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A/V Installation Re-Imagines The Universe As A Sonic Solar System

Inspired by Plato's theory that each planet has its own unique sonic tone, "Timée" strives to create "new music of the spheres."

by Zach Sokol
05 August 2014, 3:00pm

In roughly 360BC, Plato shared his dialogue Timaeus, in which he imagined the universe as a geocentric system, including a concept called Music of the Spheres where each planet had its own sonic tone based on its unique orbital revolution. The entire system was divided into an octave, a fifth, a fourth, and tone, and as all the planets revolved around the Earth, the solar system would comprise a perfect musical score. Artist Guillaume Marmin and musician Philippe Gordiani used this theory as the inspiration for their recent installation Timée—a man-made universe that re-imagines a sonic solar system with light structures that emanate immersive beams and soundwaves. 

Juliette Bibasse, the project's producer, expanded on the project:

Timée is a scalable installation that divides a dark space by means of a wall perforated with a pattern of 300 holes. Rays of light are projected through this wall by a videoprojector placed behind. The visible space is filled with smoke that will convey the light beams and draw shapes within the black void. Without any sense of space and scale, the spectator will experience a 12-minute loop.

Guillaume and Philippe discussed their vision with Isabelle Vauglin, astronomer at the CRAL. Even though Plato's concept has been proven wrong for centuries, this idea still supplies us with a poetic reading of the cosmos. Although we know today that there is no matter in space to convey sound, we can nonetheless find bridges between astronomy and music. Astrophysicists study the frequencies of planets to keep track of their evolution and if one translates these frequencies up by 15 octaves they become perceptible to human ears. A computer or a theremin can now enable us to listen to the sound of a planet: a new Music of the Spheres.

Furthermore, "Timée is also a very poetic and intuitive proposition in which everyone can see their own stories. It's based on profound questions like the balance of the universe and our place in it." So even though it may reflect a pseudoscience, that doesn't mean it won't transport you to another universe. 

See some images of the audio-visual installation below, and visit Guillaume Marmin's Vimeo page for more of his work.

Pictures and visuals: ©GM & ©Joanie Lemercier

Concept & production: Guillaume MARMIN

Music: Philippe GORDIANI

Booking & production: Juliette BIBASSE ­

In collaboration with Lyon Astrophysics Research Center


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audio visual
solar system
Guillaume Marmin
Juliette Bibasse
Philippe Gordiani