Published: 30 October 2014

CERN celebrated its 60th birthday on Monday 29 September, and to mark the occasion, music-minded physicists have transformed scientific data from the four underground detectors around CERN's Large Hadron Collider into a piece titled LHChamber Music. The performers are CERN researchers and the music was played in the four experimental caverns, which house the ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb detectors, and in the CERN Control Centre. The ensemble features scientists playing a harp, a guitar, two violins, a keyboard, a clarinet, and a flute.

Antonio Uras, ALICE physicist, travelled from Lyon to perform his piece in the ALICE Cavern. 

He recalls: "My experience in the LHChamber Music project began at mid-August, when checking my emails at the end of beautiful sunny day spent at the Chia beach, Sardinia, I found a strange message whose intriguing subject mixed up words like “physics”, “musics” “CERN”. I was asked to represent ALICE in a musical project for the 60th CERN anniversary!! 3 seconds later I was in the game, and the recording session was planned for the beginning of September." and continues "In the days following that first message, interesting and visionary discussions took place about how to move a real piano down to the experimental cavern... well, when we woke up from our dreams we realized that an electronic keyboard would have been a good compromise!"

Antonio plays the piano since he was 11 and has played in a variety of situations. He says: "Playing in the experimental cavern; realizing that we were bringing art in a place devoted to science was a really touching experience. Each musician involved in the LHChamber Music project recorded his contribution in a different session: far from each other in space and time, we couldn't see the big picture! Moreover, we knew that what we were playing was somehow related with the data collected by our experiments during the first run of the LHC... this fact made us feel more responsible! It was finally thanks to the artistic inspiration of the composer, Domenico Vicinanza, and the technical support of Paola Catapano, Safiria Murtas and Piotr Traczyk (and – for the recording in ALICE – the precious help of Despina Hatzifotiadou and the support of the spokesperson Paolo Giubellino) that our contributions were magically assembled together".

Arts and Humanities manager for Cambridge, U.K.-based DANTE, Domenico Vicinanza, collaborated with CERN and created the compositions by transposing data obtained from the aforementioned detectors. The data used for this piece comes from:

  • ATLAS: data from the Higgs boson public announcement (July 2012)

  • ALICE: Lead ion collisions (Pb-Pb data taken at the end of 2010 run)

  • CMS: Higgs boson event (Higgs to 2 gamma decay, August 2012)

  • LHCb : data from the first observation of a heavy-flavored spin-3 particle (July 2014)

Domenico Vicinanza's composition is not the first time scientists have used algorithms to "sonify" data. Vicinanza has done it before with the LHC's Higgs boson discovery and Voyager magnetometer readings from deep space. Melodic interpretation could help blind researchers connect with a scientific discovery, and help anyone "understand, or at least 'feel,' the complexity and beauty of a finding". If nothing else, it's beautiful music to smash particles by. But this piece is arguably the most ambitious effort to date.

Paola Catapano came up with the idea for the project as part of her contribution to CERN’s 60th birthday celebrations. Vicinanza wrote the individual parts so that they could be presented on their own and then weaved them together to create a multi-layered piece of music. The performances were recorded and the video was presented during the official ceremony for CERN's 60th anniversary. The video got in less than one month 60'000 views on the CERN youtube channel! and we already looking forward to the next one...



CERN 60th Birthday Concert

<p>Some elements of the"sonification" were also tried in the music composed for &nbsp;the 50th CERN Birthday Anniversary, specially in &nbsp;the 3rd part</p>