Martine-Nicole Rojina: Moonbounce
In this week’s MTF Podcast, Reuters journalist Jamillah Knowles interviews Martine-Nicole Rojina - a multimedia artist who uses one of the world’s first radio astronomy antennas to bounce the human voice and classical music instruments live from the surface of the moon. Martine-Nicole came to #MTF Stockholm to showcase her project… but she ended up dramatically expanding it with the help of the MTF community.
moon, waves, radio telescope, invite, martine, mtf, people, thought, music, bouncing, technology, tech fest, scientists, important, echo, reflect, voice, arts, collaborate, musician
Andrew Dubber, Jamillah Knowles, Martine-Nicole Rojina
Hi, Andrew Dubber, here from Music Tech Fest and thanks so much for downloading the MTF podcast. Today something really special. That’s kind of the centrepiece for a lot of new collaborations and projects that started at MTF Stockholm and is now carrying on through our satellite events, as well as in the world beyond MTF. Martine-Nicole Rojina is a musician, and immersive multimedia content producer and consultant for VR, AR and future technology projects. She’s a consultant to the European Commission’s starts programme which brings together science technology and the arts. She’s co founder of a global private aerospace coalition called being in synergy, and she’s a civil astronaut training advisor for space for humanity. Martine-Nicole is currently artists in residence at the Dwingeloo observatory telescope in the Netherlands, where she’s been reflecting the sound of her voice and of classical musical instruments off the surface of the moon using modulated radio wave transmissions. Now my team are called brought the project to MTF Stockholm where originally, she was simply going to perform and showcase her moonbounce project in collaboration with the Dutch scientists at the observatory. But as with so many things that come to Music Tech Fest, more people became involved. It took on new ideas and new directions. And it became a little bigger than it had been before. She sat down with Reuters journalist and AI specialist Jamillah Knowles on the interview stage at MTF labs.com I think you’ll really enjoy this. Have a listen. Martine-Nicole Rojina.
Brilliant. All right, then we continue our fantastic array of chats that we’ve been having here at Music Tech Fest, with someone who has just run from a nuclear bunker, after bouncing things off the moon, which if you were here for the last session, you would have heard a little bit about that. But Martine, please tell me what, I don’t even know where to begin with… so all right. So what have you been doing here? Let’s start with that first.
Well, I initially was supposed to do a performance. So by myself, so I, I am actively moon bouncing, that’s what you have been talking about before. So I’m reflecting radio waves of the surface of the moon passively. So that means it’s literally the echo of the moon, that comes back to us. And I collaborate with a single radio telescope, which is a very amazing place, because actually one of the first radio telescopes that was ever built, it’s from the early 50s. And with this very radio telescope, they discovered that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy. So it’s, it’s quite a monument. So I feel very honoured. And they collaborate with two radio astronomers, and they help me like ham radio operators, and in the ham radio world, they do moonbounce for quite a long time. So it was in actually, the Americans used it to spy on the Russians. So they listened via the moon, because on Earth, they were jamming the signals. And so I know it’s a long answer, but I’m trying to get my going, I lost this was profound on so yeah, and what what what I’m doing, I’m a participatory artist. So I combined science, technology and ICT for quite a long time now. But most important for me is that I want to invite others to take part in this. So initially, I was supposed to only moon bounce myself, because we have to be with the moon. And so it was a limited moment that we actually had the moon visible in the sky. And I was supposed to do that performance myself with my voice. So what I did was that I end life with the echo of the moon. So what I did was that I invited people from all around the world, and it’s quite some fascinating list of people, I hope we’re going to publish them somewhere somehow, to send me sentences that they would want to say to sister moon, because I, well, I’m German. So in German, it’s like, sadly, the moon is male. But actually, the moon is female in most of the other languages. So I thought it would be a bit nicer to go for the female version of her because I actually think she is female. And so I invited them to have a meaningful dialogue with that as like one of our oldest ancestors on the celestial heavens, that we all know and i think that it’s very good for us to reestablish this kind of profound and meaningful relationship to our universe because we are part of it were made from it. So I think that got a bit like this fascination for the universe got a bit it? I don’t know it got a bit too scientific recently, and we don’t have this connection. This emotional connection to it anymore. And so I thought it would be beautiful invite people to talk to sister moon. And now it all changed. Because we actually I found out that it’s totally possible