 laser-cut steel 3D Platonic elements nested and bolted together into an overall spherical geometry to form a type of ‘cosmic orrery’ of the very small, the human and the very large scales.
The music forms a complementary musical orrery – a play on the astronomical clocks of the Renaissance; a huge cyclic sonic construction of macro and micro pulses and phases. Whilst it is easy to perceive our universe as an entirely regular oscillatory mechanism - what happens when events disturb this regularity? Small and large are unsatisfactory adjectives to describe musical events. So, can we experience a quantum sound; or a sound that is ‘cosmic’ in ‘size’?

The research demonstrated that human beings (at close to 2m in height) are equidistant in spatial scale between quantum and cosmic. The music for Cosmoscope consists of variations of three ideas – light, rapidly moving granular clouds associated with ‘quantum’; the pulsed sinusoids of ‘cosmic’ combined with sustained clustered vocal sounds (‘human’). The interlocking 3D tessella-tions, and further geometry of the structure, provide rhythmic material enhanced by the rhythmic lattices as described by Godfried Toussaint.

The music and lighting are algorithmic. They co-evolve over time. A viewer witnessing the work on multiple occasions, common in public art works, will experience something new on each viewing (analogous to how the perception of a visual work might change owing to light and other environmental conditions).

Audio spatialization is entwined in the premise of Cosmoscope. Operating over a 16.4 discrete sound system, designed by the author with the British audio-visual company ArtAV, it creates a truly immersive environment. The central timing of the audio controlled the algo-rithmic light display within the structure – forming a quasi-graphic score to the immersive audio/visual sur-roundings.

The 16.4 speaker array was partly contained within the structure and also surrounds it, providing an audience the opportunity to move within the soundscape. Eight near-field monitors were employed within the structure itself.

Commissioned by Artichoke Trust and initially shown at the Durham and London Lumiere’s (2017/18), Cos-moscope was a long-term exhibit at Watts Gallery 2019. The technology allowed the artists to easily customize and ‘remix’ for a gallery situation. Further versions of Cosmoscope (audio/visual film with Professor Richard Bower, Durham University) have also been shown at the Noisely Music Festival 2018/19 and WOMAD 2019.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLumiere: Durham, London
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2017
EventLumiere, Durham 2017 - Ogden Centre for Fundmental Physics, Durham, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Nov 201715 Dec 2017


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