A good deal of our inspiration comes from seeing how other people improvise to get where they need to go, build what they need, figure out solutions. We also benefit mightily from things that remind us that there is a huge, endlessly creative universe out there, and that we are a part of it. Tom Ashcraft is one of those people whose work gives both views at once.

We wrote about Tom a few months ago and keep an eye on what he is up to. He is one of those ahead-of-his-time people who keep following their path whether one or hundreds of people come along with him.We were thrilled to see that thousands of folks have their eyes on him these days: Recently, Wired posted DIY Recordings of Awakening Sun and last weekend NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed Tom.

It seems the sun, having been pretty quiet the past couple of years, suddenly “started flaring ferociously” and this flaring can be recorded as sound. Tom spends his time listening to and recording the sun, and other cosmic phenomena like meteors and space dust, via his homemade observatory in Santa Fe, New Mexico; it is all part of what appears to be an emerging art work. He processes his recordings in such a way as to give them a kind of pulsating effect, or  “spaciality”, to make them something people will want to connect to. Click here to listen. Says Tom:

“I have that playing at a low level. I’m able to hear when there are sudden fluctuations …That makes me hypersensitive to the sun. I consider my antennas… I consider them my hyperextended nervous systems, so I can feel subtle solar movements.”

I sort of see it as a possible musical form of the future. You know? An energetic form…Maybe the word isn’t even art anymore, it’s almost nutritional to the nervous system in a way that I don’t know about, but I’m groping towards, kind of as an artist.

“I’m very conscious of myself as an organism, an electroreceptor sensing the sun…It’s human, but the human is a subset of being an organism.”

How is Tom able to hear the sun’s daily music? He improvised an incredibly simple yet powerful observatory (his work is tracked and cited by serious astronomy sites) using a network of wires – dipole antennas –  set up in field, that come into the shed he works in, into a series of cast-off short-wave radios; old-fashioned VCR’s act as audio recorders (since they use eight-hour long tapes that Tom doesn’t have to attend to them).

We love Tom’s willingness and fortitude in”groping towards, kind of as an artist” whatever it is he discovers his recordings of sun and planets to be. And we love that he made his high-tech observatory out of materials some might consider to be junk…

…”They don’t even take them at the Salvation Army any more, I don’t think…”

…that connects him to the stars.

Related posts: Thomas Ashcraft: Artist as Electroreceptor

Photo of the sun via Creative Commons License.

Via Wired + NPR

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