"Cloud Chamber" by Alexis Kirke, violin John Matthias, with live subatomic particles





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Uploaded on Feb 14, 2011

From New Scientist TV: "It can only be described as the most unusual of musical collaborations: a duet performed by a violinist and radioactive subatomic particles.

The performance is the brainchild of composer and computer scientist Alexis Kirke from the University of Plymouth, UK, who has been fascinated by quantum mechanics since he was a teenager. He decided to design a way for musicians and subatomic particles to interact, to tap into this invisible world.

To help him achieve this, he used a cloud chamber, a device often used by physicists to track the trails left by radioactive subatomic particles as they move through supersaturated alcohol vapour (see video above). But to convert the tracks into sound, Kirke had to create his own visual recognition system, which he calls a Cloud Catcher. It uses a camera to follow the particle trails and based on what it sees it adjusts the knobs on a digital sound synthesizer in real time.

Kirke teamed up with professional violinist John Matthias, who will perform onstage with the Cloud Catcher. To make sure the duet is truly interactive, some of the violin sounds will be amplified and fed back to the chamber, altering the paths of the trails and therefore the synthesized sounds. Matthias will also adapt his playing to the sounds produced by the particles.

The show will premiere this Friday, February 11 at 8pm GMT, as part of the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 2011."


Commissioned by Peninsula Arts and Roland Levinsky Memorial Fund. Supported by Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research, Supersaturated Environments Inc, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source. Thanks to Prof Eduardo Miranda, Nick Fry, Antonino Chiaramonte, Anna Troisi, Cathy McCabe, Prof Brian Foster, Prof Genhua Pan, Andrew Eccleston, Andy Reid, Miranda Keith-Roach, Centre for Chemical Sciences UoP, and Media Hub.

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