Cosmic Sounds

The 100-inch Telescope, with the interior dome lights turned on. Another night of observing the Universe is about to begin. Photo credit: Elisa Webster.

On two Fridays, August 23 and September 13, Mount Wilson Observatory continues its experimental COSMIC SOUNDS series with encore performances of Jeff Talman’s OF SOUND BEFORE THE STARS inside the magnificent dome of the 100-inch telescope.

Join us for an evening of sounds derived from the Cosmic Microwave Background and observe through the telescope that Hubble and Humason used to confirm the expansion of the Universe.

After a brief introduction to the science and art behind it, the piece will play in its entirety as dark falls. Then the sounds will accompany the viewing of celestial objects through the night. Our session directors will inform and guide.

Tickets are $100. We must limit the attendance to 40 guests per night.

All proceeds go to the maintenance and preservation of Mount Wilson Observatory.

  • To purchase tickets for the Friday August 23 night (starting at 7:00 pm)  please click here.
  • To purchase tickets for the Friday, September 13 night (starting at 6:30 pm) please click here.

There was sound in the primordial plasma before stars, and that sound was instrumental in shaping the stars into existence. OF SOUND BEFORE THE STARS is a kind of sonic time travel, composed with sound modeled by Mark Whittle, University of Virginia, on acoustic waveform data embedded in the Cosmic Microwave Background, which captures the first waves in the earliest time of the universe that we detect. Glissandos are interwoven, modeled from the red-shift data captured by the 100-inch telescope that proved the expansion of space.

Sound artist Jeff Talman creates work in he intersections of art and science. He takes acoustic data from both cosmic and terrestrial phenomena transposed into hearing range and composes these into pieces harmonically tuned to the environment in which it will be played. Jeff has made installations in Cathedral Square in Cologne, Galleria Mazzini in Genow, the MIT Media Lab, Mount Wilson Observatory, Rothko Chapel, The Kitchen, St. James Cathedral in Chicago, St. Peter’s Church on Manhattan, and in the Bavarian Forest. In June 2018, two of Jeff’s installations were premiered under the skies of Mount Wilson Observatory for the sesquicentennial celebration of George Ellery Hale’s birth.


Learn more about Jeff’s music at