Flipping sounds from outer space in Ableton Live

NASA recently converted the electromagnetic radiation of astral bodies and cosmic events to sound waves.

Any music producer with an interest in the otherworldly would be curious to explore the possibilities of these public domain offerings in their own productions. While sampling is traditionally approached as directly placing a sound into a production as-is, another exciting prospect of sampling is the creation of virtual sample-based instruments. With these, new musical forms can be expressed from what might otherwise be nothing more than a grain of noise or a resonant blip. While approaching NASA’s collection of interstellar audio, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to play the sun?”

In the video above, sounds from the NASA collection were re-pitched across the musical keyboard using the Ableton Live devices Sampler and Drum Rack. Shaping the sound’s envelope (attack, decay, sustain, release) and exploring the use of re-pitching, reversing, filters, granular delays, and much more highlighted the strengths and musical potential of the source audio. From there, new melodies, chords, and rhythms could be programmed via MIDI, bringing new life to the source material.

We often think of a sample as a fixed building block in a production, but a sample can be the beginning of an entire journey into new sounds. Instead of just taking a sound and using it at face value, we can engage with our environment in a creative exchange, sculpting the sounds around us into new forms and giving voice to animate and inanimate objects. While the universe is waiting to be sampled, there’s a new universe of sound waiting to be unearthed within every sample.

Incorporate otherworldly sounds into your own productions:

May 5, 2021

Erin Rioux Erin Rioux is a record producer and co-founder of the New York label Human Pitch. As a member of the Splice team, Erin creates sounds and content.