LIGO’s discovery of gravitational waves on Thursday gave the scientific world plenty of reason to celebrate, but few realized the potential impact on the music community: Gravitational waves, when scientists translate the signal into an audio file, sound just like the wintry echo of Toronto hip-hop.
As the waves — WAVES, even — rippled through spacetime, LIGO recorded their movements through a 2.5-mile-long photodetector and converted the resulting data into sound waves. The resulting track, published Friday on Space.com, alternates between the initial conversion and an adjusted version better suited to the range of human hearing.
In their original form, the gravitational waves sound like a heartbeat thumping over the frigid wind of a winter night, reminiscent of the dark and sprawling synths on the Weeknd’s “Acquainted” or the cold, empty echoes and steady beat at the beginning of SAFE’s “Back 2.”
Adjusted for human hearing, the winter winds transform into the eerie emptiness of a high-ceilinged chamber, and the bassy heartbeat morphs into the steady, round sound of water droplets. Combined, they’re reminiscent of the track behind Drake’s “Own It,” with its pulsing blips and heady rush of white noise. (At moments, it’s also evocative of the beep of the EKG in Kanye’s “Say You Will,” a notable exception to the Toronto theme.)
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there’s an element of gravitational waves at the heart of every Toronto hip-hop track. The city’s music is characterized by the emptiness of its cold nights and the slow, resolute rhythm of its frigid winters — which, as we now know, is also the sound of two massive black holes colliding and rippling through the dense fabric of spacetime.
“We can hear gravitational waves,” LIGO Scientific Collaboration spokeswoman Gabriela Gonzalez, Ph.D., told Space.com in an interview Friday. “We can hear the universe.”
By “universe,” she meant “bangers from the 6ix.” She just doesn’t know it yet.