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CERN Does Jazz!


By Léan Crowley

The large hadron-collider runs for more than 17 miles underneath the Franco-Swiss border. Buried almost 600 feet below the ground, it is the largest particle collider in the world, and last weekend – it made jazz. On July 17th, the Montreux Jazz festival hosted a workshop dedicated to ‘The Physics of Music and the Music of Physics’, inviting the physicists from CERN to share a special project they had been working on.

The physicists from CERN, where the LHC is housed, decided on quite unusual way to celebrate their facility’s 60th anniversary. The group of scientists collected data from the many detectors inside the LHC, and using algorithms to sonify the data, they began to make the sound of particles. Perhaps it could be compared in methodology behind John Cage’s ‘Etudes Australes’, but what resulted melodically is something far closer jazz. The repetition in data from the LHC, meant a structure and distinctive rhythmic melody could form, unlike the often more sporadic composition of Cage’s piece.

Domenico Vicianza, one of the scientists leading the initiative to write the piece, explained his motivations behind the project saying, “When I wrote this piece, I hoped it would be a metaphor for scientific collaboration; to demonstrate the vast and incredible effort these projects represent — often between hundreds of people across many different continents.”

The concert last Friday in Montreux ended with a duet piece between the LHC and improvisational jazz pianist Al Blatter. You can hear that duet piece at http://mjf2015.web.cern.ch/mjf2015/AlBlatterImpro.mp3

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