that we have a lab performance and we invite the lab participant and the audience that would come to speak to system on themselves. So yesterday, we did a three and a half hour, not two and a half hour bounce session with, I think 68, or something people that came and spoke to the moon. And we had a live Skype connection with the radio telescope in the north of the Netherlands. And it was absolutely fabulous. Because people, I mean, they didn’t know in the beginning what was happening, and most of them didn’t understand that it was coming back in real time. So they were sitting in front of that screen, where there was like this recording going on, and like this little screen of the astronomers that they could look at, and they look at it. And then they get the instructions like there’s first going to be some noise and it’s going to be 2.3 seconds echo because the moon is really close right now. And so on and so on. And then they hear the noise and then they say something and then they hear the echo of the moon and their face is literally changed to absolute mess. They were absolutely mesmerised. So it was really like this. And a lot of people were like with tears and image and he was bouncing of the moon and Reeps One was bouncing off the moon. So emerged and actually in invented a kind of song that we are now using in this lab performance live. So what we did is that we now together with a synth that is actually made with gravitational waves and some other elements were playing with the samples live now. So that’s what you might see again tomorrow, because we have just been told that we might do another performance tomorrow. But that was the longest answer that you probably ever got a
good one, I think we’ll agree. And so that emotional contact, I mean, as you say, Science Technology quite often seen as cold arenas, even though the technology can be used to make quite an emotional experience. And I’m having witnessed some of the people doing this and talking to them afterwards and saying, you know, I heard my fuzzy voice come back to me saying something that I kind of thought of two minutes before was hugely emotional. And I thought kind of being a bit silly, you know, it’s just becoming a middle aged woman. And this kind of thing touches me. Everybody seemed to have that experience. Since when, what was your experience when you first did it?
Well, I was at the antenna. So and I have to say that I’m I’m half Slovenian, half German, and my Slovenian side sometimes kicks in a lot, and it’s very emotional. So I had the antenna, I cried all the time of happiness. And I was like, like a little child. I was for one week like they gave me some kind of excitement drugs. I was like jumping around like, like a rabbit telling everyone like, look what I did. And so for me it was, I learned a lot about it in advance. So I am part of, I became part of synergy moon. I don’t know if you had that interview already, or if it’s going to be later on. But Tench Moon is one of the five finalist teams of the Google Lunar XPrize. And they kind of commissioned me to make an artwork to reflect to them like to go to the moon and reflect back to Earth. So I was busy with thinking about going to space for quite a long while and about that specific technology. I was very busy, like finding out what to say and how to do it. When I did it, for the first time I was I was completely breathless. I mean, I was like, I suddenly realised that my voice just travelled almost 800,000 kilometres. And it was reflected by this thing that I know from, I mean, this planet, this moon that I know since I was born, kind of I mean, and I was I that’s why I wanted to share it with everyone because I felt like oh my god, this is transformative. And it made me cry in that moment. But I wasn’t in that session that we did. I wasn’t the first one to moonbounce that I come always the last one I’m doing maybe like this time I did the testings in the beginning of this, that connection would work but then I let everyone do their job and then I had the radio astronomers having to tell me like, do you actually want to also say something this time? And I was like Yeah, of course. So I we moon bounced cello and bassoon and drums and ukulele and all kinds of music instruments because I thought that was the idea of recreating the understanding of what is a musical instrument? And how do we communicate with something that is not human. So I heard cello that was the first echo I heard and I already cried back. If I was really like four, I was kind of amazed that my brain still could actually do something functional because I was so touched by so. And that will happen yesterday as well. When I saw the people and I saw the mass migration, I was just standing next to it, and you see it in some videos that I’m like having this tears at the smiles. So yeah, that’s what that’s that’s how it felt like.
And so as, as an artist, as a performer, as a technologist, how important is it for you to be able to get this kind of access to machines? Because try as I might, when I walk into any kind of lab, I’m told not to touch anything expensive, and probably for good reason. But you’ve, you’ve shown that these hugely influential and in this case, historical machines have a huge function in the arts. So how do you how can we make more scientists let us play with their stuff, basically, is what I’m asking.
