Sun, by Katrina and Peter, is an immersive 25-minute performance of live poetry and surround-sound computer music, accompanied by planetarium visuals. It’s an artistic response to the work of Northumbria University Solar Physics Research Group.
Peter’s music, written in four electronic movements, is derived from solar oscillation data from the SOHO Michelson Doppler Imager. Each movement represents a 5 minute solar cycle.
Working together, the poetry, music and images explore the physical processes of the Sun, revealed in wavelengths beyond human perception, and the ways in which sound is used to ‘look’ inside it. Little by little, the music, words and visuals strip the layers of our nearest star, allowing us to travel where the body cannot, to experience a reality not otherwise accessible to sight or hearing.
Sun premiered at Newcastle’s Life Science Centre planetarium on November 18th 2016: see this write-up in the Chronicle.
“Imagining the Sun has given Peter and I the opportunity to extend our collaboration with our third planetarium piece, Sun. Between February and May 2016 I met with scientists from Northumbria University Solar Physics department, read all I could about the Sun, studied videos and still images from NASA spacecraft, and tried to get to grips with what I learnt through the process of writing. The result was a series of two dozen poems exploring aspects of solar physics. I shared some of this work with the solar physicists in a seminar in May. Their feedback caused me to reflect further on how differently we use language in science and poetry.
September and October were taken up with the process of collaboration-at-a-distance with Peter Zinovieff, who is based in Cambridge. Peter derived his music entirely from solar oscillation data on the Stanford University website. As the structure and texture of his music took shape, he sent me sound files, and I selected and organised sections of poetry that I felt would work with them, to explore the Sun’s structure, how its magnetic fields are generated, how ‘sunquakes’ occur, and how sound is used to ‘look’ inside the Sun.
Once we had a structure and exact timings for the music and poetry, and I had selected images and video from the NASA SDO and other websites, I worked with Life Science Centre’s Planetarium Supervisor Chris Hudson, who produced the full dome visuals. We used these partly to illustrate or illuminate the text and music, and more importantly to create atmospheres to lead the audience on a journey where their physical senses could not possibly take them.’
— Katrina Porteus