Signal Tide · A sound and extraterrestrial radio installation

About the work

Signal Tide is an installation which combines audio, derived from the signal of the LES-1 satellite, with a generative sound accompaniment based on sacred harp singing melodies.

The LES-1, manufactured in the early 1960s at MIT, in Boston, Massachusetts, was launched in 1965. It functioned for the following two years, but it then ceased to transmit signals in 1967, and was abandoned as cold-war-era space-junk. However, in 2013, signals from the LES-1 were unexpectedly received again, for the first time in 46 years. This resurrected spacecraft is still giving its ghostly signal, which can be received at 237mHz on any VHF antenna. The satellite is now also seemingly tumbling slowly around its own axis every few seconds, as it orbits the earth — this means that it gives an unstable but steady signal, with distinctly-perceivable gaps caused by this tumbling action.

Signal Tide will combine audio, derived from the live feed of the satellite’s signal (received from an antenna mounted on the roof of LACMA), with a musical ‘answering’ signal, in real time, as the satellite passes overhead above the site of the installation in Los Angeles. The LES-1, an artificial moon and a relic of a different era, will pull an earthbound tide of sound toward it, in a fleeting accompaniment, as it passes overhead on its looping extraterrestrial pilgrimage.