Adrift – making cosmic music

Bowers & Wilkins is excited to be supplying audio equipment for Adrift, an incredibly exciting marriage of art and science, that takes place online, in exhibitions, and in the space around the Earth.

Adrift is a uniquely exciting meeting of art and science that throws light upon one of the largest environmental challenges facing mankind: the 27,000 individual pieces of debris currently being tracked as they orbit above us. Each has been left in space during one of the many missions since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, in 1957.  
As well as exploring the dangers and environmental issues it provokes, Adrift looks at the mysteries and contradictions of space junk, a beautiful, but potentially destructive, museum of the history of space exploration. Adrift is a three-part project, comprising a new short documentary film, a giant, mechanical sound instrument and composition and an interactive element which enables audiences to adopt an individual piece of junk and communicate with it via Twitter as it orbits Earth.


Among the features of the Adrift project is a new sonic installation created by BAFTA-winning composer and sound artist, Nick Ryan. Nick has built a giant mechanical ‘cylindrical phonograph’ called Machine 9, which uses live data to transform the movement of pieces of space debris into sound, in real time. The machine consists of a 2-metre-long cylinder with 1500 ‘locked grooves’ cut into a lacquered surface. Each groove carries a sound signal representing an individual piece of space debris. When a piece of space debris, tracked live in orbit above Earth, passes overhead, it initiates one of 12 stylus mechanisms to locate and play one of the grooves. Therefore, the movement of debris creates a live audio composition and a unique piece of music.

The sound produced is amplified through a Rotel RB–1582 MkII amplifier and Bowers & Wilkins CM10 loudspeakers – providing listeners with a pristine representation of the music being made.

Nick Ryan said of the collaboration: “We’re delighted to use two beautiful Bowers & Wilkins CM10 loudspeakers with Machine 9. Not only are the CM10s of incredibly high quality with the extended frequency range we needed, there are also very good looking and, in satin white, their minimal design and visual impact looks totally at home with Machine 9’s aesthetic references to space technology. Bowers & Wilkins are one of the few audio brands that are held in very high regard by the industry and at the same time, totally unafraid to support and champion highly experimental sound art and music. It’s always a real honour to be supported by them.”

Adrift will be touring this year, but you can catch it now at the Science Museum until Thursday 16th February .

You can discover more about Adrift here.
You can read more about the CM10s here.

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