Gravitational wave discovery celebrated at BBC Proms

The historic discovery of gravitational waves will be celebrated tomorrow (Saturday 6 August) with a new composition played by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain as part of the BBC Proms.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research (IGR) played a key role in the discovery of the existence of gravitational waves earlier this year.

Professors Sheila Rowan, James Hough and Martin Hendry will be attending the event, with Prof Hendry offering a short pre-Proms talk about the discovery at the LIGO detector in the USA, which was announced in February. The sound of the gravitational wave signal, caused by two black holes colliding, is incorporated into the composition.

Glasgow scientists describe the significance of detecting gravitational waves

The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, which brings together 164 of the UK's best teenage musicians, will play German composer Iris ter Schiphorst’s new piece Gravitational Waves. The science-inspired programme, conducted by Edward Gardner, will also include Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra and Holst’s The Planets.

Composer Iris ter Schiphorst said: “This composition which was developed in collaboration with the composer Uroš Rojko uses the original chirp sound from the LIGO Scientific Collaboration which is not only heard through a sampler but also reflected through the sound from the orchestral players in different ways

“I was fascinated by the idea that the universe is a gigantic, never-ending cosmos of sounds – not in spherical harmonies like the philosophers and musicians of the ancient world and Renaissance thought but like a somewhat chaotic sound.”

Professor Sheila Rowan, director of the Institute for Gravitational Research, said: "It's exciting that doing science has spilt over into music and has inspired a new musical piece. It's a really nice side effect to see that happen. And it's great that it's happening on Jim Hough's 71st birthday."

Professor James Hough said: "I'm absolutely delighted to be celebrating my birthday in this way in the Royal Albert Hall."

The performance from the Royal Albert Hall, which begins at 7:30pm, will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and will be streamed on Radio 3’s website.

First published: 5 August 2016

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