The Airborne Library is an immersive sound and augmented reality project that explores Charles Babbage‘s notion that sounds, once uttered, circle the globe for eternity. The work focuses on a particular passage in his 1837 work The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise – a work of natural theology in which he tries to square science and the existence of god. There’s one chapter however, Chapter IX –On the permanent Impression of our Words and Actions on the Globe we inhabit that captures the attention of anyone interested in sound – in it, he proposes that sounds once created, never dissipate and endlessly ripple through the atmosphere.
I created the work as part of the Uncommon Art Residency at The Teton Art Lab in Jackson Wyoming. It includes multiple parts: a 9.1 channel immersive sound composition; an augmented reality (AR) app created with the immense help and skills of Wenjun Li; and a performance with participants creating horns and using them to play morse code. Each participant was given a limited edition 3D printed horn kit and a risograph booklet.
Airborne Library Video
An example of the augmented reality app used in locations at Teton National park and Yellowstone. When looking at the phone’s screen, the app overlays a sphere of orbiting translations of Babbage onto the scene. The first orbit is in written english characters, the second orbit is the same text in morse code, and the orbit farthest out is translated into binary. The audio in this video is a portion of the 16 minute immersive ambisonic Airborne Library mix, decoded for headphones.