“Cassini’s Dreams” installed at the Venice Biennale is a Cassini laser-to-audio system that produces the sounds of Saturn’s rings by reading the rings of the sculpture. The audio is based on the album of the same name, “Cassini’s Dreams” that is built on the artist’s discovery of the sounds hidden in the rings for NASA.

Cassini's Dreams

The album “Cassini’s Dreams” brings to life some fascinating unheard aspects of Saturn’s rings. Since Galileo’s first tenuous observations in 1610 and the Saturn system has remained a source of intrigue for centuries. To this day Saturn is still one of the solar systems prime objects of wonder.  In 1997 we launched the Cassini probe in a 10 year voyage to study the Saturn system, closer than any human object had ever been before. Over its 20 year mission, Cassini sent back over 400 gigabytes of raw data including over 400,000 images of Saturn, her rings and moons.  The vast majority of this information was in the form of black and manipulated to form elegant full color portraits and movies of the unEarthly beauty of the Saturn system.  However, the sheer magnitude of new information and the unexpected form much of it took, begged for new ways to explore the planet and the data.

Cassini’s Dreams” is a rich audio experience, built from raw data and artistic interpretation of the two decades of Cassini’s tour. There she was our virtual eyes and ears on Saturn. As the probe swept past the gas giant, traveling above and below her rings, swooping down on moons to fly through icy plumes, above methane oceans, past shepherd moons guiding ring particles in their orbits and spying  on propeller moons as  they create delicate internal structures and waves. These were two decades of wonder and data collected, until Cassini finally plunged in her death throes into the cold cloud tops of the planet itself.  “Cassini’s Dreams” lets you join Cassini in her exploration of the giant ringed planet nine times as far from the sun as we are from Earth.

This album was first inspired by the image of Saturn and her rings. As a visual artist I look closely at images and thought that Saturn’s rings looked very much like a vinyl record album with Saturn as the center core and all of the tracks as her rings. I imagined that the gaps of the tracks as the spaces between the rings. Then as a sound based artist I realized that to create the sounds of her rings would be a unique and exciting CD to produce.

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Here are the tracks from “Cassini’s Dreams”:

1) Introplanetary is a sonic interpretation of the quiet, emptiness Cassini experienced on her 10 year gravity driven slingshot maneuvers that took her by Venus, Earth and then Jupiter to get to Saturn.

2) Hohmann’s Ballet Cassini’s complex gravity dependent orbits put her and our ears swinging around and past the rings, plunging through the crystalline sounds of ice crystals and dust particles as they hit the space craft.

3) Cassini’s Dream 1: Unveiling Cassini’s Dreams are interpretations of individual explorations of the 7 main rings, starting with the relatively quiet structure of the outermost dim, yet dynamic F ring.

4) Cassini’s Dream 2: Collecting Echoes Cassini’s radar exploration of the rings and the surface of cloud-covered Titan helped her reveal structures invisible to cameras or far away human eyes.

5) Cassini’s Dream 3: Propeller and Spokes Here is a sonic exploration of some of the more unusual features of the rings, the “spokes,” charged particles trapped and moved with Saturn’s rotating magnetic field, and acoustic “prop wash” from the propeller moons, tumbling through the tiny particles of the rings.

6) Cassini’s Dream 4: Small Orbits Cassini’s data showed not only the grandeur of the but also of the 62 known moons and numerous tiny moonlets orbiting within the rings themselves, creating a complex multidimensional acoustic ballet.

7) Cassini’s Dream 5: Kamakazi Snowflakes While most of the mass of the Saturn is tied up in the planet, rings and moons, uncountable numbers of tiny ice particles escape and fill the surrounding system, slamming into Cassini, telling a subtle and complex tale of gravity and energy.

8) Cassini’sDream 6: Grand Mumuration Like birds flocking in a giant cloud of wings, the ring particles form an enormous planet-spanning field that orbits the planet in persistent flight.

9) Surfing the Gap As the ship dips through the rings it hears the volumnous array that is the rings.

10) Cloudboarding In her final moments, Cassini is sent to surf the Saturnian cloud decks to keep her from possibly contaminating the surface of the planets icy (and life bearing?) moons, using her last few ergs of energy to signal home until she briefly lights up the skies like a lightning flash before disappearing forever.

11) Saturn Remains Our eyes and ears around Saturn are gone (for now), leaving us with years-worth of information to inspire us to send out our next explorer.  But Saturn remains, waiting in the dark.

This unusual multi-disciplined project marries art with science. It was created by China Blue a sound artist who was the first person to record the Eiffel Tower with Lance T. Massey the T-Mobile ringtone and award winning composer and Seth S. Horowitz a Neuroscientist who applies the science of how the brain processes sound to music. Together they produced these works which were realized through the support of NASA RI/Space and Canadian Council of the Arts grants.

Your purchase of “Cassini’s Dreams” will help fund new programs at The Engine Institute, Inc a 501 (c)(3) non-profit institution. The Engine Institute, Inc. is dedicated to promoting artists working at the intersection of art science and technology.