Yale University

Yale Quantum Institute Creates One-of-a-Kind Album

The sound the team used and manipulated with synthesizers comes from Quantum computers that are used to calculate complex problems.

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When you think of physics and quantum mechanics, you may think - no thank you. But that's exactly why the minds at Yale University created "Quantum Sound."

It flips cutting-edge science on its head, transforming it into artistic expression. In this case, an album.

The sound the team used and manipulated with synthesizers comes from Quantum computers that are used to calculate complex problems.

"So at the very beginning of the album, you hear just the noise over time, you start to hear melodies and tones, and those are result of those measurements, being converted into representations of, of different notes or pitches," said "Quantum Sound" artist Spencer Topel.

"These quantum fridges are the coldest, darkest, quietest places in the universe, and yet, from it, you can kind of have sound emerge, which is a really wonderful concept," he continued.

The project is part of Yale's Quantum Institute which started in 2017. The institute's manager said the goal is to make quantum science less intimidating so that more people will consider going into the field.

"We would be cool if we have something that can explain a little bit more quantum physics because not that many people want to talk about quantum physics right away. When I talk to people I was like, 'Oh, I'm working with quantum physicists, we're doing quantum science,' they're like, 'Well, great.' But they don't want to talk about that. And so having artists was [initially] a very naïve idea of 'Oh, we could do some outreach.' There was a simple idea, it'd be nice to have nice visuals. And then I realized working with these very talented artists, 'Oh we can do way more than that,'" Florian Carle, Yale Quantum Institute manager, said.

"Quantum Sound" was first performed live in 2019 as an end to the institute's Artist in Residency program.

Topel, who was the artist that year, admits the team didn't know what was going to happen when they embarked on this journey. They wanted to make something new and artistic, and "Quantum Sound" grew out of their curiosity.

"So it could have manifest as installation, it could have manifest as just a composition work or musical work. I think the reason it ended up going this way is we found music interesting and thoughtful materials in the sonification that lent itself to being a performance and then eventually an album," Topel said.

After the live performance in 2019, the team put together an album that they debuted last month on April 14, which was World Quantum Day.

They created a light show on the side of the Yale Quantum Institute building to go with the sound of the album.

"So there's a lot of reds and blues that represents the excited states of the qubits. And the blue is the grounded level, and then the transition between these phases that goes from like, red to blue with pink and Rose. And the idea was to have that in this big scale," Carle said.

Even though it rained that night, 150 students and people in the New Haven area came out to see the display.

"This project is one of my favorite projects I've done in recent memory and working with the faculty and students at Yale, and in particular, the physics or the Applied Physics Department, was amazing," Topel said.

"I would encourage everybody to listen to the album, and try to be curious and figure out what you can do. I think there's a lot of interest in using everyday tools in different ways," Carle said.

To find out more about the Yale Quantum Institute and the "Quantum Sound" album, click here. There, you can read all about it and hear the entire 30-minute album.

As for what's next for the project, the team said they are talking about releasing the synthesizers they used to create the project.

Their idea is to give them out for free to kids so they can start experimenting with sounds and cultivate a love for science at an early age.

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