The Telemetron Orchestra

When contemplating the future of life in space, we dream not only of rockets and off-world societies, but also of art, of leisure, and frequently of music. Human life in space will be not only operational, but also culturally rich. 

In order to explore this future, Nicole L'HuillierSands Fish, and Thomas Sanchez Lengeling are building the Telemetron Orchestra, a collection of novel musical instruments designed explicitly to be performed in microgravity. Born from speculation and microgravity experimentation, the Telemetrons take advantage of the poetics of the weightless environment to create a musical performance based on motion in space. The instruments are both devices and sculptures at once. They are both kinetic and aesthetic experiments, as well as explorations of interaction design in an environment where the gravitational rules we are used to do not apply. 

During the zero gravity flight test of the first Telemetron, L'Huillier and Fish recognized the unique agency that objects in microgravity possess. There were interesting questions to ask about the dance between a human and a non-human body, and work continues to define a new body language for performance in weightlessness. 

However, with the most recent three Telemetrons and the first performance of the Telemetron Orchestra in August of 2019, the exploration became more focused on how these instruments might perform themselves without human interaction. Might we set the initial conditions for a musical performance, and watch it unfold in front of us? Are there unique opportunities in human performance of some instruments, while others autonomously perform themselves? Can these lessons be extended and applied to the objects of industrial design, or expand interaction design paradigms?

This work continues, exploring unique forms conducive to performance in the microgravity environment, and novel ways to capture micro-gravitational movements in order to expand cultural expression as we spend more and more time in space. Because a core motivation of this work is to inspire and enable diversity in the exploration of this cultural frontier, and because it is currently a privilege to have access to the means of experimentation, L'HuillierFish, and Sanchez Lengeling are building an open hardware platform to make it easier for future musicians to build experiments that leverage telemetry to create music.