What: The Boulder Laptop Orchestra concert
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: ATLAS building, Black Box Theater
For more: http://cismat.org/index.html
B oulder's Laptop Orchestra is usually focused on finding new sounds, but this semester they are hoping to recreate an old sound never before heard by the human ear -- the sounds of the sun.
The orchestra, better known as BLOrk, is made up of two directors, CU professors John Drumheller and John Gunther, and a group of five to 10 students enrolled in the Electronic Music Ensemble, an elective offered through the Atlas Center for Media, Arts and Performance.
This spring, astrophysics graduate student Chris Chronopoulos used data collected from a NASA satellite studying the sun to make the first sun organ.
"It's been said that the sun's oscillations carry a musical quality," Chronopoulos said. "I sped it up two million times so we could hear it, and the way it sounds is unlike anything I've heard before. The sun has its own timbre."
Drumheller will be playing the sun organ, which looks like a common electronic keyboard but sounds more like an organ, during the group's first spring performance on Saturday at the Black Box Theater. Videos of the sun will be projected as the sun organ plays, Drumheller said.
The show will feature the directors, five students and a jazz drummer from Denver playing an array of traditional and electronic instruments. A range of music, from a Gregorian chant to jazz music, will be performed with a violin, a French horn and iPad apps and Gestures, which uses infrared software to project sounds based on finger movements.
The performance will also include six of the group's signature instruments, hemispherical speakers that project sound that mimics an acoustic instrument, creating a unique sonic experience, Gunther said.
The speakers were developed at Princeton University and acquired by CU in 2007. They were used in various electronic performances before inspiring the class, developed around experimental music. Since the fall of 2011, Gunther and Drumheller have been using the class to encourage music innovation around the speakers and other technology.
"You don't have to have any musical background or specific experience playing an instrument," Drumheller said. "It's about a sense of adventure, willing to explore, to not be afraid to make a horrible, disastrous mistake in front of a bunch of people. So far that hasn't happened."
The directors said most of their shows are a surprise to the musicians and audience, since even mistakes in rehearsal can evolve the performance.
Follow Whitney Bryen on Twitter: @SoonerReporter.