I recently had the pleasure of experiencing a dazzling night of music and astronomy films by Jose Francisco Salgado in collaboration with the Chicago Sinfonietta. I had seen clips of his memeworthy films from time to time on social media. It is impossible for Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy and other astronomy sites not to get excited about Salgado’s work and need to share it. The pieces are entertaining, well-crafted, and above all scientific.
In this time of green screens and CGI effects, at the start of his presentation Dr. Salgado was very careful to explain that his imagery is a result of direct observation and documentation of sky and space. He is an astronomer, professor, and science communicator that is especially dedicated to reaching out to young people of all walks of life. He wants all kids of any background to feel that a career in science is open to them. In 2010, Jose Salgado cofounded an educational outreach program, KV 265, whose mission is to communicate science through art. Cosmic Convergence does exactly that by displaying technically sophisticated astronomy imagery combined with music composed for classical instruments.
Many of his films required that he travel to remote and beautiful sites. In the wilds of the arctic circle, Chile, and the Outback he has captured astounding images and then moulded them into exquisitely moving films. His work taps into our sense of wonder about our place in the universe while highlighting the majestic astronomical features of our home planet, Earth.
The images from his other films were gleaned from telescopes, probes, and spacecraft like the ISS. “Around the Earth in 90 Minutes” was my favorite. If I am not mistaken, the actual photos that he spliced together for this film were shot by ISS astronaut, Alexander Gerst. The ending shots with a view of the Earth spinning faster and faster beneath the ISS’ cupola were dazzling. It’s breathtaking to be immersed in a spectacular show that reminds us we live on a spinning globe.
There weren’t many of his films for Cosmic Convergence with the Chicago Sinfonietta on line. That’s fine, because the pieces deserve to be experienced live with the accompaniment of a large group of classically-trained musicians. I did find a raw, silent clip from Jose Francisco Salgado’s Aurora Borealis piece:
In addition to working with music played by classical instruments, Dr. Salgado is also collaborating with a Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins. Bailey is known for his cutting-edge work in contemporary electronic popular music. So keep an eye out for the Bailey-Salgado Project to come to a venue near you some day. Here’s a tiny taste of what a full-blown BSP multimedia performance for KV 265 is like:
Slick, memeworthy shorts like the Sidereal Motion trailer get watched by thousands of people as they buzz their way through social media. I can’t help but think that these video snippets go a long way toward fulfilling KV 265’s mission to communicate science with art.
I can’t wait to see where Jose Francisco Salgado goes on astronomical safari next. Will he go to Antarctica? Will he shoot from the top of a Mayan temple? Whether he brings us images from a bioluminescent beach or his humble garden it will be epic.