Witness 1

Witness 1 is an ambient album, my first.


It is ambient in the sense that it holds, I think, interest for the curious listener, but can easily survive on or below the threshold of conscious listening. It does not demand attention. This is appropriately in alignment with the source of the recording.

It was recorded in a single session on March 23rd 2020, late in the afternoon, using software that I had programmed over the preceding months to track live satellite positional data and transform the data stream into ‘meaningful’ musical information. As the recording was made, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom informed the country that it had effectively been placed under lockdown in order to reduce the spread of the Covid 19 virus.

There are no instruments involved at all. Nor is there any conscious composition leading towards the sound on the recording.

Realtime information relating to altitude, latitude, longitude, speed, azimuth, right ascension and declination is transformed, in 8 second intervals, into frequency assignations, filter parameters and harmonic signals.

For this recording, the software focussed on a number of satellites, with an automated trigger shifting between them at approximately 3 minute intervals. The satellites tracked were the International Space Station, Cryosat 2 (monitoring arctic ice movement) Sentinel B1, Sentinel 2A, Sentinel 3A (from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus family of land and ocean monitoring satellites, and Terra, the flagship of NASA’s Earth Observing System.

They are present, watching, recording, transmitting, all the time, while we are only momentarily conscious of their presence.

My hope is that in giving voice to these witnesses, (this is intended as the first of a series of ‘witness’ recordings) we may feel the vague comfort of being attended to by something benign and universal.

Satellite tracking API provided by N2Y0
All programming; Michael Begg