Well, I am collaborating already for a while now with the European Commission in the European Parliament on a new on a news unit, actually, that is called starts. It stands for science, technology and the arts. And it’s about the inclusion of art in science and technology. So to actually create holistic innovation. So I am consulting them, and I’m sometimes project manager and sometimes curator for exhibitions. And actually, there are not so many scientists that tell you don’t touch this, there is rather the academic body that creates the they’ve, I don’t know that this the science has a totally different purpose, they have way more competition or the arts also has a way more competition. So I’m now making it a bit like unfair for for the purpose. But in science, you write papers, you publish papers, you defend your work a lot. So it’s very important that your experiment remains functional, during the whole course of what you do, right, and what you need to research on. So when you invite somebody to touch your equipment, it might be breaking or it might not work anymore. And besides that, it’s also that when I do that for quite a long time, now I do that for like, I don’t know more than 10 years now, the empathy studio, which is my company, if you want to say so, is basically that we are trying to work on that bridging the different fields. And whenever I meet this, scientists or also engineers that are in this collaborations, there is fear of being misunderstood, there is fear of not being able to translate your mind into the world of the other person. So the most important is not so much to make them understand and you need their equipment, the most important is to make them trust that they will not be declared as geeks or as like specialists and have no vision no no no known explorative horizon and to create this kind of sharing place where this fear of anxiety and exploration is no longer there. So this is basically how you can make them use their equipment quite passionately. And then they will become very supportive and very active. And once they understand that, if they don’t have to speak in this language that like only the others and are doing the same research will understand but they can actually share way other things with you. They can share that they sometimes are awake until six in the morning, like you are drinking 70 coffees per day and almost collapsing and they can they see that there’s like a whole different way of connecting and playground then what is expected from them in their daily life. And that’s, I think, very interesting and very beautiful to observe when it happens.
And so, finally, because I know I’m going to get shushed at some point, even though I’d like to keep talking, does this tap into the work that you’ve done with waves because I’ve looked into some of the work that you’ve done, and certainly for me, it described so many different connections that I hadn’t read. Thought about visually audio wise. And and I’m seeing you do something with the moon, I was thinking of tidal waves, I was thinking, How does she Connect? You know, is it? I mean, maybe it’s something separate. But do you see this as a continuation of that exploration you’ve already done?
Well, waves are everything is that that’s a short answer to it. But to give you a bit more of an answer to this a, well, I grew up with a strange mind that was always interested in various things at the same time. So it was very hard for me to specialise. It was actually I had a career in music business, it was very hard for me to be a musician only. And the record labels wanted me to be a musician only, and it it always put me in the corner where didn’t want to be. So eventually, I stopped, and I recreated myself to be this multi disciplinary being that I am now a transdisciplinary. I say, because I like it more. The term because you actually go over, you don’t only mix over, over the limit to recreate ideas. But well waves is because I became addicted to any kind of waves. I’m a sound engineer, I’m I did observe the functionality of truthfulness inside my brain and a brain scanner. I did all kinds of research. And then when I was asked to connect all of them, and to bring it to them sit down into a TEDx talk, this is what you saw, this is what you refer to. I was like, Oh, my God, how am I going to do this? How am I going to talk about myself in 15 minutes, and but we had this three dimensional sound system, I guess, quite similar to what is in there and that we could compose music for. And I was very amazed by that we had this big screens, and we had a sponsor, actually, that helped us to have all this technology available. And I had to find this red thread. And then I saw like, Oh, my God, actually, everything is waves. We’re speaking about what? Well, light waves, heat waves, I mean, watch the TEDx talk, and then you probably gonna understand it better. Otherwise, I’m going to do the whole talk again. But it’s basically the that the glue, to me waves is a little bit the theory of everything.
by them unfortunate, I’m gonna have to draw things here. Otherwise, I’ll get topped off. But it’s a pleasure to talk to you, it’s been even more of a pleasure to be able to talk to the moon because of you. That’s a great stuff. So a big round of applause, please. Thank you.
So I’m actually I just have to add one little thing that I didn’t say before, obviously, because I gave the longest answer of the universe, we actually will provide the samples that we recorded, so you will be actually part of it. And it will take me a while to edit them. But then it will be downloadable on the MTF web space somewhere, we’re gonna send you the link when it’s time. And then everyone is invited to remix those samples in whatever kind of way. And we’re working on. We just explored this here that we’re going to do this. That’s why I’m announcing it now. And it’s going to be a moon music compilation, but it’s not restricted to music. Of course, it can be anything. And also everyone is invited to send me sentences because it’s an ongoing project. We are continuously going to moonbounce this is not a one time event. It’s going to happen many many times. So that was it.
Amazing stuff. Thanks so much for listening to the MTF podcast. That’s it for now. Have a great week. Don’t forget to share, like tweet, subscribe and help others find this would mean a lot. Cheers.