Thursday, May 31, 2007

Deep Space

"They were blurry and clean/Outer space in between/
With a depth and a form unclear"

I remember reading a few years ago that scientists had located a black hole that emits a sound 57 octaves below middle C - the lowest note ever observed in the universe, and well outside the audible range for humans. The note has a wavelength millions of miles long, and takes ten million years to complete one modulation. The black hole has been producing this note for over two billion years, providing a sort of cosmic symphony to any entity large and old enough to witness it (the Flying Spaghetti Monster? A polar bear?).

I was happy to hear that the universe had such a powerful bass note, because I've always loved songs that have a steady background a few octaves below the rest of the music. It adds a distinct richness that can't really be achieved any other way. Here are a few songs off the top of my head that fit the bill:

R.E.M. - You Are The Everything (at 2:28)
Phish - Train Song (at 0:38)
Elbow - Grace Under Pressure (at 3:16)
G. Love & Special Sauce - Stone Me (at 0:08)
Radiohead - Exit Music (For A Film) (at 2:50)

And here's a poem by Mikhail Horowitz about the black hole, printed in the New York Times science section on August 3, 2004:

A supermassive ghostly Robeson robed in nothingness,
I serenade the void from the heart of the Perseus Cluster,
underhumming the underpinnings of the galaxies in B flat,
''Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'' at 57 octaves below middle C.
Not even God hears me.

But any one of these icy nights beneath the warbling stars,
those shards of horns long shivered that still take solos,
if you close your eyes you can almost sense my presence,
holding down the cosmic bottom for billions of years,
blowing the antisong of the antispheres.



Jacob said...

I think all posts from now on should reference a polar bear somewhere.

F.J. Delgado said...

Great choice with "You Are the Everything", one of R.E.M.'s most underappreciated songs.