Scientists at NPL sending out 'good vibrations'

May 27, 2003

In the historical setting of Bushy House, Teddington, London, virtuoso pianist GéNIA with the support of an infrasound bass, performs an engaging lunchtime lecture recital at the home of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) on Friday 16th May 2003 at 12:00.

Thes rehearsal is in preparation for the performance, which will take place on 31st May 2003 at the Purcell Room, London. The concert is entitled Infrasonic and is the latest instalment of the Soundless Music research project. Combining music and experiment with a stunning new video installation by filmmaker Ravi Deepres, Infrasonic promises to be a insightful and unusual show. Sarah Angliss sound engineer and composer comments on this unique audio experience, "The sounds in this concert are so extreme, you couldn't play them on an ordinary hi-fi. The only way to experience them is to come along to the Purcell Room on the 31st and hear them live"!

The rehearsal room is dominated by an impressive black infrasound pipe designed by NPL's measurement experts, seven metres long, emitting frequencies below 20Hz - bass notes lying on the cusp of human perception.

Dr. Richard Lord, Acoustics scientist at NPL comments; "This fascinating collaboration between science and music has resulted in NPL measurement expertise being applied in an unusual way by designing an infrasound generator, which plays a central role in Soundless Music experiments."

This musical experiment was conceived by pianist GéNIA and Sarah Angliss. The two women share a passion for electroacoustic sound within music and are always looking for inventive ways to make electroacoustic concerts more compelling.

Sarah Angliss makes the observation of how science and art have conflicting perspectives but surprisingly work with similar mediums; "I love the way this concert is trying to make sense of the conflict between scientists' and artists' views of infrasound. Scientists tend to think of infrasound as an annoyance--for instance, something you might hear from a distant factory chimney. But organists have been using it in sacred music for five hundred years and many of them say it has a profoundly moving effect. It's exciting and daunting to be composing music when you can't predict its emotional effect".

Dr. Richard Wiseman, one of the psychologists coordinating the analysis states; "The infrasound generator has been specially constructed for the performance and is the only one of its kind in the world. We are using well controlled scientific methods to evaluate the potential effect that these low frequency sounds might have on the audience's perception of each piece. We have no idea what to expect, but that is what makes the project so exciting."

The Project aims to explore our emotional response to infrasound in a live, concert setting. Featuring solo piano works and music for piano and electronics, the concert will incorporate pieces by Glass, Pärsey, Part, Skempton and Tanaka, and new works by Sarah Angliss and Roddy Skeaping, specially written for the event.

During the Purcell Room concert, psychologist Ciarán O'Keeffe will monitor the audience's response using video recordings and questionnaires. Dr. Richard Lord and Dan Simmons from NPL acoustics team will monitor sound and infrasound levels throughout the show. At certain points in the recital, unknown to the audience or to GèNIA, the trio will lace the music with occasional deep bass notes from their infrasonic generator.
For further details, biographies and information please visit the website:

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National Physical Laboratory

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