Music For Aliens: An Art Project Aimed To Create An Intergalactic Friendship


This is a long-standing question: Are we truly alone in the universe?

Man has always looked up to the sky and tried to find the answer to this question. The answers “yes” and “no” are both extremely existential and frightening, to say the least.

One of the most ambitious projects related to communicating with the ‘aliens’ is the Voyager space probe, with the Golden Record in it. It has audio clips of people saying “hello” and other greetings in 55 languages. Carl Sagan said it was meant for two audiences, the one on Earth and the one in the stars.

An article on recently showcased an artist trying to create music for extraterrestrial beings. After all, music is the universal language.

Intergalactic Omniphonics was conceived by alien conceptual space artist, Jonathon Keats, a concept artist and philosopher, known for his large-scale thought experimental works. Supported by the University of North Carolina-Asheville (UNCA), the art project aims to develop instruments and music that are not restricted to human hearing. Similar to what Sagan said.

Of course, when we talk about music, we mean it at a very subjective level. For the likes of Keats, it is a vaguer more scientific concept. Basically, music is treated as a combination of amplitude and frequency, with different permutations and modulations over a period of time. Now conceptually at least, sound isn’t the only wave that possesses these qualities. Light and gravity, two far stronger and more all-pervading waves are known to work on the same principles.

And even on Earth, there are waves of sound and light not perceivable by Humans, but very visible and audible to other life forms (e.g., high frequency dog whistles; Ambrose Bierce’s short story “That Damned Thing”, based on the same principle with light).

The project aims to develop gadgets that use all these waves. After all, musicality is only influenced by the regularity of waves. Not anything else.

Among others, three devices catch the eye the most:

1.The gamma ray bell: It produces short Gamma ray bursts when “played”. It comprises of glass-uranium marbles in a “bell” of lead, with a wooden handle.

2. The ultrasonic organ: It can produce human-inaudible sounds. Example: dog whistles.

3. The gravitational cello: A theoretical pendulum that creates faint gravitational waves which aren’t lost in space-time. Such gravitational waves were detected when there was a collision of two black holes back in 2015.

But at the end of the day, the project is about bridging gaps between cultures. On paper, humans might all be the same. But tribesmen from Papua New Guinea, living in the Stone Age, would seem as alien as actual Extraterrestrials. Hence, one of the greatest aims of the project is a universal anthem, one understood by all intelligent life forms, terrestrial or extraterrestrial. Its topic is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the total entropy of an isolated system will never decrease no matter what.

Keats is working on its universal anthem such that it can be playable on a Spanish guitar, as well as a gamma ray bell.