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Jeff Talman: Under the Sun (2018)

The sun roars with thousands of resonant sounds that cease at the vacuum of space. But analysis of the oscillations of the Sun’s mass enables scientific reproduction of its sounds. 

Under the Sun features only these modeled solar sounds scaled to the range of human hearing and to the acoustic signature of Saint Peter’s Church. The site’s inherent acoustic properties become the framework for a quasi-symphonic sound field composition as the building becomes a giant tuned instrument reverberating with the sound of the sun.

About the artists

Jeff Talman, internationally-regarded artist and composer, has created installations with the sounds of the stars, with the polymetric rhythms of pulsars, with the hum of the Earth, with sounds of the ocean’s depths and from that of a single kiss. His installations, often collaborations with scientists, have been presented in Cologne’s Cathedral Square, Galleria Mazzini in Genoa, Rothko Chapel, the MIT Media Lab, Chicago’s St. James Cathedral and other locations, including four installations in the Bavarian Forest. He is the recipient of several prestegious grants andawards including from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts and numerous international residencies.

Dr. Daniel Huber, astrophysicist, is professor at the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii. A team member of NASA’s Kepler Mission, he worked at NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute. 

The Science of "Under the Sun"

The surface of the Sun reveals a glimpse of the physical processes that make up our home star. In the outer layers, buoyant gas cells rise to the surface before cooling off and sinking back down under the force of gravity. During times of high solar activity this mechanism is partially suppressed, leading to dark sunspots, a few of which can be seen in the image above. The turbulent motions of gas cells (also called “granulation”, which appears as a fine granular pattern smaller than sunspots) ring the Sun like a bell, and excite acoustic waves to travel through the interior. Analogous to musical instruments, the frequencies of these waves depend on the size of the cavity and composition of the medium that the waves are propagating