Jeff Mills teaches astrophysics but when will he actually DJ on Mars?

Jeff Mills teaches astrophysics but when will he actually DJ on Mars?

I really loved Mixmag’s last April Fools: Jeff Mills is going to be the first DJ to play in space.

“The Detroit musician really is taking a trip to the stars in his latest musical venture. He’ll be playing across three turntables, a throwback to his earliest performances. “A DJ playing in space is so obviously the future,” The Wizard told Mixmag. “So I wanted to balance that with analogue technology in its purest form: three perfectly calibrated Technics 1210s.” MixMag

Given Jeff Mills passion for astrophysics and science fiction, this joke came as no surprise. He recently teamed up with NTS to produce a radio show, The Outer Limits, using music and narratives to create an immersive experience about space exploration.

Although, the idea of DJing in space raises a few interesting questions…

Can you hear sound in space?

My naive guess was that you’ll never hear a sound in space since that would require soundwaves to reach your inner ear. Soundwaves need a medium to travel through and there are so few particules in space that sounds would fade way too quickly. Although, recent research pointed out that gravitational waves do travel in space, so hope is not entirely lost.

How does it feel like to play an instrument without gravity?

Okay, you may not play tomorrow in space directly, but you could play in a spacecraft. NASA already experimented and musical instruments have been brought to space.

“When you play music on the shuttle or the station, it doesn’t sound different, say the astronauts. The physics of sound is the same in microgravity as it is on Earth. What changes is the way you handle the instruments.” NASA

Carl Walz and Ellen Ochoa, two astronauts, shared their experience playing in microgravity. “When I played the flute in space,” says Ochoa, “I had my feet in foot loops.” In microgravity, even the small force of the air blowing out of the flute would be enough to move her around the shuttle cabin.

As for guitar, says Walz, “you don’t need a guitar strap up there, but what was funny was, I’d be playing and then all of a sudden the pick would go out of my hands. Instead of falling, it would float away, and I’d have to catch it before it got lost.”

Can we communicate with alien civilization with music?

We have been sending music into space for a while. In 1977, NASA sent two phonograph records aboard both Voyager spacecraft. These records contain sounds and images highlighting diversity of life and culture on Earth, featuring songs from all over the world. They are considered as a sort of a time capsule.

record-diagram.jpg
The Golden Record cover shown with its extraterrestrial instructions on how to read it. Credit: NASA/JPL

This year, for its 25th birthday, the Sonar Festival sent out 33 separate 10-second clips of music by electronic artists such as Autechre, Richie Hawtin and Holly Herndon, to Luyten’s Star, which has an exoplanet, GJ273b, believed to be inhabitable.

Well, we haven’t heard back yet!

Sources and inspiration