Andrew Jones describes himself as “an artist here to record the quiet stories of the world and beyond,” and his latest project most certainly doubles down on the “beyond” part. Back in March, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory uploaded 63 videos of U.S. nuclear weapons tests to YouTube. Jones saw that the video’s (grainy, eerie, horrifying) footage lacked audio, so he sought to fix that. The result was Sound For Bombs, a 59-track soundtrack to these videos that drops on June 23 of this year. Here’s his statement on the project:
This footage was recorded between 1945 and 1962, and depicts exploding atomic weapons in real-time, slow motion, black and white, color, and negative exposure film. Its digitization is in an effort to preserve thousands of reels of film holding the results of U.S. nuclear weapons testing, which physicists are revisiting to collect more accurate data. The footage does not include sound.
Sound For Bombs is the soundtrack to these videos. The tracks here feature improvised analog synthesizer performances, and are intended to focus the viewer’s attention by pausing contextual thought and introducing or allowing for new ideas through sound. As unpredictable, strange, vibrant, and at times frightening as the explosions themselves, these tracks remove the footage from history (already displaced on celluloid and now online) and place it in the immediate present for viewers.
Jones’ synthesizer arrangements are undoubtedly striking, with some mimicking the visual content with thunderous, pulsing waves of sound and others opting for a softer, more haunting approach that evokes the kind of gasping despair perfected by the likes of apocalyptic artists like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Others sound like some garbled, extraterrestrial transmission, which is fitting since numerous UFO sightings have centered around military installations storing nuclear weapons. Here are some examples below, accompanied by their particular video footage.
Another fitting soundtrack to this kind of footage? Kurt Vonnegut.