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Kelly Snook: "I would like to see music returned to his historical role"

Kelly Snook: "I would like to see music returned to his historical role"
Foto: © Kelly Snook

Kelly Snook is Music producer, engineer, instrument inventor, and former NASA researcher Professor. And Kelly has created a new immersive musical instrument, called Concordia, which makes it possible that solar systems playing musical instruments by themselves - and that will allow people to play the music of the spheres in virtual reality. We met Kelly at MOST WANTED: MUSIK in Berlin and talked to her about the future of music in the age of digitalization and how will nature and technology come together. 



CCB Magazin: Hi Kelly, at this year's MOST WANTED you presented your new immersive music project Kepler Concordia, which makes it possible that solar systems playing musi-cal instruments by themselves. Can you explain, how it works? 

Kelly Snook: No one knows yet how EXACTLY it works, but in principle the instrument is built by visualizing and sonifying data, mapping information to visuals and sound using emerging mixed-reality technologies so that the player is immersed within and able to fly around. As they explore, they see and hear objects that represent physical, mathematical, or other relationships that exist in nature, but which are impossible to experience in daily human life. For instance, things that are too small, such as subatomic particles, or too large, such as solar systems, too close or too far away, to slow or to fast for humans to be able to see or hear without assistance. In this way music and mathematics are tools for expanding our experiences with nature and with scientific exploration.

Humanity has lost sight of the facility of music to convey information or explore nature. I would like to see music returned to his historical role and to create an instrument that allows people to experience with nature

CCB Magazin:Sounds crazy. How did the idea come up? 

Kelly Snook: The idea came up first with Pythagoras 600 BC that we can understand our universe by quantifying it and representing it with numbers, ratios, and music. It was his idea, known as the “Music of the Spheres,” that nature was governed by harmonic, musical relation-ships that drove scientific inquiry and discovery for 1700 years. Humanity has lost sight of the facility of music to convey information or explore nature. In Medieval times, music was not thought of as an “art” or as a mode of human expressiveness, and was not primarily entertainment. Rather, it was part of the Quadrivium, used along with mathematics, geom-etry, and astronomy to explore, understand, and describe reality. 

CCB Magazin:But what is the added value? Why do we need this? 

Kelly Snook: I would like to see music returned to his historical role and to create an instrument that allows people to experience aspects of scientific discovery that were originally brought about through music, such as Johannes Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. Concordia will be released exactly on the 400th anniversary of the publication of Kepler’s most important work, “The Harmonies of the World,” bringing to life his work and motivations and making it accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. This instrument will be a very effective tool for teaching and learning scientific concepts and will hopefully be used in schools and museums to bring greater understanding through immersive exploration and exposure to the beauty intrinsic in nature.

CCB Magazin:Have these things been lost in the course of digitisation? 

Kelly Snook: Yes, that’s the point. Kepler’s conclusion after his decade of groundbreaking research was that we should be one and we should treat each other with love. Now more than ever, I believe we need tools, games, and instruments that allow us to recognize our fundamental oneness, to think and feel things larger than ourselves, and to bring us together as humans. This feels urgent to me, so I am accelerating the development. 

CCB Magazin:The music itself comes from nature. Thousands of years ago people began to imitate nature and animals - sounds were created or melodies developed from them. Is there a wish behind the recourse to nature that one could get the progressive digi-talisation under control again? Or is it more an expression of the fact, that technol-ogy will dominate us more and more in the future? 

Kelly Snook: I think for this instrument, technology is a means to an end – it is not a commentary on technology itself, but just requires advanced technologies to realize the potential of the instrument. The challenge of Johannes Kepler to “follow after, ye modern musicians, and judge this according to your arts, which have been unknown to antiquity…” is only JUST now, after 400 years, possible from a technological perspective. I would hope that the technology itself could become so advanced that it could effectively disappear and enable a kind of superhuman experience of nature beyond our native abilities.

CCB Magazin:On stage on MOST WANTED: MUSIC you said you want to "herald a new era of music as a research tool". Can you explain what you mean exactly? 

Kelly Snook: For hundreds of years, scientific and mathematical concepts have been communicated primarily in print, as books and the printing press made it a useful tool for disseminating information widely. It is only very recently with the advent of faster, more powerful computing and display, that new modes of science communication have been possible, such as video, audio, broadband internet connectivity, and immersive media. This means new paradigms can be created for representing information within these new modes, taking advantage of human capacity for using various senses together to find patterns, make correlations, and discover relationships. Concordia takes advantage of the already harmonic and breathtakingly beautiful relationships that exist in the music oft he spheres to experiment with this idea of making data playable and distributable in a multi-player game-like experience.

CCB Magazin:But what economic power is behind such innovation as yours? Does that serve more research purposes, is more gimmickry or do such innovations really develop serious market structures - and: Who will profit from it in the end, the inventors themselves or others? 

Kelly Snook: To be clear, there is currently NO economic power behind this innovation, and its goals are decidedly open-source and non-commercial. That said, there is an economy built into the instrument that is designed to create and build communities of people who are building, playing, and experiencing the music being created. In an ideal world, people would be able to create sustainable income for themselves by participating in the community and by generating things of value to the community. The financial infrastructure of the instrument is as innovative as the instrument itself, utilizing the newest available technologies such as the blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies. Ideally, everyone “profits,” whether that profit is material or intangible, without profit being the end goal. Concordia’s parent company, Concordia Creative, CIC, will be based in the UK and structured as a Community Interest Company.

CCB Magazin:You’re talking about the distribution of justice. But how does the digital development of the music market create more distributive justice? 

Kelly Snook: Concordia is designed from its inception with inclusivity and encouragement of diversity in mind, as well as rewarding excellence and quality of contribution. How this is implemented will require careful planning, as truly merit-based reward systems are very difficult to design and maintain, especially when money is involved. This is one of the most exciting aspects of the project, which is being researched and developed in partnership with RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub in Melbourne, Australia.  They are interested broadly in the social impact of new distributed ledger technologies as they start to transform our world. Concordia is the first instrument of its kind, built as a common good. 

CCB Magazin:When you look into the future: How will nature and technology come together in such a way that distributive justice is the result? And how do you yourself want to contribute to this?

Kelly Snook: Distributive justice can only be the result, if those of us involved in technology develop-ment consciously bring this about!  My goal is to “be the change I wish to see in the world” by devoting my efforts to making it possible for people to create and participate in such technologies through music and science.

CCB Magazin:Thank you Kelly!

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