Sending Sounds into Space

Sending Sounds into Space

Early in 2018 the club was contacted by artist Sian Hutchings who was in her first year of a masters degree in fine arts at Northumbria University, Newcastle and she wanted some help with a project that was going to come to a head with an event at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead on the 15th March.

The club is no stranger to working with artists having previously been involved with the Waygood group and an event called Scatter in the AV08 Festival involving artist Marco Pelijhan again at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in 2008.

Anyway Sian’s project centered around the ‘Voyager Golden Record’ which were two phonograph records that were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The records contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find them. The records are considered as a sort of a time capsule.

Sian wanted to update the recordings stating that she considered the recordings didn’t reflect the way we live in the 21st century and weren’t a true reflection of modern society.

Sian planned to record an updated version of the golden record and transmit the recording herself so she contacted the RSGB to find out how she could do this. Sian was informed that she would have to complete the Foundation licence course in order to do this and due to her timescale it wasn’t a feasible thing to do. The RSGB did suggest that she contact a local amateur radio club to see if they could help and gave her our contact details, in due course Sian did contact us which resulted in Glen and I going into Newcastle to have a meeting with her at her studio.

At the meeting Sian outlined her idea to update the golden record and Glen and I told her how we could help which basically meant that we would be able to transmit her recordings, also we would be able to let her see the transmission via an SDR radio receiver but this would all be dependant on whereabouts in the Baltic we would be based in relation to siting antennas. A follow up meeting at the Baltic was arranged and I took a dual band 2m/70cm antenna to show Sian what we might use as Glen thought that 70cm might be a better frequency to use as trying to find another amateur on the band was as likely as finding teeth in a hen and it therefore hopefully wouldn’t cause any disruption to what Sian wanted to do, also it is a frequency that is suited to satellite (space) communication. We also took along a couple of radios to test the suitability of the location.

We were to be sited on the first floor and there weren’t a lot of options for feeding coax to the exterior and then onto the roof to feed antennas, it was decided to set up in the outside lobby area and fire the radio signal out of the glass windows running the full height of the building. This would be an easier option as we were right in the heart of the building and all other options quite frankly would have been a nightmare to sort out. 

Having completed the recce Glen and I had a better idea of what we could offer, Sian arranged workshops to record the sounds and on the allotted day Glen and I arrived at the Baltic in the afternoon and set up our station which consisted of my 70cm yagi antenna that was mounted on a microphone stand angled at about 45 degrees to the horizon, Glen’s Yaesu FT 817nd provided the transmit option along with a laptop which used a USB drive with the recordings provided by Sian from her workshops. I took along my SDRPlay RSP1 software defined radio to receive the transmitted signal and projected it onto the large screen in the cinema for a visual effect.

Sian was given a handheld transceiver to start each transmission using with the callsign that had been applied for GB8NOE, this related to our 2008 involvement at the Baltic and there is an 8 in 2018 (very tenuous I know). The letters related to the name of the group of artists also involved with Sian called the Noematic Collective.  

Sian transmitted four three minute recordings of sounds from her workshops and the people at the event were able to move between the theatre where I was projecting the image of the received signal from my SDR receiver and the corridor area where Glen was at the transmitting end of things.  There was an additional twist a vinyl recording was made of Sian’s recordings on an original recording machine from around 1930 I believe.

The event seemed to go well and Sian was very happy with the way that things went, the people attending also enjoyed it as well.

Check out our video page to see Sian’s video of the event.

 

 

 

 

73’s Graham M0GAE

 

 

 

 

 

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