His Master's Voice
Location: San Francisco, California
Ben was asked to do a piece for the inaugural show of The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco; the theme for the opening exhibition was the book of Genesis. His concept was to rebuild the Holmdel Horn Antenna at Bell Labs in NJ – a contraption which was used to measure cosmic background radiation that provides empirical proof of the big bang theory. Bell Labs physicists Penzias and Wilson won a Nobel prize for research done on this device in the 1960s.
As the name suggests, the horn antenna’ s geometry works pretty well in reverse as speaker. Apparently the Holmdel Antenna became a popular spot for lab picnics – a computer speaker and ipod would be placed at the focal point where recording instruments used to be, beaming sound to the blanket on the lawn below its mouth. Ben’s piece plays back the recordings of this radiation, giving us a glimpse of the sonic textures of the universe.