Scientists ‘sonify’ Higgs boson data into gorgeous piece of chamber music

Apparently, creating miniature black holes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to applications for CERN’s massive Hadron Collider. CERN, aka the European Organization for Nuclear Research, recently posted a video featuring seven of its scientists and engineers performing a series of musical compositions based on the sonification of data obtained by four detectors during the Large Hadron Collider run from 2010-2013. The end result is, in essence, an auditory representation of the data amassed throughout the series of state-of-the-art experiments that led to CERN’s discovery of the elusive Higgs boson particle last year.

It’s admittedly somewhat bizarre (and humorous) to see scientists in hard hats performing from the depths of these vast underground caverns that house some of the world’s most advanced, complex, and downright colossal technology. But, despite what you might expect, the resulting performance is a surprisingly gorgeous and soothing piece of music.

The group has dubbed itself “LHChamber Music,” with the LHC standing for Large Hadron Collider. The style employed by the ensemble is chamber music, a musical form traditionally composed for a small group of instruments with just one performer to a part.

The Geneva, Switzerland-based research organization explains in a press release that the performers featured in the video are, in fact, CERN researchers. The music was played in the four experimental caverns, which house the ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb detectors, and in the CERN Control Centre. The ensemble features scientists playing a harp, a guitar, two violins, a keyboard, a clarinet, and a flute.

Piotr Traczyk, CMS physicist, guitar player, and film editor for LHChamber Music, found the live recording of both audio and video of the various performers to be a significant challenge. “The Control Centre can be very busy and it was a challenge to limit background noise in some of the areas but this adds to the authenticity of the project and gives a real feel for the origin of the experimental data,” Traczyk says.

Arts and Humanities manager for Cambridge, U.K.-based DANTE, Domenico Vicinanza, collaborated with CERN and created the compositions by transposing data obtained from the aforementioned detectors. The film’s director Paola Catapano came up with the original idea for the project as part of her contribution to CERN’s 60th birthday celebrations. Vicinanza wrote the individual parts so that they could be presented on their own and then weaved them together to create a multi-layered piece of music.

In short, it’s simple and straightforward music inspired by very heady subject matter.

[image: Daniel Dominguez / Cern]

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