LHC data brought to life through music

Guest post by Chiara Mariotti


I first studied music at the Conservatorio di Torino when I was in high school but stopped during my university studies. I returned to music maybe 25 years later, when my kids started to play instruments (they play the trumpet and the saxophone). I felt great joy when I resumed playing and I discovered that I was still able to; my fingers were playing even without my conscious control of them. I soon joined the Thoiry harmony group (L'Echo du Reculet) and then enrolled at the local municipal school to take flute lessons again.

When I was on holiday this August, I was contacted by Paola Catapano, who asked if I wanted to take part in a musical project at CERN: would I play the flute in the CMS underground cavern to a melody based on data from the Higgs discovery. The “sonification” project was the brainchild of physicist and composer Domenico Vicinanza, who gave me precise instructions on the tune and melody. So, I knew what I had to do, but I did not know what exactly Domenico had in mind.

On Thursday, 28 August, I got dressed in formal concert clothing and went to the CMS experimental site. I must admit that it was quite embarrassing to arrive at CMS with my long red dress and run into my colleagues who were busy with operational work.

After travelling the 80 or so metres underground to the CMS experimental cavern, I met Domenico as well as Piotr Traczyk, who filmed not only my session but the entire video you see below, and Safiria Murtas, who was able to modify my dress to let me play in a comfortable way!

I performed my part of the composition a few times so that Domenico and Piotr could select the best take, and that was it. I had no idea what the two of them would put together. The result astonished me.

Seven musicians playing five different sonifications of five different physics plots, together creating a beautiful harmony. Domenico was able to compose one melody from five distinct physics results. He wrote a masterpiece! Through music, he managed to convey the beauty of scientific collaboration, which can often bring unexpected results.

All of us musicians who contributed to this project are really proud to have been part of this fantastic work. This was a great idea by Paola and Domenico and a masterful execution by Domenico, ably supported by Safiria. And of course, the video itself was brilliantly produced by Piotr, who was one of the musicians in the video (spot him and his guitar!).

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