Listen: legendary sci-fi author John Scalzi remixes NASA’s black hole

“I’m a science fiction author, I’m allowed.”

Image: NASA

The sounds of space have long been a fascination for musicians everywhere. Now, NASA has released an audio clip purporting to represent the genuine sound waves emitted from a gigantic black hole.

The black hole is located at the centre of the Perseus galaxy cluster, which, according to NASA, has so much gas that it’s possible to pick up actual sound waves. “The misconception that there is no sound in space originates because most space is a ~vacuum,” tweeted NASA, “providing no way for sound waves to travel. A galaxy cluster has so much gas that we’ve picked up actual sound. Here it’s amplified, and mixed with other data, to hear a black hole!” [sic]

As might be expected, many musicians and producers have already opened their DAWs to utilise the extraordinary sound as a sample. What may come as a surprise, though, is American science fiction author John Scalzi being inspired to create music from the raw audio.

Scalzi, who is most well known for his Old Man’s War series, tweeted, “I was curious if I could use this audio to make a music track, so I converted it to MIDI and then went to town on it.” The result is ‘8/22/22 (Pursues Galaxy Cluster)’, a dark passage of beat driven electronic music with all the darkness of atmosphere you’d hope for, considering the track’s inspiration.

“I was all, huh, I wonder if I can make some music out of that,” wrote Scalzi. “The answer is: Apparently! Although I didn’t end up using the original audio file. What I did was make a MIDI file out of the original audio, quantise it for time and key, and use that for several individual tracks, time-stretching the information to 16, 32 and 64 bars, and then putting various voices and effects on the tracks. And then adding drums. As one does.”

Addressing the idea that he had sampled a black hole, Scalzi added, “Well. Yes! Sort of. I’m a science fiction author, I’m allowed.”

Listen to the black hole here:


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