Satellite Sonata

Curated by Shazeb Shaikh
Produced by Pro Helvetia and Story of Foundation
Thanks to Eric Michel (Paris Observatory), Luc Labenne (Labenne Meteorites), Matthieu Gounelle (Paris Museum of Natural History) and SVARAM (Pondicherry Musical Instruments and Research)


Satellite Sonata was a musical encounter with 5 local musicians (Mumbai Police Band and Goa Orchestra) conducted by Santiago Lusardi-Girelli for the Story of Space Festival, an educational and artistic event in Panjim, Goa.

Through recordings, videos and workshops, we embarked on new musical territory by improvising on a score generated from satellite data, exploring contemporary playing techniques and practicing intuitive improvisations, in order to make a series of impromptu appearances in public spaces around the city of Panjim.

In parallel, a 4.5 billion year old meteorite was exhibited at the Adil Shah Gallery in Panjim, accompanied by recordings of the performances. Thanks to it’s vertical cuts, the meteorite also doubles as a musical instrument and can be played with a bow to produces a series of resonating tones.

Satellite Sonata

Launched in 2006, the CoRoT satellite  (lead by the French Space Agency CNES) measured the minuscule variations of the light of the stars. Through analysis of this twinkling of the stars, scientists can understand the physical composition of stars, their life cycles or even detect planets rotating around them.

In 2008 Prof. Eric Michel of the Paris Observatory develops a method that allows him to translate the CoRoT measurements into sound and thus listen to waves produced by the stars. In 2011, with Prof. Michel’s help, I reproduce and expand his method to create a series of new sounds for the DYNASTY exhibition at the Paris Museum of Modern Art.

For Satellite Sonata, I revisit the sonification techniques I developed together with Prof. Michel and adapt them to the composition of an instrumental score. First the satellite data is parsed by a custom computer program to calculate the spectral sounds of the starlight. Then, I rewrite the resulting sounds for brass ensemble by dividing the complex sounds into several partials or layers, each layer being played by an instrument – a technique developed by spectralist composers such as Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey.


The molten core of a protoplanet, one of the earliest bodies to take shape during the formation of our solar system, hurls through space for 4.5653 billion years. After a violent collision that rips it out of the planetary disk that will eventually become our solar system, it cools down a few degrees Celsius every 100’000 years. It cools down so slowly, that its atoms interlock to form a kind of crystallised metal. It finally collides with Earth about 1 million years ago and is transported through four ice ages to the Tundra of Sweden near the Muonio river.

Using techniques perfected over years by artists such as Pinuccio Sciola in Sardinia, Italy and Svaram Musical Research in Pondicherry, India, this iron from the sky is made to vibrate at it’s very own resonant frequencies, thus giving physical form to the sounds of the stars. Meteoric iron was the first source of metal for the earliest humans to produce artefacts, such as blades or coins. It is probably the oldest thing you will ever touch.